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Urban Regen. Schemes

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With reference to examples, evaluate the success or otherwise of urban regeneration schemes in combating the causes and consequences of urban decline (40)

Urban decline is defined as the deterioration of the inner city. It is normally caused by a lack of investment and maintenance as well as social reasons and government policy and these declining areas are characterised by the low economic status, social and environmental decline and problems. Even with this decline, there are ways of regenerating the inner city, such as Urban Development Corporations and City Partnerships.

The de-industrialisation of UK inner cities led to unemployment in the area, meaning there was a lack of disposable income and therefore and therefore a lack of expenditure in the local economy. This decreased income and expenditure means that rent prices would be lowered in the area and therefore landlords would not be motivated to carry out repairs and refurbishments, leading to a decline in the standard of living as well. The lack of expenditure meant that mass disinvestment from local businesses occurred as they decided to move to more prosperous areas to further their business ventures. This in turn creates more unemployment and a further lack in expenditure and more disinvestment; and the cycle continues. The local government collect less tax, while in turn having to shell out more in unemployment benefits, leading to further economic decline in the area, as well as a physical decline. This pushes out the more affluent population, causing depopulation and a change in the socio-economic status of the area. The outwards migration leads to derelict buildings which are vandalised and used for crime (particularly drug use). The less affluent population left behind spend less and care less for their house, while the government has less to spend on roads, healthcare and education- leading to a decrease in both. This spiral of decline is the reason urban regeneration schemes exist.

There are three main regeneration processes: property-led regeneration such as what occurred at the London Docklands, partnership schemes such as Hulme City Challenge, and also gentrification- like that at Portland Road, London.

Urban Development Corporations (UDCs) were created in the 1980s and 1990s to take charge of the physical, economic and social regeneration of selected inner city areas with large amounts of derelict and vacant land. UDCs are an example of property-led regeneration. They were given planning and building powers over and above those of the local authority, and were in fact encouraged to spend public money on the purchase of land, building of infrastructure and the marketing for private investment. The idea was for the private investment to be worth four to five times greater than that of the public money invested. As always there were some criticisms of UDCs as people thought that UDCs were too dependent on property speculation and lost huge sums of money through the compulsory purchasing of land, which later fell in value. What’s more, because of their power over the local authorities, democratic accountability was removed. Locals complained that they were left without a say in the developments. One example is the London Docklands where many felt excluded by the high class new housing and high tech office developments.

The London docklands suffered from deindustrialisation in the 1960s due to the containerisation of global shipping. The ships became too big for the London Docks and the competition from newly expanded ports (e.g. Dover) which meant the docklands suffered from huge dereliction and by 1981, containerisation became too much and the docklands were forced into closure in 1981. The associated industries of the area- food processing, engineering, and ship-building and repairs suffered alongside the docks. The gas works also closed in 1985 after the country switched to North Sea gas. This decline in the docklands and associated industries led to mass unemployment (between 1978 and 1983, 12’000 jobs were lost) and high levels of social deprivation. In 1980, owner occupation of the houses in the area was only at 4%, and the majority of houses were council owned. In the Isle of Dogs, transport and communication with the rest of London was poor, with only one, highly congested, road (A13) in and out, and no public transport, bar a single bus route. The London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) is a UDC that was set up in 1981, and was also responsible for the regeneration of 8.5sq miles of East London, including the boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Newham and Southwark. The main aim was to bring land and buildings into use, stimulate the development of existing and new industry and commerce, to create and aesthetically pleasing environment and ensure the correct housing and social facilities available to encourage people to live and work in the area. The regeneration allowed the building of 22’000 new homes with the majority under private ownership and approximately 4’180 of them were up for rent, causing owner occupation to increase and combating a main consequence of decline. Brownfield sites, particularly old warehouses, were converted and gentrified into new homes, which also decreased the risk of vandalism.
A new shopping centre was also included in the conversion of old dockland buildings into shopping outlets at Tobacco Dock, bringing retail and employment into the area. In order to cope with the expected increase of inwards-migration, 5 new health centres were created and 6 more were improved. This, combined with the funding towards 11 new primary schools, 2 secondary schools, 3 post-16 colleges and 9 vocational training centres helped make the Docklands a more desirable place to live, due in part to the improvement in the quality of life. The attraction of financial and high-tech firms such as HSBC to Canary Wharf (which was once a cargo warehouse which was redeveloped in 1988) led to an increase in employment with levels falling from 14% to 7%. This attraction of high level investment in the area acted as a pull factor which doubled the number of businesses, hence the doubling in employment. The Jubilee Line was extended and allowed many businesses to locate to the area, now being home to large companies like Citigroup, NatWest and the Daily Telegraph. The increase in public transport meant those living outside the area had an easier commute into the area. This increase in transport included the opening of the Docklands Light Railway in 1987, and now carries over 35’000 passengers a week, helping to combat the congestion of the A13 and thereby reducing noise and air pollution. Furthermore, the building of City Airport at the former Royal Docks (carrying more than 500’000 passengers a year) allowed and allows easy travel to European business hubs. One main aspect for the regeneration of the Docklands was the improvement of the environmental condition of the area. Pedestrian and cycle routes with easy access to the river and dock through waterside pathways were introduced. Also 200’000 trees were planted and 150ha of open space, alongside a water-based ecology park, and London’s first bird sanctuary created an aesthetically pleasing environment to attract further investment and increased owner occupation as well as directly combatting the physical causes and consequences of decline. The regeneration of the dockland gave a wide range of economic, environmental and social benefits, as outlined above. This combatted the decline in the area, creating it into a business centre acting as a pull factor for migration and providing 24’000 housing units, along with 75’000 new jobs. However, the regeneration came with many criticisms as well. Many of the original ‘East Enders’ were unable to afford the higher house prices and the new jobs required skilled labour, which the dockworkers did not have. Social segregation was also taking place as the old dockworker population did not mix with the new skilled professional population.

Partnership schemes were also another method of regeneration. This was where local councils work with other businesses and communities to design a regeneration plan for an area. These schemes want to improve the economy and environment in an area, alongside making social improvements (e.g. community centres). UK partnership schemes, such as City Challenge aimed to regenerate urban areas. 31 partnership schemes were set up in deprived urban areas between the years 1992 and 1998. City Challenge was set up to achieve the same goal as earlier regeneration schemes while addressing some of their weaknesses, such as the removal of democratic accountability with the use of UDCs, and lack of local participation. Areas ended up competing for funding, improving quality of proposals and encouraging more imaginative ideas, which meant the partaking organisations were better prepared and more involved. However, sometimes, authorities that could work together instead competed for funding. Another criticism was that successful claims would receive the same amount of money as any other, irrespective of need. In 1960, Hulme was redeveloped as part of a slum clearance programme and a number of high rise flats were built (the Hulme crescents). 98% out of the 5’500 properties were council owned and more then 50% were part of a deck access system, with many of the poor design features of prefabricated construction. The condition of the housing was poor with damp, mould and rats, and there was a low level of families with children and high levels of single person dwellings. There was also evidence of the city council dumping its more unfortunate residents in the area. In 1992, as part of the Hulme City Challenge Partnership, the Manchester City Council worked with Guinness Trust and Bellway Homes to develop a £37.5m regeneration package for the area. The plans included the building of 3’000 new homes, with new shopping areas, roads and community facilities. A more traditional pattern of development was designed with streets, squares, two-storey houses and low rise flat blocks to replace the Hulme crescents. By 1995, the project had reclaimed 50ha of land, the majority of the deck access flats had been demolished and 600 homes for rent were built and 400 had been improved/refurbished. The main shopping area was rejuvenated, including the addition of an ASDA supermarket. The Zion Community Centre was also built as part of the project. This was seen to be a pull factor and attract families into the area to counter-act the high number of single person households. The increase in green spaces and street lighting made people feel safer and a stronger sense of community, as well as creating an aesthetically pleasing environment. The increase in street lighting, and family friendly community saw a drop in the crime rate. Due to this partnership, Hulme became a much more desirable place to live and thus its population increased; from 1992 to 2002 it increased by 3.3 %. The rejuvenation of industry and service in Hulme and its neighbour, Moss Side, mean that the area went on to receive £400m in private and public investment, which boosted the local economy and maintenance towards the area. This increase in business led to a 26% fall in unemployment between 1992 and 2010, raising the socio-economic status of the residents. Despite all this success and investment, 47.5% of the population still live in social housing, which was not helped by the influx of professionals leading to a house price boom. Furthermore, even with the increased job opportunities, unemployment in Hulme is still above the Manchester average, showing that either the partnership scheme was not effective enough, or that the area is still in need of further investment and development. Gentrification is the third and final regeneration method. It is the process of housing improvement associated with the movement of higher income groups (generally people with professional or managerial roles) into the area. It involves the rehabilitation of older, often run-down houses and streets. The houses that undergo this process are normally Victorian and Edwardian in era and the restoration/refurbishment is undertaken by private investors or individuals. Portland Road is located between Notting Hill and what used to be London’s Roma Gypsy camp, and the houses on it were built in 1850. Due to the proximity of the north end of the road to the gypsy camp, it was always historically poorer. This meant that a slum was created at the northern end with many families only renting one room in a house; there were approximately 30 to 40 people living in one household. Due to the economic standing of those renting the rooms, and the proximity to the gypsy camp, the rent was pushed very low and therefore the landlords did not have the motivation to repair any damage, which allowed them to fall into further disrepair. By the 1940s, the houses were only worth £400. By the 1970s, middle-class families had begun to move into the south end of Portland Road, due to cheaper house prices when compared to areas such as Chelsea. After the abolition of the Rent Control Act, house prices in the area began to rise, and in the 1970s, the houses were valued at £15’000. There was however mass social conflict between the middle class ‘newcomers’ and the traditional working class. As a more affluent population continued to move into the area, house prices kept rising, forcing the poorer population out of the area and splitting working class families. By the 1980s and 1990s, the road had become home to mostly middle-class and affluent families, which caused the services in the area to change in respect to the changing demographic (e.g. Julies’ is now a high class wine bar). In order to house the poorer population, two blocks of council housing. The house prices on the road kept increasing to the point where a house in the southern end of the road was worth over £2m. Even to this day, there is still a £1m price difference between the north and south ends. Gentrification can give a boost to the local economy as a wealthier class of people moved in, providing more money for community and business investments. There is an increase in the quality of life in the area, as the services change to fit the new demographic. However, it can cause social disparities between the classes, as even to this day, there is still a noticeable split between the southern affluent end of the road, and the northern poorer end of the road.

Overall, these regeneration schemes have been mostly successful in achieving their aims, with some minor exceptions. The projects were based on the improvement of housing which in turn leads to social and environmental regeneration. The London Docklands project encouraged the development of existing and new industry and commerce. This was achieved by attracting large firms, such as HSBC and extending the Jubilee line to allow easier transport into the area. The major issue with regeneration is that it can lead to disparities in wealth, leading to social segregation with the lower socio-economic groups being displaced by such schemes such as the LDDC or the more “natural” process of Gentrification. Ultimately, city partnerships schemes are likely to be more sustainable as they consult the local population and look to improve the social aspects of an area, as well as the economic and environmental aspects. However, in the case of Hulme, the scheme was not as successful as it could have been as just under half of the population there live in council housing, and there is also a high level of unemployment. Regeneration schemes vary in effectiveness and success depending on where the area is, who is carry out the project and the investment put in. The LDDC was successful in terms of reducing unemployment, increasing owner occupation and rejuvenating business in the area, but was unsuccessful in providing the original residents with the correct infrastructure to properly prosper. Hulme City Challenge saw a fall in unemployment and a safer neighbourhood, along with retail areas boosting the economy, yet it was not as successful as it could have been. Finally gentrification saw a change in the demographic of the area, but with social and class segregation being the cost.…...

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