The decline of inner cities is irreversible. How far do you agree with this statement? What are the implications of this for urban planning policies? An inner city is ‘an area found in older cities, surrounding the CBD, where the prevailing economic, social and environmental conditions pose severe problems.’ – An integrated approach, David Waugh. Geographers have acknowledged a decline that affects many inner city areas. Non-residents of inner city areas often gain negative views about these areas and perceive them as an area, which is full of poverty, overcrowding, poor housing, racial tension and unemployment. To a certain extent some of these views are true, the decline of inner cities has become a big problem and a focus point for many government schemes and urban planning policies.
During the industrial revolution urban population increased dramatically as many people moved to the cities to be close to their work. In Nottingham it was not until the mid-nineteenth century that the town expanded geographically. After the industrial revolution many inner city areas became overcrowded and unhealthy. By the first world war the working class housing was located in St Ann’s, Sneinton the Meadows and New Lenton. Inner cities have become sites that lack basic amenities, they have overcrowding as a result of slum clearance between 1946 and 1967 which led to many people living in poorly built high rise flats.
People could argue that places that suffer form deprivation are in a continuous cycle of poverty better known as the spiral of decline. Certain occupational groups earn a very low income; therefore they can only afford cheap housing, which is most likely to be found in inner city areas. The poor environment and standards of health can cause stress to the household and therefore be passed onto the children. Inner city areas often lack resources and skills needed to improve educational and environment circumstances and therefore each generation becomes trapped in a cycle of poverty.
The decline of inner cities is not irreversible as research and examples show. Many changes have taken place in urban planning over time between 1946 and 1967 the decline of inner cities begun to become far more obvious and urban planning policies began to come into place. Comprehensive Development Areas were focused on with slum clearance and re-building occurring, this broke up communities and failed to tackle social and economic decline.
Then between 1967 and 1977 social and economic policies came into place with the attention being drawn towards inner city problems such as unemployment, shortage of funding and the suggestion that continued slum clearance was un affordable. In 1967 an urban aid programme was set up to encourage self-help and to expand services for the communities living in the inner city. By 1977 the urban planners begun to realise that the policies that they had in place were not working and were too smaller scale and therefore different strategies were needed.
Urban programmes were set up with the creation of partnership and programme areas. Since the 1980’s many inner city initiative have been introduced and are trying to reverse the problems of urban decline. Many of the schemes that have been set up by the government and local authorities are aiming to improve many things, including: enhance job prospects, regenerate run down areas and bring derelict land and buildings back into use, improve housing and living conditions and to create a safer and more pleasant environment for residents.
Urban development corporations were introduced around 1980 in an attempt to assist the attempt to regenerate areas in inner cities that were in decline and to support local community facilities. As it stated in Geography review January 1999 ”there is certainly evidence of significant changes in these areas. However, there are also questions about the desirability of some of the changes.”
Many of the regeneration schemes that have been and are in place in Nottingham have been very successful. The Park estate, which is situated just to the west of the city centre, is a very good example of this. The estate was built between 1823-1881, it is recognised for its uniqueness and high-class housing. Other parts of western Nottingham have been transformed by private sector led refurbishment; most of this was the refurbishment of old warehouses. There are now many large premises to be found in the inner city of Nottingham.
There are schemes such as Nottingham Regenerations Limited that are converting disused buildings into new houses, apartments and offices, for example the building that was once Providence Works is being changed into 39 office units. Some of these schemes are also tackling the problem of unemployment as the building of office units provides the prospect of new job opportunities. Although many schemes have been successful there are still areas within the inner city that suffer from many social and economic problems.
Examples include Manvers, St Ann’s and the Meadows. New regeneration initiatives are trying to tackle these problems by transforming many of the city’s poorer estates and bringing new opportunities for the local residents in a safer and more pleasant environment. Regeneration programmes that have been set up include a scheme that is funded by Nottingham City Council Housing Capital Programme and focuses on 5 wards within the city one of which contains the Old Meadows area. It’s target beneficiaries are the residents of the area and the key themes are to create a safer residential environment, sustainable regeneration through active resident participation, making services more accessible and tackling property unfitness. Schemes such as this are still ongoing so it is hard to gain an outlook as to how beneficial they are and will be in the future.
Some inner city areas have undergone a process know as gentrification. This is the renovation of run down areas by developers and estate agents to increase the value of the housing. This mainly occurred in London around the 1970 and has spread along the river Thames areas as they are close to central London with good tube links. A scheme was set up in 1981, the London Docklands, which focused on securing the regeneration of the area by bringing land and buildings back into use, encouraging the development of existing and new industry, creating an attractive environment and ensuring that housing and social facilities were available to encourage people to live and work in the area.
The scheme invested in many things including new and improved transport links, economic regeneration, which included commercial and industrial redevelopment, and social regeneration. 15 200 new homes were built, 5 300 homes were re-furbished and ï¿½72 million was spent on improving local housing. Some could argue that these schemes were very successful as many of the areas involved are now very pleasant areas to live with first-class housing quality and excellent job opportunities.
But the scheme in London Docklands and many other areas similar to this came to late to prevent many of the previous residents moving away from the area due to slum clearance and the lack of job opportunities. In an attempt to re locate some of these people many estates were built by local governments and are now experiencing the same social and economic problems that the original areas had. This therefore shows that not all regeneration schemes work to there original intent as in some cases it is simply moving the problems elsewhere.
The decline of inner cities is not irreversible as regeneration schemes continue to succeed and produce many positive improvements, but they’re again maybe not reversible to the full extent as would be desirable. Many social and economic problems still remain, especially high crime rates, unemployment and poor standard of health. It could be argued that these problems still remain, as many of the schemes that have been set up by the government have not benefited the local people. Regeneration of areas has often resulted in an increase in housing costs and the new jobs made have often been inappropriate for the local residents, as they do not have the skills required.