Recently in Planning & Building Category

Lowry ballet banner The Lowry arts centre has this week stated its opposition to current plans for the Palace Theatre in Manchester to host all elements of a proposed Royal Opera House development in that city. The arguments on both sides seem however to miss some critical points: firstly, this is a regional not a sub-regional issue; and secondly the infrastructure and the local provisions should have been sorted years ago. Some other opportunities to develop the regional cultural offer have already been shunned; and now it looks as though this may happen yet again.

Arts Organisations, Regeneration and Regions, Sub-Regions & City Regions.

Reports this week suggest that the Lowry in Salford feels left out and disadvantaged by the proposed development of a northern (second) home for the Royal Opera House, if as a result all ROH-related northern ballet and opera productions - some of them currently hosted by the Lowry - were to be located in Manchester's presently fading Palace Theatre.

This is not the time or place to go into questions of sub-regional and local politics - the cities of Manchester and Salford must get along as best they can - but there are a few larger questions which now arise which might have been addressed earlier.

Regional aspects of the arts organisation proposals
Firstly, investments and development of this size are clearly regional as well as local matters. The Lowry, a Millennium product, cost over £100 million to set up, and doubtless the cost of the new proposals would also reach many millions.

It is surprising therefore that the 'arts and culture' debate thus far seems to have centred in its positive aspects only on the ROH and the Manchester orchestras. (Perhaps, as a slightly mischievous aside, there are very few left who recall that it was the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, not a Manchester ensemble, that performed at the Covent Garden Royal Opera House in May 1981 during the Royal Ballet's golden anniversary celebrations?)

Locating and programming
Whatever, the there is now also a Royal Ballet in Birmingham, and Opera North may be intending like the Royal Ballet to make its northern activities to the Palace Theatre in Manchester; but the Lowry wants to keep them in Salford.

It has to be said however that the Lowry has disappointed some of us in its more recent opera and ballet offering. To begin with we were excited by the range and frequency of national-level opera and ballet at the Lowry, but over time this seems to have been diluted by a preponderance of more local and / or less ambitious scheduling. Once enthusiasms for a venue are lost, it is probably hard to get them back.

Travel and catchment
One unfortunate element in the Lowry scenario is its very poor infrastructure. It is almost impossible for non-Mancunians to reach (and return home from) on public transport. Unless you take the car, you can't sensibly get there after work or in bad weather....

Despite the trainline from the West of Greater Manchester (Warrington, Liverpool, etc) running within sight of the Lowry, it doesn't actually stop there, and one has to proceed into Manchester and return out on a local route. It's perhaps relevant that the first stopping point, Manchester Oxford Road station, is however almost next door to the Palace Theatre.

Regional benefits
The Lowry deserves a measure of sympathy for the situation in which it is placed by Manchester's proposals; but there is already a huge plan for the relocation of parts of the BBC to that site. And there is a feeling that the Lowry could have positioned itself better as an attractive venue: limited serious arts programming, poor and / or restricted catering provision, little public transport and expensive car parks do little to ensure a consistent and devoted fully regional audience.

There again, Manchester itself needs to explain why it has not, as far as can be seen, looked beyond its own boundaries to other North West areas, in sharing enthusiasm for the ROH proposals.

Lost and endangered opportunities
A few years ago Liverpool had an opportunity, which it decisively shunned, to make a bid for the National Theatre Museum to be relocated to Merseyside. That Museum used to be located right alongside the Covent Garden Royal Opera House; but despite the potential for inside influence of very eminent Merseysiders, not least on the board of the Victoria and Albert Museum (which owned the Theatre Museum), the bid never materialised and there is no longer any dedicated location for the theatre collection at all. Most of the collection is now stored away in Kensington, at the V&A itself.

The possibilities of real cultural synergy between Merseyside and Greater Manchester have already therefore been seriously blunted by lack of vision, imagination and enthusiasm. Let us hope this is not about to happen yet again.

Sir Richard Leese, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council, is surely correct in sharing with previous Secretary of State for Culture, Andy Burnham, the view that the regional benefits of the current proposals for regeneration and investment could and should be significant. But if everyone is not persuaded soon, there will probably be no action, or benefits at all.


Read more articles on Arts Organisations, Regeneration and Regions, Sub-Regions & City Regions.

Josephine Butler House Liverpool, ruined Josephine Butler House in Liverpool's Hope Street Quarter is named for the famous social reformer, and the site of the first UK Radium Institute. Latterly an elegant adjunct to Myrtle Street's The Symphony apartments, it sits opposite the Philharmonic Hall. But the intended ambiance has been ruined by a dismal failure and omission on the part of Liverpool City Council, who have permitted Josephine Butler House to be grimly defaced with little prospect of anything better, or even just intact, taking its place.

Liverpool & Merseyside, The Future Of Liverpool and Regeneration.

The Symphony, previously part of the City of Liverpool College of Further Education portfolio (and before that, the Liverpool Eye, Ear & Throat Infirmary), is a newly restored apartment block immediately opposite Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall. It is elegantly refurbished by Downing Developments and adds an attractive dimension to city centre living in Liverpool's historic Hope Street Quarter.

View of The Symphony from Liverpool Philharmonic Hall,  Myrtle Street Liverpool

But just a year ago this weekend (i.e. in the first few days of March 2008) residents of those apartments saw tarpaulin raised around their neighbouring building, the historic Josephine Butler House, home to the UK's first Radium Institute (which is celebrated in the Liverpool 'Suitcases' Hope Street / Mount Street sculptures) and named after the social pioneer whom Millicent Fawcett described as “the most distinguished woman of the Nineteenth Century".

Josephine Butler (1828 -1906) was an extraordinarily accomplished British social reformer, who had a major role in improving conditions for women in education and public health. She moved to Liverpool in 1866, when her husband, the academic George Butler, became headmaster of Liverpool College. Much of her work derived its inspiration from the death of their young daughter, and she has a national library, a collection at Liverpool University, an educational institution and a charitable trust named for her. Her life and work is also celebrated locally in the Suitcases ('A Case Study') public art installation a block up the road on the Hope Street / Mount Street junction in Liverpool.

Josephine Butler House with tarpaulin

So what followed after the Josephine Butler House was swathed in tarpaulin was almost beyond belief - with just days to go before a formal enquiry, Maghull Developments, who had recently acquired Josephine Butler House in partnership with the previous owners, Liverpool John Moores University, took hammers to its entire street-facing facade.

Josephine Butler House, Liverpool , Myrtle Street facing facade ruined

Josephine Butler House, Liverpool, Hope Street facing wall ruined

The Liverpool Daily Post reported Maghull Developments in March 2008 as saying, nonetheless, that the work under wraps on the frontage was “specialist restoration work to the stone facade” - a claim which is difficult to reconcile with the still intact stonework of the Stowell Street side of the building, unblemished to this day:

Josephine Butler House Liverpool, Stowell Street side wall, intact

But if the City Council had amended their omission, as many times requested, to include this corner of Hope Street in the Conservation Area, they could have protected the entire historic location at a stroke.

The plans for the Josephine Butler House site had been in considerable contention even before these extraordinary events. There were public meetings and demands that proposals be returned to the drawing board because they were adjudged inappropriate for Hope Street Quarter - Liverpool's cultural quarter, the home of the city's two cathedrals, its two largest universities, its internationally recognised orchestra and several theatres, and a critically important gateway into the city centre.

Josephine Butler House, Liverpool, ruined ; next door to The Symphony

A comment, at the time of the 'specialist restoration', from Liverpool City Council's elected environment portfolio holder, says it all:

Why would they restore the stone facade when they are planning to knock the building down? Don’t treat us like we are dim.
The building is an intrinsic part of what makes Hope Street so special, but there’s very little the council can do short of me sleeping under the scaffolding.

So much for the 'legacy' of Liverpool's status as 2008 European Capital of Culture.

What worries some of us is not even just that the Josephine Butler scaffolding has now long disappeared and the damage surely done.

It's that, in brutal fact, the prospect of any action on the Josephine Butler site - beyond perhaps demolition to become a car park? - looks itself from where we sit to be exceedingly dim; and that the whole City Council seems still to be asleep on the job.

Josephine Butler House Car Park Liverpool (corner of Hope Street & Myrtle Street)

Josephine Butler House, Liverpool defaced


[PS This sad saga was taken up by Ed Vulliamy in The Observer of 20 March 2009, in an article entitled How dare they do this to my Liverpool.. There is also a prolonged debate about Josephine Butler House on the website SkyscraperCity.

An updated version of this article (here) was published on the Liverpool Confidential website, on 22 April 2009.]

See more photographs of Liverpool & Merseyside and read more about The Future Of Liverpool and Regeneration.

Pedestrians, inner ring road & railway 004a.jpg Regeneration is a crowded field. It’s the market place to resolve the competing demands of social equity indicators as varied as joblessness, family health, carbon footprint, religious belief and housing. But it's obvious something isn't gelling in the way regeneration 'works'. Could that something be the almost gratuitous neglect of experiential equality and diversity?
BURA, the British Urban Regeneration Association, is squaring up to this fundamental challenge.

Discuss equality and diversity issues with any group of regeneration practitioners, and just one of two responses is likely.

Some respond immediately: Yes, critical for everyone; what took you so long?

For others, the feeling seems to be more : Great idea, but not much to do with me.

So where’s the common ground?

Balancing strategy and everyday reality
How can we balance large-scale strategies for a sustainable economy with the immediate human reality that, as an example, women born in Pakistan now living in Britain have twice the U.K. average risk that their babies will die before age one?

The Board of BURA, the British Urban Regeneration Association, has during the past year thought hard about where in all this some commonality might lie, and what that means for the future. Whether as a practitioner, a client or recipient of regenerational endeavours, an agent for economic development, or a policy maker seeking sustainable futures for us all, questions of social equity matter a lot.

But the case for equality and diversity is easier for practitioners and decision-makers to see in some parts of regeneration than others.

Large-scale and micro impacts
No-one doubts, for instance, that new roads and other infrastructure can attract businesses and enhance employment opportunities for disadvantaged areas.

Some will acknowledge the physical isolation which new highways may impose on those without transport, now perhaps cut off from their families, friends and local amenities.

Almost no-one considers how regeneration might reduce the tragic personal realities behind high infant death rates in poor or ‘deprived’ communities.

Differential impacts
The point is that these impacts are differential. The elderly or disabled, mothers and young children, people of minority ethnic heritage: overall the experience of people in these groups is more community disadvantage and fewer formal resources to overcome this disadvantage.

But for each ‘group’, the tipping points are different.

The scope for examination of differential equality and diversity impacts – of infrastructural arrangements, of process, of capacity building and of everything else to do with regeneration - is enormous, and would go quite a way towards reducing unintended consequences and even greater serendipitous disadvantage for some people.

This work has hardly begun, but it is I believe a basic requirement and tool for making progress towards genuinely remediated and sustainable communities.

One size does not fit all
It is obvious that currently something isn’t gelling in the way that regeneration ‘works’. That something, to my mind, is the almost gratuitous neglect of difference. However one looks at it, one size simply does not fit all in the greater regenerational scheme of things.

But if you zoomed in from outer space, you’d be forced to the conclusion that one size does in fact fit almost all when it comes to senior decision-makers and influencers. There are amongst leaders in regeneration some women, a few non-white faces, and perhaps even smaller numbers of influencers with personal experience of, say, disability; but not many.

This self-evident fact has, of course, been a matter of deep concern to those in the regeneration sector over the past few months.

Meeting social equity requirements - or not
In the final three reports it published before its amalgamation last September into the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) demonstrated very clearly that regeneration bodies at every level, including 15 Whitehall departments, are failing to meet their race relations obligations. They also showed very compellingly that people from ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, experience poor health, and encounter the criminal justice system.

Causal factors cited as underlying the CRE’s findings encompass most of what regeneration is supposed to do well. Failures of leadership, impact assessment, legal framework and recruitment are all lamented in the reports.

And we can add, alongside the CRE’s analysis, inequalities arising from gender, belief and other factors such as disability, as well as the wider issue of the invisibility and powerlessness of people of all kinds who are on low incomes – who, as it happens, are the main ‘recipients’ (perhaps we should call them ‘clients’?) of regeneration.

Evident disparities
There is a huge disparity here. Look round pretty well any significant regeneration-facing board room or policy think-tank, and it’s apparent that the majority of those wielding influence (on behalf, we should note, of people whose communities are to be ‘regenerated’) are comfortably-off, able bodied, white men.

In this respect, as everyone involved freely admits, the BURA Board fits the mould. Each BURA (elected) Director brings something special to the table; but few of them can offer at first hand a personal perspective divergent from the stereotype. We have therefore decided, unanimously, to address head-on this increasingly serious challenge to our capacity to deliver as leaders in regeneration.

Business benefits
But the BURA Board focus on equality and diversity, whilst driven primarily by the impetus to uphold best practice in regeneration, is not entirely altruistic. This is also good for business.

There is plenty of evidence from well-grounded research that sharing different understandings of any complex situation, right up to and including at Board level, brings benefit all round – including to the bottom line.

Our resolve to implement equality and diversity good practice throughout BURA has required that we look anew at how we function. The BURA Board recognises that we will need to be receptive to new ideas, willing to change things where needs be, and transparent in our own processes and activities.

The BURA programme for action
The BURA action plan, launched in Westminster on 20 February '08, is therefore to:
· conduct an equality and diversity audit of all aspects (including Board membership) of our organisation’s structure and business, and to publish our outline findings and plan for action on our website;
· monitor and report on our progress towards equality and diversity;
· dedicate a part of the BURA website to offering up-to-date information on equality and diversity matters, in a format freely accessible to everyone;
· develop our (also open) Regeneration Equality and Diversity Network, launched in February this year (2008), to encourage very necessary debate and the exchange of good practice;
· appoint from amongst elected Non-Executive Directors a BURA Equality and Diversity Champion (me), to ensure a continued focus on the issues.

In all these ways - developing inclusive partnerships at every level from local to governmental to international, supporting new initiatives and research of all sorts, keeping the equality and diversity agenda in the spotlight - we hope to move regeneration beyond its current boundaries, towards a place from which we can begin to establish not ‘just’ remediation of poor physical and human environments, but rather true and responsive sustainability.

Regeneration is complex
Regeneration is more than construction, development or even planning; it has to address for instance the alarming recent finding by New Start that sometimes ‘race’ concerns are focused more on fear, than on entitlement or social equity.

Delivery of our ambition to achieve genuine best practice will require the courage to move beyond current and largely unperceived hierarchies of inequality and diversity – not ‘just’ race, but gender / sexuality too; not ‘just’ faith / belief, but also disability - towards a framework which encompasses the challenging complexities of the world as people actually experience it.

No comfort zones
There can be no comfort zones in this enterprise. Acknowledging stark contemporary truths and painful past failures is essential if we are to succeed.

The purpose of regeneration is not to make practitioners feel good, it is ultimately, rather, to do ourselves out of a job; to improve, sustainably, the lives of people who are often neither powerful nor visible in the existing wider scheme of things.

Moving from piecemeal regeneration to sustainable futures makes two demands of us: that we see clearly where we all are now; and that we ascertain properly where the people of all sorts on whose behalf we are delivering regeneration would wish to be.

Multiple aspects of diversity
When we can balance constructively, say, the carbon footprint concerns of a businessman in Cheltenham, and the ambition to influence childcare arrangements of an Asian heritage woman in Bury, we shall be getting somewhere.

Diversity in its many manifestations – age, belief, (dis)ability, gender, race or whatever - is part of the human condition.

Consistent focus on the many factors underpinning that condition would be a powerful impetus towards sustainability. It would also be also a huge professional challenge.

Taking the lead as regenerators
That’s why we as regeneration leaders and practitioners must make equality and diversity a critically central theme, both within our own organisations and in the services which we deliver.

And it’s why we must start to do this right now.

We hope you will want to join us on our journey.

A version of this article was published as Regeneration re-think in Public Service Review: Transport, Local Government and the Regions, issue 12, Spring 2008.
Hilary Burrage is a Director of BURA, the British Urban Regeneration Association.

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Social Inclusion & Diversity
Regeneration

Roadworks & people 79x85 054a.jpg If anything belongs to ‘the people’, it is surely the streets where we live and work. Streets are usually owned by the public authorities who exist to serve our interests. But where are the civic procedures to reflect this common ownership in renewing or developing the public realm? And who and where are the ‘communities’ which must be consulted?

I recently contributed to a masterclass on community engagement in development of the public realm.

The scope for discussion was wide. ‘Public realm' can be streets, highways, open spaces, parks, brownfield sites and even waterways and ponds. Where does one start? And who is entitled to have a say?

Origins and ideas
Public realm works often start from a plan by the authorities to renew or regenerate an area of deprivation or poor housing, or perhaps because a new system of roads and highways is about to be constructed.

Sometimes, however, the initiative comes from a group of interested or concerned ‘community stakeholders’ – perhaps people who live or work in the area, or people who have a concern for the environment (in whatever guise) or, for instance, conservation and heritage.

Where are the place-makers?
All these are legitimate origins, but they are different. What happens next however tends to be more monochrome, more ‘standard issue’.

The idea of place-making seems over time to have been mislaid.

Legitimacy and control
If a proposal to improve the public realm is integral to a wider regeneration programme, the way ahead is clear: community consultation is the next step.

But who is held to comprise ‘the community’ will often be determined largely by those formally 'in charge' of the overall developments, rather than by that community (or communities?) itself.

Physical ownership or social stakehold?
The temptation to take the easy route, to see the public realm as simply physical space, is great. If it's that, the relevant authorities can just get on with it, consulting along the way about how members of the public would like their pavements, bins or street lamps to look. (See e.g. an example of 'another' Liverpool, looking at another way to consider 'place making' and 'liveability'....)

But this is an dreadful waste of an opportunity for engagement between civic officials and those who pay them. How much better to work towards wide involvement of the people who live and work on those streets, even if this does take more time and effort.

'Community' voices
Communities do not comprise just one sort of person - there are many voices which must be heard - but if we want people to come together for the common good, developing a shared sense of place is an excellent starting point.

We need then to begin by recognising whilst physical location is a given, the variety of people and interests which comprise meaningful stakehold is large.

New skills for new challenges
Involving the general public as stakeholders in their localities is still an emerging art.

Those who currently have the knowledge and experience to implement improvements to the public realm are perhaps unlikely, without stepping outside their formal roles, or perhaps further training, to be the best people also to engage communities to the extent which is required.

'Translating' knowledge and skills
Here, yet again, is an instance of the need for 'translation' in delivery between professional knowledge and the skills required to reach deep into often - though not always - disadvantaged communities.

The public realm is exactly what it says it is - the place where, ideally, we all encounter each other, safely, comfortably and constructively.

Getting everyone involved
Perhaps the move towards Local / Multi Area Agreements (LAAs and MLAs) and regular Your Community Matters-style events will help to encourage meaningful engagement for the future.

Whatever, the challenge is to make the public realm everywhere a place where everyone really can feel they are a part of the action.

Read more about Urban Renewal

Diverse crowd 177x110 076a.jpg Today (20 February 2008) saw the formal launch of the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA)'s Equality and Diversity Framework and Network. The event, at the Abbey Community Centre in Westminster, was attended by people from across the regeneration world, and produced much discussion about how BURA and its partners could move forward.

In my role as BURA Champion for Equality and Diversity I was lucky enough to join our President, Sir Jeremy Beecham, and other colleagues, in presenting and discussing initial ideas about this challenging issue.

Your views too are welcome. To begin the debate, this is what I said:

BURA Regeneration Equality and Diversity Framework Launch
Wednesday 20 February 2008, Westminster, London


This event was set up, as Sir Jeremy explained, because of serious concerns which the BURA Board has about inclusivity in regeneration.

The evidence is before our eyes; the top of the profession is overwhelmingly populated by white men.

Regeneration fits the white male stereotype for leadership in Britain only too well; and the stereotype extends even to the BURA Board itself, where Directors are elected from amongst our hundreds of members.

Something has to be done. No-one disputes that, as regeneration practitioners, we must address inclusion; but few of us have articulated how this intention fits in with regeneration. And fewer still I suspect, are sure how to do it.

The BURA Board has therefore decided to invite your help and support as we move forward on this challenging issue.

What is inclusivity and why does it matter?
A look at the work of the Equality and Human Rights Commission gives us a good feel for what an inclusive society might look like.

It would be a society in which people had safe and secure opportunities to enjoy a happy and healthy life.

In this society people of every sort would find themselves in positions of influence and leadership, and able to work towards a situation which in turn releases the potential of others.

This would be a society in which we, as regeneration practitioners, understood the impact of our work on all our fellow citizens, and then applied that knowledge across all our activities.

It would be a society in which, say, Asian women in Bury had as much opportunity to develop their interests and employment potential as white men in Cheltenham. It would be a society in which families in both these communities were equally likely to see their children born healthy and strong, with an equal expectation of a long and happy life.

In a nutshell, it would be a society which is stable and sustainable.

And if regeneration isn’t about achieving socio-economic stability and environmental sustainability, I don’t know what is.

Regeneration is more than the sum of its parts
I believe firmly that the task of today’s regeneration practitioners is to work themselves out of a job. We need to believe at a very deep level that ‘regeneration’ is not the same as ‘construction’, or ‘remediation’, or even as ‘planning’.

Critical though these callings are, real regeneration is much more than that.

After 30 years of regeneration in Britain, we should now be seeking very actively to reinvent ourselves as ‘sustainability practitioners’, as professionals who work to maintain an equitable, healthy and safe environment for everyone.

This reinvention of ourselves would require massive changes in the way we work, in our collaborations across disciplinary boundaries, and in our perceptions of how fellow citizens who are not exactly like ourselves experience their lives.

We can’t do that if we don’t understand how to achieve inclusivity, and why it matters.

But there is a very long way to go.

What is BURA doing about itself?
* Firstly, we have undertaken a thorough audit of our own organisation.

* We have looked at the gender and ethnicity of all members of staff and the Board, going back for three years, and for staff we have correlated this with salary bands. We shall report these findings to the Board when it next meets, and post a summary of this information thereafter on our website.

* We will also decide as a Board, in consultation with, we hope, our new Chief Executive, how much more data it might or might not be appropriate to record about the Board and staff.

* And we shall consult too on whether and, if so, how we need to look at the ‘inclusion’ characteristics of all BURA members.

* We would hope at the same time to start research on these characteristics as they apply to the regeneration sector as a whole, and to see how this compares with the data for the British population overall.

What is BURA doing to support progress in regeneration overall?
* Importantly, we are not seeking to compete with anyone; we are offering a supportive network which encompasses the whole spectrum of interests - inclusive, not competitive, with the sole aim of moving this positive agenda forward.

* Also, we recognise that no-one as yet has all the answers; we are simply trying, with everyone else, to identify both the challenges and the opportunities.

* We are launching today a Regeneration Equality and Diversity Framework, an ‘umbrella’ group welcoming people and organisations from every part of regeneration, ‘professional’ to ‘community’, to address a wide range of issues around equality and diversity.
This group will not seek to undertake work already done by others, but will help to link together the inclusion themes which regeneration good practice must address.

Some examples of what the BURA E&D Framework seeks to achieve
* We will support the exchange of information and views about what are the most immediate challenges for Equality and Diversity in regeneration in the UK.

* We will seek to collaborate with government at local and national level, and with research bodies already examining aspects of Equality and Diversity.

* We will develop the BURA website as a free open-access resource, available to all, hosting weblinks to legal and professional aspects of regeneration practice – including equality and legal audits – and enabling wider discussion between BURA members and partners.

* We will offer practical help and support to people from different communities who wish to become involved in regeneration – perhaps for instance by offering bursaries and work placements – in a collaboration between BURA and our members and corporate partners.

* But most of all, we will seek to work with all of you to make the BURA Regeneration Equality and Diversity Framework not just a talking shop, but a vibrant and positive reality.

In for the duration
* This is however slow-burn. We're asking the questions but we don't as yet have many of the answers; everyone here today can help.

* The BURA Board are unanimous that we must work hard to make our Equality and Diversity Framework a reality, not just an ambition.

We very much hope that you will want to be part of this reality.


Contact Hilary at BURA

London cranes 3924   109x115.jpg The renewal of King's Cross - St Pancras and all that surrounds it is long overdue, but it looks to be a spectaclar project worth the wait. The final moves to achieve success in terms of the local community will however require those who should, to put their heads above the parapet so that everything comes together to make the best possible result. This project will 'work' for everyone as long as people really try to collaborate to get it right.

Having travelled on the bus past King's Cross - St. Pancras on very many occasions, I can only say my heart lifted when, at last, evidence of its renaissance began to materialise.

Community links and challenges
It's surely a unique and exciting challenge to put together a project as enormous and impactful as this. The project hits many buttons - strategic place, infrastructure, heritage, economic benefit; we could go on... King's Cross is in anyone's books a very spectacular and special piece of real estate.

Of course there's still a possibility that King's Cross will somehow miss on that vital community connection; but only if people on all sides of the equation let it. This is where civic and corporate leadership have such a critical part to play, right from day one.

Different from, say, Canary Wharf?
Given the common emphasis on transport hubs, there have been comparisons, but Canary Wharf is different. Just for a start, Canary Wharf is not at the heart of what's to become the most important international 'green' hub connecting the UK and mainland Europe, and for another thing the Wharf is a glass and concrete creation with not too much reference to a long and glorious heritage.

King's Cross is a genuine opportunity to build on a very high profile USP with enormous promise for all stakeholders.

Doubters and objectors
There are always people who oppose what's happening. The financial and other costs of the debate with them may well be high, but in the end everyone has to be heard for progress to be made in a well-founded way. The line must be drawn somewhere, but the views of those with reservations are valuable because they help to pinpoint potential hazards further down that line.

But it's up to everyone to make sure that in the end King's Cross really works. This is a programme with serious commonality of interest between developers, the wider economic infrastructure and real people on whom the project impacts day by day.

Delivering success
Having seen examples elsewhere of exiting programmes based with various degrees of success in challenging locations, I'd say everyone, but everyone, involved has to ask, what more might I need to be doing to make King's Cross fulfil its whole potential?

Of all the 'Rules of Regeneration', the first rule here must be: listen, seek to understand and where possible accommodate all stakeholders. And the second rule is, always remember someone has to be brave and take the lead, accountably and visibly.

Realistically forward-facing
This is not a time for pursuing plans regardless or for heads-in-the-sand-style denial of problems; but nor, most certainly, is it a time for standing back. King's Cross is an
I watch from my bus as things come together week by week and I wish all involved the very best.

A version of this article was published on the New Start blog of 8 November 2007.

Bulldozer & big hole, old building 6144 (103x129).jpg All regeneration and strategic planning professionals need to have excellent formal qualifications and wide experience; the job is far too important for anything less. But what other characteristics are also required to make a good regeneration official into an outstanding agent of delivery on the ground? Here is a list of such characteristics, from a rather specific observational position.

Here are some suggested stereotypical characteristics of the ideal regeneration or urban / rural planning worker:

Ø Willing to listen and learn; everyone has something to offer

Ø Open to the idea that communities change over time

Ø Realistic about the balance in plans and designs of art and application

Ø Knowledgeable about the area’s infrastructure and transport arrangements

Ø Involved in the community and active in establishing good local facilities

Ø Not afraid to challenge the status quo, but also keen to keep the peace

Ø Gets quickly to the bottom of the issues; there’s lots to do!

Ø Manifestly focused on what works and what’s sustainable

Ø Ultra-aware that time is precious; opportunities need to be seized

Ø Motivated by making things better for all stakeholders

Ø Sensitive to the requirements of those less able to articulate their needs


Have you spotted the tongue-in-cheek subtext of this list?
The 'hidden message' is of course offered only fun; but the actual listed characteristics are in my view a fundamental requirement of any competent regeneration worker, however formally qualified they may be.

What do you think?


This list was devised as part of a discussion about developments inhigh-rise living, for an Urban Design Week Coffee Shop Debate in Liverpool, September 2007. It was also published as a New Start external blog.

City centre high rise building 6752 (110x99).jpg How many people reading this article actually live in a city centre? How many readers in live a high-rise apartment? And how many of these readers are aged 30-50? My guess is that fewer readers live in high-rise than have views on them; the evidence certainly shows that most people past a certain age choose to live in suburbia or out-of-town. So is the commercial emphasis on city centre 'executive' apartments sustainable?

One young woman I know, a lawyer, lives with her husband in an a sixth floor apartment in Manhattan, New York.

Another, a business consultant, until recently lived in a fourth floor apartment near the commercial centre of London, but has just moved to a town house there.

My husband and I live in suburban Liverpool, and have done for many years.

Economics and demography
Economics and demography are everything in housing. People choose where, ideally, they would like to live, by reference to their family requirements.

Many people, as we all know, are happy to live in high-rise city centre accommodation before they have children, but in the UK, and especially outside London, most would prefer to make their family home in suburbia – as indeed I did.

Other countries, other ways
In other countries the suburban option may be both less available and less often preferred.

Some young couples in the UK, like the ones I know in London, can resolve their requirements by choosing a town house near the city. Others elsewhere, like the couple in New York, don’t feel the necessity to abandon high-rise living as quickly.

Why the difference?
There is less of a tradition in the UK of high-rise living except perhaps, and tellingly, in tenements and council housing.

Other cities such as New York have pressures on land which mean that over time they have adjusted to high-rise.

Sim city for real
Have you ever played Sim-City? In New York space issues have resulted in the creation almost of Sim-City tower living.

Everything is there – the shops, the amenities – including clinics, nurseries and gyms, the work places, and then, above them, with different access, living accommodation, roof gardens etc.

And in the same block as the building will be the link to efficient public transport....

Sustainable living?
These sorts of arrangements make it possible for everyone to live In Town, and many people except those with growing children to prefer to.

It’s time and, importantly, energy efficient to live in, e.g., Manhattan, and the experience is generally holistic. The experience addresses what’s needed in a reasonably sustainable way.

London
Looked at like this, we can see that London is a half-way house between Manhatton and Liverpool.

The UK overall is a very densely populated island, but still only about 5-10% of it is city-space.

Nonetheless, land is very scarce in London, and London has some of the attributes required to make it a preferred city living option. And that city is working hard to improve its offer.

Liverpool
Liverpool, however, is still losing population, albeit at a reducing rate. And we have enough houses but not always ones people like.

Unless the ‘core offer’ on Liverpool city-centre living improves rapidly, I can see little prospect of sustainability in tower-block living here.

Live-ability
We haven’t, yet, factored in the amenities to make Liverpool city-centre ‘people friendly’, as is only too obvious on any Friday night.

For me therefore high-rise in Liverpool, in the brave new world of ‘executive' apartments, is not where I would currently put my money as a developer.

Quality of experience
Fashion quickly becomes fad and then old hat when the quality of the experience is lacking.

I’d advise investors to think about how NY or London do things – maybe even live there for a while – before they go any further with high-rise in Liverpool.

High rise and high income?
Even a decade or two ago in the UK high-rise still often (except in, say, parts of Edinburgh and London) went with low-income.

Now, conversely, high-rise and high-income seem to go together; which is fine in London; but not elsewhere.

Real executives for 'executive' apartments?
Liverpool should put a hold on more high-rise executive apartments until it has a more high-income, young, executives in genuinely sustainable jobs to live in them.

I’d say, let put some functional flesh, some real amenity, on the skeleton of Liverpool’s developing infrastructure
before we go for fashion in housing.

Moving forward sustainably
* Let’s first make Liverpool city centre safe and people-friendly.

* Let’s use professionals to develop the city who have experience of family life and of city centre living, to help us see what more needs to be done.

* Let’s explore what we can do to integrate services, amenities and enterprise with ‘livable’ space.

* Let’s make Liverpool’s city centre sustainable and let’s reverse our population decline before we go big-time in Liverpool for high-rise.... especially if it has more style than substance.

This is an edited version of a talk given by Hilary Burrage as part of a debate in Liverpool during Urban Design Week, hosted by Taylor Young, on 18 September 2007. The event was entitled 'High rise living getting you down!?' Almost all speakers in the debate agreed with the position taken here.

No go street 0996 (90x132).jpg Croxteth and Norris Green in Liverpool have recently become tragic headline news. But the no-hope issues behind the grim developments in these areas of North Liverpool have been simmering for many years. The Crocky Crew and Nogzy 'Soldiers' are not new. The challenge is how to support local people to achieve their higher expectations and horizons.

My first ‘real’ job post-college was as a junior social worker in Norris Green and Croxteth, Liverpool.

The task allotted me all that time ago was to visit every one of the 200+ people in the area, many of them living on the Boot Estate, who were on the Social Services list and had not been seen (‘assessed’) in the past year or two. And so, equipped only with the list, a degree certificate and a bus pass, I set about my first professional posting.

Forgotten land
Nothing, not my inner-city school, not my academic training, not my voluntary work, could have prepared me for what I was to see.

Here were elderly men who seemed to survive solely on Guinness, bread and marg; here were children with disability so severe that they had to live day-in, day-out in their parents’ lounge; here were old ladies who promised fervently to pray for me, simply because I was the first person they had spoken with for weeks.

Here, in fact, was a land, originally designed as the vision for the future, which, by those far-off days of the early 1970s, few knew, and almost everyone had forgotten.

For some, a zero-expectations environment
This was a Liverpool where there were people who, expecting nothing, eked an existence. It was the home of the dispossessed, the displaced and the despairing. Every day was like every other day in that concrete wilderness of dust, derelict front ‘gardens’, broken windows and enormous, fierce Alsation dogs.

No-one, or so it seemed, went to work. No-one ever seemed to leave the Norris Green ‘estate’, designed as a circular enclosure with concentric streets of council housing and no indication of via which road one might depart - urban planning surely to guarantee future disaster. There were few amenities (I had to take the bus to get even a sandwich or coffee at lunchtime) and even fewer shops.

Cut off from Croxteth
Until the 1980s Croxteth itself didn’t feature much in the Liverpool mind map as an area to live. Norris Green, the near-neighbour, was cut off from almost everywhere by dual carriageways on every side, and beyond them, on to the South-East was the huge, green Croxteth Estate – to this day the location of a fine country house and gardens open to visitors and in the ownership of the City of Liverpool.

Also near Norris Green was the North-East Liverpool Technical College (which co-incidentally turned out to be my next employer), a provider of day-release training for local Fords apprentices and other ‘tradesmen’ (the only women were student radiographers) and set on a large piece of land. Later, when then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher effectively abolished apprenticeships, the NELTC site was sold and became, with the farming land next to the Croxteth Estate, the location of a private development of pleasant housing for people who worked in the surrounding areas.

Broken hopes and promises
And later still the Norris Green council housing residents were promised their own improvements, as part of the Boot Estate programme – a programme which raised, and then dashed, the hopes of those from this place of quiet desperation who had dared to look to beyond their immediate horizons.

Little surprise – though unspeakably sad – that from this strange amalgam of development and despair have arisen the Nogzy ‘soldiers’ and the Crocky Crew of Liverpool’s current tragic troubles. Set alongside an area of new (relative) affluence, Norris Green is an enclosed place still, it must feel, without either hope or many stories of success.

Nothing excuses the illegal drugs economy and vicious violence - the fatal shooting by a local youth of Rhys Jones, who lived in Croxteth and was aged just eleven - of which we have all recently read; but one does begin to see through this disturbing grey blur how it might have come about.

Facing the future
There are many serious and good people who live and work in Norris Green and Croxteth. Life for them at present must feel extremely difficult, and the way forward by any account challenging. Support for what they do is obviously a critical first requirement.

But beyond that, I look back to a conversation between my supervising senior social worker and myself, when I left the employ of the Social Services.

I was leaving, I told my boss back then, because I believed that resolution of the issues required deep economic and political engagement, as well as the personal approach.

Strategies for hope
Many years later I still hold that conviction. Since that time Government and European funding of multiple millions has come to Liverpool; and now – in theory at least - we know so much more about positive strategic and sustainable intervention that we could ever have known then.

The traditional challenges of all-embracing absolute material poverty are in truth behind us. No longer can poverty alone be used to 'explain' the grim situation that we see.

New challenges
What we now face in Norris Green, Croxteth and some other city areas in Liverpool and elsewhere is the gang-led imposition by the few on the many of a sometimes suffocating, stultifying local culture; a culture, it is said, created intentionally by illegal drugs dealers who enforce it via the callous manipulation of alienated local children.

Nothing can change what has already happened. But I hope one outcome of recent awful events will be a compelling sense of urgency about getting things sorted, before more people’s lives are ruined and even more people believe that for them there is no hope.

Jim Gill  2007  Liverpool  Vision 115x114.jpg The public realm refurbishment of Hope Street, the thoroughfare which defines Liverpool’s cultural quarter, was finally completed in May 2007. This has offered an opportunity to reflect on, and learn some lessons from, the decade of activity culminating in Hope Street’s new look. Jim Gill, Chief Executive of Liverpool Vision, agreed to share his perceptions of that decade and what it has achieved for Hope Street and the City of Liverpool.

What follows is a summary of a conversation between Jim Gill, Chief Executive of Liverpool Vision, and Hilary Burrage, Hon. Chair of HOPES: The Hope Street Association, the body which since the early 1990s has consistently lobbied for the recognition and refurbishment of Liverpool’s Hope Street. In this discussion Hilary posed questions to which Jim responded.


Hope Street’s value to Liverpool and beyond
Hilary: Jim, thank you for agreeing to discuss Hope Street with me, as the street’s refurbishment is finally completed and the last few public seating areas are installed and lit. You’ve been involved in this process almost from the beginning, initially through English Partnerships, and then as Chief Executive of Liverpool Vision, the UK’s first Urban Regeneration Company. How would you describe the value of Hope Street, as a core part of Liverpool’s city centre?

Jim: Hope Street has huge intrinsic value. The problem is recognising it and exploiting it in an appropriate way; and in that we still have a way to go. But there’s no doubt that the perceived value of the street has increased significantly, both because of the public realm refurbishment and as a result of the individual development schemes, for instance by both Cathedrals, the Hope Street Hotel, the restaurant scene and of course the refurbishment of the Philharmonic Hall.


Securing the refurbishment of Hope Street
Hilary: Can you tell me what finally clinched the decision to refurbish Hope Street?

Jim: Essentially, it was HOPES pestering us, your solid determination to see something happen. Initially the refurbishment of Hope Street was just a long-term ‘red zone’ aim for Liverpool Vision; but we converted that to an immediate action ‘green zone’ because of your persistence.

It was the meeting which you (Hilary) and Adrian (Adrian Simmons, HOPES’ Hon. Secretary) had with myself (Jim) which clinched it. You told me how dis-spirited you were about lack of progress, and I agreed that we would develop proposals with you. And of course HOPES had also secured the full support of Steve Broomhead, Chief Executive of the North West Development Agency, so at that point things started to move.


A different way forward
Hilary: Was it a different way to do things?

Jim: Yes, it was a very different way! There have been two or three tranches of significant public realm works in Liverpool, such as Williamson Square and East Moorfields. Those projects involved ‘set piece’ consultation with the public through exhibitions. But the Hope Street process involved real community engagement from the beginning.

Engagement is always more difficult to achieve in an area with many individual, non-collective voices, but HOPES constituted a ready-made ‘panel’ which enabled deeper involvement of local stakeholders as well as the normal consultation.


The knowledge economy
Hilary: How significant is the knowledge economy (scientific, academic and cultural) around Hope Street Quarter? Has the refurbishment of the street had an impact on this economy?

Jim: We haven’t yet properly grasped how (if) we can capture all the benefits of the area. Clearly there is a link between the fortunes of Hope Street Quarter and the wider area which includes the Universities and much else; but this is not yet consolidated.

In fact, Liverpool Vision is currently engaged with both the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University in producing a prospectus / audit of the local knowledge economy and the contribution which it makes to the City and the Regional economy. The figures are very impressive. We believe that the quality of the Hope Street area has major role to play in supporting the growth of the Knowledge Quarter, and vice versa.

But we don’t yet fully comprehend the value of the knowledge economy. Knowledge can and will drive the City economy towards self-sustainability. Our ‘Transitional’ Programme for the City Centre suggests a refocusing of activity ‘up the hill’ to Hope Street, embracing the crescent of opportunity surrounding the city centre, linking the waterfront, Hope Street and the Knowledge Quarter, extending as far as LJMU’s Byrom Street Campus.

We all need to understand the potential of these links better. This perspective underlines our shifting focus ‘up the hill’; the quality of space around Hope Street can indirectly benefit the knowledge economy, including Hope Street’s high artistic skills. Hope Street, as you have said many times, is a sort-of South Bank and needs to be valued as such.


Lessons learned
Hilary: What lessons can we learn from the ‘story of Hope Street’? What helped or hindered the process and what of the future?

Jim: The first lesson is to understand what can be achieved by working in a real partnership where local stakeholders are fully engaged, as they were in this case through the mechanism of HOPES.

Second, for the future, recognition of the importance of the Knowledge Economy – and consequent actions - will be critical. As I have already mentioned, Liverpool Vision has recognised the importance of the wider Hope Street-Knowledge Quarter area and as we merge into the proposed new economic regeneration vehicle for the City we want to make sure the priority is taken forward, so that the potential of the wider ‘University Edge’ is maximised. This is a key strategic priority at Regional, not just City level.

Third, my mantra is, ‘Don’t kid yourself the job’s done.’ There has been massive change in the City Centre and the pace of change continues at a high level. But much more needs to be done to secure the long term economic health of the City and lasting opportunity for the people of Liverpool. We have to ensure the opportunity that is Hope Street isn’t lost. The wider Hope Street area will be a major contributor to the economic health of the City and the provision of additional jobs.

The associated challenge is to ensure that people needing the jobs here can get to them, and to spread the opportunities around. That, I’d suggest, is what real regeneration is about.

And lastly, I’d say the biggest challenge for HOPES is that you need somehow to keep and widen your circle of friends; not easy when you’re an unsupported voluntary body, but it’s necessary. HOPES has a central role in moving things along, but it will need to be flexible in how it does things and how it relates to developments.


The professional perspective
Hilary: Thank you. As you know, most of HOPES’ members are professional people in their own right, who have given their time and skills ‘for free’ to bring about the changes now seen in Hope Street. This has produced an interesting dynamic, perhaps because regeneration professionals on the ‘official’ side more often work with community groups with fewer professional qualifications than themselves. My other question here is therefore what ‘lessons’ can be learned from this unusual situation about how to get the best from such a dynamic. Are there particular issues for instance in respect of ownership of the ideas and developments?

Jim: Working with the HOPES members on the public realm project was occasionally challenging, probably because the level of engagement was close and because each of the stakeholders had clear views as to what would or wouldn’t ‘work', and because they were able to argue their corner very strongly. We had a shared goal which, I think, was achieved.

I think the wider lessons for all stakeholders is to learn how to work with other groups, for example, non-professional stakeholders, and to recognise that everyone's goals and aspirations have validity. Ultimately more will be achieved if the Hope Street area speaks with a single voice which embraces all interests.


Worst and best so far
Hilary: What have we done worst and best, so far?

Jim: The worst is probably the time it has taken, or is taking, to secure a full recognition across the range of ‘public' organisations - including the City Council - of the importance of the area for the future economic health of the City.

The best is that you mustn’t underestimate what HOPES has achieved as, a voice for the area and in delivering activity. As I said, it was the discussion I had with you and Adrian which effectively clinched the resources to deliver the public realm project. You have secured formal recognition of the area; and the stakeholder group which we’ve developed from your original group of activists has worked quite well. We’ve come a long way.

Read also: The Hope Street Festivals (1996 - 2006)
Liverpool's Hope Street Festivals & Quarter (1977 - 1995)

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