Working with other people can be frustrating. Just ask David Cameron what he really says about his party colleagues when he’s loading his dishwasher.
Regeneration is frustrating too. It leaves messy paw prints all over grandiose plans because it insists places are for people and placemaking must meet local aspirations. Sometimes the lowliness of those dreams can drive us to distraction, but we can’t pre-empt the building of trust and local leadership.
Over the years I’ve come across numerous people offering quick fixes and cunning plans to circumvent the delays and exasperation of working at the pace of the people. Some genuinely believed their Next Big Idea would work; rather fewer have had the attention span to see their policies through.
There will always be mistakes, because you can’t always second-guess what the economy, housing markets and society are going to be doing five years down the line. But much important work has been done as the regeneration bandwagon has bumped and trundled along the yellow brick road. The national strategy for neighbourhood renewal, the Egan report on sustainable communities, and the intelligence on child poverty provided by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and others stand out as significant. So too does the ground-level experience of a multitude of local organisations.
The consistent message has been that policy works best when it’s implemented on a human scale and enables communities to find their own future. That’s been our message too, and it’s worth reiterating as New Start enters a new phase. This week Austin Macauley takes over as editor with day-to-day responsibility for the content of the magazine, while I will remain editorial director and develop the services we offer to regeneration organisations under the banner of NS+ (see www.nsplus.co.uk).
Both New Start and NS+ will continue to champion consistent, long term investment in nurturing communities and supporting the people and organisations who have the guts to make a difference. If we get fine buildings, stunning artworks and massive investment along the way, so much the better. But it has to start with the people.
Julian Dobson, editorial director, New Start Online magazine