Transforming Places Changing Lives- taking forward the framework for regeneration
In July 2008, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) published their draft Framework for Regeneration known as ‘transforming places; changing lives'. Following a consultation period this document sets out how the government is taking forward the delivery of a new national framework to shape the way that regeneration is carried out in England.
At the launch of the framework, former Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears said: "The economic downturn has had a significant impact on regeneration activity. This is not just having an impact upon physical developments; but also on the lives of people living across the country through jobs and homes that have been lost and the strain that it places on communities. This document responds to these challenges and sets out a strategic framework for regeneration, supported by measures to: target investment; deliver increased flexibility for front-line agencies; and clear leadership, setting out a vision of the outcomes we expect regeneration to deliver now and in the future".
The aim of the framework is to ensure that regeneration investment is: · more tightly focused on economic outcomes and worklessness; · driven at the right spatial level and as close to communities as is practicable, making the most of opportunities that already exist; · Targeted: not trying to transform everywhere, but investing where it will have most impact by supporting those communities where the most severe poverty and worklessness persists and where there is the opportunity to deliver long-term change. Three success measures are set out in the framework against which all regeneration should be judged in future. These are: 1) improving economic performance, particularly in the most deprived areas; 2) creating the right conditions for business growth though improved infrastructure, and use of land, and a better public realm; and 3) creating places where people want to live and can work and businesses want to invest. The framework is accompanied by a summary of commitments that central Government and its key delivery agencies have made to deliver the work. Also acknowledged is the role that local government has in engaging communities as well as the roles of the private and third sector in regenerating communities. Defining Regeneration Set out in the framework is the Government's view that "regeneration is a set of activities that reverse economic, social and physical decline in areas where market forces will not do without support from government". The Effects of the recession on regeneration
Whilst the aims stated in last years draft regeneration framework haven't changed, the global economic conditions obviously have with factors such as private investment decreasing massively and both residential and commercial property developments being heavily affected with mortgage lenders demanding higher deposits and providing much smaller loans. There is a low demand for new office and rental space and the knock on effects are developers having difficulties raising finance for schemes, with many schemes now on hold and landowners not selling.
These issues have resulted in a more cautious attitude to new regeneration schemes and difficult decisions around priorities from public, private and third sector partners.Of course, the recession's impact goes beyond physical developments to encompass loss of jobs and homes and the resulting strain within communities, especially the most deprived ones. Government's responseTargetingThe 2009 budget stated that investment would be made where there are opportunities to transform the economic prospects of areas with lower economic performance. This would be done by "targeting market failures and making decisions at spatial levels", as well as improving the coordination of funding and delivery.At the local level, the Local Area Agreements (LAAs), led by local authorities, offer a mechanism to deliver in a targeted and strategic approach. Multi Area Agreements (MAAs) and a new Regional Strategy will also provide a similar opportunity at the sub-regional and regional level. ‘Employer Led Employment and Skills Boards' at a city-region level will bring greater powers for local partners in directing public funds towards employment and skills priorities. At a national level, the national improvement and efficiency strategy (agreed between national and local government) commits local authorities and regional improvement and efficiency partnerships (RIEPs) to work on "improving economic and neighbourhood renewal leadership capacity" with the Local Government Agency (LGA) and the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) working to deliver on this.The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), the national housing and regeneration delivery agency, is also working with local authorities and leaders to identify priority places for regeneration throughout the country. Part of this includes a panel of firms equipped to manage projects in partnership during the downturn.Resources£6.5bn has been earmarked to be spent over the next two years to promote the growth and regeneration of towns, cities and communities. Included in this figure is investment from the HCA and Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), local authorities, the Working Neighbourhoods Fund, Local Enterprise Growth Initiative (LEGI), and New Deal for Communities.Also announced in the 2009 Budget was an additional £500m to stimulate housing development in the short term. This is to support the house building industry by levering in private development finance through reducing up-front costs with equity, gap and infrastructure funding, expanding ‘HomeBuy Direct' and increased funding for affordable housing. £1.5bn of ‘working neighbourhoods fund' has also been invested in councils in order to deliver innovative local responses to long term worklessness in deprived areas and the ‘Future Jobs Fund' which will create 150,000 jobs between October 2009 and April 2011.Following their recent independent evaluations, RDAs will also be supported to reprioritise their investments to maximise the impact of the single pot on regional economies. This will hopefully ensure that investment in physical regeneration and business investment complement each other. FlexibilitiesAcknowledged in the report is the fact that a lack of flexibility can be one of the main barriers to effective regeneration. There has been a commitment to reduce bureaucracy by un-ring fencing money and simplifying programmes and targets for local authorities via the new economic assessment duty and increasing their accountability to communities. PoliciesA number of policy changes are being made to ensure the ‘right mix of infrastructure and activities' are being implemented to deliver regeneration more successfully:
* In addition to the Working Neighbourhood Fund and other Neighbourhood level funds like the (soon to end) New Deal for Communities (NDC) and Local Economic Growth Initiative (LEGI); support to communities will continue through the ‘Community Builders Fund' as well as a network of Local Improvement Advisors.
* The Duty to involve introduced in April 2009 as part of a bigger set of empowerment measures, is expected to assist local people and businesses in decisions and priorities to shape their localities.
Regionally, the RDAs focus is being aligned with other bodies such as the Homes and Communities Agency, and sub-regional and local partners, including local authorities and city regions. The RDAs will:· Work to ‘new additionality guidance' from June 2009. This means strengthening the quality of appraisals and drawing on evaluation evidence collectively with other RDAs across the country.· Strengthening and creating an ongoing evaluation programme, ensuring that evaluation is embedded in all projects as well as being independently audited each year in performance reports. A new Regional Strategy:Replacing part of the work of the Regional Assemblies is the introduction of a new Regional Strategy. This new strategy will be prepared by the RDA and the Local Authority Leaders' Board. The idea is to bring together a long-term shared vision for each region along with the key challenges and opportunities and add this to the mix of activity targeting. Measuring Impact:Finally, following the welcome shift of proposals during the consultation from output to outcome measurements, emphasis lies in the fact that all three priority outcomes (as listed at the start of the briefing) must be achieved (as opposed to being seen as a list to simply choose from) in order for any regeneration work to be deemed as successful.