22 May 2019

Regeneration is back! “Never gone away,” I hear you cry, and of course you are right. Areas in need of investment, help, support, services, hope, and a host of other ingredients have always existed, even when the powers that be decided they had better ideas to deliver ‘turnaround’.

Anyway, what better time for the Federation to invest some energy into identifying what makes a great place to live, and how people are delivering success, across the North and the Midlands in particular? To that end, a group of commissioners (a fancy name for a few people who have been around for a while and have some opinions!) have been working on a process of evidence gathering in communities in Liverpool, West Yorkshire, Teesside, Nottingham, Derby, Walsall, Birmingham and Coventry, combined with a comprehensive literature review.

The visits were not about talking to the great and the good – although of course we did some of that – but also focused on conversations with people on the front line, either people who work in a patch or, even more importantly, volunteer and/or live there.

So, with our final recommendations due to be published this summer, what did we find out, and what will our report say? Well, here are a few tasters. I’ve put my own personal slant on these, and this may prompt some views of your own. I hope it will also encourage some direct action as a result of our final recommendations, using them to deliver stronger, more stable communities where people choose to live:

  • Regeneration only happens when there is investment. It takes cash to deliver some of the key ingredients of a successful neighbourhood, and anyone who says it can all be done with someone else’s money or by harnessing community effort alone is talking nonsense.
  • Building a successful and sustainable community is a long-term project. If a place has become run-down, is infested with the full range of social ills and the stigma to match, then that is not going to change in a year or even two.
  • Local leadership matters. That may be within the community itself or from our established institutions. Councils used to be pretty good at delivering success in neighbourhoods, sometimes still are, and all can be again.
  • New supply of homes should be aligned with regeneration in areas. They complement each other in lots of ways, from simple cross-subsidy options to a better range of choices and the momentum delivered by major investment in an area.
  • The much-delayed health and social care positioning by our political leaders must take account of the need for people to live in successful communities – they are not two different agendas.
  • Design is key – if an estate works for kids then it probably works for everybody. The Commission can suggest a set of options, but unsurprisingly, there is no standard pack of answers. One size does not fit all, but we can learn from each other.
  • We cannot ignore poverty. Whatever your position on the options for addressing this evil, it must be part of the plan!
  • Partnerships are central to success – shared vision, crossing all tenures, ditching pomposity and status worries.

So, has that got you thinking? Apply your mind to your local challenges, evaluate what has gone wrong, and then have a look at our report when published – see if you can be inspired to believe in a way forward. Why not pitch into the debate and have your say? After all we are all experts – we have lived in a community somewhere all our lives.

The Great Places Commission is preparing to publish its final recommendations this summer.

Dave Procter

Dave Procter, Chair of Together Housing Group and a Great Places Commissioner

Great Places Commission – a taste of what’s to come in our final recommendations