Inner city initiatives provide the only mechanism for improving cities

An architect once said that ‘When you look at a city, it’s like reading the hopes, aspirations and pride of everyone who built it”, however is this true today. Is the governments only key aims to ‘cater’ for everyone’s needs without any thought process resting on the individuals who have lived there for so long? Within our modern society, we see things like crime, economic downfall, poverty and pollution; all these things are present in every city within the world.

The governments and councils of these subsequent areas are thus on constant pressure, to supply new individuals entering their abode, be it immigrants or migrants, with housing, work and other such essentials. There have been many initiatives over the years which have taken place to re-develop some areas, to make an area more hospitable or increase the profitability of that such place. Within this essay I will look at the importance of the inner city initiatives, and conclude whether these such innate schemes are driving to what we call an ‘improved city’.

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There are many schemes, which are being put in place throughout the UK, which main aims are to develop the inner city areas of particular cities around the United Kingdom, for example, Birmingham and London. The most famous is named the LDDC or the London Docklands Development Corporation, which was first created in 1981. The main aims for urban development corporations, such as the LDDC, are to focus specifically on regenerating the land and the property of run down or decrepit areas. The LDDC in question had a large amount of budget and powers to grant planning permission, along with the ability to buy land.

The typical traits of these kind of corporations are both ‘market led’ and interventionist, which erects new flagship projects. However, a criticism of these projects which is nicknamed ‘trickle down’; as typically these kind of corporations will create a brand new project without any local community members getting involved – they assume that everything will just happen around it, while its better to ‘plant the seed’ i. e. work with the locals and get them on your side to help develop the area. This UDC (LDDC) can also be regarded as an enterprise zone.

An enterprise zone, is an impoverished area in which businesses are exempt from certain taxes and are given other economic advantages, as incentive to employ local residents. The London docklands was once a vibrant and highly employed place and was one of the biggest docks in Europe. However, it receive a catastrophic job loss over a short period of time, due to the docklands being closed down. Between the times of 1978-1983 over 12,000 jobs were lost; and many ‘blue collared workers’ were neglected and unusable for many of the growth areas of the London economy.

This led for a massive redevelopment scheme, to re-establish the once populated area of the docklands – i??1. 86 billion went into the public sector while i??7. 7 billion in private sector investment. While they bought 1,066 acres of brown field site, to be used for urban renewal; along with 144km of new and improved roads to the area. A major step within this development of the docklands was the construction of the DLR or Docklands Light railway – which made this area of London ten times more accessible than what it was previously.

LDDC was controversial as it was accused of favouring elitist luxury developments rather than affordable housing, and it was unpopular with the local communities, who felt that their needs were not being addressed. This shows a key problem within this project, that for your project to be deemed successful they must have the full support of the locals straight away and at the beginning of the project. As without the support from the local community it can lead to a divide between new and old people, causing an unneeded social difficulty arising.

This new refurbishment to the area has led to now 85,000 working at the London docklands, along with 94 architecture, conservation and landscape awards. There is a clear physical and economic difference between the previous London dockland, and the present day one and it is no regarded as an up market area – turning from a blue-collar neighbourhood to a white collar neighbourhood. Overall this scheme has improved the inner city area and was crucial for its overall success. Similar between the change in class, gentrification has occurred throughout areas of London.

Gentrification is effectively the influx of middle-class citizens into cities and neighbours, and slowly displacing the lower class worker residents for example Islington and Brick Lane. There are many reasons for gentrification occurring, such as a shift in class structure – as more people become middle class, with a difference in cultural tastes and social relations. Along with, prime area being Portobello/ Notting Hill, the “artist colony” where arty and hippy like people have moved because of the “gritty” sense of authenticity of the Georgian old style housing.

Gentrification is no form of iniciative that is set down and developed my the council or government, it occurs organically from middle class, rich individuals who go into an area and effectively ‘spice it up’. From there everything typically starts to development old pubs become lavish wine bars, increase presence of high quality and more expensive housing and newly renovated buildings. One could name it the “peroni effect”, the change in the local public houses – from cheap and standard pints to expensive imported beers and lagers from around the world.

This not only improves the area greatly, making it worth more and becoming more up market; but it costs no money from the higher authorities. However, gentrification can cause some problems to the area itself; for example some of the traditional local establishments (like the local pub) will close down – at a rate of 52 pubs closing down a week. Along with this, local residents may struggle to afford the increase in prices – and could loose all ties with their own community, which will force them to move out.

This would be aided by the house prices shooting up and the area becoming desired, as the locals are disliking the area they live in they will take advantage of the house prices and sell up and leave. A prime example of gentrification is Wandsworth, previously used to be a quiet area with shops serving a long established working class population; along with a quiz night at the local pubs. This then changed drastically, for example Bellevue Road now has delicatessens, wine bars and gallery’s; completely changing the areas atmosphere and authenticity.

This shows that inner city “initiatives” are not the only way to improve certain areas of an inner city, it is possible to have an organic process that can develop into its own – without increased pressure. Changing the philosophy of an area can be challenging, however an initiative named ‘city challenge’ effectively aims to tackle the social problems of an area, and predominantly deprived housing areas, along with increasing support of the community. Unlike some of the other forms of inner city change we have looked at, this kind of initiative aims to tackle the core community and work with them.

For example, Coin street in Southbank, London. Coin street is a local community that have come together to redevelop the Southbank area, this area of London previously used to be very bleak, rundown and unattractive area, with little shops and a ‘dying’ residential community. The coin street community builders was purchased in 1984 for i??1 million; effectively a group of local people who work and live within the area, which helps to overseas the community. Similarly the Hulme redevelopment program, was a i??37. million government regeneration package in April 1992. Its main aims were to redevelop and rebuild the house that was damaged during the world war; and overall developing of the area. However, this kind of inner city initiative only works in smaller areas. Throughout this essay I have looked at how inner city initiatives that can provide improvement to certain areas of the city. Urban Development Corporation, prime example the LDDC, has shown that these kind of initiatives can add to the mechanism of improving our city areas.

However, these are not the only ways of improving our cities, such things as Gentrification can also ameliorate the surrounding areas. As the influx of middle class individuals the organic nature of gentrification will occur and the area will becoming much more of worth. This is why I believe that improving inner city areas are not only down to certain inner city initiatives, such as the UDC, city challenge and enterprise zones (like LDDC).

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