Another day, another investigation into some aspect of the regeneration game. This time it’s the turn of the Commission for Racial Equality to look at physical regeneration at its best and at its worst.
The CRE’s mission is to discover the real difference between physical regeneration and redevelopment. In theory it’s as obvious as the difference between butter and margarine in one of those blind taste tests - they are not just different terms for the same thing. Put simply, the things we call redevelopment tend to be commercial ventures while the emphasis of physical regeneration is - or should be - most definitely on the word regeneration.
Inevitably those engaged in redevelopment have learnt to use regeneration language as currency. The problem is they don’t deliver.
The CRE has vowed to expose what it calls the ‘hidden human cost of physical regeneration’. When it goes wrong, it argues, due to poor consultation and involvement, it can physically divide communities and cause serious conflict.
Calls this week for the repeal of part II of the Local Government Act 1988 could be an opportunity to make sure private developers walk the talk. As far as I know, no community benefit clause has ever gone as far as to insist on developers consulting and involving local people in their plans to ensure they don’t segregate or cause conflict but there’s no reason why this couldn’t ultimately develop.
Despite government acknowledgement that physical improvements aren’t enough to create or support sustainable communities, too many of those who claim to be engaged in physical regeneration are, in fact, simply redevelopers tooled up with a blunt regeneration sales pitch.
The distinction between physical regeneration and redevelopment needs to be clear. The distinction between physical and community regeneration needs to be blurred, both in terms of its methods - genuine consultation and community involvement - and in terms of its aim to build cohesive, sustainable communities.
Susan Downer, assistant editor, New Start Online magazine