Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by Steve Stevens, Links Research (GRI 07)


  City Challenge, SRB, NDC and NMP have provided lessons regarding:

    —  Partnership working involving stakeholders functioning within individual programmes that has created opportunities for a broader skills base from which to deliver initiatives.

    —  The involvement of the private sector in regeneration schemes, beyond capital investment projects or in kind support, does require a clearer understanding of the objectives of ABIs and the role that companies might play. Such partnership working requires a robust regeneration strategy whereby scheme board members and the communities involved are able to engage the private sector in order to achieve specific outcomes.

    —  The involvement of the community in planning and developing ABIs have highlighted the need for early engagement of local people so that they can grow with the initiative and move beyond token consultative frameworks.

    —  Mainstream bending as a strategic goal rather than leverage that is often limited to the life of specific projects. Although mainstream players are faced with tight budget constraints, there is often a need for an operational/delivery cultural change within their organisations in addressing/meeting locally defined need.

    —  Projects should make a positive contribution to sustainable development and thus leave structures/organisations in place that are of tangible benefit to local communities.

    —  The advantages of developing ABIs as part of a coherent regeneration strategy eg across a city, county or region. Thus ABIs should be seen as part of a coherent whole rather than discrete initiatives with limited outcomes. This could provide distinct benefits/lessons for other initiatives across geographically broader areas and present enhanced opportunities for local communities eg estate based residents engaged in training/labour market projects.


  While there is no simple formula regarding the characteristics of regeneration schemes, some elements are crucial:

    —  The scheme should preferably be linked to wider regeneration initiatives in a given area.

    —  The objectives should be clearly defined both in terms of being an ABI and in being linked to wider regeneration strategies.

    —  A clear operational structure should be developed that enables potential recipients to fully participate in the decision-making process and the subsequent delivery of the programme (eg. Royds Bradford SRB).

    —  The development of a legitimate policy-making board and day-to-day management team that function to receive and disseminate information and thereby deliver a programme that is inclusive and meets locally defined needs.

    —  The objectives and outcomes of the regeneration scheme should be clearly defined and agreed at the outset, so that the question of ownership of the scheme is established. This is crucial if schemes are to develop and change over time and delivery plans are to be operational blueprints for the delivery of regeneration.

    —  The regeneration scheme must develop a robust forward strategy that is closely linked to programme objectives and sustainability. This should be viewed as part of the strategic planning process that will require updating over the lifetime of the scheme.

    —  Regeneration schemes could often benefit from external expertise (eg mainstream players/stakeholder agencies) providing the ground rules for partnership working are fully agreed and established by the partners.


  In developing and encouraging the involvement of local communities it is necessary to:

    —  Spend time in the initial stages of the scheme to develop a regeneration programme that is owned by local people. Ownership is clearly linked to commitment and the perception that local communities can make things happen.

    —  Develop appropriate strategic planning, delivery and monitoring structures (such as scheme boards, management teams and advisory teams) that offer opportunities for direct participation by the community. Local people should be encouraged to participate through the mechanisms of local elections for key posts, job recruitment to the programme and mentoring/training to enhance their skills repertoire.

    —  Instigate a local skills audit to identify gaps and/or training needs within the community, so that local involvement becomes a reality rather than a desired outcome.

    —  Develop robust channels of communication between the scheme and local people as a precursor to local communities becoming fully aware of the potential for regeneration in their area and as a mechanism for involving them in regeneration.

    —  Recognise that the involvement of local people can take time and may therefore need to be part of a process that pre-dates any regeneration programme, with a separate budget linked to capacity building within the community.

    —  Leave in place some organisations/structures that are clearly operated by and for the local community as part of a sustainable development strategy.


  In building democratic accountability the following factors should be considered:

    —  The key issue of democratic accountability lies in the question of ownership and the degree of local involvement.

    —  Any regeneration initiatives need to be accountable to those communities who are on the receiving end of regeneration activity.

    —  As stated above, the involvement of local people on management boards through an agreed elective process must be accountable to the community. This should entail clear channels of communication that offer a two-way dialogue between those delivering the scheme and the wider community, including hard to reach/BME groups.

    —  Even where external expertise is employed by the regeneration team, there is a need to ensure that control lies with the scheme/management team who are answerable to the local community.

    —  Where an external Accountable Body is appointed for a scheme, tensions can arise in determining the outputs/outcomes of the programme, particularly in cases where there is perceived to be no democratic accountability on the part of the Accountable Body.

    —  It should be recognised that the process democratic accountability is a relatively new concept for local communities faced with regeneration opportunities and therefore requires time in the development of appropriate delivery structures that are seen to be accountable.


    —  While clear improvements have resulted from specific regeneration initiatives, often these have been associated with the physical/environmental regeneration of an area. While such outcomes are to be welcomed, closer links need to be made with socio-economic initiatives that address such issues as health care, the economic security of communities and leisure facilities.

    —  Sustainability is not simply linked to the objectives/outcomes of discrete schemes, but is often reliant on the characteristics of the wider geographical area that inevitably lie beyond the control of discrete initiatives eg local labour markets, housing markets, regional health policies. In consequence any regeneration programme needs to have cognisance of the broader operational environment.

    —  As stated above, local sustainability can be greatly enhanced through an early commitment to capacity building within communities and in the development of a clear forward planning strategy that recognises the need to strengthen and/or leave in place structures and organisations that are owned and supported by local people.

    —  Forward strategies should be periodically reviewed in the light of changing circumstances during the life of the regeneration programme, so that new opportunities are maximised with respect to future sustainability. This strategy should dovetail with the production of annual delivery plans, rather than remaining as static statement of intent.

    —  Royds Bradford and Hangleton Knoll (Brighton) SRBs have provided positive examples of programme sustainability in developing structures that will have a lasting impact on their respective communities. In the case of Royds the community has not only benefited from significant housing improvements, but has been able to participate in a range of economic and social initiatives that collectively have raised the communities' self image across three housing estates. From the experience of SRB, Royds Community Association now advises other regeneration schemes such as NDCs, particularly on community involvement. In HK the scheme sought to build on community activity through the expansion of existing community centres/activities and the development of tailor made training/employment initiatives that gave residents on these peripheral housing estates increased opportunities to access the wider Brighton labour market.


    —  Forward strategy planning should commence during the initial stages of the regeneration programme in determining the short and long-term goals of the scheme.

    —  Capacity building is a crucial element if communities are to take advantage and build upon any regeneration initiatives. While this has become a mantra, opportunities should be created for local people to build upon/obtain the necessary skills to enable them to develop regeneration activities beyond the life of the existing programme. As stated a local skills audit is a positive starting point.

    —  Regeneration activity should be more closely linked to mainstream players and the bending of mainstream programmes (eg housing, health care, crime prevention measures) as funding for major regeneration activity is usually beyond the reach of local communities. Experience has shown that even for professional organisations, securing regeneration funding can be a highly competitive process.

    —  Programmes need to be inclusive in encouraging local communities to become involved in the regeneration process and in so doing build the confidence of local people to intervene in the development of their community.

    —  Building on existing community based initiatives/organisations that encourage continuity of regeneration activity over time.

    —  Encouraging the private sector to become more active in the regeneration process through the development of a stronger economic base at the local level that moves beyond short-term capital investment programmes (eg private housing development).

    —  Encourage local authorities to develop coherent strategies that address the key issues for deprived areas within their jurisdiction, as this strategy would focus regeneration activity and provide opportunities for mainstream players to rethink their sub-regional/district policy in relation to deprivation. LSPs could offer an opportunity for a more coherent regeneration strategy across LA administrative areas.


    —  For the majority of regeneration programmes there have been few opportunities to consider the longer term impacts from the operation of labour markets, housing policy, crime measures, health policy, environmental issues etc. that are often functioning within a much wider geographical area.

    —  It is difficult to determine whether small regeneration schemes can take full advantage of changes in central government policy, inward investment, or the introduction of health care programmes that often have little correspondence with small areas of deprivation such as housing estates or inner city conurbations.

    —  Staff operating regeneration programmes are often limited in number and do not therefore always have the opportunity to take stock of the wider changing socio-economic environment in which they function. Project managers are similarly placed, though sometimes try to capitalize on local developments in terms of labour markets, training opportunities, local authority policy, European funding and Lottery finance.

    —  Where discrete regeneration schemes are linked to regeneration organisations that operate across broader geographical areas and have access to several sources of funding, then there should be increased opportunities to link individual schemes to wider policy issues.


    —  A major problem has been the rapid pace of change within the area of local regeneration. For example the increasing interest in partnership working and mainstream bending has partly grown from the lessons of SRB.

    —  To some extent the latter rounds of SRB have pointed up some of the limitations of weak partnership working and the implications of limited mainstream bending in the context of sustainable development. While leverage from mainstream players has been evident, there is much less evidence of the bending of main programmes to the needs of local schemes. In some cases this has resulted in ABI funding being perceived as a reason why mainstream bending has not focused on small geographical areas such as housing estates.

    —  The SRB programme has also provided lessons for NDC, NMP and LSPs in terms of community involvement in the regeneration process, strategic planning, democratic accountability, links between ABIs and broader regeneration initiatives and the need for sustainable development.

    —  In many respects SRB, NDC and NMP have also provided evidence of the need for a stronger commitment to local democracy and the implications that this approach will have on the involvement of local communities.


    —  While ABIs have had some success, a key question relates to their links with wider regeneration activity within a given geographical area. As indicated above, the potential impact of an ABI is greatly enhanced if it is delivered within a broader strategic framework that in turn offers wider opportunities to local communities.

    —  ABIs operating in isolation are often hampered by the lack of continuation funding and can witness the evaporation of local involvement as projects come to the end of their funding.

    —  In encouraging mainstream funding and/or private sector involvement with ABIs, it may be more logical to make the case for directing funding and formulating policy towards macro-policy initiatives involving a number of ABIs, that could subsequently benefit from a coherent devolution of budgets to meet locally defined needs. This is in stark contrast to the current situation in which individual ABIs approach mainstream funders/private sector on a piecemeal basis.

    —  ABIs (eg NDCs and NMPs) as part of a coherent regeneration strategy for a geographical area could be incorporated into local authority initiatives in developing LSPs that could offer wider scope for mainstream, voluntary and private sector players to become involved in local regeneration initiatives, but on the basis of a clearly defined role in this process.

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