Regeneration means rebirth; and imparted the promise of hope for finance in the Docklands and by extension the UK in the 1980s (Minton, 2012:5). Rebirth implies a new project is constructed upon the demise of a project that has gone before it. This was the case with the regeneration of the Docklands under a Thatcher government. It implicated a ‘trickle-down’ notion, where wealth would purportedly work its way down from the heart of regeneration to encompassing poorer areas (Minton, 2012: 5). The ulterior motive behind this press for regeneration was neoliberalism and was substantiated by Thatcher with the mantra ‘There Is No Alternative’ (Monbiot, 2016). This slogan was used to justify allowing private developers to regenerate the admittedly economically deprived areas of the Docklands. However, trickle-down has been proven not to work in the Docklands: ‘rather than helping those who need [wealth] the most, it has rubbed right up against them yet entirely ignored them, creating a segregated and disconnected patchwork.’ (Minton, 2012:8). This is a worrying theme corroborated on a wider-reaching scale by Lees (2013): ‘The trickle-down benefits promised by regeneration schemes, that support of businesses would eventually benefit middle and lower income families, have not materialised.’
Yet the financial success of the Docklands’ centre has meant it has become a model for redevelopment of towns and cities elsewhere in England (Minton, 2012:5). Instigated by Thatcher’s government, the values of regeneration by commercial corporations, were carried forward in New Labour’s governance (Carpenter, 2014). Therefore the model of private investment in new developments has prevailed. As well as not positively influencing the areas around these developments, ‘a reliance on the private market to deliver homes since the 1980s, and the loss of millions of social homes over recent decades, has destroyed [a fairly stable housing] system.’ (Beswick, 2019).
Amidst the housing crisis the UK finds itself in, urban regeneration is a promising alternative to building on greenfield sites inside the green belt around London, for instance (Peace, 2018). As well as mitigating the pressures on the environment by not building on valuable green space, the theory is regeneration of urban spaces can build new homes and help rejuvenate a community if done well. A major concern with urban regeneration however, is who the new housing is for. The new developments are often only affordable for wealthier people moving in from elsewhere. This is exemplified by areas like the Heygate Estate in London, which ‘is now a symbol of the false promises and injustices of this ‘renewal’’ (Lees, 2018). For many local people, some of whom may have been displaced by their creation, they are elusively beyond reach. Carpenter (2014) also makes the point: ‘the reality of house prices even in the so-called “affordable” sector means that many redevelopments have little in the way of a mixed population.’ All this means that not only is housing in high requirement, it is segregated when it does arrive on the market.
Masking opposition to this concerning trend is the complicated language associated with regeneration. As it becomes complicated by jargon like ‘land assembly’ and ‘compulsory purchase orders’, more money is invested into buying land and creating new, private developments (Minton, 2012:10). It is arguable these obscure words and phrases help contribute to land being redeveloped without much consultation with people who aren’t familiar with such esoteric language (Minton, 2012:xiii). As well as hiding behind these terms, regeneration has formed its own branding and image; invariably promising to deliver contemporary homes and to make the newly developed area a better place in the process. Much of regeneration’s issues are eclipsed by its image which has been cultivated through investment to make an alluring prospect for potential incomers.
Beswick, J. (2019) ‘Here’s how Britain’s broken housing system can be fixed in a decade’ In: The Guardian 01/082019. At: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/01/broken-housing-system-fixed (Accessed 21.04.2020).
Carpenter, J. (2014) Regeneration and the Legacy of Thatcherism. At: https://www.metropolitiques.eu/Regeneration-and-the-Legacy-of.html (Accessed 17.04.2020).
Lees, L. (2013) ‘Regeneration in London has pushed poor families out’ In: The Guardian 29/08/2013. At: https://www.theguardian.com/local-government-network/2013/aug/29/mixed-communities-plan-government-regeneration (Accessed 17.04.2020).
Lees, L. (2018) Challenging the Gentrification of Council Estates in London. At: https://www.urbantransformations.ox.ac.uk/blog/2018/challenging-the-gentrification-of-council-estates-in-london/ (Accessed 24.04.2020).
Minton, A. Ground Control. (2nd ed.) London: Penguin Books Ltd.
Monbiot, G. (2016) ‘Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems’ In: The Guardian 15/04/2016. At: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/15/neoliberalism-ideology-problem-george-monbiot (Accessed 22.04.2020).
Peace, L. (2018) Is urban regeneration worth the effort? At: https://www.pbctoday.co.uk/news/planning-construction-news/urban-regeneration/43468/ (Accessed 17.04.2020).