Regeneration is dead. Long live regeneration. The recession may have knocked a few urban-renewal projects off course, slowed down others and killed off one or two, but the diggers continue to rumble and landscapes continue to go in.
According to the recently published Top 100 Regeneration Projects 2009, the 100 biggest projects have swallowed up a phenomenal £94bn in the past year. This is £6bn more than the year before, and all this is taking place in the teeth of perhaps the worst recession for several decades.
HW sister magazine Regeneration & Renewal, which compiled the report, insists this is a sector that has not lost its sense of ambition. But while overall projects are not being abandoned, paymasters are "slowing down, taking stock and making adjustments in the face of the new economic reality".
This new reality is one that sees the public sector taking a bigger share of the action. The past year alone saw a 68 per cent jump in cash committed by the public sector to 65 projects, totalling more than £8.2bn.
The private sector, by contrast, increased its financial stake by just 26 per cent, to more than £10bn.
"If this trend continues, the total amount of public-sector funding committed to the UK's 100 biggest regeneration projects will soon overtake the private sector's contribution," says the report's editor Adam Branson.
Steve Carr, head of new business, economics and growth at regeneration quango the Homes & Communities Agency, told Regeneration & Renewal that the "debt-based model" used to fund large inner-city projects was effectively dead.
The public sector, he said, would play a different role and take over completely in some cases. This could be an astronomical burden. The top 100 includes giant projects with monster costs. Leith Waterfront, Edinburgh, and Wembley City, north London, are each worth £4.5bn; Barking Riverside, Essex, comes in at more than £3.1bn; and Clyde Gateway, Glasgow, has a £2.6bn tag.
Top of the list is the 2012 Olympic Park, its 2,800-home Olympic Village and arenas requiring a total investment of nearly £8.1bn. Number 100, meanwhile, is the Towers Business Park, Rugeley, Staffordshire, a re-working of a former colliery that will need £186m to be realised.
But the growing involvement of the public sector is an idea that hits a chord with Paul Reynolds, a landscape architect and principal urban designer at Atkins.
He tells Landscape Review: "It's not a question of saying 'when things get back to normal'; they never will. There will have to be newer models and vehicles for pushing projects forward; otherwise, they won't happen. And that's reflected in the schemes."
Private-sector-driven projects are marking time while public-sector schemes edge forward, he says. One such new model or vehicle will include a lot more community and voluntary-sector involvement, reckons Reynolds, casting his mind back to historical precedents such as building programmes for the great estates.
Developers, who held a long-term freehold, carved up the land on a leasehold basis, plot by plot, increasing ties and strengthening partnerships between owners and users. The times of buying a site, building on it and flogging it as soon as possible with no liability are finished, insists Reynolds.
"There will be more long-term partnerships with local authorities on management. The current situation is too temperamental, with cash available in boom times but not when it all goes bust. It's the tried-and-tested developers like Grosvenor that will ride out the economic difficulties."
Reynolds is surprised by the geographical spread of the projects covered by Regeneration & Renewal. Most schemes home in on London and the South East, but next year the spread could even out over the country as contract periods and funding commitments run their course and activity settles down across the board, he feels.
Of the 10 biggest projects in this year's top 100, eight are in London or the South East, with a total investment requirement of almost £30bn. These schemes account for 32 per cent of the total needed to complete all 100 projects. The big change, says the report, is the private sector's "love affair" with the region. It is well and truly over.
BALI technical director Neil Huck is not surprised regeneration activity remains fairly buoyant. And while the credit crunch has seen off a few high-profile projects - Burnley's £226m Weavers' Triangle and Brighton's £290m King Alfred scheme to name two - the recession that struck them down could give life to others.
"Past regeneration has focused on waste and old industrial land and I think we could get more, not less. The recession is claiming plenty of victims, which could leave even more land and buildings abandoned and ripe for regeneration."
Strong community involvement, he insists, is not new. Huck worked with the Millennium Fund on regeneration of inner-London parks a few years ago. This involved plentiful and direct involvement of the local communities on all aspects and at every stage of the projects.
So alternative models are already there, he says. The big question with rolling them out on a national level is the private sector and "whether it will wear it", he chuckles.
The recession, however, could sweep in cultural as well as financial changes. The need to look at more flexible approaches to moving projects forward could see a more "balanced, nuanced and holistic" approach to regeneration. This would throw more emphasis on greenery, he believes. Developers must give more oomph to the green scene.
It happens elsewhere, says Huck. In some parts of the world local authorities make developers stump up a bond in advance. If they plant enough greenery, they get the bond back. If not, the bond is used to pay for landscaping.
But relying on the public sector to bail out, or prolong, struggling regeneration projects could take time. CABE commissioner Ben Page told a recent CABE Space leaders programme in Leeds there was a "growing realisation" we had lived through a "strange bubble". The housing market would return to 2007 levels by 2015.
"Public finances won't return to their previous state until 2029 to 2030," says Page, who is managing director of Ipsos MORI Public Affairs. "We have lived through a huge expansion in public finances and thought it was normal. But it was the odd decade."
And in the coming years, Regeneration & Renewal's top 100 could have a very different look and feel from this year's list, says landscape architect Paj Valley.
"I'm not sure how many bigger projects will come forward," says the head of masterplanning, landscape and urban design at Scott Wilson. "The large schemes will still be there, but the real movement will be from the smaller projects, which are more likely to find their way into the top 100 and shake up the old order."
The public sector, he hopes, "will keep us all going", while the Government will have to find ways of funding projects and helping housebuilders. Valley notes the sad irony that recession invariably hits housebuilders the hardest and right now the need for housing is the greatest.
"What does this mean for landscape architects? A lot. They have a fundamental role in implementing schemes. They play a massive part in developing strategies and helping to achieve planning consents. And they hold the key to so many elements of masterplanning and urban design."
TOP 100 REGENERATION PROJECTS 2009
1 Olympic Park
East London; £8.09bn; 246ha; Sport, homes, parks,
2 Leith Waterfront
Firth of Forth, Edinburgh; £4.51bn; 35ha; Homes, parks, urban
3 Wembley City
Brent, north-west London; £4.5bn; 28.3ha; Retail, leisure,
4 Brent Cross
Cricklewood, north-west London; £4bn; 151ha; New town, houses,
4 Greenwich Peninsula
South-east London; £4bn; 77ha; Leisure, Retail
6 Canning Town and Custom Bridge
Newham, east London; £3.7bn; 60ha; Homes, retail,
7 King's Cross Central
Central London; £3.35bn; 27.1ha; Commercial
8 Barking Riverside
Barking and Dagenham, Essex; £3.13bn; 141ha; Homes, transport
9 Ebbsfleet Valley
North Kent; £3bn; 419ha; Commercial, homes
10 Clyde Gateway
Glasgow East End; £2.6bn; 850ha; Homes, commercial,
11 Granton Waterfront
Near Leith Docks, Edinburgh; £2bn; 141ha; Homes, retail,
commercial, museum, school, college,
12 North Solihull
West Midlands; £1.8bn; 404ha; Estate regeneration,
13 Elephant & Castle
South London; £1.5bn; 28ha; Homes, retail,
13 Silvertown Quays
Royal Docks, London; £1.5bn; 24ha; Homes, school,
North Lanarkshire; £1.49bn; 450ha; College, sports,
16 Stratford City, Westfield
East London; £1.45bn; 72ha; Mixed use
Middlesbrough; £1.25bn; 80ha; College, offices
18 Warrington Omega
North Warringto; £1.23bn; 232ha; Manufacturing,
19 Glasgow Harbour
River Clyde; £1.2bn; 52ha; Homes, retail,
19 Prior's Hall
Corby, Northamptonshire; £1.2bn; 358ha; Homes, school,
21 Royal Arsenal
Woolwich, east London; £1.06bn; 30ha; Transport, homes,
nursery, retail, commercial
22 Woodberry Down
Hackney, east London; £1.05bn; 24.1ha; Homes, schools,
health centre, business, retail
23 Chatham Maritime
Medway, Kent; £1bn; 140ha; Homes, hotel, marina
23 Arsenal on the Move
Islington, north London; £1bn; 23.7ha; Homes, commercial,
23 Brierley Hill
Near Dudley, West Midlands; £1bn; 140ha; Homes, retail
23 Glan Llyn
East of Newport, Wales; £1bn; 243ha; Homes, park, 50ha
23 Sutton Coldfield
North Birmingham; £1bn; 27ha; Retail, hotel,
23 Victoria Harbour
Hartlepool; £1bn; 81ha; Homes, offices,
school, open areas
29 Coed Darcy
Neath, Wales; £900m; 405ha; Homes, schools,
29 Selly Oak
South-west Birmingham; £900m; 45.5ha; Hospital, homes,
31 Holt Town Waterfront
East Manchester; £843m; 38ha; Homes, retail,
commercial, school, transport
31 Kidbrooke Vision
Greenwich, south London; £843m; 109ha; Homes, 50ha of green
spaces, education, retail, transport
33 Grahame Park
Barnet, north London; £830m; 37.4ha; Homes, library,
34 Holbeck Urban Village
Leeds; £800m; 15ha; Homes, retail,
34 Temple Quarter/Temple
East Bristol; £800m; 45ha; Homes, retail,
Sheffield; £764m; 8.1ha; Retail, leisure,
South-west Birmingham; £750m; 140ha; Homes
37 Watford Health Campus
West Watford; £750m; 26.5ha; Hospital, homes,
39 Greenwich Millennium
South-east London; £733m; 25.8ha; Homes, retail,
40 Bracknell Town Centre
Berkshire; £700m; 36ha; Leisure, retail,
41 ESG Herefordshire
Hereford centre; £680m; 40ha; Homes, retail,
42 West End
Leeds; £630m; 25ha; Mixed use, homes,
Salford centre; £ 604m ; 13ha; Homes, office,
retail, 2ha of green space
44 Campbell Park
Milton Keynes centre; £513m; Homes, retail,
45 Centenary Quay
Southampton; £500m; 12.5ha; Retail, commercial,
Whitburn, Lothian; £500m; 600ha; Homes, retail,
commercial, two golf courses
45 Queenborough & Rushenden
Isle of Sheppey; £500m; 165ha; Homes, marina,
hotel, school, commercial
45 The Bridge
Dartford, Kent; £500m; 100ha; Homes, school,
45 West Hendon Estate
Barnet, north London; £500m; 13ha; Homes, retail,
45 Rochester Riverside
Medway, Kent; £500m; 28.3ha; Homes, park
51 Central MK West End
Central Milton Keynes; £495m; 15.3ha; Homes, school
52 North Shore
River Tees bank, Stockton; £442m; 23ha; Homes, commercial,
East Milton Keynes; £438m; 152ha; Mixed use, schools,
54 Birmingham Gateway
Birmingham city centre; £419m; 7.3ha; Transport, retail,
55 Ancoats Urban Village
North-east Manchester; £401m; 8ha; Urban village
56 Bath Western Riverside
South of Victoria Park, Bath; £400m; 16.1ha; Homes, commercial
56 Gloucester Quays
South of Gloucester Docks; £400m; 25ha; Mixed use, education
56 Ironstone at Lawley
West of Telford centre, Shropshire; £400m; 100ha; Homes, school
56 Love Lane
Woolwich centre, east London; £400m; 3.5ha; Retail-led
60 Bedford Western Bypass
West of Bedford; £392m; 155ha; Homes, retail,
61 MediaCity:UK (phase 1)
Salford Quays; £ 390m; 36ha; Mixed use, creative
62 Roath Basin
Cardiff Bay; £375m; 16.2ha; Mixed use
Bath city; £360m; 5.2ha; Mixed use, retail
64 Avenue Coking Works
Chesterfield; £352m; 99ha; Mixed use, green
64 The Rock
Bury centre, Lancashire; £352m; 8ha; Mixed use
66 Attwood Green
Birmingham centre; £350m; 21ha; Regeneration of five
estates with new parks
66 East West Centre
Stoke-on-Trent centre; £350m; 7ha; Retail, leisure
66 Ebbw Vale
Ebbw Vale centre, Wales; £350m; 80ha; Residential, school,
66 Icknield Port Loop
West of Birmingham centre; £350m; 24ha; Residential near
66 Kingsway Business Park
Rochdale, Lancashire; £350m; 420ha; Industrial,
Plymouth waterfront; £350m; 8ha; Mixed use
72 Clapham Park Estate
Lambeth, south London; £345m; 36ha; Residential, park,
West of Bristol centre; £340m; 6.6ha; Mixed use
74 Broughton Manor Farm
Milton Keynes; £320m; 53ha; Residential
74 Miles Platting Estate
East Manchester; £320m; 107ha; Homes refurbishment
74 Westfield Bradford
Bradford centr; £320m; 6ha; Retail, leisure
77 Severalls Hospital
North Colchester centre; £312m; 60ha; Mixed use
78 Eastside Locks
East of Birmingham centre; £302m; 6.5ha; Commercial, retail,
79 Chesterfield Waterside
Chesterfield centre, Derbyshire; £301m; 16ha; Mixed use
Four miles west of Newcastle; £300m; 65ha; Mixed use
North-east of Coventry centre; £300m; 40ha; Business park
82 Graylingwell Hospital
North of Chichester centre; £290m, 36ha, Mixed use, leisure
83 Tattenhoe Park
South-west Milton Keynes; £279m; 59ha; Residential
84 Park Prewett Hospital
North of Basingstoke; £276m; 30ha; Residential
85 Rochdale Town Centre
Rochdale, Lancashire; £273m; 9.1ha; Mixed use
86 Oxley Park MK
West of Milton Keynes centre; £271m; 26ha; Residential, school
87 Advanced Manufacturing
Waverley, Rotherham; £270m; 40ha; Industrial,
88 Union Square
Aberdeen centre; £250m; 9ha; Retail, hotel,
89 Craylands and Fryerns
Near Basildon centre; £247m; 40ha; Housing, retail
90 Central Park, Teeside
East Darlington; £226m; 24.6ha; Mixed use,
91 City Park Gate
Birmingham centre; £225m; 2.2ha; Mixed use, new
South-east of Glasgow centre; £220m; 32ha; Residential
92 RAF Staff College
South of Bracknell centre; £220m; 44ha; Residential,
94 Skelmersdale Town Centre
West Lancashire; £213m; 98ha; Retail, residential,
95 Pride in Camp Hill
North-west Nuneaton; £205m; 40ha; Mixed use, youth
96 Bow Cross
Near 2012 Olympic venue; £201m; 3.6ha; Residential
97 Fiddler's Reach
Thurrock, Essex; £200m; 9.8ha; Waterside mixed use
98 St Paul's Place
Sheffield centre; £193m; 1.9ha; Mixed use
99 New Islington
East Manchester; £191m; 13.1ha; Mixed use,
residential, water park
100 Towers Business Park
Rugeley, Staffordshire; £186m; 72ha; Residential,
Source: Regeneration & Renewal