REGENERATION is a term that we are all familiar with, perhaps too familiar with because even amongst property professionals it can mean something very different.
I know one such person who has been known to jump down your throat when you say ‘regeneration’ which he now regards as an almost meaningless term.
So when I say we need a new Champion of Regeneration, what I mean by that is someone who understands the revitalizing effect that urban renewal can have on economic performance and growth.
It’s someone who understands what it can do for people’s lives by providing new jobs, new places to live, work and play and, crucially, the generation of wealth.
I expect that the purists might pick holes in that statement, but I think it’s a simple and straightforward assertion with an honest vision. Urban renewal has got to be about improving the lot of people and the new roads, new homes, new schools, new community centres, new shops, new offices and new factories (etc) are just a means to an end.
Putting that ‘means’ in place and making it work is what many of us are about and we inhabit a very exciting, inspiring, challenging and rewarding world.
Sometimes, however, I think those in power forget just how important ‘regeneration’ is to our society, especially in the North East. Certainly, I think bodies like the regional development agencies, urban regeneration companies and local authorities have been struggling valiantly to support the major schemes that have been hit by the credit crunch, but without much support from either from central government or Europe.
That’s why we need a new Champion of Regeneration at the highest level. John Prescott fulfilled that role for a while and, whether you agreed with his approach or not, you could tell the man’s heart was in the right place.
On the other side of the fence, Michael, now Lord Heseltine transformed the way we approached urban and economic renewal in the 1980s with enterprise zones and development corporations.
As we look to the future I believe the new government should appoint a minister for the built environment.
Make it someone from the industry, someone who understands the importance of renewal, the need for a local, regional and national plan, the role that the private and public sectors play - especially working together – and the fact that it’s not a level playing field so resources need to be pushed north.
And the first thing they need to do when in office is to get the banks lending again.
Kevan Carrick, partner at JK Property Consultants and commercial property spokesman for RICS North East.