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Simulations for Innovative Mechanisms for the Self-organizing City: Testing new tools for value capturing

Funder: UK Research and InnovationProject code: ES/M008444/1
Funded under: ESRC Funder Contribution: 130,861 GBP
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Simulations for Innovative Mechanisms for the Self-organizing City: Testing new tools for value capturing

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Across Western Europe the activity of urban regeneration is now around 40 years old. From the vantage point of the present this history is best understood as one of experimentation and re-experimentation with a range of policy tools, agencies and spatial scales. To take the issue of scale as an example, the preferences of British policy makers in the 1970s for 'the local' were replaced by regions in the 1980s and early 1990s (having been earlier in vogue in the 1950s). This 'new regionalism' was followed by policy orientated towards 'cities', construed as metropolitan city-regions, in the later 1990s/early 2000s - itself redolent of analysis and policy stretching back to the 1930s. Most recently this has given way to a (new) 'new localism' post-2010 (for a historical review see, Lord and Tewdwr-Jones, 2013). Against this rapid cycling of preferences for the scale at which urban policy should be delivered we could produce a parallel history of the range of limited-life agencies created by the central state to deliver such policy (the Urban Development Corporations of the 1980s, the Regional Development Agencies of the late 1990s, the Urban Regeneration Companies of the mid-2000s being a very few indicative examples). The overarching impression is a policy landscape characterised primarily by upheaval. Indeed the only commonality between periods is the central role played by national government as architect of the agencies themselves and the geographies to which they apply. A genuine departure to this formula came with the Localism and Decentralism Act, 2011. Under this piece of legislation for the first time anywhere in the Western world individual citizens have been given the power to assemble into coalitions, determine the boundaries of their own neighbourhood and author a plan for that area. The resultant neighbourhood plan can cover many of the features that would historically have been the preserve of a professional planner at City Hall including, for example, the design characteristics of new development. More than this, the neighbourhood planning process can draw upon innovative funding models, some of which lie outside the traditional public or public-private financial arrangements that have been the norm in the past. Good examples in this respect include Community Land Trusts and the Community Right to Build initiative which allow private individuals to jointly acquire existing buildings identified as being of local significance or develop new ones. The purpose of this research is twofold. Firstly it seeks to investigate this process of self-organised governance of urban policy using the explanatory framework provided by game theory; secondly it aims to contextualise findings from England within the wider setting offered by related approaches that have been pioneered in mainland Europe. Taking neighbourhood planning fora as the empirical subject for the domestic component of the research we will use a range of research methods rooted in game theory and experimental economics to explore urban planning policy designed and delivered in this self-organised manner. Fundamental questions to be addressed will include what conditions are necessary for coalitions to spontaneously form; what features promote coalition stability/instability, and; how might the use of collectivised financial instruments (such as a community land trust) encourage community-directed urban transformation. The results of this research on neighbourhood planning fora will then be added to the experience of similarly self-organised approaches to effecting urban transformation reported by partner universities in North West Europe. This international feature of the research is designed to encourage policy transfer and enhance the value of the work to policy makers.

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