Memorandum by Bolton Metropolitan Borough
Council (GRI 15)
Area-based housing regeneration initiatives
have to be linked to regional strategies and broader regeneration
initiatives for them to be successful. Identifying a housing regeneration
scheme that does not link in some way to these wider perspectives
is unusual. There has been a considerable amount of collaboration
at regional and sub-regional level over the last few years, which
illustrates the growing realisation that joined up working is
the key to successful regeneration. Also that the impact of regeneration
in one location can spread far and wide sometimes having a negative
influence on supply and demand elsewherethe recent CURS
study examined this dynamic in some detail as a forerunner to
the idea of a Market Renewal Fund.
Housing Regeneration, in Bolton's view, is not
solely about carrying out capital works to dwellings. In the distant
past significant sums of public and private money have been spent
on "bricks and mortar" with mixed success and, despite
some significant exceptions with little long-term consideration.
In some cases this has resulted in the Council having to revisit
areas whose decline had only been temporarily checked, let alone
reversed, by introducing the improvement programme. The missing
"ingredient" was community involvement and ownership
of the regeneration process. Things were perceived to be done
for residents not with them. Learning from these experiences the
Council has identified and acted upon the following regeneration
See housing regeneration as a holistic
tool to make people's lives better not just their homes.
Devolve services to neighbourhoods
and reorganise organisationally (and culturally) around the local
Identify the areas of greatest needusing
such things as indices of deprivation; learn much more about themthrough
environmental scanning; and then target them as priorities for
resources within a Corporate Investment Strategy.
Look across tenures and customise
solutions to match the actual housing problems as articulated
by people living in the areas not by imposing solutions on communities.
Redefine the relationship between
the Council, the public and stakeholders, making it much more
democratic and accessible. The Local Community Planning process
has been successfully introduced to targeted areas so as to provide
a framework by which this new relationship can flourish because
it allows the community to articulate their own regeneration priorities
and then jointly construct delivery plans to make sure these become
Allowing people to become involved
in the regeneration process at the level and at the rate they
feel most appropriate. Capacity building initiatives are introduced
to help people better exploit the wider opportunities to contribute
to and own the regeneration process.
Re-equipping staff, from a range
of disciplines, to better understand regeneration process and
how to work with communities.
The long-term goal is for the community
to be empowered sufficiently to continue the regeneration of their
area long after the capital investment has finished. To grow as
a community and be robust enough to meet future challenges without
recourse to yet another major public sector investment.
In short the key to successful regeneration
strategies that produce sustainable communities lies in perfecting
the process not so much in carrying out the capital works.
Bolton has chosen to create a Housing Regeneration
Arms Length Organisation (ALMO)Bolton at Homerather
than a housing management ALMO for a number of reasons, which
Recognising the importance of regeneration
and of achieving decent standards in creating better housing conditions
in the Borough that are sustainable because the process involves
investment in communities and staff not just "bricks and
Desiring to treat the regeneration
element of housing provision not as an add-on but rather a priority
for mainstream funding.
Acknowledging the benefit of creating
a more democratic customer-focused, locally based, organisational
framework through which to deal with housing issues.
Regeneration is recognised by the Council and
it's stakeholders as being the primary means of securing a successful
sustainable future for Bolton. An interventionist approach is
necessary because it is proven that long-term positive change
will not take place automatically as a consequence of unfettered
market forces. The Council willingly accepts that it has to play
the key enabling role in ensuring that things happen and follows
an approach that is sensitive not only to tackling decline where
and when it is occurring but also recognising the sound cost-effective
argument for taking preventative action. This commitment to dealing
effectively with the complex cross-tenure, multi-layered housing
problems that face the Borough is behind the Council's idea of
creating Bolton's Housing Regeneration Arms Length Management
Organisation. By locking together public and private sector housing
provision within the one separate service organisation, the Council
can both concentrate on its enabling role and ensure that housing
and regeneration are dealt with together.
Deconstructing and then prioritising the different
elements that make up a comprehensive regeneration strategy is
of limited use because it is the overall process that is most
important, not just the sum of its parts. Most importantly the
"fuel" that drives the process is community engagementcommunity
can be defined either in terms of location or as a "community
of interest". Bolton believes that regeneration is primarily
about energising communities and that the actual capital works
are a means to an end, not an end in itself. Past experience has
shown that regeneration schemes have limited success when too
much emphasis is placed upon delivering structural improvement
and not enough on community capacity building or on solving potential
organisational cultural conflicts and staff retraining.
The aims of regeneration tend to be about creating
a mix of the following sustainable outcomes:
Engendering or recovering a sense
of community with individuals acting as citizens.
Exploiting local strengths as much
as addressing local needs.
Increasing the "worth"
and perception of an area both by those working and living in
the vicinity as well as by the "outside world".
Extending choice both qualitatively
and quantitatively throughout the local community in key aspects
of daily life.
Ensuring that local democratic structures
are firmly in place, which operate to enhance and perpetuate community
involvement whilst also making sure that community issues are
accurately represented, prioritised and that nobody is excluded
from the process.
Greatly reducing poverty, dependency,
fear of crime, and disadvantage. Making the bringing about of
these outcomes a widely accepted community priority.
Placing social cohesion as a cornerstone
of community dynamics and community life. Making differences in
things such as culture, ethnicity, social background, age, gender
or needs (physical, mental or other special circumstances) to
be seen as "enriching" factors rather than as potential
points for conflict.
Improving the physical and environmental
outlook that includes upgrading property and premises, increasing
security and enhancing the "streetscene".
Providing the basis for balanced
growth patterns and mixed neighbourhoods with more jobs created.
Improving transport infrastructures,
health and leisure facilities, education and training opportunities
and welfare services.
In order to meet these diverse and challenging
aims Bolton's approach to housing regeneration has not just concentrated
on "bricks and mortar"though the importance of
delivering a good quality home environment cannot be underestimatedrather
emphasis has also been put on getting the processes right. This
is why we have developed over a number of years, a series of Local
Community Partnerships in (both public and private) residential
areas that have been identified as having the highest levels of
deprivation and poverty. In some of these areas, the index of
deprivation is amongst the highest in the country, let alone the
region. Local Community Planning (LCP), by seeking local solutions
to local problems through involving communities as active participants
in the regeneration process, has obvious links to the Neighbourhood
Renewal Strategy and is the major resource priority of the Council's
Corporate Investment Strategy. Focusing on a cross-tenure approach
has ensured active learning and application with added value outcomes
for communities, which is tenure neutral.
Without first establishing a high level of local
community involvement and active participation, the risk of not
achieving long-term sustainability is greatly increased. Short-term
success followed by slow decline is a poor return for any substantial
public sector investment and it is Bolton's experienced view that
it is only by seeking to regenerate from below, adopting a holistic
perspective, that cost-effective solutions are secured. This means
that equal importance need be given to capital and revenue resources
so that we arrive at the situation where regeneration takes place
as a consequence of unlocking the potential held within a local
community to accurately articulate their reasonable priority needs
and wants. It is not something that can be imposed from above
by experts or by telling people what is best for them. Rather,
the approach involved is multi-layered and highly challenging
as the area in need of regeneration is usually fragmented and
contains residents who are disempowered, with low morale, poor
expectations, and lacking the confidence to believe things can
improve. Bolton's experience in this field has shown that initial
discussions over physical improvement options lead on to exploring/identifying
other priorities such as those relating to other local issues
such as health, leisure, security, the wider environment, education
and the general use of facilities. Once these wider issues have
been identified we can then identify who are the relevant additional
stakeholders/providers and how best to engage them as in a comprehensive
or holistic (jointly agreed) action plan. Housing interaction
is often the catalyst to engage others effectively.
The exit strategy is of crucial importance to
the overall regeneration process because it charts the strategy
for future long-term sustainability once the initial peak of capital
expenditure and intensive regeneration activity has passed. It
can be about bending mainstream resources to provide a continual
funding flow or to identify possible sources of additional capital
and/or revenue. But it must be about creating formal and informal
community structures/networks and an on-going programme of community
capacity building. Whilst also maximising the level and nature
of local democracy and ensuring that local people have easy access
into the decision-making forums. It is also about energising a
wide range of stakeholdersfrom the community, voluntary
sector, organisations etcto continue the impetus for change,
development and growth began at the start of the regeneration
The over-arching importance lies with getting
the process right. It is about establishing a solid strategic
foundation that is not primarily about establishing precise outcomes
and how to meet them, but is focused on the means to maximise
community/stakeholder involvement and participation. This means
that ownership of the specifics that make up the particular regeneration
agenda is shared and therefore can only be described in very general
terms at an early stage. The detailed programme fully emerges
only after negotiation, consultation and discussion between stakeholders.
Even then it is constantly revised, revisited and refreshed as
a consequence of the consultation/empowerment process.
Bolton's success in this overall approach is
largely achieved by making the examination of wider regeneration
issues a natural outcome of the consultation dynamic whilst concurrently
establishing a progressive relationship with customers and stakeholders
that naturally moves through the consultation continuum towards
empowerment. It accepts that a great deal of effort is sometimes
required to re-establish an individual's trust in the democratic
process and in their understanding of the potential locked up
within local communities. Importantly it is also sensitive in
allowing people to get involved in the regeneration process at
the level and at the pace they feel most comfortable.
In general, housing regeneration in Bolton is
a vehicle for:
Creating a balanced local housing
market across the Borough by eradicating "hotspots"
of deprivation and "coldspots" of demand in both private
and public sectors and intervening before market collapse.
Integrating more fully the present
local fragmentary housing situation by promoting/creating a mixed
housing environment. By improving and/or remodelling poorer housing
areas we can help to remove the perception that social housing
is, by its very nature, a poorer quality product.
Increasing community engagement,
social inclusion, and ultimately empowering our citizens. Doing
this by jointly articulating and then jointly meeting the holistic/comprehensive
needs of the local community.
Challenging traditional methods of
professional practice and organisational culture.
Influencing and challenging mainstream
activities of diverse agencies to engage in housing regeneration.
Especially where the task of integration is hindered by potential
partners following potentially conflicting agendas, objectives
or perspectives. Better and more integrated information systems
and communication practices is the key to establishing a joint
Improving the overall quality, affordability
and suitability of housing to meet present day and future housing
needs/choices, as identified through a robust yet flexible and
sensitive predictive modelling process.
Improving the overall image of the
Borough, as place people would want to visit, work, live, learn
and do business.
Achieving, in collaboration with
activity in other neighbouring Authorities, a more substantial
sub-regional regeneration that reverses the wider urban / rural
decline that has been experienced over the last thirty or so years.
Bolton's biggest housing challenge is to successfully
bring about positive market change in the private sector without
having been granted Housing Market Renewal Fund pathfinder status.
Whilst the initial tranche of funding has gone into areas of the
sub-region where market collapse has already taken place, there
is a strong case to further develop the overall programme to re-introduce
into the model a twin pronged approach to market renewal. This
second strand, although requiring fewer resources, needs to concentrate
on assisting Councils in taking a preventative approach to regeneration
helping them to intervene in areas that would plunge into full
market collapse if left to their own devices. This needs to be
seen as a regional regeneration priority because:
These "twilight" areas
are much more common than those that are in full market collapse.
Therefore they are much more representative of the region/sub-region's
private sector housing problems and often sit adjacent to the
latter requiring joint action.
The regeneration of these areas now
provides a long-term cost-effective solution both economically
and socially rather than waiting until full collapse takes place
Intervention in areas of potential
collapse now constitutes a balanced approach to regional/sub-regional
regeneration, in the sense that it shields them against them being
residualised or their decline being accelerated as a direct consequence
of the proposed massive investment into the collapsed areas. So
the option makes sense in terms of establishing a much more comprehensive
and interactive market renewal structure.
Identifying the market impact of
regeneration in these areas can be achieved with much more accuracy
with the aid of the local predictive housing model and its wider
impact will eventually be traced once the sub-regional model has
The regeneration of these areas
provides a useful early test of the increased flexibility inherent
in the recent Regulatory Reform Order on Housing Renewal.
There is an overall feeling that government
approach to regeneration is still too centralised and lacks a
degree of continuity across disciplines. However it is acknowledged
where local authorities develop local initiatives that are shown
to deliver, such as Bolton's local community planning approach,
our experience is that the Government welcome such initiatives
of good practice. We would encourage the government to set broad
themes for regeneration and give local authorities greater discretion
to formulate local solutions with their communities.