Memorandum by Urban Bishops' Panel of
The Church of England (GRI 41)
1. We are grateful for this opportunity
to comment, from the experience of Panel members and those for
whom they are responsible, in urban communities and congregations
across the English regions.
2. The Church of England has committed considerable
resources of personnel, plant, training, resources and funding
through its active presence in every urban community in England.
This has been complemented by the widespread impact made by the
resources of the Church Urban Fund with its emphasis on supporting
local initiatives. A substantial body of experience and expertise
has been accumulated that addresses a number of the Committee's
lines of enquiry.
3. The 1985 report of the Archbishop of
Canterbury's Commission on Urban Priority Areas: Faith in the
City. A Call to Church and Nation provided a significant call
for urban and community renewal, and has proved influential in
the development of subsequent social policy. The commitment by
the Government, in the Urban White Paper and the New Commitment
to Neighbourhood Renewal, to involve faith communities in
strategies, partnerships and programmes acknowledges their significant
role in civil society. The ongoing commitment of the Church to
community renewal is apparent in many local programmes and partnerships,
as well as the work of its national agencies and officers.
4. This vigorous engagement with the vision
set out in the Urban White Paper and the New Commitment for
Neighbourhood Renewal was the subject of a key debate at the
July 2002 meeting of the General Synod, with a background paper
from the Urban Bishops' PanelThe Church of England and
the Urban Renaissance: A discussion paper. (GS 1446 available
from Church House Bookshop 020 7898 1300).
5. The sustainability of the impact of local
regeneration programmes is a matter of concern. The failure of
many large housing schemes of the 1960s resulted from the lack
of community endowment and this pattern appears to be repeated.
The handing back of areas previously subject to Estates Action,
City Challenge and other schemes has often been accompanied by
a deterioration in upkeep of public spaces, street cleaning and
maintenance services. Exit strategies need not only to look at
the maintenance of the quality of service but also how the quality
of service in adjoining areas can be brought up to the same standards.
6. Greater faith needs to be placed in those
for whom the areas of regeneration are home. New initiatives are
often accompanied by a culture of consultancy and intervention
as experts from outside the area are engaged and a resource-starved
voluntary sector move into an area where new resources are available.
Local people are often acutely aware that programmes act as a
funnel through which designated funding is channelled to professionals
who do not live locally or spend in the local economy.
7. While welcoming the indications that
regeneration culture is changing to a "bottom-up" approach,
the changes are often more apparent in greater burdens of expectation
being placed on local people before their skills are appropriately
developed and in the development of collaborative planning and
decision-making skills with agency employees or local authority
8. We are convinced that there needs to
be greater interaction between areas to be or in the process of
regeneration. The stigma of the "reverse beauty contest"
in which communities are forced to compete need to be replaced
by greater collaboration. This has been particularly apparent
in the New Deal for Communities programmes where areas are often
isolated particularly after a local competition. The geographical
particularities of regeneration initiatives have often left communities
unable to learn from the experience of similar situations. Greater
emphasis needs to be placed on forming broad alliances of such
within a local authority. This may mean the regeneration process
takes longer but would prevent "problems" relocating
into other neighbourhoods through the decanting process or implementation
of new ordinances in some neighbourhoods and not others.
9. We are convinced that regeneration must
be accompanied by investment in local communities which is designed
to develop skills, and a sense of "ownership", as well
as invigorating local democracy.
10. "Consultation" is uneven and
often misunderstood as a tool for testing opinion instead of drawing
individuals and communities into the planning process. Decanting
and relocation mean that often it is difficult to identify those
who's involvement will lead to a long-term engagement with the
area and the changes being implemented. "Right to return"
schemes need clearer expectation about how temporary "exiles"
can be involved with on going work. Local regeneration initiatives
need to be accompanied by a review of community structuresthe
introduction of district level committees and for a for young
people have, in a number of cases we are aware of, provided a
greater sense of ownership and participation at a level where
social regeneration issues can be more appropriately tackled.
This is of urgent importance in communities of ethnic and religious
diversity. We would agree with Professor Patsy Healey that"Planning
systems and practices . . . have their power and justification
in the role they play in helping the political communities of
places work out how to manage their collective concerns about
the qualities of shared spaces and local environments". (Collaborative
Planning. Shaping Places in Fragmented Societies. Macmillan
11. We are aware of uneasy relationships
in many regeneration partnerships. Beyond the rhetoric of "partnership"
must be acknowledged the need to be aware of how power is exercised.
That exercise is as apparent in the ability to call meetings and
their location and timing, as it is in access to resources and
information. Dynamic and respectful relationships can only be
built through the investment of time, thought and care involving
a recognition of strengths and weaknesses which seeks to empower
rather than exploit the weaknesses of other partners. There is
a need to break through old cultures of paternalism and philanthropy.
12. In many places Local Strategic Partnerships
have provided new impetus for collaborative working and envisioning
of a community's future. The flexibility allowed has been a bonus
for some but, for others, a more formalised structure would have
been appropriate. The gatekeeper role of the local authority is
key to the LSP's development; as with other aspects of the regeneration
agenda the changes in culture and perception, particularly in
relation to the voluntary and faith sectors has been uneven. The
most "successful" seem to be those LSPs which have built
on existing good practice and trust between the voluntary, community
and public sectors into which the private/business sector has
been inducted as an equal and not a dominant partner.
13. The implementation of schemes, particularly
those involving the decanting and relocation of significant parts
of the population, has often left local residents isolated and
resentful. The experience of those left in the final phases of
regeneration schemes has of