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Developing potential

28 Jan 2020

Research aimed at bridging the gap between developers and communities


Developing Potential: Lessons from community experiences of regeneration, gathers the experiences of five communities in England and calls for a radical change of practice to bridge the divide between local residents and development organisations leading regeneration projects. 

Describing an imbalance of power between those living in a place and the organisations regenerating it, the report says that current practice is driving poor outcomes for everyone. 

Published alongside a companion how-to guide for communities facing large-scale redevelopment, Developing Potential sets out new principles and approaches to regeneration to ensure it delivers long-term, sustainable, positive change in areas that need it most.  

By highlighting common issues that residents face when regeneration is taking place close to or in their neighbourhood, the report draws out the improvements could be made to benefit both developers and communities. The recommendations are accompanied by a guide for communities on how to best influence and engage with regeneration in their local areas. 

Written by Blue Chula for Local Trust, it looks at five community experiences of regeneration across England and concludes that the value added by community involvement in development schemes is largely overlooked by those leading projects, despite the benefits of engagement being significant and positive. The report also found there were common factors in how communities are affected, often negatively, by regeneration, despite the efforts of residents to influence what was happening in their area.  

Stories from communities in Birmingham, London, Southampton and Kent* showed that despite very strong knowledge of their area and a willingness to contribute to plans, people in these areas still struggled to influence regeneration schemes. 

Chris Brown, executive chairman of Igloo Regeneration said: 

“This is a vitally important document for estate regeneration. It explains the benefits that having a wise and supportive community can deliver for both the process and the outcome of regeneration.  

“We are on a journey to achieve best practice, and this paper will help all of us by signposting the best way forward.” 

Recommendations from the report are as follows: 

  • Include residents as partners throughout regeneration schemes 
  • Include residents in governance to provide a legitimate voice for the community 
  • Actively evaluate the need for social infrastructure and delivering accordingly 
  • Be place-focused – use local knowledge to understand what the area needs in the long-term 

At the same time, a report released by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) lists ways in which developers can give more powers to communities, after a 2019 survey by Grosvenor found 98% of the general public don’t trust developers. The report offers inspiration for the sector by highlighting three key areas where innovation is needed, including engaging people – looking at the ways in which developers and communities communicate with each other and the lack of accessible information available for communities when engaging with developers.  

Matt Leach, chief executive of Local Trust said: “So often we hear stories in the news and in our own neighbourhoods of residents losing out to major regeneration, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  

For communities to involve themselves in development and regeneration projects they need to be equipped with the right information and the current process makes it very hard for them to meaningfully engage. 

We hope that this report and the associated guide for communities will bridge a gap between what are often seen as two opposing sides, helping developers and communities to recognise the potential that comes from working together effectively.” 

This research forms part of a set of three resources, commissioned to provide support for communities experiencing regeneration and development initiatives. They are Developing Potential – Lessons from community experiences of regeneration; Developing potential A guide for communities and Big Local experiences of regeneration and development.