Identifying and Explaining Outcomes from Area-based Regeneration

Submitting Institution

Sheffield Hallam 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

For almost 50 years UK governments have designated area-based initiatives (ABIs) to moderate social, economic and environmental problems in disadvantaged urban areas. A research team from the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) has been assessing and explaining changes associated with ABIs for more than 20 years. Insights from two long-standing and inter-related research themes impacted on regeneration policy and practice in the post 2007 period: developing innovative methodologies through which to monetise benefits of ABIs; and research scoping the scale and nature of longer-term outcomes associated with ABIs, including those related to the engagement of communities. Impact has been achieved through the dissemination of findings and the provision of advice and guidance to government policy makers, committees and politicians. Beneficiaries from this research include central government regeneration policy makers, lobbying organisations and think tanks.

Underpinning research

Underpinning research has been developed though publications and awards dating back to the 1980s. Between 1988 and 2013 over 30 refereed papers were published in journals such as Environment and Planning C, Town Planning Review, Policy and Politics, Urban Studies and Regional Studies. Lawless (1988-present, Professor) has played an overarching role, working with Gordon Dabinett (senior lecturer, left for Sheffield University 2002), Elaine Batty (1999 - present, Research Fellow), Christina Beatty (1992-present, Professor since 2012), and Ian Wilson (2004 - present, Research Fellow). A number of grants supported this work (G1-G5), although the award of the national evaluation of the New Deal for Communities (NDC) Programme (2001-2010) proved especially valuable in providing time and resources through which to develop thinking (G6). Research has majored on two inter-related themes. How can evaluations best identify the costs and benefits of ABIs? Using this evidence on costs and benefits, how then can the scale and nature of outcome change associated with regeneration programmes best be explained?

First, there has been a long-standing debate as to how evaluations should identify the costs and benefits associated with ABIs. Much of the research undertaken over the last 30 years or so into this theme has not been especially robust because of factors such as lack of longitudinal evidence and any change data not reflecting the, often arbitrary, boundaries of ABIs. However, research undertaken by this team sought to instil rigour into the debate by looking to monetise all benefits arising from regeneration schemes, particularly through the use of shadow pricing methodologies (Ref 4). The NDC evaluation in particular generated long-term change data for these 39 deprived English areas across outcomes such as environmental perceptions, community attitudes, crime, education, jobs and so on. Having individual-level data through time on change in relation to quality of life and income for those continuing to live in these NDC areas, meant it was then possible to employ shadow pricing methods to monetise transitions from, say, being `not satisfied' to `satisfied' with the area, and its environment. This is an important innovation since regeneration schemes typically seek to improve perceptions of areas, an objective which has previously proved impossible to monetise.

Second, results from this monetisation of benefits, together with other evidence from previous projects, helped the team to understand the scale and nature of outcome change associated with regeneration schemes (Refs 1, 2, 3, 5). Lawless was centrally involved in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Region's 2001 'Review of the Evidence Base for Regeneration Policy and Practice (Dabinett, G, Lawless, P, Rhodes J, and Tyler, P) which concluded that the then evidence-base lacked rigour in relation to longer term outcomes associated with regeneration programmes. One of the key objectives of the NDC evaluation was therefore for the first time to establish, and to explain, longer term change across a range of outcomes. This research concluded that area-level change across these 39 areas through time proved relatively limited, being largely restricted to more positive perceptions on the part of residents towards their local area, its environment and fear of crime. However, individuals who engaged with specific, defined regeneration projects funded by NDCs saw much more positive change than those not engaged, across a range of outcomes including health, education and worklessness. However, this evidence pointing to individual-level gains from regeneration projects was not picked up via area-level household surveys. This was because in absolute terms relatively few residents of these regeneration areas-each on average accommodating around 10,000 people-directly benefited from NDC funded projects. For instance, worklessness projects funded by NDCs might move a small group of people into jobs, but these benefits would be insignificant when compared with trends apparent within the wider labour market.

Because the NDC Programme placed a strong emphasis on involving local residents in devising and implementing regeneration schemes, it was also possible to establish the scale of outcomes associated with community engagement initiatives (Ref 6). Research by the team highlighted the complex nature of community engagement in regeneration schemes and the limited scale of associated area-level outcome change in relation to key indicators such as trust, social capital, networking, and involvement in local decision making. But as with other outcomes, that relatively small numbers of individuals living in NDC areas who became more directly involved in community projects or who-say-served as community representatives on NDC boards, tended to see more positive change in relation to indicators such as trust than was the case for those more distanced from the regeneration process.

Although the NDC Programme in particular provided a valuable laboratory through which to develop research in relation to outcomes from regeneration schemes, it is worth commenting that: policy reports have to be in the public domain before academic papers can be published; the relationship between research and impact is iterative not unilinear; concern with area regeneration diminished following the change of government in 2010; and the impacts of research on policy are often indirect and time-delayed, rather than obvious and immediate.

References to the research

Key publications

Ref 1. Lawless, P., DiGaetano, A (1999) Urban governance and industrial decline: governing structures and policy agendas in Birmingham and Sheffield, England and Detroit, Michigan, 1980-1997, Urban Affairs Review, 34, 546-577. Examination of trends in governance and urban policy across US and UK. Peer reviewed journal (70 citations Google Scholar 18/10/13). DOI: 10.1177/10780879922184077.


Ref 2. Lawless, P. (2006) Area-based urban interventions: rationale and outcomes: The New Deal for Communities Programme in England. Urban Studies, 43 (11), 1991-2011. Identifying and explaining barriers to change in a key urban regeneration scheme. Peer reviewed journal (56 citations 18/10/13). DOI: 10.1080/00420980600897859.


Ref 3 Lawless, P., Foden, M., Grimsley, M. and Wilson, I. (2010) Linking interventions to outcomes in area-regeneration: the New Deal for Communities Programme in England. Town Planning Review, 81 (2), 151-171. Peer reviewed journal Assessing data linking specific interventions to individual level changes. DOI:10.3828/tpr.2009.32.


Ref 4. Wilson, I. (2012) Using shadow pricing to value outcomes from regeneration programmes: evidence from the new deal for communities programme in England. Town Planning Review, 83 (6), 669-694. Critical examination of use of shadow pricing methods in assessing costs and benefits of regeneration schemes. Peer reviewed journal. DOI: 10.3828/tpr.2012.42.


Ref 5. Wilson I (2013) Outcomes for 'stayers' in urban regeneration areas: the New Deal for Communities Programme in England. Urban Research and Practice, 6 (2), 174-193. An exploration of change for residents staying in regeneration areas. Peer reviewed journal. DOI:10.1080/17535069.2013.808444.


Ref 6. Lawless P, Pearson S (2012) Outcomes from community engagement in urban regeneration: evidence from England's New Deal for Communities Programme. Planning Theory and Practice, 13 (4), 509-527. Peer reviewed journal. DOI:10.1080/14649357.2012.728003.


Research Awards and Grants include:

G1. 1992-94: An evaluation of the Church Urban Fund: Church Urban Fund Trustees and the Department of the Environment (£50,000)[PI: Paul Lawless, Rob Furbey]

G2. 1992-96: The Intra-urban economic and development impacts of transport investment: ESRC (L 119251020, £88203) and the Sheffield Supertram Monitoring Study: Department of Transport and South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (£68,000).[Co:PI: Paul Lawless, Tony Gore]

G3. 1997: The impact on regeneration of local authorities' corporate strategies for tackling disadvantage: Department of the Environment (£40,000) [Co: PI: Paul lawless, Peter Alcock]

G4.1998-99: The Coalfields Task Force: an assessment of problems and policy alternatives in the English Coalfields: English Partnerships: (£50,000) [PI: Paul Lawless]

G5. 2000: National evaluation of the Groundwork Trust: Joseph Rowntree Foundation (£69,000) [CoPI: Paul Lawless, Geoff Fordham]

G6. 2001-2010: Phases 1 and 2 of the national evaluation of the New Deal for Communities programme: Office of the Deputy Prime Minister/Communities and Local Government (approx. £24,300,000) Final Reports: [PI: Paul Lawless]

Details of the impact

Research insights impacted on policy within the two themes outlined in Section 2, the main beneficiaries being central government regeneration policy makers and advisers and also lobbying organisations and think tanks. First, our access to longitudinal change data across the 39 NDC regeneration areas, combined with evidence on individual residents therein, allowed us more accurately to monetise both the costs and the benefits of ABIs. This work has had an impact on central government. This methodology based on shadow pricing was first published in the final suite of NDC evaluation reports, and then subsequently incorporated into Communities and Local Government's (CLG): Valuing the benefits of regeneration: Economic Paper 7 Vol 1: Final Report (para 7.69) (S2). A communication (24/3/10) from the then Head of Neighbourhoods and Regeneration Analysis Unit at CLG indicated that the then permanent secretary 'was particularly interested in the shadow pricing methodology and keen that we have a debate on its application to regeneration'. In addition the then key evaluation officer in CLG commented that 'the NDC Evaluation made important methodological strides in valuing the benefits of the programme in a way that had never been done before. The findings were used by the Department to analyse and prioritise future spend. The methodological learning gleaned through the NDC Evaluation has since informed analysis relating to similar Government programmes where monetising hard-to-value benefits was crucial' (S1). The potential use of this methodology was in turn referred to in an HM Treasury and Department of Work and Pensions 2011 Report: Valuation techniques for social cost benefit analysis (Table p.63) (S3). A 2011 House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee: Regeneration Report (par.44) (S7) using written evidence from Lawless, also referred to the importance of formal evaluation in assessing regeneration programmes and in ensuring lessons were retained from previous ABIs (par. 65).

Second, research insights emerging from this team enhanced understanding of the nature of outcome change associated with regeneration schemes. Research established that regeneration is likely to be associated with relatively modest area-level changes, most of which reflects improved perceptions of the neighbourhood and its environment, rather than positive changes with regard to people-based outcomes relating to, say, jobs, education, or health. These findings were acknowledged in the government's 2008 'Framework for Regeneration' (CLG) (S4), which propounded a more economically orientated approach to deprived areas than hitherto, partly because, although the NDC evaluation had shown positive change across some outcomes, this did not extend to growth in jobs (p.3/4). Research findings into the scale of outcome change associated with regeneration schemes were disseminated to key government policy specialists at sessions held at CLG on the 25/1/10, 15/3/10, 27/4/10, 28/5/10 and 8/6/10. In all these were attended by around 150 representatives from five government departments (CLG, Home Office, Business Innovation & Skills, HM Treasury, and the Cabinet Office), as well as key analysts from third arm agencies and research funding organisations. Attendees included the then Director General Communities, CLG, and the Head of Community Analysis, CLG. Lawless was recruited to two of the then government's expert panels in Housing and Communities and in Neighbourhoods, Cities and Regions. In that role he produced a think-piece for government reflecting on research evidence (published 1/3/11): Regeneration—What are the problems and what can we achieve in addressing them? These research findings were in turn to influence two national committees. First, whilst research showed only limited changes in relation to employment, it also identified the useful role which job and training schemes could play in integrating services at the local level. These key messages were developed in Lawless's presentation (11/12/08) to members of the Houghton Review on Tackling Worklessness, which were later incorporated into that Review's final report (p. 24) (S5). Second, Lawless's presentation (2/7/09) to the Marmot Review into Health Inequalities also pointed out the limited scale of people-based change associated with area-regeneration programmes. This finding was reiterated in that Review's subsequent report, which concluded that NDC evidence suggested the neighbourhood may not be an especially sensible scale at which to plan for people-based outcomes, such as job growth (p.137) (S6).

Research by the team also identified the limited scale of outcomes associated with community engagement. These findings were referred to in both the 2008 White Paper 'Communities in control: real people, real power' (p.70) (S8), and in a House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee: Regeneration Report (par. 75) (S7). The implications of these findings on debates surrounding the 'Big Society' were in turn explored with CLG staff (26/1/11), including the then Head of the Communities Analysis. In particular, the research team stressed the importance of data pointing to the complexities in achieving robust outcome change from community-based initiatives with regard to indicators such as trust in institutions and residents thinking they can influence local decisions. The implications of these research findings in relation to the community dimension, in turn impacted on lobbying organisations and think tanks. One nationally important lobbying organisation, the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), used these findings to argue for community engagement best being seen in terms of connectivity, rather than taking place within defined 'spaces' (P.10-11) (S11). Similarly, research into community outcomes from local initiatives informed debate amongst think-tanks. One, Demos, supporting the broad concept of a more loosely structured 'Big Society', used these findings to argue that the NDC initiative lacked effective community engagement (p.36) (S9). However, another more critical of the 'Big Society', Labourlist, used evidence to suggest successes associated with the NDC Programme occurred exactly because of its substantial funding base (S10).

Sources to corroborate the impact

S1. Communities and Local Government: Key NDC Evaluation Contact

S2. Department of Communities and Local Government 2010: Valuing the benefits of Regeneration: Economic Paper 7 Volume 1: Final Report.

S3. HM Treasury and Department of Work and Pensions 2011:Valuation techniques for social cost benefit analysis; stated preference, revealed preference, and subjective well-being approaches: Daniel Fujiwara and Ross Campbell

S4. Department of Communities and Local Government 2008: Transforming places; changing lives: A framework for regeneration

S5. Department of Communities and Local Government 2009: Tackling Worklessness: a review of the contribution and role of English local Authorities and Partnerships: Final Report (the Houghton Report)

S6. Department of Health 2010: Fair Society, Healthy Lives: strategic review of health inequalities in England post-2010 (The Marmot Review)

S7. House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee: Regeneration Sixth report of Session 2010-12

S8. Department of Communities and Local Government 2008: Communities in control: real people, real power; Evidence Annex 2008.

S9. Demos 2010: Civic Streets: Big society in action

S10. Labourlist 2011: The Big Society and our 13 year old alternative 4/2/11.

S11. RSA 2010: Connected Communities: How social networks power and sustain the Big Society