“How successful has the regeneration of urban areas been, given the variety of ways it has been undertaken?”
Regeneration is the improvement of an area to bring about a lasting economic, social and environmental change. It is necessary to bring life back into an urban area and to encourage it to thrive and can be carried out in various different ways such as sports led, finance led and retail led regeneration. In most cases, urban regeneration occurs in order to combat the effects of decline within an urban area. Generally areas in decline suffer from a deteriorating inner city, due to lack of investments and maintenance.
This causes masses of people to leave the area, leaving those behind who could not afford to move; many of whom are usually unemployed. One of the main causes of urban decline is deindustrialisation. This occurs when industry in an urban area starts to decline due to either external factors such as competition from abroad and advances in technology, or due to internal factors such as a depletion of resources or civil unrest.
Since the 1960s manufacturing industry in the UK has significantly declined, leaving many British cities in decline. An area that was hit particularly hard was the London Docklands in East London. The London Docklands were once part of the Port of London, the world’s largest port, but after deindustrialisation occurred the area was left a derelict wasteland. Containerisation in the late 1960s meant that the size of ships increased to accommodate the larger loads that they had to carry. As the Thames became more silted, the river was too narrow and shallow for ships of that size to be able to go that far downstream. New docks were developed at Tilbury and at the channel ports. As the docks closed many jobs were lost and many people moved away from the area, making it an unattractive area for investors and leaving it in decline.
In 1981 the London Docklands Development (LDDC) was set up by the government with the aim of regenerating the docklands area. They managed to give the area a completely new image, creating 8,000 new jobs, millions of square feet of new office space and the Docklands Light Railway. They also created the Isle of Dogs Enterprise zone where there were many grants and loans offered to people who were willing to build and relocate to the area, making it an even more attractive prospect for businesses. However this did not benefit people already living in the area as the majority of them did not have the skills or qualifications required for any of the new jobs created by the development and many would not be able to afford the new housing also built in the area.
Despite this, the area did gain many new retail and leisure facilities including the Millenium Dome. Transport was also greatly improved in the surrounding areas which did benefit local residents yet generally it seems that the opinions of local people were completely ignored and many of the new facilities are aimed at the more wealthy people the government aimed to attract to the area. Many residents feel that NHS health services may be shut down in favour of private clinics and hospitals, creating an even larger tension between the two extremes of wealth.
In 2005, it was declared that London would host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. This led to the regeneration of the Lower Lea Valley (Newham) in East London. Much like the London Docklands, this area used to be an industrial hub, manufacturing, exporting and importing products from around the world. However as containerisation began to occur in the 1960s and as more factories went overseas, the docks stopped being used and the area declined. The borough of Newham is one of the less well off areas of London due to this decline with an employment rate of only 56.2% and the 4th worst crime rate within London. After regeneration the area became home to London’s 500 acre Olympic Park including the Olympic Village, the main stadium, the media centre and the warm up tracks.
The regeneration brought 12,000 permanent jobs, 7,000 temporary jobs and 5,000 construction jobs to Newham, suitable for low skilled labour and accessible to local residents. The Olympic Village was also converted to 3,000 affordable homes after the games and many of the olympic facilities are open for public usage. The development cleaned masses of polluted soil and even cleaned the River Lea, which was previously heavily polluted and ran underground. Although the games created thousands of new jobs, many of them were just short term and only 20% of people were actually recruited from the local area. The development meant that hundreds of houses and over 300 businesses were demolished and had to be relocated, negatively impacting local communities. The games also didn’t its target in terms of recycling waste and building materials during and after the event.