Recently in Regeneration 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.

Where to go? ~  green, grey & brown sites Sustainable development is a challenge for us all. If we don't engage everyone, future generations will soon begin to pay for our neglect. For this reason, there are in the UK Sustainable Development bodies with national, regional and more local focuses. But what should these groups actually do? Here are some of the ideas which I as one individual have thought about as a member of a sustainable development group with a regional remit.

Sustainability As If People Mattered

What are the regional Sustainable Development (SD) bodies in the UK for? Is their role to provide 'advice' to politicians and state-employed policy-makers at the regional level? Is it to lead by example and implement programmes of work? Is it to be a talking shop between people representing different 'stakeholding' interests in SD? Is it something else altogether? Or is it all of these things?

Meaning and leadership in regional Sustainable Development
My personal view is that good regional approaches to SD are all these things.

Regions in the UK are all of a size (between 5 and 10 million people) where well-crafted action for sustainable development can have meaningful impacts. Regional SD groups should therefore:

* work together, with each other and with others, on the basis of mutual confidence and shared understandings - both of the factors shaping the region's physical and socio-economic contexts, and of the perspectives of all partners;

* recognise that everyone is a stakeholder in this difficult challenge, not just those who are formally represented at the regional level;

* understand that SD is different from almost all other processes in that what happens now and in the near future cannot be revisited on the same basis and revised at some point later on: SD is globally shaped and uni-dimensional in respect of time;

* also understand that 'good enough' and actually deliverable has some chance of success, whilst 'beyond any scientific doubt' but not yet actionable is of very limited value in this period of rapid eco- and socio-economic change;

* offer visible and clear thought leadership to 'people on the street', as well as more formal and conventional strategic advice to those who formulate regional policy;

* recognise that this is real life; our current insights into the challenges of SD are far from perfect. Nurturing an ethos of shared responsibility in all who live and work in a region is however critical, right now.


Supporting regional approaches to sustainable development
The UK government has been working with the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), Defra and others to promote regional SD. To this end, there does now seem to be a modest level of financial support.

It is nonetheless puzzling that these national bodies apparently imagine that each regional SD group can identify without further effort what the specific or even unique challenges for their region are. Yet, whilst this can be done for matters such as flood risk, the issues are far less obvious in many other respects. Not many policy makers and politicians at the local level, for instance, are even aware of what the risks might be.

Much work still needs to be done to bring together the relevant social, economic and environmental profiles for each region of the UK, and to encourage regional SD protagonists to share pro-actively their assessments and responses to these profiles. Just as UK regional strategies in science remain weak, so do those for SD.

Hearts and minds
There is a compelling case for regional SD bodies to recognise that 'advice' alone is not enough - especially in a time of flux for overall regional development policies, even before we come to the ultimately much more pressing matters of global warming, diminishing bio-diversity, economic difficulties (domestic and global) and the general well-being of current and future citizens.

Regional SD approaches are about leading from the front (no-one else has that specific focus and remit...). They must recognise the stakeholding of every person in their region, and find ways to reach them all. This is about encouraging dialogue, sharing good practice, aligning policy and developing the ideas which will help us all to face the future.

To achieve this requires not only analysis of the current regional state of play, but also commitment to help change the cultural climate as well as the environmental one.

Here is one challenge which a rational-legal or scientific approach alone simply cannot resolve.


Read more about Sustainability As If People Mattered.

Water Tap What will be the fundamental 'currencies' of the future? What, if we are serious about global sustainability in all its forms, should these currencies comprise now? It's likely, if we collectively are ever going to achieve a level of long-term viability for the human race, that we will have to shift the emphasis from money (or the gold standard) to the really basic requirements for life on earth - carbon, water and nitrogen, plus knowledge of all sorts to keep the whole show on the road.

Knowledge Economy and Sustainability As If People Mattered.

Money is self-evidently important to individuals (how else do you secure the roof over your head and food on the table, in complex modern societies?); and it's one indicator of collective economic well-being.

But it's 'only' a measure or tool. It's not a fundamental requirement in its own right for living.

We can, at least hypothetically, survive without money, but we can't survive without water and - in its many forms - delicately balanced amounts of carbon, and of course nitrogen. In all three instances, it's a case of not too much, not too little.

Back to basics
Water, carbon and nitrogen are the fundamentals of life.

To my mind we shall all need to understand the significance of these fundamentals much better at every level from the local to the global; and when we've grasped this, the next step will be to trade in the universal units - not just as now for some specialist concerns, but as globally recognised everyday currencies.

Climate change and polar ice caps are critically important, but they don't easily interpret into something which the person on the street feels empowered to do much about.

Making it meaningful
The problems and the indicators have to be far closer to home to be meaningful in terms of action for most people. And ideally there needs to be a recognition in the discourse that we're all in this together.

Our neighbours are global as well as local when it comes to the future of the human race on the planet. (The planet itself will of course 'survive'. It's people and other currently living things which are imperilled by human activity in the twenty-first century.)

Convincing currencies
So let's see how we can reconfigure the notion of currency to have wider meaning for survival.

We all share the need for water, carbon and nitrogen, in suitably balanced and sustained ways.

The additional (secondary) critical currency is therefore knowledge; not least knowledge about how to maintain and sustain our planet. This cannot be just scientific and abstract knowledge, but needs to be shared by us all.

And that's before we even begin to consider knowledge and knowing of very many other sorts also as a basic currency of the twenty-first century.

Knowledge and knowing
Knowledge in its formal sense will, in time, become recognised as the major currency of formal activity; and 'knowing' will be the currency in everyday life which keeps us all going.

Knowing is the social glue which can keep communities sustainable and simultaneously open our eyes to new ideas and scenarios. It enables us all together to engage, empower and explore.

Cash won't be king
We can't eat cash. We can run out of formal finance and still somehow survive.

But we need the fundamentals of life, and we also desperately need ways to share our common humanity, and our connections too with other living things. This is where the eco-system meets the communalism which must bind us all together.

No return to mediaeval ways of thinking
The difference between this time around and previous eras where the good earth was the known fundamental, is this:

In the twenty-first century we can create new, non-static way of life which incorporate the very basics of life but also lets us explore the vibrant and exciting challenges of science, humanities (in every sense) and our actual selves.

A more holistic view
The time when carbon and water, if not as yet nitrogen, are recognised universal currencies, measured formally as commodities of exchange, may not be long in coming.

As we understand that knowledge and knowing are the fundamentals of our existence in communities, we will also want to emphasise the basic currencies of life.


Read more articles about the Knowledge Economy and Sustainability As If People Mattered.

Wigan Pier canal historic statue of woman miller It's International Women's Day, an occasion for looking both back and forward. We have here some photos and text reminding us gently how grim life was for working class women and children in the mills (and often for their mining menfolk too) a mere century ago. Happily, Wigan Pier and the canals are now a tourist destination alongside a modern Investment Centre; but around 1910 a different story - not least about the uses of water - was being told. The challenge remains to secure the same progress as we've seen here, in ensuring healthy and constructive lives for women and their families everywhere, in the UK and across the globe.

Gender & Women, Sustainability As If People Mattered and Water.

Wigan Pier canal Trencherfield Mill historic notice

Here's the text of this notice, displayed by the towpath at Wigan Pier:

TRENCHERFIELD MILL
When cotton was king
as told by a cotton worker circa 1910

It's hot int' mill wi' lots o' noise. On a nice day, we'll take our lunch ont' towpath an' eat snaps* from't snaps tins.
It's a 5-and-a-half day week for us cotton workers, that's 12 hours a day and half a day on Saturday.
We've all got nimble fingers , especially the Piecers'. They're mainly children, who nip under the spinning machines to tie the broken cotton back together again.
Some of us work on the spinning machines and some on the carding machines. The mill takes a raw bale of cotton, cleans it, twists it and spins it into fine yarn.
The humidity in the mill keeps the cotton damp so it's easier to spin without snapping.
There are five floors of machinery - all powered by the Trencherfield Mill Engine.
The noise is deafening - we stuff cotton from the floor in our ears to protect them. We communicate using 'Me-Mawing' - a mixture of sign language and lip reading.
We work in our bare feet because our clogs could spark on the concrete floor and set the cotton bales alight.
We wake early doors to the sound of the Trencherfield steam whistle summonin' us t'mill for another day. But as they say - England's bread hangs on Lancashire's thread.

[* a snack favoured also by the men of Wigan, many of them miners, usually bread-and-dripping, with cold tea, carried in a flat tin called a snap-can - see George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier]

And here is the towpath which a century ago provided fresh air and respite for those mill workers as they ate their lunch-time snaps:

09.03.06 Wigan Pier canal & towpath

Wigan Pier Quarter & canals notice
[Public display boards by Wigan Heritage Services]

The power of water
And so, strangely, we come full-circle.

Water - the canals, the steam - was the power behind the early production of textiles, employing many women and children in horrendous conditions, as the full logic of the Industrial Revolution took its vice-like grip on the emerging economies of what we have come to know as the 'developed world'; but even now in other parts of the globe water remains both a critical force potentially for good, and often an almost unattainable resource.

Women as water workers
Vast numbers of women and children in the developing world continue to toil many hours a day just to obtain water to sustain their very existence.

Life in places like Wigan was harsh and short for women and men, alike, a century ago. It remains, as Oxfam tells us in the topical context of International Women's Day, particularly harsh even now for women in places such as Iraq, where water continues to be inaccessible for many.

The gendered meanings of sustainability
This is where we begin to understand what 'sustainability' is really about.... the just and equitable distribution of basic physical resources and accessible socio-economic opportunities, for everyone, women as much as men, the world over.

In terms of future global sustainability and equity, as the Gender and Water Alliance also reminds us, water remains a critically gendered issue.


Read more about Gender & Women and about Sustainability As If People Mattered and Water; and see more photographs of around Liverpool & Merseyside.

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.

Liverpool Tunnel airvent outlet & Liverbirds There can be few issues, at the local level, more pressing than what's to happen to one's city. As Liverpool's European Capital of Culture Year ends, perhaps the new LinkedIn Group on 'The Future of Liverpool' will help to sharpen our ideas.

The Future Of Liverpool

For Liverpool, 2008 has been a year of enormous change, as buildings have come down and gone up, roads have disappeared and re-emerged, and of course the European Capital of Culture has taken, massively, the centre stage.

But now the emphasis must move from these transitions to our longer-term future; new critiques and ideas will emerge and point us in as yet unrevealed directions. And everyone who can will need to be involved; not just those who sit in committee rooms.

To help the debate along a new LinkedIn Group open to all has been formed. To join, simply go to LinkedIn and then search Groups for 'The Future of Liverpool'. Your contributions will be very welcome.


Read more articles about The Future Of Liverpool and see photographs of Liverpool & Merseyside.

08.09.27  NWDA AGM 2008 John Willman  Liverpool BT Conference Centre John Willman is UK Business Editor of the Financial Times, so his take on the UK economy was an important contribution to the NWDA 2008 Annual Conference in Liverpool. His message, whilst analytically cautious in the present market chaos, came over as generally upbeat. Would that Tim Leunig, the academic who advised the economic emphasis should Go South, had seen things in the same light. Better surely for the North and the South of England, if we face the UK's regional (and centralist) challenges, than if we run away?

The headline message from John Willman's talk came over to me as: Tim Leunig is mistaken. And the UK economy is fundamentally strong.

Leunig’s recent staggering judgement (in the report Cities Unlimited, by the free market leaning independent think tank Policy Exchange) that in general developers should abandon the North of England for the delights of the Golden Triangle - he suggests more development around Oxbridge, which will supposedly realign the North-South markets - in my view takes some beating for silliness. John Willman appeared to be of a similar mind.

The great Victorian cities
Far from suggesting, as Leunig seems to, that Greater London should become even more overheated, Willman made the case that the ‘great Victorian cities’ are the best equipped for the new ‘global living’. There is, he said, a Kit: some combination of conference centres, art galleries, a four-star hotel, some culture and festivals, and maybe a port.

In these respects the major English cities of the North (of the Core Cities, only Bristol is South) have the edge on continental European cities such as Bordeaux and Porto. They’re also great and fascinating cities (as I too can attest), but they’re probably 15 years behind their parallels in Britain: Their docksides have yet to be developed for the new leisure economies, for instance.

North-South divide: London ‘vs’ the rest
The debate about the North-South divide, Willman told us, is sterile. It’s useless to ‘blame’ London. The UK capital is a truly global city; in this, the North can never expect or even hope to compete. It’s just not a realistic objective to close the gap.

And London, with the mayoral model which elected mayor Ken Livingstone provided, showed how a ‘get things done’ city can operate.

The national and global economy
Despite the panic, only 3% of UK mortgages are in default. Willman judged that Britain is still doing pretty well as the sixth largest manufacturer in the world, a supplier of very high quality products.

In these respects the UK economy is well placed for the globalised world; as is North West England, with its emphasis on the service economies, life sciences, media and creative products and the current / forthcoming energy industries (including nuclear energy) .

The Wimbledon effect
The UK is an open economy, which in some senses punches above its weight. Britain demonstrates the ‘Wimbledon effect': we don’t necessarily take the headlines, but we do host the event.

In fact, the consultants Saffron Brand recently reported that perhaps the UK sells its story ‘too well’ – some of our cities are actually more highly rated than cold analysis suggests they might be.

A strong basic economy
Willman’s overall judgement at the NWDA 2008 Annual Conference was that UK economy is ‘so much stronger than 30 years ago’.

Perhaps some of us continue to see the elephant in the room - climate change and environmental sustainability - as an critically important challenge, still to be adequately (and very urgently) addressed.

Whatever... Would that Tim Leunig and others like him were as willing as Willman, on the basis of the evidence over many decades, to recognise that people everywhere have to believe in themselves to make their economies work effectively at all.


Read more about Regions, Sub-Regions & City Regions
and about Economics Observed.

Science Laboratory with computers Are the Natural and Physical Sciences squaring up for inter-disciplinary combat? Each requires huge sums of money to maintain research momentum, but who decides what research offers best value? How can we measure Particle Physics 'against' say, environmental technologies? With their vast 'pure research' budgets to secure, perhaps the Physicists will now also discover that evaluating research investment regenerational impacts supports their case.

The rumblings of dissent between the physical and natural scientists are getting louder. There is a view abroad that investment in areas like Particle and Theoretical Physics is too expensive, when we need urgently to develop sustainable, 'One Planet Living' technologies.

Applied or fundamental research?
Today's Guardian newspaper (6 September '08) has an article about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) - a facility (apparatus or laboratory) in Geneva which will cost £5bn over the next 20 years - which adds substance to these rumblings. Prof. Sir David King, previously the UK Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, argues that 'big' money for scientific research is best spent encouraging top scientists to address climate change and related environmental issues; Britain has so far contributed about £500m to the LHC.

The Physicists however argue that thus far we know about only 5% of what constitutes the universe; we cannot stop exploration of the fundamental nature of matter.

Valid views
Both perspectives are valid. But which will hold sway?

The environmental research argument is compelling to people who know little about science, as well as many (often including natural scientists who feel short of funding) who do. The fundamental, 'science for the sake of knowledge' position is also persuasive, but perhaps only really to those who already perceive the deep intellectual challenges of exploring the nature of matter.

Political decisions
It was probably alright to leave science decisions to the scientists a century ago, when the Haldane Principle decreed that political involvement in research decisions was unacceptable. But things have changed, and science is now infinitely more expensive than it was then.

How, on behalf of UK plc, should the Government allocate its cash? Decisions on specific scientific programmes are still made by the Research Councils; but overall allocations are decided by the politicians.

The socio-economic case
Some while ago, practitioners in the Arts and Culture began to espouse the 'socially useful' position: what they do should be supported because it helps community development and regeneration generically, and makes jobs.

My expectation is that, finally, the physical scientists may catch on to the same notion.

Currently, there is little of any discussion about how investment in Big Science - the large research facility programmes - impacts on the locations in which it is placed. In the future this may change.

Jobs and infrastructure
Some 10,000 scientists are employed by (and were attracted to work in) the LHC; and that's before we get to the armies of scribes and other support staff required for such a programme. This, inevitably, must have a huge impact on the various economies in which LHC is embedded.

Scientists until now have held the idea that 'value-added' - the additional socio-economic regenerational (as opposed to simply business) impact of research investment, over and above its scientific value as such - is irrelevant to their decisions about which proposals to support. Research funds may be from the public purse, but regenerational impact, we are told, is irrelevant to decisions about where programmes are located.

Shifting criteria
This high-minded dismissal of non-science-related socio-economic impact, I predict, is about to come to an end. Many technologists and natural scientists, like their more arty colleagues, now make compelling cases for how useful their work will be to society, within quite short time spans.

This is the only way practitioners in the more abstract and fundamental physical sciences can go, in terms of short-term impact. They will have to begin, however reluctantly, to acknowledge the legitimacy of questions about the ways their huge budgets can, alongside unravelling the mysteries of the universe, provide improvements to local economies, infrastructures and regional regenerational prospects.

You read it here first.


Read also:
Science, Regeneration & Sustainability

From Regeneration To Sustainability: A Northern Take On Knowledge

08.07.29 Hilary Burrage NUREC Conference keynote lecture  Liverpool BT Convention Centre This is a version of the Keynote Lecture I gave at the NUREC 2008 conference, in Liverpool on 28 July 08. In it we explore the connections between Knowledge Economies and Ecologies, and Big Science and Regeneration, especially in regional and sub-regional settings, and in respect of issues around Sustainability. My basic thesis is that Knowledge is not yet recognised for the fundamental resource it surely is.

I’d like to begin with some thoughts on what Urban Regeneration in ‘the North’ might be about.

I shall assume two things in doing this:
* first, that we are orientated towards a positive and stable future, and
* second, that ‘the North’ means, from beyond Birmingham up to Stornoway, and all parts East and West between.

Regional regeneration
I know more about regeneration in the North of England than I do about that in Scotland, or indeed Wales or Ulster, but I hope it’s useful to acknowledge that we are all in this together.

I hope too that you will forgive me if I refer from now on to ‘Northern Britain’, as a shorthand for all these locations.

So...

There is ‘the South’, that Golden Triangle of perceived opportunity between London, Oxbridge and Bristol. And then there are, at least in some respects, The Rest Of Us: the periphery, perhaps including the far South West of England, and certainly comprising all of us ‘up North’.

Knowledge and sub-national agendas
My specific theme today is Knowledge, how it infuses complex contemporary society, and how it relates to U.K. sub-national agendas in Regeneration.

To use the emerging terminology, we are about to take a look at the KNOWLEDGE ECOLOGY of Northern Britain.

The idea of ‘Knowledge Ecologies’ allows a wider appreciation of the interrelationships of various factors which affect and influence Knowledge in its various contexts, be they economic, social or environmental.

What is Knowledge?
For our purposes I’d suggest ‘Knowledge’ is a pragmatic notion with a number of different aspects, which can be likened to some of the different states in which we encounter water:

* Social understandings and culture are like the mist or dew which maintains all living things.

* Civic and community rules are like rain, which falls whether we want it to or not.

* Our formal education can be compared to the streams and rivers which criss-cross our terrain, sometimes preventing us from travelling and sometimes moving us along.

* Expertise is a lake in which we can immerse ourselves, or indeed where we can go fishing, if we are well-placed to do so.

* And research tools and methods are to knowledge what a hydro-electric dam is to water at the end of a reservoir, not without risk, but hopefully unleashing its power to good use.

Knowledge can be wasted.
Knowledge, like water, can be wasted when
* the commodity is not perceived to be a resource, or of value
* it is not used properly
* it is allowed to stagnate, or not maintained in a good condition
* nit is not conserved
* it is allowed to go its own way or run its own course.

And we do also sometimes hit ‘unintended negatives’ – so-called ‘beaver dams’ – which are blocks to the flow of knowledge but intended by those who created them actually to assist constructive development.

One example might be the rules around Objective 1 funding, which is blocked to enterprises physically outside the Objective 1 area, such as Science and Technology Parks just outside Merseyside.

I hope by now you are beginning to see where the parallel between water and Knowledge lies.....

Knowledge centres move over time
The question is how can we, as Regeneration practitioners, use Knowledge, in the same way as conservationists would use water?

It’s interesting to recall that the Industrial Revolution, that precursor of the Knowledge Economy, began in the North.

But we are all aware that somehow things slipped Southwards thereafter, to the magical land of the M4 / M5 corridor, otherwise known as the Golden Triangle.

In more recent times this Southward flow of wealth-making has been accompanied by

* the globalisation of markets and products, by-passing almost every geographical and political boundary;

* very easily accessed information and networks, via the internet; and

* intensification of activity in fields related to information and other technologies, often to the exclusion of other more traditional industries and economies.

Fundamental changes in the Ecology of Knowledge have brought about big shifts in our experience in every aspect of our lives, whether social, economic or environmental.

Knowledge in Regeneration
In what ways do Knowledge, Regeneration and Sustainability interface and how can we best gear each into the other? How should we approach them in the new climate of devolved decision-making?

At first it might seem silly to consider the whole Knowledge Economy or Ecology in terms of Local Area Agreements and the like; after all, modern Knowledge investments are a very expensive and large-scale enterprise.

But attention to Knowledge at every level presents an opportunity to get things right in a way that the broad sweep alone cannot.

Conserving Knowledge
To extend our analogy, we are learning fast that conservation of water, like that of energy, has to be a collective effort.

And so too does the ‘conservation’ of Knowledge.

If we want to keep and get the best out of Knowledge in Northern Britain, we need to make sure we look after and invest in it just as our Southern cousins do.

Finding the right criteria
So where might we start? Perhaps by looking for good criteria by which to evaluate proposals for Regeneration....?

These criteria need to be transparent, meaningful and coherent for everyone concerned - be they planners, politicians, policy makers or indeed the general public and those most directly concerned in ‘communities’.

I do not however believe that currently this happens with any frequency.

If it does happen, why is the cry from stakeholders – whether community activists, service providers, businesses or others - so often for ‘more consultation’?

In terms of major misunderstandings, criteria tend to be more contested, the further we move away from the location of national government - especially when it comes to things such as large-scale investment in Knowledge.

The Golden Triangle
In this respect the Big Science Golden Triangle is significantly advantaged.

To return to our global economy model, the Golden Triangle is close to the corridors of power, it is hugely resourced in both financial and human terms, it has all the right infrastructure and it is well focused on delivery.

There are some outstanding Knowledge centres in the North, not least in the Daresbury Laboratory collaborations, in the Science Cities of Newcastle and Manchester, and in the Edinburgh – St Andrews nexus.

World-class excellence in specific disciplines
Even more locally, we can point to the world-class excellence of work done in ous Diseases.

The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine can stand proud against institutions anywhere in its achievements in this field, and there are alongside the work of the School hugely significant Biomedical developments, both at the University of Liverpool itself and at Speke Liverpool industrial locations near Runcorn.

Knowledge 'pools' have big potential
The potential for Merseyside’s economy of these connections - as also of the clustering of skills and facilities in aspects of Information Technology - are enormous, if they can indeed be brought together not just as a pool or pond, but as a river flowing purposively from the tributaries of its component parts to serve a stronger socio-economic ecology.

And similarly we can point to many other Knowledge ‘ponds’ in Northern Britain, bringing together very high skills in professional services such as Law and Accountancy; cultural provision such as Music, Theatre and Museums; or public services such as Health.

Socio-economic contexts
But to be blunt, these facilities sometimes lack the wider socio-economic cogency and contextual enhancement of comparable facilities further South.

We have seen the emergence of the ‘Northern Way', an admirable development which seeks to focus the synergies of all our Knowledge and related assets; but these still do not always ‘flow’ to our benefit as they might.

Yes of course there are pockets of disadvantage ‘down South’. But we only have to look at basic measures such as a life expectancy and health to know that overall the Southern half of Britain fares better than the Northern half.

It would be downright wrong to suggest, as some do, that Northern Britain has no Knowledge facilities which stand up against those of the Golden Triangle.

Knowledge contexts and economic outputs
But it would be equally foolish to suggest that all Northern Knowledge centres have the same supportive hinterland as most Southern ones.

Northern Knowledge facilities do not always lever in the economic outputs and other advantages of some Southern facilities of equivalent standing.

The reality is, until all of us are clear about the range of required criteria – not only academic criteria, but also many other sorts - for deciding where and when to invest in Knowledge, we will not have a proper conversation; and opportunities in a range of locations and situations will then be lost.

Knowledge as 'Science', and otherwise
But before we go any further, I should make one thing clear: Whilst I would like to be able to discuss the management and nurturing of Knowledge in the UK, we will inevitably find that we need to consider more narrowly defined sorts of Knowledge such as ‘Science’, or ‘Arts and Culture’, or ‘Education’.

‘Knowledge’ and ‘knowing’ as such do not seem to feature in the policy debate at any level. Nonetheless, I hope you will accept that ideally I would encompass all sorts of Knowledge in my analogy with water; as indeed I would urge you as Regeneration practitioners to think of Knowledge in this broader sense. But we must work with what we have, and the nearest to that for Knowledge as we intend to use the term is ‘Science’.

We have 'Science' funding councils, which have much larger budgets than funding councils for any other sorts of discipline. But we do not have a 'Knowledge' funding council. And so, for much of the rest of our discussion, we shall needs be use the terms ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Science’ almost interchangeably.

Big Science in North West England
So let’s take one topical example, which is Scientists and Big Science facilities in the North West England.

There are in Merseyside perhaps just half the number of scientists and technologists one might expect pro-rata from the UK general demographic. It is hard not to see a connection between this low concentration of high skills in Science, and the alarmingly modest school-leaving results in this City.

Merseyside is a sub-region where outcomes in terms of a low skills economy and its clusters of industry-based technologies are vulnerable to the operational decisions of powerful corporate Boards, often located in entirely different parts of the world.

The New Light Source synchrotron
And Liverpool is also a City within a Region which is still fighting, a decade after the battles started, to keep the world-leading Fourth Generation Light Source (4GLS) at the Daresbury Laboratory, between Manchester and Liverpool.

The proposal is that this spectacular New Light Source will be designed using an energy recovery linear accelerator to yield very short pulses (around a ten million millionth of a second), so that it will 'freeze' the motion of molecular vibrations and other microscopic scale processes. It will also combine light beams of different wavelengths (energies) which will put it at the leading edge internationally.

But now the Light Source synchrotron may not be built at Daresbury.

We can, we are told, have a jolly good Science Park there. Indeed, we have even been given special Innovation Centre status to take forward the ‘spin-offs’ from our excellent higher education facilities, as well as an important £8.5 million project for something called EMMA (Electron Machine with Many Applications), a development which will ultimately have applications in e.g. cancer therapy.

EMMA will be connected to, and use, ALICE (Accelerators and Lasers in Combined Experiments) designed as a prototype for 4GLS. ALICE is located at Daresbury but has only just been funded for future operations.

A Science Park, not a Synchrotron?
But it has been emphasised that we should not automatically expect to keep 4GLS, one of the most significant Big Science programmes imaginable, in the North West of England - even though scientists at Liverpool and neighbouring Universities devised it.

Indeed, 4GLS has now been renamed the New Light Source (NLS), and the histories around its genesis have been revisited by what some regard as ambitious and perhaps hostile external forces.

The £8m+ for EMMA is obviously a good thing, but this should be seen in the context of the £200 million for other major scientific facilities elsewhere in the UK.

The truth is, there are very influential people elsewhere who want to develop this incredibly important work in fundamental Physics; and some of them don’t really want to do this in the North West. Their preference, as you may have surmised, is the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), located in the Golden Triangle.

Investment and brain drains
In the meantime Daresbury has suffered a ‘brain drain’ of top scientists leaving not only the Daresbury Laboratory itself, but also vacating their academic positions in Daresbury’s partner Universities in the North West of England.

It is therefore excellent news that the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has just a few days ago announced a £50m funding boost for Daresbury Science & Innovation Campus. The cash has been earmarked from its Large Facilities Capital Fund to create the Hartree Institute of Computational Science at Daresbury.

But this still leaves a question mark over the future location of the New Light Source and the world-class scientists who work on it. And similar considerations also of course applied to the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s threatened financial reductions at Jodrell Bank, which is closely connected with the University of Manchester, until a ‘reprieve’ just very recently.

The best people often feel obliged to go elsewhere when the research dries up.

Support for Russell Group universities
When this sort of talent haemorrhage occurs, it makes for even greater challenge in maintaining the very high reputational stock of Russell Group universities in the North West.

The Russell Group, comprising twenty of the UK’s top research universities, boasts that in 2006/07, Russell Group Universities accounted for 66% (over £2.2 billion) of UK Universities' research grant and contract income, 68% of total Research Council income, 56% of all doctorates awarded in the United Kingdom, and over 30% of all students studying in the United Kingdom from outside the EU.

So nurturing Russell Group universities in Northern Britain is surely one of the most essential and obvious ways to maintain and extend the reservoir of knowledge and skills in this region.

Big Science 'added value' neglected
But the criteria for where to locate the main programme for the New Light Source - or indeed any other Big Science programme anywhere in the UK - are sadly lacking in respect of the ‘added value’ of wider impact, whichever regional economy becomes the host location.

There has been endless debate about the ‘quality of the science’ - an obvious essential - but, lamentably, almost none on the wider sub-national impacts for the regions concerned.

Much of the funding is put up by the Government, which might reasonably expect a good return across a range of benefits and indices both scientific and much wider.

But the funding allocators don’t worry that scientists might have to ‘go South’ if they wanted to follow this exciting Light Source work.

Regional inaction
And it must also be said that initially far too few policy makers in the North of England actually understood the fundamental significance of this ground-breaking work.

A couple of years ago Rachel Lomax, then a Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, reminded us all, at a conference in Liverpool, that you ‘can’t laugh your way out of economic decline’.

I’d add that perceiving the possible loss of the New Light Source as principally a blow to ‘civic pride’ won’t get us very far either.

Such a view, still occasionally perpetrated by local media, does not help people in our region to understand the significance of this fundamental research. It also suggests to external observers that our local Knowledge Ecology is weak, and we haven’t much idea about how substantive Knowledge Economies actually work.

Big Science benefits its locations
Rather, we need to say, very loud and clear, that there would be huge benefits, quite possibly to the whole of Northern Britain, in developing the New Light Source at Daresbury.

To summarise so far: Northern Britain has some excellent pools of Knowledge, but not, to date, a great reservoir of supportive cultural understandings and high skills, from which we can really empower Northern people and position our region to advantage.

It’s being hard-headed, looking for common understandings between all parties, local, regional and national, which will make a difference in the end. That is why established and shared criteria for Regeneration proposals are so very important.

Who decides?
As Regeneration practitioners, we need to think about regional Big Science and Knowledge investment.

We do not invite only Transport specialists to have a view on the location of main road and rail routes; nor doctors alone to choose where to put internationally recognised Medical facilities.

Likewise, the location of Big Science facilities is, in the most positive of senses, too important to be left only to the Scientists.

We must now ask, quite urgently, how those of us in Regeneration should be thinking about the management of investment in Science, as a massively important influence on the ebb and flow of Knowledge Ecologies.

Knowledge as an orientation to the world
We need to think of Knowledge, not as a set of academic disciplines, activities, ideas or skills, but rather as an orientation towards the world. It is, to extend my analogy, the watertable on which our society is based, the underpinnings of what we believe, perceive and do.

Informal Knowledge or ‘Knowing’ is the taken-for-granted culture which we all share – the dew, mist or rain which keeps us socially alive and operational whether we recognise it or not. But climates can change, so we will need in future to be more aware of these often ‘invisible’ life-support systems. We need always to be orientated even in our taken-for-granted culture towards seeking to find out more and understand what’s happening around us.

Formal Knowledge, on the other hand, is a more direct driver of modern economies. It includes almost everything ‘High Skills’ – whether these skills are scientific, technical, professional, academic, entrepreneurial, artistic, strategic or whatever. Formal knowledge comprises the streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs of our endeavours.

Who makes Knowledge decisions?
So at a very early stage in any Regeneration proposal we need to find out where these Knowledge resources are, and begin to decide what we can – or should – do with them.

And we must also ask who decides how Knowledge is handled.

Many contemporary Knowledge issues can be determined only at a macro- scale.

Yet the policies and actions which culminate in such Knowledge decisions are often made with no such considerations in mind, by people at a relatively local level.

For example, many matters around transport and infrastructure, education, housing and other services are determined at the micro- level, and against criteria relating mainly to quite short-term local electoral accountability.

Big decisions and Big Science
But decisions about Big Science or other large-scale investment in Knowledge of whatever sort, are often made by people and organisations with little or no local accountability, and according to criteria which have nothing to do with local people’s direct concerns.

Only in places where Knowledge – or at least its outcomes – are intrinsically valued, is there likely to be congruence between local decision-making and the consequences of this at strategic levels for Knowledge. Context in these matters is critical. Hence once again my emphasis on widely shared and comprehensive criteria.

So let’s also look at things the other way.

Talking to the right people
Trying to persuade investors in another country that they should do business in a given region can be difficult, especially when the plants and professional skills may be more cheaply available elsewhere.

This is one of the reasons I have doubts about the single-minded pursuit of clustering industries in Technology Parks as an end in themselves.

Things look different however, if we seek to attract expertise at the international cutting edge of scientific Knowledge, rather than simply seeking investment capital.

Technology Parks or Big Science?
It may be more effective to talk with a handful of very top experts who might be persuaded to stay and work in a regional location, provided they have the laboratories and other back-up they require.

If we just concentrate on building the real estate for technology parks we will get a qualitatively different regeneration outcome, from if we push the boat out on globally cutting-edge scientific research.

Regeneration practitioners, please take note.

Combining approaches
Ideally, of course, we should put the technology and the pursuits of high-level scientific research together. And indeed this has to some extent happened in regard to the Merseyside identification with work on Infectious Diseases.

We have the world-class Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and the Teaching Hospitals, in conjunction with the Bioscience facilities of the University of Liverpool. These facilities, as we have noted, are working in tandem with the Biotechnology cluster for vaccines and so forth in Speke, on the city outskirts.

Here is real and potential synergy indeed. I hope someone is conducting the case study!

Knowledge Ecologies and their potential
Ultimately, it is Knowledge Ecologies, the contexts in which Knowledge activities occur, which determine how much benefit may be derived from the resources available – and I’m sure by now I don’t have to extend this, as an analogy, to the management of water, to make my point.

Understanding Knowledge Ecologies, and valuing Knowledge, produces a virtuous circle.

Decision makers at every level must be geared in to ‘looking after’ Knowledge, before everyone can benefit fully from what it can deliver.The physical detail of Regeneration programmes must marry with the human requirements of the people the programmes are intended to serve.

Knowledge centres in their communities
Recognising the role of schools, colleges and universities in their communities, and ensuring they are integrated into their localities – as well as outward-looking – is an essential element of this.

And what, for instance, is or could be the full impact of a teaching hospital or any other facility which employs and / or engages many ‘ordinary’ people, in a very extraordinary and high skills setting?

Or how should we value a cultural initiative such as the renewal of Hope Street, in Liverpool? Hope Street Quarter is home to this city’s international orchestra, several of its theatres, its two cathedrals, and much else, including more recently the joint Universities’ Science Park headquarters. The refurbishment of Hope Street has quite literally brought together the aspirations of flagship Knowledge-led educational and cultural organisations, significant independent businesses and local people in communities across the spectrum from university residences to the more challenging parts of Toxteth, our nearest neighbouring area.

As Chair of HOPES, the charity which spear-headed Hope Street’s renewal over several years, I can vouch for the difficulties – and also the huge benefits – of trying to bring all these perspectives together.

Checking the human realities of Knowledge Ecologies
Whether we are looking at the siting of a Children’s Centre – not, please, in the middle of an uninhabited industrial estate, just because the local authority has a nice spare building there – or, indeed, at the location of an international centre of excellence for Big Science – maybe a decent air link away from the Golden Triangle might be a good idea? – the question has to be:
Will this development serve its purpose in the most humanly effective way?

Attention to Knowledge Ecologies at whatever level, from early years learning right through to the operation of the most complex scientific research, reminds us of something which is quite obvious but sometimes put aside...... The economics of land acquisition and construction or physical development are only one of a large number of factors which Regeneration practitioners must address when taking programmes forward.

If we want the best from Regeneration programmes we need to be joined up.

The USP of Regeneration
It is the full acknowledgement of physical and socio-economic integration and cohesion, as a basic underlying principle, which distinguishes Regeneration from simply construction, community engagement, economic development or planning. This is what makes Knowledge in all its senses so critical in Regeneration.

Our Unique Selling Point as Regeneration practitioners is that we seek to bring together all the skills and understandings of the various disciplines and endeavours which underpin our work. Not every construction, community, developmental or planning scheme comprises Regeneration.

Full Regeneration programmes include all these elements, plus that special ‘extra’ of ensuring that all the Knowledge streams, formal and informal, will, ultimately, flow together for the common good.

Delivering synergies
Bringing all these elements together is however a tall order.

This ‘gearing in’ or re-alignment is not however something with only top-end outcomes. Appropriate understandings and management of Knowledge by every one of us, across the board, would help us as Regeneration practitioners to address all sorts of issues.

We must deliver the potential synergies in the conjunction of these themes. One of the most fascinating things about Knowledge and Regeneration is that what we know develops iteratively – the layers on the onion keep growing, as we share experiences and thereby understand more.

Looking at Knowledge Ecologies
We might consider three questions which arise from these thoughts about Knowledge.

1. Do we in fact share common understandings about the fundamentals of how Knowledge and Science interface with Regeneration?

Would we agree that common criteria and measures for the evaluation and understanding of Knowledge are now emerging? And what, if so, might these be?

2. Do we as Regeneration practitioners need a special take on ‘regional’ or sub-national Knowledge strategies?

Should those who determine science policy now as a matter of good practice assess likely socio-economic impacts – the ‘added value’ - when the Government invests in Science and Knowledge at sub-national levels?

In 2001 I was amongst those who worked towards the inaugural NW Science Conference, which resulted in the first regional Science Council. Should we collectively now to take this initiative a further step forward, and incorporate the Regeneration agenda directly into national Knowledge and Science strategies?

The Haldane Principle, established in 1918, prescribed that Government should not influence how Science is developed, this being the job of the Research Funding Councils alone. But things were very different 90 years ago. Science was a much less complicated activity, the costs of scientific research were proportionately less significant, and certainly nobody thought about connections between investment in Science and investment in what we have come to call Regeneration.

So should the Government now revisit Haldane? Should those who determine science policy now as a matter of good practice assess likely socio-economic impacts – the ‘added value’ - when the Government invests in Science and Knowledge at sub-national levels?

And should we in Regeneration also be developing tools for the same purpose?

3. How can we confront the idea of ‘Sustainability’ – a term which is often dismissed simply I suspect because it is so difficult to ‘unpack’?

To return to the original metaphor, it is not enough that we know where the canals, tributaries, rivers, lakes and hydro-power dams are.

Stable and sustainable systems
We need also to ensure that we have a stable system, one which depends on just a single planet’s-worth of resources.

In this scenario issues such as equality and diversity, or for example the urban-rural divide, take on a new significance. One Planet Living means having an adequate sufficiency for everyone; and this in turn requires a far greater focus on how we deliver Regeneration for real people, whoever and wherever they are.

There is not time right now to develop the theme of social equity, but I am sure everyone agrees it is a non-negotiable, in terms of taking things forward. There is no hope of Sustainability if we do not address the basic needs of all members of our society, women and men, people of every culture and ethnicity, older and young, city and country dwellers alike.

Sustainability is where the social meets the physical
And Sustainability is also the point at which my water metaphor turns into a literal reality. The physical and social worlds meet when we consider Sustainability.

Knowledge is not a finite resource. It can take any of the formats, by analogy, which water has; but it can and does also constantly increase in its volume and impact. And like water, this volume and impact must be managed, if it is to deliver positive change, not destruction.

One of the ways in which Knowledge grows is through our increased understanding of sustainable systems. In this sense, Regeneration practitioners cannot in truth do their job unless they seek also to do themselves out of one.

The end of Regeneration?
Our ambition has to be that Regeneration will become an occasional sideline, for ‘Emergencies Only’ if you like. Our main task as practitioners will be to manage change, and lead not simply on ‘Regeneration’, but rather on Sustainability.

At its best Regeneration provides the connectivity and energy to enable and empower everyone, at every level, building on common understandings to produce positive synergies and outcomes.

This is why I have concentrated here on the idea of Knowledge and how it ‘flows’.

Study Group on Knowledge, Science and Regeneration
And with BURA, the British Urban Regeneration Association and a number of others - some of them here now - I am seeking to take this work forward.

We are developing a Study Group on Knowledge, Science and Regeneration and input to this would be very welcome. Please do get in touch if you’d like to know more.

Testing the 'Knowledge is like Water' analogy
But for now I will leave you with an invitation to test out my offered analogy between Knowledge and water:

1. Does the ‘Knowledge is like Water’ model actually ‘hold water’?

2. Does it help us to see how the management of Knowledge in different parts of the United Kingdom may vary, and why?

3. Does the ‘Knowledge is like Water - it flows where it can’ idea help us to see, at every level from Local Areas, through Sub-regions to large chunks of Britain, how a more equitable distribution of Knowledge might be achieved?

4. How might this distribution model nonetheless encourage a free-flow between many different points, such that the Knowledge Ecology, like a good water system, is kept healthy, vigorous and stable?

5. And lastly, how might developing a model to describe the movements and management of water help us in delivering Regeneration?

The interface of Knowledge and Regeneration
The new challenge in Regeneration is to see how in practice Regeneration can interface with Knowledge. This is much like the challenge of managing a watertable, whilst also providing the irrigation systems and the hydro-electric power for revitalising communities and the lives of the people living in them.

Those of us ‘Up North’ continue to hope that a synthesis of Sustainability and Growth will see improvements in our economy and basic standards of living, to match those already enjoyed by the more fortunate of our Southern cousins.

We want Sustainability, but most of us still want regional Growth as well.

I look forward through our work in the new Study Group to discovering more about how we can resolve these challenging demands.


I am grateful to a number of friends and colleagues for generous encouragement and commentary on this paper, and I will also of course appreciate further dialogue about any of the ideas I have here tried to explore. Please contact me, or use the Comments form below, as you wish. Thank you.

Read more about Science, Regeneration & Sustainability,
Science Policy
and
The Haldane Principle, 21st Century Science Research And Regional Policy;
and see more of Hilary's Publications, Lectures & Talks.

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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