Britain has a large percentage of its population living in cities or urban areas. Over the last 60 years, the country has undergone industrialization . This attracted a large number of people to the urban areas as they sought employment in the industries. This has resulted to a very high demand for housing in the deprived areas and the prosperous parts of the UK. The 2003 Sustainable Communities Plan sought to address the demand for housing that was greater than the supply. In addition, there was need to have some parts of Britain undergo urban renewal.
Urban renewal can be extremely controversial if it involves the relocation of people or the demolition of some businesses or infrastructure. In many cases, urban renewal efforts involves the demolition of buildings and infrastructure that are considered to be a hinderance to urban development. Unfortunately,the demolition or destruction of certain buildings or housing facilities may leave a large urban population without somewhere to live. Whether urban renewal leads to revitalization of cities is an issue of debate.
While some people view urban renewal as an economic engine, others consider it a regressive mechanism that aims at enriching the wealthy at the expense of the poor and the tax payers. For instance, the demolition of run-down neighborhoods where the poor and socially excluded live is seen by many as an effort to remove the poor and the unemployed from the urban areas. On the other hand, some people see urban renewal as a measure of preventing permanent “ghettos” in future. Urban renewal can have negative impact on the existing communities when once vibrant neighborhoods are destroyed.
Due to the negative impact urban renewal can have on urban communities if it involves destruction or demolition, civic leaders and city planners have recommended that urban renewal efforts and activities concentrate on redeveloping the existing communities . Urban renewal programs in Britain have shifted from demolition and destruction to rehabilitation of urban areas. Over the past 60 years, urban renewal policy in Britain has been focusing less on destruction and demolition of buildings and infrastructure, but more on investment and renovation.
In addition, the urban renewal policies have supported both the small and big business enterprises. The urban renewal policies in Britain have aimed at improving the economic, physical, and social environment of the urban areas. Under the policies, planned intervention has aimed at regenerating the distressed residential areas . The distressed residential areas are homes to the poor, unemployed, and the socially excluded such as the Black and Minority Ethnic communities.
Urban regeneration in Britain under the urban renewal policies has resulted to the building and construction of up-market homes for sale, new offices, new shops, and leisure facilities. Furthermore, the British government and the local authorities have tried to incorporate various approaches of revitalizing urban areas with the aim of developing a good and effective urban renewal approach. . For instance, Britain has had very serious challenges when it comes to urban renewal. The traditional approach of renewal tends to separate housing from its environmental as well as from its socio-economic context.
This approach was therefore not adequate to bring about the necessary changes in the urban areas, a situation that made renewal very challenging for the government. The urban renewal policies that have been adopted have integrated approaches that are likely to result to rehabilitation or regeneration of urban areas, while avoiding destruction or demolition. In this paper, the reasons that led to radical changes in urban renewal policies over the last 60 years in Britain will be discussed. The changes promoted rehabilitation rather than demolition, and supported a move from large scale to small scale.