How can we enable community-led regeneration?

Our Friends Network breakfast round table discussion brought together a diverse range of professionals to discuss challenges and opportunities for community-led regeneration

Renaisi Friends event on commuinty-led regeneration in London

How can we place power in the hands of our most marginalised communities and critically, how can they be supported to exercise it to their advantage? This was the central question that emerged during a roundtable discussion convened by Renaisi on 29 June to examine the current status of community-led regeneration. Entitled ‘Community-led regeneration: can it really exist?’, the first event this year in our Friends Network programme brought together 30 people from across the spectrum of organisations working for communities, including housing associations, funders, regeneration specialists, developers and local authorities. During a wide-ranging discussion, participants analysed the forms of power available to communities, the extent to which current power brokers are willing and able to give it away, the resources available to enable this and the barriers preventing communities from taking it up.

Debbie Ladds, Chief Executive of Local Trust – which is providing a £1 million each to 150 local communities throughout England to enable them to improve their areas through the Big Local programme – kicked off proceedings by sharing experiences from Big Local. She challenged participants to consider what is really meant by community-led regeneration. She pointed out that while we tend to think about regeneration in terms of the built environment, her experience of working with London communities on Big Local has revealed that influence over the use of land is considered out of reach by local people, who consequently tend to focus on social-economic issues, such as job creation.

During the course of the discussion, which took place under the Chatham House rule, a number of themes emerged, including:

  • With land and power inextricably related and a property market beyond the influence of communities and those working on their behalves – particularly in London – how far can communities be truly empowered? For many communities in the capital, for instance, where land is scarce and mostly in private hands, the prospect of owning property is a distant dream and communities have little say over how land is used
    Debbie Ladds Local Trust

    Debbie Ladds

  • If community-led regeneration encompasses both the built environment and socio-economic issues, the former should reflect the needs of the community – yet too often this is not the case. The property market causes a disconnect that communities may feel powerless to bridge
  • How can we make initiatives for community control of assets, such as Community Land Trusts and neighbourhood planning, accessible to the most marginalised communities? Renaisi’s experience of working with deprived urban communities on a recent neighbourhood planning pilot programme led by DCLG revealed residents are keen to realise the potential in the approach. However, a high level of time and technical skill is often needed to do so, which marginalised communities often lack
  • How can communities be better empowered to formulate and articulate their needs? Mechanisms such as community consultations, for example, often fail to enable residents to come together to articulate a shared vision for improvement, instead leading them to focus on the problems on their doorstep
  • How can we enable communities to work effectively with power brokers, such as local authorities? The latter has a vital role to play in meeting communities’ needs, but the imperative for growth in the capital and resulting pressure on existing assets can make relationships with residents fractious

The discussion revealed that giving power to communities is complex and challenging. Nonetheless, the productive debate between the diverse range of participants demonstrated that there is an appetite for partnership working and willingness to listen, which should give us hope that it can be achieved.

Our short report on proceedings at the event, which presents the key insight, learning and perspectives, can be downloaded using the button below. To find out more about this event or the Friends Network, get in touch.

Toby Hopwood
Toby Hopwood

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