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Is regeneration dying or coming of age?

Mar 16, 2010

Read Imelda Havers' blog in Newstart on the future of regeneration

Is regeneration dying or coming of age?

From media reports painting a gloom and doom picture of public spending, you could be forgiven for thinking that the regeneration sector is about to breathe its last.

Reports by the BBC of an estimated 25,000 job cuts in town halls up and down the country (said by some to be conservative predictions), and criticism of regeneration spending from the likes of the commons public accounts committee which has launched a broadside into the supposed waste of the £1bn Coalfields Regeneration Trust, are just two examples which reinforce this view.

Of course, predictably, I don't agree. As a regeneration practitioner, I am a natural optimist, but the fact remains that we are in very different waters from the relative millpond of the past 20 years. Things will change, and let's face it, change is long overdue. We have relied far too heavily, for too long on public 'servants' to regenerate our communities, when they are almost certainly not the best people to do it, and consultants have been given lucrative contracts which deliver little or nothing to communities who deserve better. We have pointed our compasses towards government funding pots while ignoring other, more imaginative, ways to create resources for regeneration.

I believe communities must deliver their own regeneration. Whatever the colour of the next government, they have to stop talking localism and set the framework in place for it to happen. BlueFish Regeneration was set up to work with local communities to help them deliver their own regeneration. We have slogged solidly for five years to get the point across to quangos and councils that people within communities are in the best position to change things for the better. Local authorities should stick to emptying wheelie bins, not take on the role of charities or businesses. The BlueFishes of this world have an increasingly important role to play in filling the gap left by local authorities. We can help to make a real difference, but to do this we need to work more closely with communities, and not fall into the 'them and us' bear trap of the past.

On the other side of the coin, communities need to reorganise themselves in order to become a far more integral part of the fabric of regeneration. They need better management structures and governance arrangements, and to be far more radical about alternative funding mechanisms. Acknowledging that the tough new world of regeneration will not support more marginal projects without a strong case, will also be crucial. And above all, communities need to believe in themselves as the instrument of delivery, not look to others to do it for them. If they can do all of this, an army of regeneration professionals exists who are ready and able to assist them.

Regeneration is certainly not about to keel over and die: there is too much positive momentum for us to allow that to happen. But it must change, and if it does, we will emerge a leaner, fitter and more effective sector than ever before. But then, I am an eternal optimist.

So how can communities adapt?



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