Posted by: Adam Roake | February 6, 2009

Long Term Regeneration or Short Term Puff

Dermot Finch (How to be a Distinctive City) has an interesting review of a report by Ivan Turok titled The distinctive city: pitfalls in the pursuit of differential advantage.

Ivan makes the point (and Dermot summarises it well) that the quick fix recipe of “develop a new industry/expand a university to provide high value added staff for it/ build a shiny new building/ do a rebrand” doesn’t really work very well if that’s all it is.

It seems to me that this is another good example of the conflict between the long term view that is an inevitable requirement in regeneration projects and the short term view that it is difficult to avoid in a capitalist system. This was for me a key theme at the Guardian Future of Housing Conference. The short term view taken generally by private sector house builders is simply unable to deal with the time frames of even the smallest regeneration project. When Local Authorities take the same short term view, which of course is attractive if you have to stand for re-election within the next four years, the quick fix recipe will inevitably win through. And it is these regeneration projects that are our only hope of delivering the kind of housing numbers that the demographers suggest we need to house ourselves in the future (see Savills Research Briefing notes).

In better times this isn’t necessarily a problem because with a bit of luck peripheral projects will tend to spring up on the back of the quite big “shiny new building” to fill in some of the gaps at least. In the current climate however the short and medium term view is at best bleak and certainly not going to produce the kind of profits it used to – the big shiny building will probably remain empty and the peripheral projects will not come forward.

So are we brave enough to take the long term view? I hope so because every single forecaster I’ve spoken to or read is certain that the recession/ depression we are currently experiencing will end – some say as early as 2011.

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