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Urban renaissance comes under threat from 'crippling disarray'

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A damning new report on regeneration practice has claimed that confusion, complacency and a lack of fresh thinking are crippling the future of the UK's urban renaissance.

The report, entitled Towards more Sustainable Places, has the support of the RICS, and is the result of interviews with a wide spread of practitioners, including the ODPM, regional development agencies and community leaders.

The information was compiled by the University of Aberdeen and highlights serious inadequacies in three key areas: the definition of sustainable communities; miscommunication in partnerships; and the general lack of skills-based training.

The government's ambitious Sustainable Communities Plan was criticised as being 'somewhat cloudy', with little attempt to define its parameters effectively. The report called for practitioners at all levels to prioritise long-term place-making, over 'narrower immediate goals'.

The findings also said that power inequalities between partners are 'causing tensions' detrimental to the future of regeneration. The variable commitment of different partners and an emphasis on results over communication were also branded key failings.

The report found evidence of a shortage of skills in project management, urban design, community engagement and partnership working.

However, the main difficulty highlighted was the 'great deal of confusion, uncertainty and lack of awareness' relating to the different bodies delivering skills training. Practitioners felt that 'institutional fragmentation' in this arena was a significant factor inhibiting regeneration.

This is not the first time regeneration's infrastructure has come under fire. John Egan's task group report uncovered similar concerns relating to skills and training last month.

And independent research by the British Urban Regeneration Association, led by Simon Burwood, recognises the multitude of problems highlighted as 'absolutely pertinent' to regeneration. 'Although these findings are welcome and useful, they come as no shock, ' Burwood said. 'The confusion stems from the overlap of different organisations.We need to rationalise what we have rather than implementing more new schemes.'

However, contrary to the report's alarming findings of a skills shortage, Burwood claimed that 'the skills are there, but knowing how to implement them is the problem'.

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