Almost every regeneration initiative launched today places major emphasis on the need for ‘community involvement’. There is a long history of community regeneration that stretches back to the 1960’s. Urban programmes have developed from this; the ideology behind this is the idea that the local community has a role to play in urban regeneration. However, the issue of ‘community involvement’ in partnership with other associates who are concerned with the development and implementation of a regeneration strategy is a fairly prominent development in British urban policy.
It is now one of the key principles of government actions not only in regeneration but in policy agendas such as health and education. This essay will critically assess the importance of community involvement to community regeneration initiatives within urban rundown areas. Firstly, there will be an explanation of the concept of community, and community regeneration, identifying the role the community can have in the regeneration of their neighbourhoods and how important this role is, then an account as to why sustainable regeneration is essential and why communities need regenerating.
The essay will then explore what at present is being done to tackle the problems. To conclude, it will examine how regeneration organisations continue to make a substantial contribution to the process of social, economic and physical renewal of disadvantaged neighbourhoods. ‘The term community involvement can be defined so that; the word community is taken to mean those people living and/or working in the immediate vicinity. Community involvement is taken to mean the active participation of local residents or community groups in planning, designing or implementing schemes to regenerate disadvantaged or declining areas. ‘ (Johnston 2000:296)
There is a wide agreement that sustainable regeneration can only occur when the community is a partner in this process. Thake (1995) reinforces this opinion stating that sustainable community regeneration needs to exist in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, in order for them to achieve their main objectives. Thake (2002) states Community regeneration organisations have two over-riding organisational objectives: to bring about significant community and economic regeneration within their neighbourhoods and to create a sustainable organisation capable of developing work programmes specifically tailored to the needs of their neighbourhood.
These objectives can be achieved through aiding the development of local economic, social, physical and environmental regenerating strategies, but Thake (2000) believes only with the assistance of communities, the final outcome will be to reach sustainable regeneration, which is seen as a hey factor in the regeneration process. Communities need regenerating for the reason that, in recent decades industrial areas have experienced high levels of change, unprecedented since their formation. Firstly, there has been the long-term process of dispersal.
Major demographic and economic shifts have occurred, resulting in the development of mechanised transport systems such as the, road and rail. This in turn fuelling growth of the suburbs, out of town shopping centres and industrial parks. All these factors have accelerated the process of dispersal, usually outward from the inner city. Secondly there have been dramatic changes in technological methods, which have resulted in traditional methods of manufacturing and distribution being eclipsed. This has been a result of greater overseas competition. The U.
K has seen its share of foreign markets rapidly decline. These decreasing and failing U. K companies have either been bought out or closed, resulting in vast areas of commercial centres falling into decline and industrial properties becoming derelict. Consequently urban areas have had to contend with falling populations, declining industry in the old core industries such as coal, steel and ship building and accelerating urban decay. The population in these urban communities who can afford to move away do so, to the suburbs and beyond to escape the problems that come with this entire decline.
Leaving behind poor communities who face deprivation and all the difficulties that occur with this. Compared to the rest of the country, deprived areas have: “Twice as many people dependent on means tested benefits, 30% higher mortality rates, Three times more child poverty, 70% of all English ethnic minority residents. ” (Thake, 2002) As described above economic and social factors contribute to the decline of neighbourhoods, thus resulting in failed communities. Some neighbourhoods have been severely affected by recession, with the decline in manufacturing industries, causing mass job losses.
This with family breakdown and an increase in the number of lone parents reliant on benefits have also contributed to the decline and decay of neighbourhoods. The problem results from a greater proportion of vulnerable people living in deprived areas, compared to other parts of the country, putting more stress on public services. Social housing dominates many of these neighbourhoods. “There are deprived areas in all parts of the country, but the highest concentrations are in these four regions, “North east has 19 % of the most deprived wards, North West has 25. %, Yorkshire and Humberside have 9. 4%. ” (Gidley, 2002) Deprived neighbourhoods have many common features, such as poor housing, inadequate health care, underprivileged education, fewer job opportunities and a high crime rate. The communities facing these problems needed these issues to be tacked, to prevent the down ward trend occurring in these urban areas. The government set out an ambitious vision for narrowing the gap between deprived neighbourhoods and the rest of the country.
The problem is that for much of Britain, standards of living have risen over recent years. However, some of the poorest neighbourhoods have become increasingly run down, crime ridden and cut off from jobs and other services. Due to these trends neighbourhoods and communities break down, people are denied the opportunity of adequate homes, services and jobs, thus resulting in many social implications. Agencies used community development partnerships to bring local people, community, voluntary groups, local authorities, local firms and others together.
To analyse and agree what action needs to be taken and how to plan and deliver real results for local people. There are many issues that can be tackled; Jobs, neighbourhood management, encouraging enterprise, crime, drugs, education, health, access to services and information, families, young people and children and community building. There is no guide to guarantee success in a community but the common aspirations of people living there are an important resource. These aspirations need to be built upon, bringing people together.
Active participation is critical in sustaining a healthy community. The community needs to be involved in dealing with local issues. With out such participation there can be little sense of ownership of a service or project and hence collective responsibility. The Neighbourhood Renewal National Strategy Action Plan published by the Cabinet Office in January 2001 focuses on two long-term goals: improving employment, health, skills, housing, safety and the environment in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods and narrowing the gap on these measures and the rest of society.
It goes a long way to putting in place the frameworks that will enable central government departments and agencies and public and private sector organisations to direct and co-ordinate their activities in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. It also creates opportunities for local people and groups to become involved. However, the Action Plan does not spell out how community and voluntary sector organisations can become substantial and sustainable organisations active in their localities. Thake, 2002) Numerous arguments have been put forward in support of community involvement in urban regeneration. It is however argued by Hastings and McArthur (1995) that these arguments tend to be ‘speculative and untested. ‘ One of the main arguments is that area regeneration without community participation is unsustainable. It is believed that initiatives fail unless the community is fully involved. The community must take ownership if they are to be committed to solutions.
It is argued that through participation, the community can be strengthened as part of the regeneration process, so that they can continue to sustain the regeneration initiative after it ends. When local communities are given a sense of ownership over the regeneration of their areas, they are likely to guard over the improvements made and more likely to be a part of a long-term solution. Smith (1995) states that regeneration is more sustainable if the people have a sense of ownership of the projects.
He believes that when the community owns the strategy, they then become more committed to it, and this widespread commitment is essential to take them through the various set backs that they will inevitably face. ‘Community involvement is intended to harness the community’s own untapped resources such as local knowledge, spare time, unused or underdeveloped skills, unused land and local resources to be applied, because local people know it is going to be useful to their own community’ (Hall, 1989) Community involvement has also been seen as a way of helping public agencies to avoid the mistakes of the past (Carley, 1990).
As Carley argues, high rise flats and peripheral estates might never have been built if there had been effective community based consultation and planning and that many old neighbourhoods might have been rehabilitated instead of demolished. Also the understanding of external agencies of local problems and needs can be flawed so that people experiencing these problems first hand need to have an input which in turn leads to more appropriate regeneration strategies (Hastings et. Al. 1996). There are a wide range of community regeneration organisations.
These organisations tap into an important strand within society, which is committed to promoting self-help and mutual aid. Thake (2002) states there are many different types of community-based regeneration organisations, ranging from settlements and faith communities through to social action centres, housing associations and community development trusts. These organisations undertake a wide range of activities, giving various types of care provision and wealth creation equal prominence.
Their most significant contributions have been the development of effective local economic strategies and community support programmes. Residents in renewal areas are crucial to this process, particularly in identifying their neighbourhood’s main problems and deciding how to tackle them” (Gidley, 2002) Neighbourhood partnerships can bring about sustainable benefits. They can: Stabilise social, economic and physical decline, improve the social and economic prospects of the whole community, upgrade the environment and physical stock within an area, enhance the social infrastructure and finally improve the stability and sustainability of existing community.
John Prescott in a speech on July 1998 stated the task is to regenerate and create sustainable communities by “regeneration through building communities, and bringing social cohesion back into the heart of cities. ” (Prescott, 1998) Community involvement has the potential to develop solutions that are more appropriate as they are the products of a more inclusive process. The end product can have a longer life and achieve better value for money because the scheme is respected and owned by the local people.
Participation also provides a means by which those who participate can discover and redevelop their own varied potentials. In evaluating ‘community involvement’ the literature reviewed in this essay supports ‘community involvement’ as being absolutely essential for sustainable community regeneration. There are many benefits deriving from the involvement of the community. Many regeneration initiatives are now being managed and focus on the involvement of the community.
In Conclusion, regeneration organisations continue to make a substantial contribution to the process of social, economic and physical renewal of disadvantaged neighbourhoods. They all share the belief that life and people’s standard of living in marginalized communities can be better than it is at present. They are committed to improving the community and personal well being. Neighbourhood focused community regeneration organisations can work in partnership most importantly with local community groups, as well as the local authority and other public and quasi-public sector agencies.
They can provide the mechanism by which the public, private and charitable sectors can become more closely and effectively involved. They are able to develop a range of responses tailored to the needs, priorities and competence of specific neighbourhoods. They can provide an effective way of interacting with the wider economy. The benefits of regeneration organisations with community participation can achieve the transformation of underused or neglected assets, such as land, buildings, money and people in a more sustainable way.