Maybe I’ve been around the block a few too many times (including refurbing it, knocking it down, rebuilding it and making it green). When I saw reports from the LSE being trailed as ‘RESIDENTS HAPPY’. Anyone who has worked on long term regen projects immediately asks which residents? With some projects taking over 10 years you are very often talking about completely different communities at the start and at the finish. I often work with community groups to help them become a ‘critical friend’ so here goes! The LSE report is very focussed on a particular estate and what they define as a specific model. I am sceptical about some of the interpretation of the findings and real wider application. As someone who has regularly worked with residents on 100% door knocks and making sure that we have met with all households I do question that the study is based on 50 independent surveys. However, I am a massive fan of the LSE and its studies of regeneration and in particular Anne Power and I think there are some clear messages to be taken from this report.
Anne Power is quoted as saying ‘(the scheme) shows that it is possible to rebuild a former council estate with most of the existing tenants in place. By providing local management and community resources, the landlord can help the community flourish’
In just one sentence a few key points have been identified:
- The landlord has to have as one of its aims of regeneration that the community flourishes. All too often little time or space is given to considering what this means. Who is the community now, what will happen to them and who will the community be when we are finished? Are not questions that are really formally addressed. Too much emphasis is placed on building costs and ASB stats as the drivers. These are just numbers!
- The need for well thought out community resources. All too often it’s a case of there was a community centre so we will just re-provide a bright new one it will be fab and have a mezzanine! So little thought is given to how it will run and survive, too much reliance on assumption of a ‘community trust’ in Business Plans or PDAs. The community changes over the life of a regeneration project so must the community offer. Please! No more white elephant centres, S106 get outs and small community groups scrabbling for survival. If you have a new estate, where is your new community resource model!
- One of the recurring things you hear from residents on estates that ‘need regenerating’ is it feels like things are being done to them. If you really want to regenerate an area how about regenerating the power balance. So much time is taken to involve resident’s in the planning and getting ‘sign off’ this needs to be developed into a longer term model of greater community control
So 3 things:
Have a worked vision for the community and demographics in regeneration.
Have your short/medium and longer term community resource model and methods for continually testing its validity.
Build in your plan for greater control, the community may change but you can still build the structures (ever heard of a TMO or EMB?).