Towards a Strong Urban Renaissance (Urban Task Force)
The latest report from Lord Rogers and colleagues makes an interesting read. There’s an enormous amount of urban and infrastructural renewal still to be undertaken, but we now understand the challenges much more clearly, and this is obviously a good starting point for further endeavours.
It’s been an interesting experience today, travelling (again, again) between London and Liverpool, and reading The Urban Renaissance six years on, published in November 2005 by Lord Rogers and his Urban Task Force colleagues.
As we whizzed past towns, villages and fields, packed like sardines in our Pendolino, I mused on the messages of this report:- people who can and who have families are moving out of towns, neighbourhoods are neither well-designed nor well-served, transport provision is too dislocated, environmental issues abound, there is confusion at the macro levels about who leads economic development, and who regeneration, and so forth. To see that much of this is true I had only to look around me, out of the window or at my fellow travellers, most of them self-evidently long-distance commuters.
Not all bad news
But it would be unfair to suggest that Rogers and friends simply criticise. They point to impressive areas of development over the past few years, such as the ‘measurable change of culture in favour of towns and cities, reflecting a nationwide commitment to the Urban Renaisance’, and to the much larger numbers of (mostly younger) people now living in city centres.
And that’s before we get to the significant increases in investment in transport infrastructure, brownfield site development and the huge amounts of money (£39bn) allocated over the next five years to the Sustainable Communities Plan across England.
Why then so glum?
This is an issue which no doubt repays much further thought by us all, but the one thing which comes to mind immediately is, why are people in the U.K., one of the most wealthy countries in the world, so pessimistic about the future? There’s a will from the very top to address many serious issues (though we may all have views on the exact hows and whys) and there’s a demonstrated capaibility to achieve this.
What’s needed next is a wider commitment to excellence and a genuine engagement and determination to tackle identified problems energetically; that’s presumably what this latest Urban Task Force is all about. Of course there are enormous problems on the ground, and of course no-one has all the answers, but what I experienced first-hand today was a very different train ride from those I used to take between my home city and the metropolis, in grim, slow and meandering style, and often with little company.
The renewal has started
It’s difficult to remember this at times, but that crowded and fast train today should be a sign not of resigned despondency but of hope. There were lots of people on it, and they were obviously busy and successful folk – which seems as good as any a confirmation that we have arrived at the starting point for the social and economic renaissance we all seek.