Tag Archives: Regeneration

Street Ambassadors in every street in Wales?

It was the ever-excellent Participation Cymru that brought to my attention recently an imaginative, yet simple and low cost proposal to:

“establish a new vehicle ‘Street Ambassadors Wales’ with the aim of establishing and supporting a street ambassador in every street in Wales.”

Wales Council for Voluntary Action, Timebanking Wales and Blaengarw-based Creation Development Trust are the proponents of the proposal and a paper, Creating another piece of the jigsaw – Street Ambassadors / Creu darn arall o’r jig-so – Llysgenhadon y Stryd,outlining the proposal in more detail can be found here or yma. What appeals to me is that the proposal sets out broad principles that can be adapted to suit neighbourhoods.

For instance, it suggests the idea being adopted in ‘areas’ where an area might be defined as any from a “local authority, sub-local authority, Communities First cluster, Community Council [or] ward”. And that a ‘development agency’, who identifies and recruits the street ambassadors, might take the form of a “County Voluntary Council, development trust, housing association, church, community council, rotary [or] volunteer centre”. 

The paper sees street ambassadors as key in being able “to mobilise people at the very grass roots, street level” and in so doing facilitating through co-production the transformative change required of public service. Such radical and large scale change requires a robustly constructed framework of political, policy, organisational and financial imperatives. Yet clearly without the consent, effort and energy of residents the street ambasadors idea will wither on the vine. As Hoban (2002, 218) accurately observes:

“It is the ownership of the action that increases involvement”

The paper’s receptiveness to a number of different spatial scales and range of potential development agencies is to be welcomed. The non-prescriptiveness of the what constitutes the ‘canvas’ across which ambassadors operate allows for residents and neighbours, perhaps via a process that is animated by a Community Development Worker, to take ownership of the ambassador role, the information it shares and how it networks. The paper even suggests that

“street ambassadors can develop their role…by networking with other street ambassadors to form other neighbourhoods”

The key to the extent to which, as the paper aspires, neighbourhoods become the “building blocks of organising” – of local services, different programmes and initiatives – will depend on what happens at the ‘seams’ where areas meet. But as the above quote suggests it could well be the ambassadors and the development agencies who will have the ownership and autonomy to decide.

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References

Hoban, M (2002) The same old story: implications of current government policy for the involvement of residents in neighbourhood regeneration, in Clarke, S, Mendola Byatt, A, Hoban, M, Powell, D (eds.) Community Development in South Wales, University of Wales Press: Cardiff.

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My response to ‘The future of the High Street: a tale of two record shops’

The excellent Powell Dobson Urbanists (@PDUrbanistsblog recently surmised about the future of the High Street in light of the demise of HMV. 

The blog concluded that:

there is much that can be achieved from small business when they work collectively, collaboratively and imaginatively

It cites independent record shops as an example of the benefits of doing so. I absolutely agree and will in due course publish an interview with a local trader who has tried to do the same, though in a specific locale rather than in a specific trade.

The prospect that independent record shops can now thrive because city and town centres are deprived of the presence of the ‘big boys’ (Virgin, HMV, etc.), however is not guaranteed. My response to the blog is below.

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I certainly agree with your final point about the merits of collectivisation and collaboration for small retailers but the lack of an HMV (and Virgin, Our Price, etc. before it) potentially poses more of a challenge to independent record stores than if it were to have continued trading.

I recall my uncle Nick Todd, former owner of Spillers Records in Cardiff/Caerdydd, welcoming the location of MVC (remember that?!) on The Hayes immediately opposite Spillers (before it moved to the Morgan Arcade) because it brought music-buying customers to the Hayes allowing Spillers to compete with it directly on price and the shopping and browsing experience. Nick felt MVC could not compete and so relished its presence over the road. Certainly Spillers was invariably cheaper and a more enjoyable, unpredictable shopping experience with punters talking about their purchases, gigs they had been to, new bands and the like. In contrast MVC was sterile, bland and didn’t generate interaction between punters. And more expensive.

So to say that “we feared for the survival of independent record shops who were being squeezed out of existence by the corporate behemoths of HMV, Virgin Megastore and Borders” is slightly reductionist. It was never as simple as that (incidentally, Borders, too, has come and gone from The Hayes). The presence of these chains offered a platform for an independent to compete. By there being none left not only removes the competition but also the platform. Graham Jones in his splendid book ‘Last Shop Standing: Whatever Happened to Record Shops?’ lays the blame for the demise of independent record stores at poor business planning on the part of some, a race-to-the-floor attitude by distributors, and changes to urban design. Changing shopping patterns and downloading are but two of several factors

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2012legacy:

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I recently interviewed Lance Forman, owner of H Forman & Son, a family business from east London. Their business was once where the Olympic stadium now stands (on the running track I believe).

The audio can be heard here. Here is a transcript…

How was H Forman & son founded?

It…

I have previously blogged twice on the notion of legacy in Wales: how a community development approach might help establish a sporting one at community and neighbourhood level; and how ‘succulent lamb journalism’ in Wales all too often fails to hold to account government, its sponsored bodies and the vested interests that promote huge sporting events for the supposed public legacy they bring.

This is a sobering insight from a long-established business that could not be any closer to the Olympic site so would appear to be well-placed and informed to comment on the post-event regeneration upon which the Olympics were justified not just morally and commercially but (as the blog saliently reminds us) legally.

Succulent lamb journalists in Wales would do well to follow the 2012legacy blog….

Legacy 2012 – What happened next: Regeneration is failing – Lance Forman

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January 28, 2013 · 1:28 pm

Why is grafitti from Devon eligible for this blog, inspired as it is by community development in Wales? Well a maternal great grandfather of mine originated from Appledore in Devon moving to Barry/Y Barri in south Wales in the late nineteenth century. Tenuous it may be, but then it’s my blog and I set the rules….

I recall, though, seeing the graffiti and being reminded of the deprivation that exists in coastal west and north Wales. Idyllic, quaint and once-staple holiday destinations for thousands of Britons, towns such as Barmouth/Abermaw, Rhyl/Y Rhyl, Colwyn Bay/Bae Colwyn, Aberysywth, Llandudno, and Pwllheli all comprise areas considered among the very most deprived parts of Wales. Each has figured, or will continue to figure, in the Communities First programme. This is in addition to lesser but nonetheless serious levels of deprivation found in other coastal communities.

The decline of domestic seaside tourism is usually credited with being at the root of such towns’ malaise. But I can’t help feel that the market forces behind an unfettered and predatory property industry have helped push these communities closer to the precipice. That former proud Victorian hotels are now crumbling multiple occupancy bedsits housing concentrations of vulnerable people is no doubt one symptom of this but the hoovering up of (relatively) cheap properties to be used only occasionally throughout the year, so-called ‘holiday homes’, is also a key driver. It dilutes consumer demand in local supply chains, it fragments community spirit, reduces availability of social housing in the community (based on evidence from Scotland) and raises prices of other properties, the latter two effects conspiring to alter the demography in coastal communities. A fact that the graffiti artist(s) sardonically articulate(s) with Snoopy and friends packing their bags.

But the individual’s right to own property, and a particular commodified definition of it, is so culturally engrained and economically essential (consider for a moment what percentage of national GDP is comprised by landlord income from recycled housing benefit and rents from young people excluded from the property market) that intervention is often labelled as racist, insular and uneconomic. Is it a coincidence that none of the first schemes supported via the welcome Coastal Communities Fund in England and Wales appear to address structural property issues in coastal communities?

So as witty and cute as the graffiti is in the first picture when seen in its slightly wider context on the derelict shop, one of several in picturesque Appledore, it becomes more caustic and highlights a sad and resigned reality.

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A footnote to this blog (originally published 15th November 2012) is the priority of coastal communities (as well as town centres and Communities First clusters) in Wales for regeneration investment. The accompanying framework, Vibrant and Viable Places, justifies this prioritisation on the grounds that (p.37):

Many have unique natural assets and maritime heritage which adds to their interest and distinctiveness. Although some are finding renewed success by using both historic roots and new investment, others are struggling to contribute as they once did to their local economies. As patterns of tourism have changed, for example, “seaside towns” – or traditional resorts – have lost footfall and lustre. Regeneration activity needs to recognise and maximise unique selling points without holding out false hope about recapturing the faded glories of the past. For example, coastal communities can all take advantage of the Wales Coast Path which connects them and celebrates their attractiveness as places to live and visit.

Seaside towns face similar challenges, but as they are a distinctive group of places, they also face unique challenges. Because of their history of tourism, and in most cases the continuing significance of this sector, they tend to share a number of features that distinguish them from other places along the coast or inland. This includes a specialist tourist infrastructure (promenades, piers, parks etc), holiday accommodation (hotels, B&B, caravan sites etc) and a distinctive resort character that is often reflected in the built environment. Moreover, while some resorts have fared better than others, they have all to a greater or lesser extent faced challenges arising from the changing structure of the UK holiday trade.

Furthermore, the Framework commits the Welsh Government to continuing participating in the (p.40):

UK-wide Coastal Communities Fund (£1.45 million in 2013/14) to enable us to use Crown Estate revenues to support tourism and other micro-business projects particularly those involving marine skills and maritime heritage.

Interestingly, I heard anecodatally from a senior local authority manager that housing is to be a focus for proposals for regeneration funding. Given my reservations about the lack of such a focus on the part of the Coastal Communities Fund, this is hugely welcome. 

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November 15, 2012 · 10:30 am