Urban regeneration may have a various meanings, and there is not a specific definition for this phenomenon, as different stakeholders have a different vision for this term. While Moulaert et al (2003) see contemporary urban regeneration as a universal phenomenon aimed at promoting urban competitiveness. Jones et al (2008) describes regeneration is a process of intensely transforming urban areas, in terms of their appearance and the way people live in them. In addition he explains that contemporary urban regeneration offers an essential opportunity to correct mistakes made in the past and creates attractive places where people want to live in the future. This paper will discuss these points of view with use of some urban regeneration projects as examples.
In Western World, urban regeneration at first appeared as an effort to improve the negative effects of deindustrialisation and make cities attractive to investors, with the purpose to direct development and investment towards areas most needing it (Jones et al, 2008). However, according to Swyngedouw et al (2002) the old forms and functions along with traditional political and organisational configurations had to be changed in order to meet the requirements of challenges caused by a global and apparently liberal world order. Making the city competitive meant recreating the urban space and its image primary for the outsiders, such as investors, developers, businessmen or wealthy tourists.
James et al (2008) states that the meaning of regeneration has developed as a holistic concept, which should cover social, economic and environmental issues. However, he also highlights that holistic vision is starting to be divided into two components: regeneration that deals with physical redevelopment, and renewal that deals with social issues. Therefore, as James et al (2008) explains that not all players in partnership or network of organisations can be considered as equals, when they are established to respond to a particular funding stream.
Cities are always changing whether they expand, land use changes or plots are redeveloped. The reasons to change the land use might be a change in the economy, environment or/and social need (James et al, 2008). According to Jones et al (2008) cities are affected by fortunes of nations and global economy in addition to economic, political and environmental factors. In the past decades the environment has been changing in local, national and international scales. Regeneration projects can play a significant role in creating competitive urban spaces, because according to James et al (2008) they provide the place as well as possibility of face to face interaction and transfer of the knowledge concerning investment and innovation. And as a result have a considerable advantage by providing global cities with command points for controlling the new economy. On the other hand, global cities tend to be similar to each other and different to other cities within countries, that as James et al (2008) explains may create a massive imbalance in wealth between cities as well as between parts of the same city.
Consequently, some people, such as Moulaert et al (2003) see contemporary urban regeneration projects as phenomenon aimed at promoting urban competitiveness and economic growth, which is described by Swyngedouw et al (2002, p550) as assumed or real requirements of deregulated international economic system, persuaded by neoliberal dogma. In this sense, large scale urban development projects have become one of the most obvious regeneration strategies perceived by city elites that seek economic growth and competitiveness (Swyngedouw et al, 2002). For instance, London Docklands project evidently demonstrates its original purpose Oakley Sunglasses Outlet Store for its construction. On the one hand the project generated physical infrastructure and provided major new office developments and successful centre for business and professional services that attracts investors and provides ability to transfer knowledge (James et al, 2008).
On the other hand, there is uncertainty whether it offered a radical improvement in the physical infrastructure and economic activity in the area (James et al, 2008). According to Florio et al (2000, cited in James et al, 2008) the project has created socio economic problems, because it emerged as a redevelopment of the area, not its regeneration or renewal, and it is argued that development increased social polarisation by creating imbalance in wealth in the area between locations of extreme prosperity and untouched neighbouring populations suffering from poverty.
It could also be said that the project has not contributed to decrease the level of unemployment and movement of population. Begg (2002, cited in Boddy et al, 2004) states that as unemployment is concentrated in larger free standing cities the population and employment shifts from larger cities to more rural areas. Even though the project could increase the number of inflow of population, according to Champion (cited in Boddy et al, 2004) there is a large outflow from the cities that results in net loss of population.
While projects are developed locally, they contain global trends and express new forms of national and local policies (Swyngedouw et al, 2002). According to Brownill (1990) there was a move in control from public sector policies to central government with market led policies, because the needs of local social relations expressed by local democracy has not matched central government aims for Docklands future vision, dedicated toward capital interests.
It is argued that London Docklands had the property led, public private partnership approach, which led to the project being seen as a priority over local opposition. Moreover, by accepting private sector finance, all involving regeneration of the area could not be achieved (James et al, 2008), as local community of former docklands were workers who had little chance of being employed in the companies attracted by redevelopment, that at the end has not solve unemployment and skills shortages in the area. This evidence illustrates that the project had top down approach (Power et al, 2007) and as Brownill (1990) states was planned targeting to support interest of private rather than public sector.
However, it might be said that all urban regeneration projects cannot be generalised to have top down approach, in which development of social cohesion is impossible (Boddy et al, 2004), ignoring other important characteristics of regeneration, such as social issues. Therefore, the understanding of seeing urban regeneration projects as a neo liberal regeneration strategy perceived by city elites that seek economic growth and competitiveness could be argued. Because, first of all as a term, urban competitiveness involves in itself a various characteristics, for instance, according to Boddy et al (2004) land property and the planning systems are the crucial factors for competitive advantage with balance between the provision of employment growth and residential development. Another urban competitive advantage is to attract and retain highly skilled and qualified labour force, where quality of life, local environment and educational provision are the key factors (Boddy et al, 2004). Additional key indicators of the competitiveness according to Begg (2002, cited in Boddy et al, 2004) are the shifts in the level of population and employment. Given that the level of urban competitiveness also depends on local environment and its general development, it might be said that the local environment of the city can be seen as a competitive advantage, as well as urban competitiveness might be beneficial to local community. Power et al (2007) states without a strong economy city will not survive and communities will disintegrate. As well as economic investment decisions are motivated by broader social and environmental conditions. It appears that investors are concerned not only about location, connections and natural advantage, but also about the overall harmony and health of the city (Power et al, 2007, p205). Therefore, as Power et al (2007) states, in new urban economy city programmes occupy around 2/3 of total public expenditure by investing in public services, such as physical infrastructure and social needs.
Second of all contemporary urban regeneration can also be aimed at bringing advantage to local community through, for example, sustainable development, as Raco (2005) argues that contemporary development is characterised by the hybridity of approaches and cannot be perceived as a neo liberal approach only. Sustainable development can be involved in regeneration projects to ensure equity, empowerment, and environmentally sensitive economic development (Raco, 2005).
It appears that the concern about social exclusion, made decent homes and successful cities crucial to Blair government plan for renewing the poorest neighbourhoods and creating sustainable communities (Power et al, 2007). With these sustainable communities being engaged in the physical regeneration of urban infrastructure, it became more achievable to improve the quality of life and employment opportunities of a wider range of social groups, as well as enhance urban economy and property development markets (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, 2003a., cited in Raco, 2005), that makes regeneration process more balanced between the needs of the economy and society.
On the example of Thames Gateway project (the largest urban renewal plan in Europe) while the development is still a part of the competition for economic success between cities (Coachrane, 2007), the change in government approach planning policies to urban regeneration in East London can be noticed since the Docklands renewal (Imrie et al, 2009). First of all the regeneration of the area is covered in Sustainable Communities: Building for the Future (SCBF) programme that seeks to housing shortages, rejuvenate land and housing markets in low demand areas ., and protect rural areas from growing development pressures (Raco, 2005). According to Imrie et al (2009) increased number of housing and density are crucial in order to deliver high Oakley Sunglasses Cheap 90% Off quality urban change and social inclusion in Thames Gateway project. It revalues local community and regenerates existing homes and takes up underused capacity. The provision of homes will put East End in line with the rest of city in terms of social and physical infrastructure (Power et al, 2007). In other words, the improved social and physical infrastructure in East End may decrease the polarisation between parts of the global city and encourage social inclusion. It is also argued that SCBF will deal with market difficulties by establishing sustainable development.
Second the selection of the Executive Board created the partnership with no one interest side having the majority of the seats (Raco, 2005). Therefore, Urban Development Corporation (UDC) was established to cover Thames Gateway with its normal planning powers and responsibilities, however it has to operate in cooperation with the Borough (ODPM 2003a:5, cited in Raco, 2005). In addition, given that Thames Gateway area is located under the responsibility of London Government, Mayor, the Great London Assembly and the London Development Agency (LDA), it ensures the equality of different stakeholders in planning and decision making process and protect the regeneration projects to be driven by interests of particular stakeholders. In this situation under the pressure of London Mayor and LDA, the proposals for UDC have been delayed by half a year and as a result the scale of area to be covered has reduced, UDC will now be restricted to only six development areas, instead of eleven (Raco, 2005).
The change in approach towards regeneration of the city can also be noticed on the example of Birmingham. While the first stage of city reinvention was about construction of flagship developments that improved Birmingham international profile, the developments were strongly criticised for being socially out of reach for local multicultural community (Lister, 1991., cited in Binnie et al, 2006). Nevertheless, for the second stage of city regeneration, government tried to cover much wider involvement (Binnie et al, 2006).
From the discussion above, it could be concluded that not all urban regeneration and its projects are aimed at promoting urban competitiveness. While global cities with competitive power and the capability to attract investment are associated with creativity, innovation, differentiation, imagination, etc., cities also contain conflicts, struggle, social exclusion and many other issues (Swyngedouw et al, 2002) that need to be taken into account. Therefore, without meeting local community needs, the competitiveness cannot be fully achieved. and Young, C. (2006) Cosmopolitan Urbanism. Abingdon: Routledge.
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Cochrane, A. (2007) Understanding Urban Policy. A critical Approach. Oxford: Blackwell.
Imrie, R., Lees, L. and Raco, M. (2009) Regenerating London. Governance, Sustainability and Community in Global City. Abingdon: Routledge.