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Urban Regeneration Environment

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 5464 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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To what extent has Culture-Led Regeneration affected the built environment within the UK? Use examples to put this into a wider context.

Since the 1940’s the phrase ‘Urban Regeneration’ has been increasingly used in conjunction with the action of redeveloping land which had, in years prior, been areas of moderate to high density urban land use. The study of this process and the way in which it came about has also increased as the successes of Urban Regeneration throughout the United Kingdom and indeed internationally, continue to prove economically, socially and politically advantageous to any number of parties involved in the development of gentrification over the last 70 years.

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In addition to looking at how regeneration has affected the built environment, the idea that it has been ‘culture-led’ poses further aspects and issues but however, less scrutiny has been given to the idea of regeneration being ‘culture-led’, this is a continuously growing area which deserves more analysis due to the economic success it has given investors and key stakeholders. It has also worked towards preserving some of Britain’s architectural heritage for the future, giving certain areas that would otherwise have been in a state of disrepair a new lease of life and additional social benefits.

By paying attention to the way in which regeneration has developed during the 20th century to becoming culture-led it will be possible to give an in-depth view of the effects on the existing urban fabric of the United Kingdom, particularly over the last 25 years.

There are a number of ways in which cultural regeneration takes place, from local governments wanting to increase investment in the area to them gaining status through cultural events such as the Olympic and Commonwealth games, the World Cup to the European Capital of Culture and prominent buildings such as Stadiums and tourist attractions. All of which will be discussed and then highlighted through case studies including the Albert Docks in Liverpool, the Capital of Culture for 2008 and Salford Quays, Manchester which was involved in the Commonwealth Games 2002.

On a wider scale, regeneration has played an important role in the history and demographics of cities around the world including Beijing and Melbourne, commonly cited UK examples include Salford Quays in Manchester and Albert Docks in Liverpool; other UK examples include, Canary Wharf in London and Cardiff in Wales. For the purposes of this study, UK examples will be used to directly answer the question posed, which will then be put in to context through briefly analysing the city of Bilbao and Barcelona in, Spain.

Regeneration or ‘gentrification’ can be a contentious topic due to the variety of complex issues surrounding this topic. This often includes, premium prices charged for the new developments. To the nature of change and impact on the local communities that may have fallen in to decline. The existing infrastructure and community that is impacted on by the process of regeneration can take time to evolve and ultimately impact upon the initiatives proposed, as well as the effects on the local community, the power of which should not be underestimated. In order to balance the argument for regeneration it will be necessary to substantiate these different viewpoints and provide a fair consideration from all stakeholders who would be involved and affected by developments.

The impact on the environment caused by regeneration can vary depending on the amount of refurbishing and the variety of materials used in the regeneration programme. The extent to which these are recycled and reused to reduce the amount of waste and energy varies with each development. This field of expertise is large and far-reaching and will be discussed briefly in chapter 4 using case studies to highlight the various aspects. The study will also address physical as well as the environmental impacts of regeneration with past and current projects aiming to improve urban areas, with the aid of culture to deliver change. The environment aspect in particular is becoming increasingly important as the country’s social conscience continues to increase into the future.

The paper will then draw together conclusions using arguments both in favour of and also against urban regeneration. It will also draw on why cultural regeneration is initiated and why these areas are finding the effects of cultural regeneration successful.

The paper will also touch on areas that may have failed or where areas are finding the task of regenerating the physical but also the social and political aspects challenging.

It will also be possible to discuss and argue the extent to which culture-led regeneration has moved away from the initial aims of improving an area’s social and economic problems to also encompass the physical and environmental aspects of improving an area. This multi-faceted approach has continued to provide many obstacles for experts within the area but these are challenges that, if overcome, will ensure the longevity and economic well being of the project in question for a long time to come.

The degree to which urban regeneration has affected the built environment in the UK is likely to be extensive due to well known case studies and examples, as well as visual evidence being clear in day to day life and also being reported in the media, however extracting the elements of gentrification to date and stating to what level they have been purely culture-led will prove more complicated due to difficulties in finding material that points to an area of culture as being the sole catalyst for the regeneration to begin.

The essay proposes to demonstrate why cultural regeneration is successful

Chapter 1 – History

History of regeneration – Industrial revolution

  • Early 20th century (1940’s)
  • Last 25 years (definition culture led – detail) – Castleford, Canary Wharf


The United Kingdom has a long history that has become synonymous with the manufacturing industry, dating back to the British Empire when the UK imported and exported many products from countries around the world. During the earliest phase of the Industrial Revolution the Bridgewater Canal was built in 1761, this halved the price of coal in Manchester due to decreased transport costs and ease of access. This triggered a period of canal building activity between 1760 and 1850, the canals provided the infrastructure by which trade could occur more easily and cheaply and it is along these waterways that many cities were developed, including Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham and London.

Many industrial facilities were strategically located close to rivers, canals and estuaries, most notably Manchester and Liverpool being situated just 35 miles apart and joined by the Manchester Ship Canal, the North West became a fundamental destination for cotton and textiles and manufacturing as well as Liverpool becoming a central dock for trade due its global connections.

The Industrial Revolution also witnessed a large growth in population, in 1695 the population of Britain was estimated to be 5.5million, by the early part of 1801, just over 100 years later, this had grown to 9.3million and 40 years later again, almost doubled to 15.9million people in 1841. These figures represent a 60% increase in just 40 years. (www.historylearningsite.co.uk) In the North West, Manchester alone experienced a dramatic six-fold increase in its population during this time.

The development of cities during this period clearly meant that workers moved to these areas seeking jobs, stability and prosperity. By 1900, 80% of Britain’s population lived in urban areas, whilst the number of workers employed in the agricultural sector fell from eleven percent to just two percent. (www.statistics.gov.uk). There were various reasons for this to occur, but the main ones being the advances in technology and the closure of many farming and agricultural companies, hence reducing the number of those employed in this sector.

This sudden surge in the migration of people from rural to urban areas, initially for jobs in the factories or mills, obviously meant that housing was required in these ‘super-cities’, and it was needed quickly. The ever increasingly rich owners of the businesses saw the need to provide cheap housing for their workers, and so the now-famous back to back terraced housing associated with British industrial inner cities were born.

The back-to-back terrace was the most popular addition to the city due to it being cheap and easy to construct, as well as durable and serving the purpose that it was required for. However, much of this housing was constructed without proper planning, adequate facilities or infrastructure for clean running water and waste disposal. Areas throughout the United Kingdom fell into a state of squalor and disrepair; serious efforts were made to reverse the ‘slum’ conditions resulting from the housing crisis over the next 100 years.

During 1909, a Town Planning Act was formed, this act was to, ‘forbid the building of any more back-to-back houses’, this highlighted the need for builders and designs to meet certain standards. During the First World War the slogan, ‘Homes fit for heroes’ (Crisp 1998) which accompanied the revised Town Planning Act in 1919. This Act focused on implementing improvements to inner city slums on general housing conditions, in order to create space for new housing many of the workers were persuaded to move out to the suburbs which were ‘greener’ and ‘cleaner’ this coincided with the decline of the industrial revolution and again agriculture levels increased. Once many of the inner city areas had been abandoned, a prompt decision was taken to destroy many of the workers houses due to the overcrowded and poor conditions of them.

During the post war-era employment in the city grew more slowly than in towns and rural areas, employment began to decrease in the 1960’s and the decline spread to almost all cities in the 1970’s. As the world’s first industrial economy virtually collapsed within a ten year period between 1970 and 1980, 55% of jobs were lost in cities during the recession. (Turok & Edge) The former industrial cities of Newcastle, Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester were left lifeless and devoid of jobs, whilst towns and rural areas saw a steady increase in the number of opportunities.

The inner cities were left with polluted by-products from the factories whilst the movement of jobs and people to the country was actively encouraged with the aim of reducing over-crowding, in order to clean up the cities and plan orderly settlements for the future. This led to further social and economic problems such as crime and relative poverty as many areas sank in to depression. During the 1980’s, Manchester and Liverpool along with the other industrial areas of Birmingham and Newcastle had lost their influential status, mills, warehouses and docks which had made the cities so successful lay abandoned and increasingly vandalised, whilst the river and canal networks lay polluted.

The beginning of the ‘Information Age’ during the 1990’s saw a sharp transition from primary manufacturing industries to a knowledge based, service industry. This was seen as an important driver for change, despite the ability for new industries and businesses to locate in rural areas, through the use of the digital medium of the Internet. However, financial services and the retail industry have increasingly relocated business to city centres once again, creating flagship stores that drew service sector workers back into the city centre in turn creating the need for additional services in the city.

The end of the 20th century saw the start of a renaissance in the development of new and improved venues for cultural activity, from arts and media centres, theatres, museums and galleries, to less formal roles such as public art works and urban designs in the public domain. Many towns and cities were seen to be re-investing in the rich cultural heritage of the past, and complementing this with contemporary art projects and exhibitions. It was during this time that work within the creative industries was recognised as bringing a viable way of sustaining a business enterprise around the arts and crafts, later joined by digital media based work.

Chapter 2 – Culture-Led Models

Major events – 3 models – e.g. Olympic games (London , Commonwealth, Capital of Culture, World Cup, Stadiums International context/differences – Bilbao (Capital of Culture), Barcelona (Olympics)

It has not only been traditional and historic ‘cultural capitals’ or ‘world cities’, that have looked to install this new form of cultural energy into their urban centres, those seeking to transform their image, established industrial cities as in the case of Bilbao and Glasgow.

These cities are undergoing re-imaging, through new and upgraded cultural facilities to try and appeal as cosmopolitan destinations for the first time. Towns and cities such as these, will undoubtedly be greatly affected through culture, not only on the built environment, but also in their social and economic development.

The role culture can play in attempting to regenerate an area can be expressed through three different models of regeneration; cited in a report by the Department of Culture, Media and Sports, on the contribution of culture within regeneration in the United Kingdom. The three models include; – Culture-led Regeneration

– Culture Regeneration

– Culture & Regeneration

The models which have been identified show where cultural activity can be incorporated, or incorporates itself into a regeneration process. The different models developed include defining culture-led regeneration, cultural regeneration as well as culture and regeneration. Although sounding similar, the models represent and explain three varied approaches to regeneration.

Culture-led Regeneration often involves the use of physical and environmental improvements and more often results in the creation of new cultural facilities. This can be through the construction of new buildings, or the reuse of existing structures, examples of which might include Peckham Library, the TATE modern in Southwark, or the Sage music centre and BALTIC centre for contemporary art in Gateshead.

Due to the nature of these highly visible projects, both in the public domain and through marketing and advertising, there can be a misinterpretation that some cultural facilities are solely responsible for the regeneration of an area, when in fact they may be a less significant element in a wider, longer term programme. (Evans 2005).

This can be identified particularly where “flagship” projects are concerned. Bilbao is one example where the external image of the city has been dominated by a single

building; the Guggenheim. In this case, far less attention has been given to the preparation of infrastructure, such as improvements to roads and metro systems as well as the improvements to housing, with new residential developments, with the redevelopment of existing cultural facilities that may also have contributed to the regeneration of the city.

Castleford, in West Yorkshire, has a population of around 38,000. The restructuring of the mining industry in 1997 meant that the number of employees had fallen to under six hundred. The closure of the mines, and other redundancies has led to unusually high levels of unemployment, poor health and low education achievements.

The residents are unusually committed to improving the quality life, The Castleford Project is a programme of improvements supported by a collaboration between Wakefield, key regeneration agencies and the community; to improve the town centre, health care, bring safety within the neighbourhoods and local communities and give opportunities to the younger demographic..

The successful approach to the Castleford project shows that culture-led can support regeneration of the former West Yorkshire mining town. Just a few years prior many felt that towns on the outskirts of Yorkshire such as Castleford were in terminal decline following pit and factory closures that put thousands out of work. A strong community spirit led the changes in the area which saw the development of a visionary 25 year urban renaissance programme, this large scale project covered Castleford and four other local towns.

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The Castleford project has been unique in the sense that it was designed to empower local people to improve their area and develop their own vision and identity for the future. It involved a partnership between the council, the local community, and Channel 4 television which invested one hundred thousand pounds, as well as regional and national organisations; as a result local people have a sense of pride and care over their community. The initial catalyst for the regeneration of Castleford was the development of the Xscape leisure and shopping complex, this boasts the largest indoor ski slope in Europe, it is said to attract more visitors than anywhere else in Yorkshire, which has also led to the creation of many jobs, more than previously available when the pit was in existence.

Considerable investment is being put into the area with one single firm staking £55m. There is good quality house building, a new hotel, supermarket and plans for a heritage centre. By being rooted in the community and having the local people’s full support this regeneration programme has proved a success, if a project such as this is not deeply rooted in the community then it is not guaranteed to be successful or sustainable.

Barcelona is a true example of Cultural Regeneration, where a ‘Cultural City’, was a successful host of the Olympic Games in 1992. Barcelona took the initiative with the early approach to urban design and culture planning. The design of creative quarters which span between the old city and the Olympic village site, this often meant refurbishing and reviving derelict industrial areas. This form of ‘Urbanism’ in Barcelona has been characterised by the forming of cultural and public squares linked by avenues and promenades that promote the form of culture. A major feature of Barcelona’s regeneration programme involved the expansion of the city centre to encompass the former industrial areas situated on the city’s periphery. This allowed the redevelopment and expansion of the commercial sector along the waterfront. In 1999 the RIBA presented its Royal Gold Medal to Barcelona, the first time a city has received the award. It was given the award for its dramatic and successful transformation which is now widely accepted as a model for cultural regeneration on an international scale. Barcelona proved itself through the successful bid and hosting of the 1992 Olympic Games; other examples of this cultural regeneration model include the European Capital of Culture programmes (ECOC), the international Expositions (EXPO) along with the annual celebrations such as the Edinburgh festival. Host cities have used these international events to increase their cultural profile and in turn these events to help initiate a long term regeneration programme.

Glasgow became the first city to become European Capital of Culture in 1990 having had more than three years to plan for the event. This award was seen as an important opportunity as a catalyst for urban regeneration through the form of culture; Glasgow’s legacy as the first city with ECOC status 16 years ago has sustained this development; similar effects to Barcelona which has been recognised as a success internationally. Seville (EXPO 92), Lisbon (ECOC 94 & EXPO 98) and Rotterdam (ECOC 01) are cases where large-scale regeneration programmes have been combined with these cultural events.

Liverpool has been nominated as ECOC in 2008 and has chosen to build up to this event by hosting themed years. Liverpool was a major participant in the national celebrations of Sea Britain, with special relevance to 2005, The Year of the Sea. Hosting the start and finish of the 2005-06 & 2007-08 Round the World Clipper Race.

2008 the year of the Capital of Culture will see Liverpool hosting major events

highlighting different aspects of the city’s unique culture including ‘The Tall Ships’ Race’ which has a significant connection with the cities maritime heritage.

One event can have wider and far lasting cultural benefits, whilst attracting further investment and increased visitor numbers. Liverpool suffered a vast industrial decline leaving large areas of Brownfield sites derelict which caused economic and social problems. The ECOC will be a vital aid in reshaping and reforming Liverpool to revive the city back to its former successful status, with the regeneration of its famous waterfront known as the Albert Docks.

In the third model, Culture and Regeneration, cultural activities are not fully integrated at either the development or planning stages. This is primarily due to the responsibilities for cultural provision and regeneration being often handled separately, within different departments. This means that any provisions for leisure or culture are likely to be small and implemented after any physical regeneration has taken place, as normally the primary focus was to develop housing and commercial space, the main and sure-fire reasons for bringing money in to an area. This model suggests that in terms of physical and environmental regeneration, the visible signs of any cultural activity or improvements may be small, but this does not mean that cultural activity is absent. This indicates that the cultural element has not been used to promote the regeneration programme. This type of regeneration has distinct connections with community groups, local groups and councils which may not exist in larger ‘flagship’ programmes,

These three models Culture-led Regeneration, Cultural Regeneration and Culture & Regeneration, highlight the different scale of regeneration projects and the level of cultural activities which can differ greatly, from whole “cultural cities” to redeveloped waterfronts, to community orientated public art programmes. The nature of the ‘culture’ element in each model may vary, it is clear that culture can contribute to the regeneration programmes whilst also interacting with the physical, social and economic aspects that help to revive areas. The physical and environmental improvements, delivered within a cultural context are the visible signs of progression that ultimately promote the success and image of the city.

Chapter 3- Case Studies

Case Study 1 – Salford Quays

Case Study 2 – Albert Docks

Case Studies – Albert Docks

The Albert Docks is situated on the waters of the Mersey. The former docks comprises from five blocks of five storey warehouses, which provided 1.25 million square foot of storage space, surrounding by a quadrangle of water. Traditionally, the port had relied on privately owned warehousing in the town to store cargo from the dock. Since the decline in the city between 1970 to 1980, Liverpool has experienced more urban regeneration than virtually any other city in the UK. Since 1971 the city had to respond to a reduction in its population of about a quarter and a loss of more than half of its manufacturing industry. Over this period Liverpool has experimented in a variety in Urban regeneration schemes.

The first government response to the emerging “inner city problem” came in 1968 with the launch of the Urban Programme – small amounts of short term funding to support local community development projects in the inner city. Liverpool was amongst the first to benefit from 50 schemes supported by the programme including nursery, class, sports and community facilities.

In 1969 the Home Office established a series of Community Development Projects (CDPs) including the Vauxhall CDP in addition to supporting a number of local projects, community education programmes, community centres etc. Researchers on the project concluded that the areas problems had structural roots and resulted from external economic change and restructuring (Topping and Smith 1977)

In 1979, the new government established Urban Development Cooperation (including the Merseyside Development Corporation) central government agencies with the power and resources to reclaim large amounts of urban dereliction and to return them to beneficial economic use. Other areas of derelict land developers were offered more relaxed planning permissions and tax breaks.

Through the 1980s British regeneration policy put a lot of emphasis on supporting local economic development by increasing the supply of land and buildings in inner cities.

The first response of the government was to introduce City Challenge; a programme that allowed local authorities to lead local partnerships in bidding for central government money to support local regeneration projects, Liverpool was one of the first successful cities receiving 37.5million in the first round of bidding.

By the 1980s Liverpool’s central area was in decline, few people lived in the City Centre, office and Commercial employment was falling and shopping centres were losing trade. The start of the programme to transform the waterfront commenced in 1986 the project saw the conversion of the existing warehouses into a complex of retail, restaurants, cafe’, and a series of office units and business headquarters. Also there are a number of unique visitor attractions;- Tate Liverpool, the Beatles Story, Merseyside Maritime Museum, the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool Ghost Tours, and The Yellow Duckmarine. This development includes a number of luxury apartment, hotels and a state of the art conference / exhibition centre. The importance of the Albert dock’s to Liverpool is vast as it continues to attract visitors and has helped to re brand Liverpool from a declining and poor city. This in turn has led to the millions of pounds of investment reshaping the heart of the city centre with the development of Paradise Street.

In the new millennium there are new challenges for planning and regeneration schemes in response to changes in social trends (cultural and political) with an increase in environmental issues, economic changes and associated with globalisation and the drive for developments to be more sustainable. However Liverpool has recognised the value of culture to aid in transforming a failing city, with the help of this development it will ignite many other opportunities for the city.

Case Study – Salford Quays

Located in the former Docks area of Manchester and Salford, recently labelled as Salford Quays, The Lowry Centre is widely recognised as being key in the regeneration of Salford, Manchester and adding to the improvement of the North West as a region. As a national landmark in the Millennium Project for “The Arts” this comprises of galleries, theatres, bars, shops and restaurants. The Lowry Centre opened in April 2000 and has since been credited, along with its associated projects, with the creation of 6,500 jobs in the local economy. It is predicted that 11,000 new jobs will arise as a result of the regeneration of the Quays as a whole [Goodey 2000]. These associated cultural projects include The Designer Outlet shopping centre, the Imperial War Museum North (IWMN) and the latest development of the Mediacity:uk which will house the BBC; it also includes other leisure orientated facilities such as a multi screen cinema complex and a water sports centre.

Although a culture-led scheme, the Lowry project was conceived as the final part of the regeneration of Salford Quays, a process that began in the mid 1980s, following the purchase of the Docks from the Manchester Ship Canal Company by Salford City Council in 1983. A development plan was prepared, which sought to “create a new quarter of the city which has a unique character derived from the way in which all parts of the development are related to water; and where people would be encouraged to work, live and play in a high quality environment” [Salford City Council, 1985]. However, despite the great potential that existed in the development of the waterfront, the site was not ideally located in terms of attracting residents, businesses or visitors; “The Docks were three kilometres from the city centre, enclosed by walls and filled with polluted water” [Struthers 2003].

At that time there was very little infrastructure existing prior to the plan. The adjacent Trafford Park Industrial Estate, was littered with derelict warehouses that had little access to the road network and no public transport provisions. Consequently, a reclamation programme was directed at three vital aspects of the site; water, roads and services, in addition to public access and landscaping. Following concerns that the site may be developed purely for housing and offices, a development strategy review was prepared and published in 1988 and set the context for future proposals with an emphasis on a mixture of uses and their relationship to the water, providing opportunities for leisure and culture based activities [Salford City Council, 1988]. This reflected the idea that both physical and environmental improvements had to be made in order to fully exploit the potential of Salford Quays.

It took five years to close the main water basin which allowed the water itself to be treated and cleaned whilst the surrounding areas were cleared ready for the private sector development that was to follow. The access roads were developed to link the Quays internally, this initially meant the improvement of bridges, paths and walkways. There were also connections made to the major road networks into Manchester and beyond. This was all carried out in conjunction with landscaping the area and installing lighting and street furniture before any major building work could be carried out.

The success of the Lowry Centre was entirely dependent on the infrastructure that was laid before it, in order to carry the number of visitors, workers and residents that would be required for it to be a success. The presence of the Lowry itself was a main drawing point for the Imperial War Museum which is now located directly opposite and is linked by the Lowry pedestrian bridge. The Imperial War Museum, a major tourist attraction in it’s own right was opened in 2002 and was designed by renowned architect, Daniel Libeskind, the imposing design aimed to depict the “world as a globe, shattered by war and man’s self-destruction” [Libeskind, 2001].

Along with Old Trafford, the Imperial War Museum and the Lowry signify the cultural landmarks known as ‘The Quays’. The decision to extend Manchester’s tram link to the Quays from Manchester City Centre as well as Bury in the north and Altrincham in the south of the city meant that the Quays was now open to a greater number of visitors, commuters and also residents.

Chapter 4- Regeneration

Sustainable regeneration

Environmental effects of regeneration

Physical regeneration

Arguments against Regeneration – social and environmental (rich people/poor areas and the infrastructure)

Environmental / Physical effects

The appearance and environment of towns and cities are clear representations of their history as well as indicators of their present ability to provide a quality of life to residents and business owners or workers.

The built environment has always performed a wide range of functions, the main theme being initially shelter, social enablers and also trade. All of this f


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