Regeneration - the name of the game?
By Gary Mahoney - Liverpool Friends of the Earth
‘There are fundamental questions that have not been satisfactorily answered by those responsible for spending public money in Liverpool.’
Regeneration is one of the major themes on the current political agenda. Nowhere is this more evident - or more controversial - than on Merseyside. Large sums of money are available specifically to arrest and reverse decline experienced in so many towns and cities throughout the country.
Some conflict is inevitable: regeneration of an area means change and change is not always welcome. There is often tension between what is perceived as the 'greater good' and the needs and aspirations of the communities most affected. No project is likely to satisfy everybody! However, as Merseyside's regeneration agenda drives forward, doubts have emerged about accountability; how the agenda is controlled, who and what drives it forward and ultimately what the regeneration process is trying to achieve.
It would seem that regeneration requires large-scale demolition and huge infrastructure projects. We are told that these projects create jobs in the construction, supply and allied industries; that they will then attract big high street names; that these - and the luxury accommodation being provided - will attract high spenders to our ailing city centres. All this will supposedly lead to an upturn in the local economy, through the much vaunted but seldom clearly identified 'trickle down' effect.
Do we have examples of cities where this type of regeneration has been tried and shown to be of long lasting benefit to the local population? Or are we creating cities where the local community are priced out of the housing market, few of the construction jobs go to local people because of skills gaps and most of the other new 'opportunities' are low paid jobs in the service industries? It may be possible to show that after such an exercise the average wealth in a community rises, but this could be because of an influx of wealthier people. The original community may be just as badly (or indeed worse) off as before the exercise started.
What are we trying to create when we regenerate an area? If all we do is build similar developments to attract the same national and international businesses as every other city is doing then what will happen to diversity? How will Liverpool differ from Birmingham, Leeds or anywhere else that has gone through this process? Where will our 'unique selling point' be? Just how sustainable is the process?
Something is seriously wrong when public money and effort goes into supporting the interests of major commercial corporations above the needs and aspirations of people in the community. But the rules of the World Trade Organisation - to which our government signs up - underpin this basically corrupt process. This is one reason why it's vital to raise our voices when the G8 leaders meet in July.
Liverpool a 'Clone Town'?
A Local Business View
World Development Movement
A Local Resident's View