Urban Development Corporations "still have a role to play", report finds

Out-Law News | 16 Jan 2014 | 2:12 pm | 1 min. read

The Government should keep Urban Development Corporations (UDC) as part of its urban regeneration policy toolkit, a report by the European Institute of Urban Affairs has concluded.

The report (54-page / 1.9MB PDF), which assessed the performance of the country's last remaining UDC, the West Northamptonshire Development Corporation (WNDC), said that UDCs should remain part of urban regeneration policy as there will continue to be instances where UDCs will be the "most appropriate policy response".

"UDCs and other special delivery vehicles still have an important role to play in urban regeneration policy because they possess focus, expertise and the powers to make a major difference," the report said.

The report found that the WNDC had brought "specialist expertise and Government resources" to help bring forward a series of "key" regeneration projects within its area. "Without it, some projects would not have advanced as quickly and others would probably not have even materialised. It has clearly boosted local implementation capacity," it said.

The report said that its review had confirmed evidence to suggest that top-down imposed UDCs work less well than UDCs that have consent and co-operation from the local communities. "The most effective UDCs tend to be those which work well with their partners, especially local authorities. That requires local support and ownership," it said.

Recent events, including the creation of Mayoral Development Corporation the London Legacy Development Corporation and the designation of Mayoral Development Zones in Liverpool, suggest that the UDC model is "still relevant", according to the report. The report also noted that former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine has called for UDCs to be designated in areas earmarked for High Speed 2 stations.

The report concluded that, although other types of vehicle were likely to be more appropriate in planning and developing major new settlements and comprehensive growth programmes, UDCs would be likely to be the most appropriate solution where there is a "tightly definable urban challenge" of such "complexity, specialised nature, scale or intensity" that a special purpose vehicle is necessary.

The WNDC is due to wind up its operations in March this year, having reached the end of its ten year lifespan. Previous UDCs include London Thames Gateway, which was abolished last year, and Thurrock Thames Gateway, which ended operations in 2012 when it was merged into Thurrock Borough Council.