Can urban regeneration be achieved in the UK?

The UK government released a press release last week titled ‘Deputy Prime Minister plans to bring empty buildings back to life in the North’. In his latest blog, Richard Carr considers Nick Clegg’s plan to follow German’s model of using vacant buildings to revitalise communities.

The Betahaus project in Berlin

Founded just five years ago, Berlin’s Betahaus has become one of the largest collaborative working spaces in Europe. Over 2,500 square metres of space is shared amongst artists, creative, business people and start-ups.

Richard Carr Nick Clegg Betahaus

Nick Clegg visits the Betahaus

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the city possessed a large amount of very cheap house and industrial space. The low rents appealed to artists and creative people, creating a flourishing cultural scene.

What can the UK learn?

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s plan is to bring abandoned buildings ‘back to life’ in the North of England. Areas such as Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield suffer from a chronic problem where vast sites become empty and unused meaning that whole areas can become blighted.

Clegg’s idea is to match business people and start-ups etc. with the local authorities and land-owners to find temporary uses for vacant buildings. It is hoped that this will provide invaluable space for a wide range of local people, whilst transforming empty shells intro dynamic hubs.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg said:

“Leaving useful land in the North to languish is not only bad for business, it can hamper the success of an area in so many ways. Which is why I want to see empty buildings brought back to life and back in business.

“We need to understand what stands in the way of some of the most incredible space in the country being used, and make things more flexible so that we can fill these buildings with artists, start-ups and other entrepreneurs to restore the buildings’ purpose and appeal.”

Where, when and how?

Potential sites in the North of England have already been found, with the regeneration process well underway. The following buildings have been put forward for regeneration:

  • ABC Cinema, Liverpool
  • The Oratory, Liverpool
  • England and Martins Bank, Liverpool
  • Kind Street, Manchester
  • Cross Street Manchester
  • Castlegate, Sheffield

Other sites have also been found, whilst local authorities in Leeds and Newcastle will be joining the working group in the near future.

The focus should be on brownfield sites

Richard Carr is strongly in favour of Nick Clegg’s proposals and agrees that the UK should be focusing on urban regeneration, rather than using the countryside as a tool to stimulate and regenerate communities.

Richard believes that the proposal has the potential to revitalise city centres and communities, drawing in talent and investment from far and wide. If successful, the proposal will also benefit the local economy and provide jobs and custom for local businesses.

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