Promoting Sustainable Community Development

Submitting Institution

Edinburgh Napier University

Unit of Assessment

Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Sociology

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Summary of the impact

Communities have now become key measures of social need and welfare. Over the past 10 years Professor Mark Deakin's research has provided the means to turn around those communities previously deemed "unsustainable". This has been achieved by not only providing the means to tackle the inequalities of social exclusion and combat the culture of area-based deprivation, but by assembling the instruments (policy briefings, guidelines and decision support systems) that are needed for the value-adding and cost-saving measures of the urban regeneration programmes being promoted to succeed in meeting the welfare agenda which surrounds sustainable community development.

Underpinning research

The research began in 2002 as a community-outreach programme on urban regeneration and the promotion of sustainable development in Scottish cities [3.1 & 3.2]. Until this point urban regeneration had focussed on the inequalities of social exclusion and culture of area-based deprivation. The questions subsequently raised in the 2004 Egan Report on Sustainable Communities, shifted attention towards social-inclusion and assembly of the resources needed for urban regeneration to sustain the development of communities as a key measure of the UK's Urban Renaissance. This commitment to social-inclusion was subsequently endorsed by all EU nation-states under the urban regeneration and sustainable community development provisions of the 2005 Bristol Accord.

Responding to this call for social inclusion, Deakin has continued to research the opportunities urban regeneration offers to sustain the development of those communities deemed "unsustainable". Over the past decade this has involved the following:

  • conducting an extensive literature review on social-inclusion, urban regeneration and sustainable community development;
  • undertaking a series of intensive case study reviews of situations where social-inclusion has been used in urban regeneration to promote sustainable community development;
  • reflecting on the socially-inclusive visions such urban regenerations advance and sustainable community developments they promote;
  • assembling a decision support system able to implement the vision of social-inclusion such urban regenerations advance and build the scenarios this quintessentially civic (egalitarian, inclusive and democratic) model of sustainable community development promotes;
  • applying this highly participative, consultative and deliberative model of urban regeneration to analyse sustainable community developments in Edinburgh, Birmingham, Chicago and Vancouver;
  • evaluating how this model of urban regeneration meets social need and matches them to the welfare requirements of sustainable community development [3.3].

This research has found that, concentrated either within the inner city, or in peripheral housing estates, these urban regenerations account for between 1-5% of the population and up to 10-15% of public expenditure. Whereas their regeneration was previously deemed "unsustainable", with levels of social need that not only put pressure on public services, but strain on the ability which the state has to finance their welfare requirements, the value adding and cost-saving measures they now embody provide examples of how the development of "run down", "low income" and increasingly "marginalised" communities in the UK and across Europe, can be sustainable [3.4 & 3.5]. Key in turning the focus of attention away from social exclusion, the culture of area-based deprivation and inequality, has been the ability of the research to draw upon the literature review and critical insights the intensive case studies offer [3.6, 3.7 & 3.8]. For what these reviews and critical insights offer is the opportunity to not only reflect on what socially-inclusive visioning means, but make the case for urban regeneration to assemble the instruments (policy briefings, guidelines and decision-support system) also needed for their value-adding and cost-saving scenarios to meet the public participation, consultation and deliberation requirements of the welfare agenda surrounding sustainable community development.

References to the research

3.1 Deakin, M. (2003) Developing sustainable communities in Edinburgh's South East Wedge: the settlement model and design solution, Journal of Urban Design, Vol. 9, No. 2, 137-148. DOI: 10.1080/1357480032000108134


3.2 Deakin, M. and Allwinkle, S. (2007) Urban regeneration and sustainable communities: the role of networks, innovation and creativity in building successful partnerships, Journal of Urban Technology, Vol. 14, No. 1: 77-91. DOI:10.1080/10630730701260118


3.3 Deakin, M. (2009) A community-based approach to sustainable urban regeneration, Journal of Urban Technology, Vol. 16, No. 1: 91-112. DOI:10.1080/10630730903090354


3.4 Deakin, M. (2011) Learning from what works in sustainable community development, Sustainable Cities and Society, Vol. 1, No. 4: 195-201. DOI: 10.1016/j.scs.2011.07.006


3.5 Deakin, M. (2011) Intelligent cities as smart providers: CoPs as organizations for developing integrated models of eGovernment services, The European Journal of Social Science Research, Vol. 25, No. 2: 115-135. DOI:10.1080/13511610.2012.660324


Professor Deakin acted as lead researcher for 3.6 and the principal investigator for 3.7 and 3.8.

3.6 LUDA (Large Urban Distressed Areas) funded under Framework 5 of the EC's Environment and Climate Programme (200,000Euro) 2003-2006.

3.7 LfWWs (Learning From What Works in Sustainable Community Development). Funded by the ESRC & ASC (Association for Sustainable Communities) Sustainable Communities Programme (£98,000) 2007-2008.

3.8 SURegen (Sustainable Urban Regeneration) Funded under Phase 2 of the EPSRC Sustainable Urban Environment Programme (£290,000) 2007-2012.

The research has also allowed Professor Deakin to be appointed as a Member of the Evaluation Panel for the UK's ESRC Programme on Sustainable Community Planning (2006) and to influence he formation of the EPSRC's Sustainable Urban Environment (SUE) 1 and 2 Programmes (2006-2010). Professor Deakin also sat on the Advisory Committee for the National Demonstration Project for Community Land Trust Development, funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Society (2006-2008).

Details of the impact

Policy briefings held between 2008-11 with the Scottish and UK Government and leading charities, such as the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Association for Sustainable Communities, have allowed Professor Deakin to produce a set of Guidelines for Socially-inclusive Visioning in the Community-based Approach to Sustainable Urban Regeneration. The Planning Journal's (30/09/2009) review of these guidelines highlighted the need for stakeholders involved in urban regeneration to:

"...upgrade their skills and engage with communities in a vision that is less utopian and is grounded in their social and material needs [something] which requires a new mindset, involves planners getting off the treadmill of bureaucracy and putting themselves closer to the communities they are seeking to promote." [5.1]

These guidelines underpin the urban regeneration strategies and support the sustainable community development initiatives both Scotland and the UK have adopted to alleviate poverty, enhance welfare and bring about improvements in education and wealth [5.2]. The decision- support system assembled to underpin these urban regeneration strategies and support their sustainable community development initiatives, provides the "material" needed and "new mind set" required for planners to get "closer to the communities they are seeking to promote". It achieves this by providing both the learning material needed and knowledge management system required for the public to join Community Councils and Neighbourhood Management Boards as members of Urban Regeneration Partnerships [5.3, 5.4 & 5.5].

In Craigmillar, Edinburgh and Attwood Green, Birmingham, the Urban Regeneration Partnerships learn about social needs and gain knowledge of the respective communities' welfare requirements by way of public consultations and through deliberations. These public consultations and deliberations provide Community Councils and Neighbourhood Management Boards with the civic decision-making powers, budgets, resources, skills and competencies needed to meet the value adding and cost saving requirements of public service improvement programmes. This has been achieved by way of Community Policing Strategies, through Work Programmes and the construction of Home Zones. These Home Zones provide for the construction of over 2,000 affordable homes (of mixed income and tenure), with supporting schools, learning centres and health facilities.

Official government statistics (Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation: 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2012:, show that the impact of these interventions on the social need and welfare requirements of Craigmillar is marked. In 2004, 60% of Craigmillar's data-zones ranked within the 15% most deprived in Scotland; whereas by 2012 this had fallen to 38%. Relative improvements are also evident in the domains of income and employment, where 85% of the data-zones in 2012 now show improvement in the income domain and 62% in the employment domain. There has been a further 11% decrease in the number of people claiming health-related benefits between 2009 and 2012 and in terms of educational attainment; there has been a 60% increase in performance scores at SQA Level 4 between 2009 and 2012. The rate of pupil absences is also down by 9% on 2009 figures. Crime is also down, with 28% fewer crimes per 10,000 in 2012 compared with 2009. This means that in 2012 over 60% of the official data sets used to calculate the impact which poverty alleviation strategies and welfare-related initiatives have in Scotland now indicate Craigmillar shows a marked improvement.

Deakin reported on the success of this urban regeneration to the Scottish Government in May 2011 as part of their ongoing review of the Sustainable Community Initiative and ADI's (Architecture and Design Scotland's) monitoring of the Sustainable Development Strategy. This evaluation provided evidence to support the claims that policy briefings, guidelines and decision-support systems do provide the instruments needed for the public to directly participate in urban regeneration, not only by way of consultations and deliberations, but through the civic decision-making powers, budgeting and allocation of resources which are also required for them to be competent in promoting sustainable community development [5.6].

The long-term (2008-13) effect of what EUROCities defines as: "these high impact services", have acted to augment these "grass roots" and "bottom-up" improvements in urban regeneration and for the Cities of Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Groningen, Kortrijk, Bremerhaven, Osterholt-Scharmbeck, Karlstad, Kristiansand and Norwich, to mainstream sustainable community developments across Europe [5.7 & 5.8]. The impacts associated with this rapid proto-typing of 24 public services (covering safety and security, employment, health, education, transport and mobility), have in turn generated the intelligence community organisations, charities and voluntary groups need to be smart in integrating the core value adding and cost-saving requirements of such a trans-national programme into the European Network of Living Lab's (ENoLL's) model of sustainable community development [5.9 & 5.10].

Sources to corroborate the impact

[5.1] The impact of the research undertaken as part of the LUDA and LfWWs projects [3.6 & 3.7] is reported on by: Kochan, B. (2009) Sustained Solutions: a major study into the skills sets needed and competencies required to build sustainable communities, The Planner, October.

[5.2] This "profound impact" is also reported on by the Homes and Communities Agency (2010), The Vision Thing, HCA, Leeds and as a set of "Key Policy Implications":

[5.3] The LUDA project [3.6] assembled this material as The LUDA Compendium. The significance of this Compendium lies with the support system's engagement of communities, involvement of civic organisations and direct participation of the third sector in decision making across the public realm.

[5.4] The particular reach, significance and contribution of the decision support system's material and communication system, has been reported on by: Poveda, C. and Lipsett, M.(2011) A Review of Sustainability Assessment and Sustainability/Environmental Rating Systems and Credit Weighting Tools, Journal of Sustainable Development, 4 (6): 36-54. DOI:10.5539/jsd.v4n6p36

[5.5] The significance and reach of the research is reported on by: Stanati, T., Oaoadopoulos. T. and Drakaelis, M. (2012) Transformational Services, in Shareef, M, Archer, N., Yogesh K. Dwivedi, A and Pandey. K. ed., Transformational Government through EGov Practice: Socioeconomic, Cultural and Technological Issues, Emerald, London. ISBN-10: 1780523343.

[5.6] This was undertaken as part of the SURegen project [3.8]. The impact of SURegen has been taken up by the European Investment Bank in collaboration with the Directorate General of Regional and Urban Policy and used to modify the EC's JESSICA (Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas) Funding Programme.

[5.7] This Smart and Sustainable Cities fund secures the capital investment programme needed for urban regeneration to meet the social need and welfare requirements of the EC's 2020 Strategy for Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth and balance them with the environment and climate objectives this sets.

[5.8] The impact the Strategy for Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth is having on civic organisations and what this ongoing transformation of the public realm means has been reported on by the Times, Guardian and Telegraph.

  • E for Efficient (Raconteur on Smart Cities), Times, 1st June, 2010.
  • Everyday life but made better and tailored solutions, Guardian, 9th September, 2010.
  • Preview: What is a smart city? Sunday Telegraph, 1st October, 2013.

[5.9] Edinburgh Napier University (ENU) organised the first National Conference on Smart Cities and Communities, held at Westminster's QE11 Conference Centre, London in December 2011. Deakin chaired the Conference; Cabinet Ministers and the Mayor of London's Office gave keynote speeches at the Conference; and approximately 750 delegates attended the event. This was reported on by STV (Scottish Television).

[5.10] ENU has also written the Smart Cities web page on Wikipedia. In the past 3 years this has been read by over 350,000 members of the public.