CLES on a new paradigm for regeneration
The Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) have published the second provocation in their new series, ‘CLES on… regeneration’, arguing regeneration needs recalibration ‘in order to root the development of our economy in the pursuit of social, economic and environmental justice’.
The report examines the initial achievements of regeneration in the UK from the 1970s to 2010, which largely addressed ‘the adverse effects of deindustrialisation across rural, urban and small-town Britain’. While this did bring some improvements to communities across England, CLES argue ‘it was all too often temporary and remedial; it repaired rather than fundamentally transformed’. They go on to say that since the financial crash in 2008, and the resultant decade of austerity, regeneration has ‘fallen even further’, with ‘economic growth via big investment’ as its main focus.
The report argues that this regeneration approach has left communities ‘reliant upon huge injections of cash from either the central state or foreign investors … [and] vulnerable to the vagaries of international capital investment markets’. It has also failed to tackle ‘entrenched and systemic issues of poverty’ but has tended to facilitate ‘wealth extraction by land and property developers and commercial interests’. The report cites the examples of East London and South Manchester where regeneration through ‘speculation-led gentrification’ has in fact had adverse effects on local residents. CLES conclude that while regeneration has delivered a ‘few shiny hotspots’, for many it has meant ‘stagnation and neglect’.
It goes on to set out four key priorities around which ‘a new paradigm for regeneration and developing local economies must be framed’. Its first call is for ‘fair funding based on local needs’ to address ‘long-standing systemic regional imbalances’. Demands on public services are ‘place-based, complex and deep-rooted’, and so local anchor institutions, local government and combined authorities should also be given ‘longer time frames and pooled pots of place-based funding’ as well as ‘devolved power over health budgets’.
The report also argues that ‘local governments need to do more to understand their role as a stewards of the economy’ focusing on the ‘long term social and economic aspects of place development’. There must also be an emphasis on government intervention where the market fails, for example in the provision of social housing.
The third priority is empowering communities. CLES state:
‘When considering how and why we regenerate local economies, too little attention has been paid to the question of whom we are regenerating these economies for.’
The report looks at the 2012 Olympics, where the regeneration of the Newham area ‘provided a boom for property developers, corporations, and affluent gentrifiers’, but ended up pricing out local residents. It suggests that existing residents need to be given the opportunity to ‘play a bigger role in the decisions that affect them and reap more of the benefits of economic change’, which could be done through citizens’ assemblies, participatory budgeting and plural forms of business ownership.
Finally, the report advocates for a local Green New Deal tailored to every place, ‘signalling how local resources will be channelled into ensuring a quick and just transition away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy’.
Read the full report here.