Is Regeneration a Finite Resource?

EightyTwenty is Partisan’s fortnightly roundtable event. Here we invite business leaders connected with the built environment to join us for breakfast to discuss the issues that are close to them.

This week, we looked at urban regeneration, and whether the joint venture approach will continue to be able to provide the liveable spaces and urban centres of the future.

Measuring the Success of Regeneration

Is the success of a regeneration project down to its ROI, or should there be other factors we take into consideration, such as its social and cultural impact and value?

While there are means of quantifying physical improvements to an area, such as number of modernised dwellings or improved infrastructure, there should also be room for a cultural dimension to this assessment.

What about the point of view of residents and users of regenerated spaces? What is the impact on their overall sense of confidence in an area, and is there an impact on their opportunities and skills?

There is controversy surrounding some joint ventures, such as the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), which has been criticised for not providing a higher enough proportion of affordable housing.

The Joint Venture Approach

Many regeneration sites are now the result of joint ventures, between developers and housing associations or local councils.

The joint venture can prove attractive because it allows developers and builders to reduce risk while sharing profits.

Some of the UK’s biggest housebuilders are involved in joint ventures, such as Barratt Developments working with regeneration specialists Keepmoat.

In the public sector a lot of technical knowledge has been lost over the past few decades, and the joint venture is a way of tapping into this knowledge-base from other sources.

However, joint ventures are not always the perfect match. There are issues, such as whether the role of the developer in a joint venture justifies the profit they expect to receive.

Finite Resources

Regeneration projects face certain barriers which may constrain their capability for further growth and development.

While the value in an area may derive in large part from the public space it offers, who will maintain this space post-regeneration?

The public sector is often expected to take the lead, but at present it faces severe limitations on its spending power.

One question any joint venture must answer is who pays for maintaining the public spaces which increase the desirability of a development?

Any commitment to regeneration must also iron out this issue.

The Cost of Land

Another element limiting regeneration is the sheer cost of the land it requires.

At the start of Britain’s post-war housing boom, its rapid progress was based on the ready availability of cheap land. The 1946 New Towns Act gave public bodies powers to compulsorily purchase land at current-use value.

After the 1961 Land Compensation Act, landowners were then allowed to claim for not just the land’s current value, but also its potential value when developed.

Since then, the price of land has rocketed.

This is one of the reasons why major infrastructure projects such as Crossrail 2 are estimated to have cost billions in public money.

Meanwhile, many independent businesses are feeling the impact of rising land costs and rents, including the food and drink sector. But if regeneration is going to have a sustainable, cultural aspect, it needs these businesses at the heart of the neighbourhoods and spaces up for development.

Short-term Political Thinking

Is there a lack of political consistency when it comes to driving regeneration? The problem is short-term thinking, sometimes in as little as four-year bursts. A longer term strategy is needed.

Land in prime locations is not being made available, because landowners are sitting on it, helping to drive up its value.

Without this land, and without the support of independent, local businesses, regeneration will have a limited impact, and may even be at risk of becoming just another money-making development.

Our Guests This Time

Our guests at this EightyTwenty breakfast event included:

Trevor Adey, The Land Trust
John Atkins, Atkins Property
Jemma Hynes, FoodSync
Andrew McIntosh, Greater Manchester Combined Authority
Robert Oates, Catalyst Capital
Gavin Watts, define/
Adam Wisher, LCR Property

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