Corbyn’s comments on estate regeneration are welcome – but he could go further

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In his speech to the Labour Party Conference, Jeremy Corbyn spoke about the regeneration process, and we at Create Streets very much welcome his comments and approach.

“Regeneration”, said Corbyn, was too often “forced gentrification and social cleansing, as private developers move in and tenants and leaseholders are moved out”. This tallies with many examples we have seen – whilst estate regeneration can be done well, it often isn’t.

Corbyn said that under a Labour government,“councils will have to win a ballot of existing tenants and leaseholders before any redevelopment scheme can take place.” This transfer of power towards residents is something that Create Streets have been advocating for a long time – from our very first publication back in 2013 (see p.66)

Corbyn also added that “people who live on an estate that’s redeveloped must get a home on the same site and the same terms as before.”  This too is encouraging stuff. In our seven questions for assessing estate regeneration, we consider both the above elements, as questions that need to be answered in the affirmative, with three of them seeming particularly relevant here:

  • Does it have support of residents?
  • Does it have support of neighbours?
  • Does it at least keep social housing equal & treat leaseholders and tenants fairly?

We think the measures announced by Corbyn, if implemented, would help those involved in estate regeneration answer ‘yes’ to both of those questions.

That said, we think things could be pushed further. Rather than merely the same old process with a ballot tacked onto the end of it, we want to see genuine resident involvement from the very beginning. Of course, having a ballot would require councils and developers to pay more heed to the concerns of residents anyway. But nevertheless, just having a ballot could still lead to adversarial processes and potentially manipulated outcomes.

What would be greatly superior would be a proper process of co-design, with residents and architects sitting down in a room and drawing up the designs together, with paper and pencils. The designs that came out would have the support of residents because they would be the residents’ own designs. We’ve seen time and time again that residents are willing to support and even campaign for new development if the plans are their own. Estate regeneration is never easy, but co-design is a process in which everyone involved understands from the start the pressures and constraints faced by everyone else. They can then work on collectively finding the solutions to the issues that arise as the process goes on. This leads to the compromises and consensuses that ultimately get things done to everyone’s satisfaction.

Corbyn’s comments have led to increased discussion about the process of estate regeneration. We hope that this discussion continues and that co-design starts to comes to the fore.

Kieran Toms

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