Strategic Regeneration Framework
When the Department for Social Development (DSD) launched the ‘Renewing Communities’ programme in June 2007, a key proposal was the development of a Strategic Regeneration Framework (SRF) for each of the areas covered by the Belfast Area Partnerships (BAPs). The BAPs were asked to take the lead in preparing a framework for their respective areas.
Too many residents of North Belfast still suffer from high levels of social, economic, and environmental deprivation, despite significant amounts of public investment in regeneration programmes and measures. A past increase in the availability of public funding created a significant growth in community development organisations and greater levels of community empowerment. However, deprivation cannot be overcome solely from within communities. Despite political stability following the peace process, inter-community tensions remain in some interface areas. This has affected the quality of life of people within and adjacent to such communities and been a deterrent to much needed investment, resulting in North Belfast securing very little of the new investment received by the wider city during the past years of economic growth.
Many communities remain insecure and focused on preserving ‘their’ area and do not share a common North Belfast identity. The preservation of existing communities – and thereby associated interfaces – has dominated political and community thinking and behaviour. Leadership is now required to work together for a positive and shared future.
It has become increasingly clear that regeneration activity that is short-term, internally focused and largely dependent on community efforts will not be enough to reverse the fortunes of the area or secure real growth for the future. North Belfast also needs to portray a positive image that emphasises its genuine benefits. It will take time for investors to develop sufficient confidence to commit to the area – but until this happens the prosperity of those living here will depend on access to employment opportunities in the rest of the city.
Progress has already been made. Drawing on the area’s great potential, aware of its challenges and sensitive to its needs, the purpose of the Strategic Regeneration Framework and Action Plan (SRF) is to identify the measures that will increase economic activity in the area, attract investment, create thriving local communities and improve the quality of life for all.
The North Belfast Strategic Regeneration Framework has four strategic thrusts – leadership and community cohesion; land use and connectivity; neighbourhood vitality and education and skills and enterprise. In addressing these key themes, this SRF recognises the diversity of North Belfast’s communities and, in particular, its religious and political affiliations and social class divisions. It also recognises that the current economic downturn will impact on all communities and increase the demand for public intervention and the call on diminished public funds. Therefore, this SRF proposes that priority be given to supporting projects which strengthen infrastructure and create long-term sustainable benefits. It recognises the challenges this poses to those in leadership and so proposes an approach which will help to understand financial constraints and recognise the need for a more selective approach and participative decision-making processes.
There is much in the SRF to consider for those in Government - local, regional and central - as well as those in the private sector and community and voluntary organisations. We encourage all to think how we can work in partnership to deliver this holistic plan for regeneration, how it can be used across Government and what are the important choices that will need to be made. We believe the SRF provides a vision for North Belfast over the next decade or more that will create a prosperous and shared future for all.
The SRF can be downloaded here: http://bit.ly/1dpxPAF