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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 November, 2003, 12:20 GMT
The Regeneration Game
By Professor Alan Harding

Professor Alan Harding
Harding talks of an 'enormous change' in Cardiff's economy
As part of BBC Wales regeneration public lecture series, Professor Harding spoke as England's Regeneration Game: A Half-time Report at Cardiff University on Wednesday.

Alan Harding is Professor of Urban and Regional Governance and co-director of the Centre for Sustainable Urban and Regional Futures (SURF) at the University of Salford in Greater Manchester.

He is a nationally and internationally acknowledged expert on urban and regional development, governance and policy within the UK, Europe and North America.

It's half-time in the regeneration game and, in England, we've shown bags of commitment but still await the inspiration that can deliver the big result.

If I were giving a half-time team talk to the Cardiff Bay, Westminster and Edinburgh governments, I'd say that, after 30 years of innovative but largely short-lived and experimental urban programmes, under red and blue administrations, it's time to look at our towns and cities in terms of their potential and not just their problems.

The great majority of employment in the Welsh capital is now in the service sector, in one form or another, and what the emerging urban industries are producing is based on knowledge rather than physical goods.
The regeneration climate has improved significantly as the nature of the economy has changed and towns and cities have benefited from a new "knowledge economy".

We can now think beyond addressing the legacy of the industrial past and about capitalising and building upon the creativity, ingenuity and scientific excellence that increasingly clusters in our towns and cities.

The last 20 years has seen an enormous change in urban economies - in Cardiff, as in many of the great cities of the UK.

Urban renaissance

The great majority of employment in the Welsh capital is now in the service sector, in one form or another, and what the emerging urban industries are producing is based on knowledge rather than physical goods.

City employment is growing and the city centre, in particular, is an increasingly attractive place to live and play. All the signs point to the urban renaissance continuing.

But the politicians need to work to ensure that this growth goes beyond the city walls and benefits both the national economy as a whole and the communities that recent change has left behind.

We still need to work at understanding how towns and cities occupy distinctive niches in a changing economy and how we can build on that, be it at all Wales level or across the UK.

However it seems that the big-match players - the Treasury and the DTI - will come off the bench in the second half.

Patience is the key.

It may take another thirty years to turn new tactics into goals.

What the players have to remember is that urban potential is now part of the game plan and the different parts of the team - local, regional and national, public and private - need to pull together.

Government as a whole needs to look at its contribution to our towns and cities (and this means the Welsh Assembly working alongside Westminster as well as the sub-regions of Wales).

We've gained lots of experience in the regeneration game, even if the experts are not exactly crowing about our first half performance.

Now, with the rumoured substitutions, some new tactics emerging, and conditions beginning to favour a more adventurous, attacking game, the pointers look good.

Just how good? We shall see. After all, it's a game of two halves.

The next Regeneration Lecture takes place on Wednesday the 3rd of December at 1800 at the Regeneration Institute at Cardiff University. It's being given by leading Dutch Professor, Jan Douew van der Ploeg, who'll be talking about the future of rural Europe. Tickets are available by emailing regen@bbc.co.uk.

Professor Alan Harding, Salford University

The role of community
24 Sep 03  |  Wales

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