27 January 1989 - 29 January 1989

Urban Regeneration

Chair: The Rt Hon the Lord Rippon of Hexham, QC

Ditchley last addressed this topic in 1984 and a number attending this conference were veterans of the previous encounter. All who recalled that occasion remarked that in Britain there was now greater optimism, while in the United States, past the phase of material reconstruction, optimism had perhaps given way to recognition that it was a long struggle.

The other significant difference noted and welcomed, was the shift of emphasis from the material side of regeneration, bricks and mortar, to the social side, jobs, training and the fostering of hope and self-respect among those in disadvantaged areas. There was no dispute about this priority though views differed about how best to tackle it and find the money.

In general discussion, it was noted that cities were not themselves homogeneous: while some parts were prosperous and “livable”, others, many on the periphery, continued to be run-down, hopeless and crime- ridden, with poor transport facilities and unemployment rates of 40% or more - cities were “bitty”. This was still true in areas such as Glasgow, despite some successes, as well as in others which had fared less well. The gap between rich and poor was tending to widen, even where unemployment overall was falling; and material reconstruction too often appeared to benefit incomers, rather than locals who lacked the skills, and perhaps were too suspicious, to take advantage of the opportunities. Intervention from the top might be necessary to provide guidance and funds, but was no substitute for the involvement of local people through a “bottom-up” approach.

The three groups were asked to address the problem from three different aspects, the economic, the social and the institutional.

From the economic aspect all rejected the messages implicit in such terms as “throwing money at problems” or “dependency culture”. Intervention was not by definition bad: investment was necessary, but not sufficient. Some finance would have to be found by government, if only to prime the pump, but it would be spent to best effect under local guidance. US experience was that community development organisations were not self-financing and required external support. Flagship projects could be useful vehicles, but had to be part of a broader strategy built on local characteristics. In elaborating and executing such a strategy all levels of government, as well as the private sector, had a role – Europe-wide, national, state/provincial, local and community. To mobilise the private sector, the commercial self-interest of businesses must be harnessed (for example for training in the skills required in a dwindling labour market), but its limitations must also be recognised. (The alleged lack of imagination exhibited by treasuries and some financial institutions, especially in Britain, came in for criticism.) Local taxation systems had to address the needs of disadvantaged areas, which tended to increase as their tax-base decreased, a problem also in France and Germany.

What worked in one area could not necessarily be applied in another. Competition between cities was important psychologically, the more so with the renewed emphasis on quality of life, the environment, architecture, culture, transport, education and training. The contribution of the arts and artists was stressed. “Beautification” could inspire community spirit and civic pride, which at least one participant suggested might be helped in Britain by the institution of elected executive mayors. Demographic trends, especially the proportionate rise in the number of elderly and single-parent families, needed to be recognised in all planning for the cities.

From the social aspect, several of the same points were made, especially the vital need to give people self- respect and a say in their own affairs – “empowerment”. It was noted that some immigrant communities, where so-called middle-class values might be prevalent, tended to prosper, while others, with different values, tended to remain static or to sink. While the general view was opposed to any attempt at cultural assimilation, the solution to this problem was keenly disputed: some argued it must be tackled first and foremost through “empowerment” and “affirmative action”, i.e. positive discrimination in employment especially for disadvantaged ethnic minorities; others that education and training were the key and that without them empowerment would achieve little. All agreed that schools and training establishments must adapt to the requirements of the job market. Funds were needed to back this, from government, be it national or local, and private sources, not as charity but as a right, and as a matter of self-interest. Without that, and as the gap between rich and poor grew, hastened by the change in the characteristics of employment, there was a real risk of serious social unrest, exacerbated sometimes by insensitive policing and inter-communal jealousies. The essential thing was to be able to offer people the prospect of an improved lot, so that their self-interest could be mobilised to acquire skills, to improve their neighbourhood and to take an active part in planning their own future.

Again, many of these themes surfaced in the institutional group. Participants agreed generally that national government was the proper instrument for overall planning and financing, especially of major infra-structure such as the road and rail system; but “parachuting” and the imposition from outside of some master-plan must be avoided. Local leadership to give direction to the aspirations of ordinary people, with a conscious effort to identify the WIIFM (“what’s in it for me?”) factor and to find and train community leaders was required. (The example of the leadership training programme among the Mexican community in Arizona, funded by a charitable foundation, aroused interest and might be followed elsewhere.) Partnerships between local authorities, community groups and the private sector needed continuity, above the shifts in political institutions. The absence of the trades unions from this field, perhaps because their membership among the unemployed was small, was noted and regretted. In the housing sector, there was much innovation, in the UK especially, and the lessons needed to be analysed and learned.

Discussion of institutions gave rise to perhaps the most heated exchange - on the subject of relations in England between local government, central government, the private sector and the urban development corporations, including the London Docklands Development Corporation - to the surprise and dismay of many from other countries, including Scotland, where the need for all concerned in the area to work together, seemed to be taken for granted. Happily it seemed that some of the earlier suspicions and frictions were abating and, while differences remained, pragmatic cooperation appeared to be spreading. Some complained of differing signals from different parts of central government and it was suggested that in England, for example, there might be advantage in giving one minister a clear leading role - Scotland, with one Secretary of State, had the advantage there.

No decisions can be made at Ditchley. The general conclusion seemed to be that the situation appeared more hopeful than in the past; that the need for a bottom-up approach, the involvement of local people, was now widely accepted and being acted on: that partnership must be encouraged between central and local government, local communities, the private sector, the churches and mosques (too often left out by the planners), and charitable foundations (more kindly tax regimes, it was remarked, could foster such foundations); and that education and training for the jobs of the future and the creation of those jobs were vital - unless people could see benefit for themselves from the various initiatives, they would come to nothing.

Finally, it was suggested, there was a real need for some vehicle, or journal, for the dissemination internationally of information on what was being done in the field of urban regeneration, what had worked and what had not.

This Note reflects the Director’s personal impressions of the conference.  No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression.

Conference Chairman: The Rt Hon the Lord Rippon of Hexham, QC
Life Peer (Conservative); Chairman, Dun and Bradstreet Ltd, Britannia Arrow Holdings, Brassey’s Defence Publishers, Singer & Friedlander Holdings, Robert Fraser & Partners


Mr Hartley Booth

Chief Executive, British Urban Development; formerly Special Adviser, Prime Minister’s Policy Unit, 10 Downing Street
Sir Hugh Cubitt CBE FRICS JP DL
Chairman, The Housing Corporation; Director, National Westminster Bank pic; Commissioner, English Heritage; Chairman, Property Security Investment Trust pic, Lombard North Central pic
Sir Andrew Derbyshire
Chairman, RMJM, London
Mr Alastair Graham
Director, The Industrial Society
Mr Lawrence Hansen
Director, Southwark Environment Trust; an assessor, The Times/Royal Institute of British Architects Community Enterprise Awards scheme
Mr David Hardy
Chairman, London Docklands Development Corporation; Chairman, Globe Investment Trust pic.
Sir Terence Heiser KCB
Permanent Secretary, Department of the Environment
Mr Charles Hendry
Special Adviser on inner cities and urban issues to The Rt Hon Tony Newton OBE MP, Department of Trade and Industry
Cllr Margaret Hodge
Leader of Islington Council and Chair, Policy Committee
Mr Charles Knevitt
Journalist, author and broadcaster; Architecture Correspondent, The Times
Cllr Dick Knowles
Leader, Birmingham City Council
Mr Christopher Ledger
Chief Executive, The Phoenix Initiative, on secondment from Shell Petroleum Co Ltd
Sir James Mellon KCMG
Chairman, Scottish Homes, Edinburgh
Mr Barry Mitchell
Consultant, International Headquarters, The Salvation Army
Sir Bryan Nicholson
Chairman, The Post Office
Mr Hugh Stevenson
Director, Personnel, S G Warburg plc; member working group, Business in the Community Finance for Enterprise Target Team; non-executive Director, The Hackney Business Venture
Cllr David Weeks
Deputy Leader, Westminster City Council; Chairman of Committees: Planning and Development, Head of Business Develop­ment and Marketing, PROBE (Partnership Renewal of the Built Environment); Director, Zoo Operations Ltd
Ms Jennifer Williams
Artist; Founder and Executive Director, British American Arts Association; Project Leader, Arts and the Changing City;
Cllr Ronald Young JP
Chair, Social Strategy, Strathclyde Regional Council, Scotland; Chair, Strath­clyde Community Business; Vice-Chair, Radical Improvements to Peripheral Estates (RIPE); Board Member, Inverclyde Joint Economic Initiative (Chair, Manpower & Training Venture Group); Member, Traditional Industrial Regions of Europe (RETI); Member, British Executive, Council for Municipalities; author, Chairman, Strathclyde Health Liaison Committee

Professor Pierre Merlin

President, University of Vincennes; Professor of Town Planning, University of Paris I; Professor, l’Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées (1984-);

Professor Klaus Kunkel

Institute for Town and Regional Planning, Technical University of Berlin
Professor Dr Klaus R Kunzmann
Professor of Spatial Planning, Dortmund University, Director, Institut für Raumplanung; Co-director, SPRING-programme, Dortmund University; President-elect, Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP); member, German Academy for Urban and Regional Planning
Professor Dr Walter Siebel
Professor of Planning and Urban Research, Oldenburg University

Ambassador Theodore R Britton Jr

Assistant to the Secretary for International Affairs, US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Washington
Mr Edward T Chambers
Executive Director, Industrial Areas Foundation Alinsky Institute, New York
Mr Glen E Coverdale
Executive Vice President, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, New York (1983-); Trustee and member, Executive Committee, Urban Land Institute; Trustee, Urban Land Research Foundation, Member, Real Estate Institute Advisory Board, New York University; Chairman, Housing Partnership Mortgage Corporation.
Ms Bessie C Economou AICP
Housing and Development Consultant, National Investment Development Corporation, California
Mr Richard C D Fleming
President and Chief Executive Officer, Greater Denver Chamber of Commerce
Mr Pete Garcia
President and Chief Executive Officer, Chicanos por la Causa Inc (CPLC); Member, Phoenix Economic Growth Corporation, Phoenix Community Alliance, Arizona Educational Foundation, United Way Executive Directors Association, ASU Minority Advisory Council
Dr Norman J Glickman
Mike Hogg Professor of Urban Policy and Professor of Economics, Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin
Mr Victor Hausner Chief Executive, Victor Hausner & Associates (international economic & development consultancy)
Monsignor William J Linder
Ordained a Catholic priest; Founder, New Community Corporation, Newark, New Jersey; Member, New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency; first President, the New Jersey Housing Assistance Corporation; author
Mr Robert H McNulty
President, Partners for Livable Places
Mr James A Parrott
Executive Assistant to the President, International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union; author
Mr Robert B Pease
Executive Director, Allegheny Conference on Community Development; Member, Board of Directors, National Housing Conference, Mayor’s Task Force on Subsidized Housing, City of Pittsburgh, Board of Directors, Regional Industrial Development Corporation, South­western Pennsylvania
Mr Daniel Rose
President, Rose Associates, New York City (1980-); Trustee, Treasurer, Citizens Housing and Planning Council, New York
Mr Martin Rosen
President, Trust for Public Land, San Francisco
Dr Donna E Shalala
Chancellor, University of Wisconsin-Madison; a Governor, American Stock Exchange; Trustee, Teachers Insurance Annuity Association; Director, Children’s Defense Fund, Institute for International Economics; Trustee, Committee for Economic Development; a Director, The American Ditchley Foundation