More recent developments in urban policy - Business Environment

With the change of government in 1997, urban policy in the UK has taken on a more targeted and focused approach, with funding increasingly being directed towards a range of economic, social and environmental initiatives. Key developments have included:

  • The New Deal for Communities program designed to combat social exclusion through focused and intensive neighbourhood renewal projects in the most deprived neighbourhoods.
  • SRB Challenge Round 5 and 6 which included a more regional focus and an increased emphasis on partnership capacity building. The majority of new resources were concentrated in the most deprived areas.
  • Housing estate regeneration through Housing Action Trusts and Estate Action.
  • Coalfields initiatives especially the Coalfields Regeneration Trust and the Enterprise Fund.
  • Initiatives to tackle problems such as education, drugs, health and crime.

In 1998 the government established an Urban Task Force chaired by Lord Rogers to examine the causes of urban decline and to recomended solutions to bring people back into towns and cities. In its report in June 1999 the Task Force made 105 recomendations, including the establishment of Urban Regeneration Companies(URCs) to lead and co-ordinate redevelopment and new investment in declining areas. This suggestion was subsequently endorsed in a White Paper on Urban Renaissance published in 2000 which also underlined the need to create local strategic partnerships in order to develop a co-ordinated approach to strategy formulation and implementation.

To emphasize the increased importance being attached to tackling urban issues and problems the government established a Cabinet Committee on Urban Affairs and an Urban Policy Unit within the DETR. It also announced a review of the work of English Partnerships, the discontinuation of the national rounds of the SRB (after Round 6) and an Urban Summit to discuss the whole area of urban regeneration policy. This meeting, which took place in late 2002, examined the idea of developing ‘sustainable communities’, a concept which was subsequently taken up in a White Paper published in February 2003 (Our Towns and Cities: The Future). In essence, the idea was to revitalize the UK’s towns and cities through local schemes of urban regeneration which would involve a range of stakeholders including the private sector. As the government recognized, to achieve this aim would require substantial co-ordination of existing and future government programs and a high degree of co-operation both within and between different tiers of government.

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