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Crucially, people in the communities themselves must be put at the heart of measuring the impact of regeneration – with an independent arbitrator surveying the community before, during, and after the project. Thorough, early consultation with the community provides a sound basis for regeneration, and by ensuring smoother delivery also makes good commercial sense. Then, sustained community engagement, spanning a decade or more after completion, is essential to truly understanding the long-term success of a project.
Furthermore, surveys should measure the impact of regeneration not on a narrow sectoral basis, but against a comprehensive impact assessment framework. They should also be reflexive, measuring the level of engagement with the community, and the opportunities that residents have to influence regeneration.
Take, for example, Countryside and L&Q’s development of Acton Gardens in West London. In conjunction with the London Borough of Ealing, we asked The University of Reading and Social Life to undertake a survey prior to the regeneration that concluded that 80% of residents wanted to leave the estate. Four years later, with regeneration well underway, the results flipped: with 92% of residents now wanting to stay. Acton Gardens is now a thriving, economically active, mixed tenure community. The transformation at Acton Gardens is best measured by considering not only the new homes – but also the schools, the amenities, the community facilities, and the jobs that have been created.
The impact of urban regeneration is therefore best gauged when a variety of factors are surveyed, over a sustained period of time, placing the people at the centre of considerations. In this way, the home building industry can rework their approach to measuring the success of regeneration, moving away from a narrow focus on property, to focus more broadly on people.