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Regeneration is cash down the drain unless residents come on board. Jennifer Sprinks explains how to get people beh...
Regeneration is cash down the drain unless residents come on board. Jennifer Sprinks explains how to get people behind development projects

National regeneration projects might hog the limelight, but smaller-scale schemes are often more effective.

Planning for major ventures means consultation between local authorities, agencies and central government departments, as well as a huge injection of capital investment. But local people often get forgotten - and that is why more modest projects can be more sustainable.

1 Identify local partners

Rob Pearson, head of national programmes at regeneration agency English Partnerships, says that once a site has been secured, the key partners need to be identified, making sure they fit in with the overall aim. 'It is important to look at what will benefit the local community most,' he says. He recommends using urban regeneration companies, set up to devise a common approach, to clarify the vision for the scheme and co-ordinate its implementation.

'They can work out what the points of intervention should be and then look at which of the partners are best placed to take aims forward,' explains Mr Pearson. Projects should have a combination of national, regional and local teams to ensure all aspects are considered. Mr Pearson adds: 'A project can be run nationally, but managed regionally.'

2 Build up trust with your local community

In the latest Urban Taskforce report, regional development agency Yorkshire Forward named Castleford's regeneration scheme near Wakefield as an exemplar of community involvement. The project is unique in that it highlights how major developments must include smaller scale projects that will have meaning for the local area. According to policy officer Andy Sheppard at Wakefield MDC's Five Towns Regeneration Group, once the players have been identified, it is important to show that local residents can contribute their ideas.

The Castleford Project, which is going to be televised on Channel 4 later this year, is based on a new style of working relationship between the council, regeneration agencies including English Partnerships, and the community to develop a series of small improvement projects in the West Yorkshire former mining town. The project will invest£350m into redesigning the town square and relocating the market to the town's hub, and then reconnecting Castleford to the waterfront. Castleford's approach to regeneration is unique because it not only seeks community views, but actually empowers local people to make decisions, from choosing what should be in the masterplan to appointing designers and builders.

Castleford's population of 38,000 were invited to get involved in the selection process. A competition was held whereby designs were put on display and the public were invited to show their first, second and third choices using coloured stickers. One designer was chosen for each of the 11 schemes.

People were also given a say over who should act as local representatives, electing what the project calls 'community champions'. The champions were then given training to help them understand how best to bring local concerns to the fore and how to demonstrate good community leadership. 'It is about being honest with people,' says Mr Sheppard. 'If you tell the truth then people are more willing to accept things, such as setbacks or delays. Without providing an explanation for project plans, you can end up getting a very long wish list from local people.'

3 Develop skills among local people

Gwynedd Council's strategic director for development, Iwan Trefor Jones, says it is important to focus on equipping the local population to make the most of regeneration opportunities.

'We need to ensure the appropriate skills are delivered at the most local level,' he says. 'One of our priorities was training. We're placing a particular focus on young people to equip them with the right skills for our labour market. We need to develop the entrepreneurship and skills so that people look for opportunities locally.'

The council has set up a bursary whereby 25 young people are given up to£3,000 to help them set up their own business. 'With the right entrepreneurship and ingenuity people will feel a stronger sense of belonging to the community.'

Mr Jones adds that schools should also be a focal point in any regeneration scheme, making sure they have a close link with the local business sectors.

Special attention should be given to rural areas, by providing more childcare and

developing children's clubs to match those in towns. A third of employers in Gwynedd face

difficulties in recruiting people with relevant skills, so the council feels training should be provided for 14-16 year olds.

In the rural area of Merionnydd, the council is hoping to secure objective one funding from the European Union to build three or four pilot centres for vocational training as a resource for local schools.

'Schools need to give basic vocational training. One of the things about the entrepreneurship pathway in schools is that children are given early experiences of enterprise during Key Stage 3.'

4 Get partners to agree a masterplan

Newport City Council has an agreement with the Welsh Development Agency and the Welsh Assembly that its£200m redevelopment of the city centre will be complete in time for the 2010 Ryder Cup, which is being held in the area.

A failure to get all key community players involved in drafting the masterplan can lead to

vital aspects getting missed out. For example, the urban regeneration company Newport Unlimited failed to

address environmental issues, but was soon pulled up by environment agencies.

Newport City Council leader Bob Bright (Lab) says that through discussion with partners, up to£100m will be invested in new secondary and primary schools, a revamped library and museum and for improved paths and footways over the next five years. 'We all want a safe, clean, healthy and economically sound community to live in,' he says.

Newport Unlimited acting chief executive John Burrows, explains the importance of getting all the partners to agree on goals. He says: 'It's very difficult to change things in the final version and it is much easier to gain leverage in the early stages.'

5 Keep the dialogue going throughout

Southwark LBC placed a huge emphasis on its community for kick-starting its regeneration projects. For its project in Canada Water, the development of a new centre by the dockside, the council began a community-led selection process to find a developer to regenerate the 40-acre site.

Mr Evans says it is important to ensure an ongoing involvement of communities if a project is to be truly successful.

'The community needs to be consulted before a brick is even laid,' he says. 'Once the property developer British Land was selected as a partner, community involvement

increased to having nearly 200 meetings with local people in about four or five months. In each area, we will have working agreements with communities, business groups and smaller partnerships.'

Southwark also has a constant dialogue with local traders because they are the

people directly affected by its Elephant &

Castle scheme. The council's regeneration

director, Paul Evans, says: 'The traders are made up of highly diverse ethnic backgrounds and make up a substantial part of the community so it is important we keep them on

our side.'

Find out more

Newport Unlimited

Southwark LBC

Elephant & Castle Project Team

Gwynedd Council Iwan Trefor Jones, strategic director for development:

01286 679 162

Castleford Project Andy Sheppard: 01924 306090

English Partnerships Val Smith: 01925 651144

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