Engaging local communities in neighbourhood regeneration in England: an evaluation of aims, objectives and outcomes
An integral component of urban regeneration policy in the UK and many countries of the Global North has been a commitment to encourage greater community engagement in the planning and delivery of area-based strategies. Over the past two decades England has experienced a series of policy initiatives designed to target areas of deprivation as well as to involve, engage and empower residents and their organizations through multiple and often overlapping strategies. The most recent piece of legislation, the Localism Act 2011, is creating new opportunities for community engagement in England. National evaluations of two previous regeneration programmes and related research in England consistently advocate caution in overstating impact and claiming permanent and sustainable outcomes. The theoretical underpinning has relied on the concepts of community, social capital and innovative forms of local governance but these terms often lack precision and are difficult to measure. Limitations occur partly because of a lack of resources and over-ambitious expectations but also because of too frequent policy changes. In practice, exhortations to engage communities have been largely rhetorical with few governance arrangements implemented that can realistically transfer power downwards on a permanent basis. However, new organizational forms are emerging under the heading of ‘localism’ that more directly engage citizens in sustainable strategies to improve their localities.