What does urban "regeneration" mean?

The word regeneration means to revive, restore or rejuvenate. When "regeneration" comes on the agenda for housing estates, it generally means there is massive changes ahead for local residents and the surrounding area. Experience of regeneration to date tells us that some dramatic physical and social changes are planned.

It's not exactly the same in each estate, but in general what the city council aims to do goes along the following lines:

  • Existing flats complex will be demolished or partly demolished.
  • Redevelopment of site at a much higher density meaning more housing and an increase in population.
  • Redeveloped site will no longer be solely local authority housing.
  • Regenerated complex will have a mix of private, affordable & public housing.
  • Remaining tenants will be re-housed by the local authority either on site or in other places.

The experience of St. Michael's Estate and similar regeneration projects like Fatima Mansions shows that substantial sections of the population leave the estate before the whole process of regeneration is finished. The process takes years from start to finish. Increasingly most of the work will not be carried out directly by the local authority in the traditional way; instead the local authority will enter into a deal with a private developer, who will become the key driver of the project (this is called public-private partnership (PPP), an approach encouraged by government since 2001 (DoE Circular HS 13/01)). The public housing and community facilities will be funded mainly through the sale of private apartments. Some new facilities may be developed, but what you get will depend on the deal that is struck between the local authority and the private developer.

There have been fierce struggles over all of these issues and over what regeneration should be about. Communities have fought hard for social as well as physical regeneration - a community agenda. Another kind of regeneration - centred on social and community needs - is possible. But that will depend on how well a community can organise and act to influence the future of your estate.