Towards more Sustainable Places

Joseph T.L. Ooi (National University of Singapore)

Journal of Property Investment & Finance

ISSN: 1463-578X

Article publication date: 1 October 2004



Ooi, J.T.L. (2004), "Towards more Sustainable Places", Journal of Property Investment & Finance, Vol. 22 No. 5, pp. 444-445.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

To what extent should urban places be planned to cope with changes? In Britain, many towns and cities have struggled to cope with the transition from traditional to new industries. Following long periods of decline, social, economic and physical state of disrepair are common problems in inner urban areas. Since the 1980s, regeneration efforts have been deployed to tackle these problems and one concept that has been esteemed in urban regeneration is “sustainable development”. It is argued that urban regeneration is – or should be – about generating sustainable places and communities; and that the only basis on which successful urban regeneration can be achieved is through an effective working partnership between the stakeholders.

Towards more Sustainable Places is a research commissioned by Turner and Townsend Group in association with RICS Foundation to explore these two related issues. Conducted by the University of Aberdeen and Kevin Murray Associates, the research project addressed the key elements involved in creating sustainable places and the practice of partnership working as a means by which these can be delivered. For different people, what actually constitutes “sustainability” is open to interpretation. Furthermore, the means and skills required to achieve “sustainability” is also not very well appreciated.

The 68 page report is divided into five chapters. The first chapter sets the backdrop and introduction for the research. The second chapter focuses on the creation of sustainable places and communities, whilst the third chapter explores the current and future role of multi‐agency partnerships in delivering sustainable regeneration/places. The fourth chapter addresses the role of skills and learning in the creation of sustainable places. The last chapter presents the conclusions and recommendations.

The empirical research involved interviews with regeneration professionals in four cities, namely Birmingham, Liverpool, Edinburgh and London. Following a review of the literature, five key dimensions of sustainable places were identified by the researchers. They are place‐making (physical dimension), people and place (community and social dimension), self‐sufficiency (economic dimension), holism (integration of the social, economic and physical components) and temporal (to endure over time, sustainable places need be robust, flexible and dynamic). For each dimension, interesting and relevant questions are first raised. Current practices concerning the particular issue observed from the interviews are then documented. This is followed by the researchers' recommendations on the specific issue.

The research concluded that the concepts of both sustainable places and sustainable communities remain somewhat cloudy. There exists a widespread lack of awareness of the implications of the concept of sustainable communities by those involved in regeneration. With respect to partnerships as a form of delivery and governance, they found that at a general level, partnerships working is widely supported and felt to be an appropriate, flexible and effective mechanism for the cross‐cutting nature of regeneration and for the creation of sustainable places. However, the goals of partnerships tend to be much narrower in practice; focusing on more immediate objectives.

Towards more Sustainable Places is a relevant report for those seeking to have a better grasp on creating sustainable places in urban regeneration. It provides a well‐rounded treatment on what constitutes sustainable place and the means and skills to create them. The report presents a typology of regeneration partnerships, which I find to be a very useful framework to assess the many models of partnerships currently in existence. It helped me to appreciate the efficacy and effectiveness of different regeneration types and partnerships at three different levels: at the neighborhood scale, at the local authority or city level, and at the regional or more strategic level. In short, it will help the reader to appreciate what works in what circumstances. I also find that the report provides a good overview of the evolution of regeneration policies in UK and the need for effective urban regeneration. This is valuable information for those who wish to know more about the development scene and policy agenda in Britain.

Overall, the report is well presented. It is easy to read and understand; and serves as a useful reference for both practitioners and students in urban studies. The research report can be retrieved without any charge from the Web site (www.rics‐ of RICS Foundation.

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