Urban Renewal

  • Graham Hallett


Urban renewal is not a new phenomenon. If it were, the centres of London, Paris or Cologne would be the same as they were in the Middle Ages. Change takes place when individual buildings are redeveloped or modernised, when new streets are built, when whole districts are demolished in war or when public urban renewal programmes are initiated. Perhaps it is worth remembering that cities were renewed — not always without success — before ‘urban renewal’ or ‘town planning’ was invented. Nevertheless, the renewal of urban districts poses two technical (among other) problems. Firstly, the existing property boun daries may not be suitable; e.g. larger sites may be needed. Secondly, there is a need for some co-ordination at a level above that of the individual site. The London squares of the early 19th century required planning of the terraces, roads and the central garden; a comparable type of small-scale planning is needed today.


Local Authority Urban Renewal Town Planning Quantifiable Cost Individual Owner 
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Select Bibliography

  1. John Holliday (ed.), City Redevelopment Charles Knight 1977.Google Scholar
  2. R. M. Kirwaun and D. B. Martin Economics of Urban Renewal, Working Paper 77, Centre for Environmental Studies, London, 1972.Google Scholar
  3. Charles McKean, Fight Blight Kaye & Ward, 1977.Google Scholar
  4. Robert McKie, ‘Cellular renewal: a policy for the older housing areas’ Town Planning Review Vol. 45 No. 3 July 1974.Google Scholar
  5. Robert McKie, Housing and the Whitehall Bulldozer, Hobart Paper 52 Institute of Economic Affairs, London, 1971.Google Scholar
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    Leo Grebler, Urban Renewal in European Countries Philadelphia, USA, 1964, p. 103. A similar point is made in Land Values and Planning in the Inner Areas Royal Town Planning Institute, 1978, p. 10.Google Scholar
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    see G. H. Peters, Cost-Benefit Analysis and Public Expenditure Eaton Paper 8, Institute of Economic Affairs, London. p. 71.Google Scholar
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    J. Rothenberg. Economic Evaluation of Urban Renewal, Brookings Institution, Washington D.C. 1967.Google Scholar
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    Nathaniel Lichfield, ‘Evaluation of Methodology of Urban and Regional Plans: A Review’, Regional Studies, August 1970.Google Scholar
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    Tax and subsidy arrangements affect the costs of occupying, or modernising, housing in different areas, and can sometimes discriminate against older areas. It was a common complaint that the post-War American system of mortgage assistance was, in effect, confined to the ‘white suburbs’. In West Germany, the depreciation allowance on houses was, until 1977, confined to new houses, when it was extended to older houses as an ‘inner area’ policy. The British rating system, being based on a ‘rental’ concept which is no longer realistic, may discriminate against older areas.Google Scholar
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    J. S. Mill, Principles of Political Economy Bk. II Chap. 1: 3. p. 210.Google Scholar
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    Robert McKie ‘Social objectives and citizens’ participation in urban renewal in the United Kingdom’, in Urban Renewal in the Netherlands International Federation for Housing and Planning. 1975.Google Scholar
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    In 1966 a Ministerial advisory group recommended that owner-occupiers should be compelled to provide the ‘standard amenities’ in their houses (or be dispossessed). At the time, the ‘standard amenities’ included a ‘ventilated food store’, in an age of refrigerators! Our older homes: a call to action. HMSO. 1966.Google Scholar
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    In one city known to the author, with an Edwardian centre of some charm, redevelopment or modernisation by individual owners was held up for twenty years (leading to considerable ‘blight’) because of the Council’s grandiose plans, which seemed about to be implemented in 1972. Under a partnership with a development company, a mini-Manhattan was to be created. The scheme seemed to the author to be as environmentally undesirable as it was financially questionable. But it was ‘sold’ in a way which would have created an outcry if adopted by a soap manufacturer. (The author was invited to write a report showing its economic benefits). The massive subsidising of central multi-storey car parks out of local rates was justified on the grounds that ‘We must learn to pay for the motor car’ — which meant that its use would be subsidised in the one field in which pricing presented no technical difficulties. The scheme was abandoned in 1975, because of the property slump. But a new scaled-down scheme, in partnership with a different developer, was announced in 1977. The worst aspect has been that, since the early 1960s, the local authority has severly restricted all suburban shopping developments, propably in order to protect ‘its’ town centre scheme. There are either no, or inadequate, off-street parking facilities, and in some of the new housing areas there are no shops at all.Google Scholar
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    V. Linacre, ‘Choosing ways of choosing developers’ Estates Gazette, March 4, 1978.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Graham Hallett 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Graham Hallett
    • 1
  1. 1.University CollegeCardiffUK

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