The SURegen Workbench: A Web-Based Collaborative Regeneration Tool

The SURegen Workbench: A Web-Based Collaborative Regeneration Tool

Yun Chen (University of Salford, UK), Yonghui Song (University of Salford, UK), Samantha Bowker (University of Salford, UK) and Andy Hamilton (University of Salford, UK)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/ijepr.2012040103


Urban regeneration is of considerable contemporary public interest and debate. Sustainable urban regeneration requires a comprehensive and integrated vision and action to address the resolution of urban problems and bring about a lasting improvement in the economic, physical, social, and environmental conditions of an area that has been subject to change. Thus, there are increased requirements for decision making and knowledge sharing by urban planners, local authorities, and other practitioners to achieve sustainability in urban regeneration activities. To address these challenges the research team of the Sustainable Urban Regeneration (SURegen) project (UK Government EPSRC funded, £2.5 Million, in the SUE programme) designed and implemented a prototype Regeneration Workbench, which addresses the key challenges in regeneration practice and provides a flexible and integrated e-platform. Over the past 20 years many Planning Support Systems (PSS) have been developed. Whereas most of these systems address a small range of issues, the SURegen workbench takes a holistic approach to all aspects that have influence sustainable regeneration. Furthermore, the workbench specifically addresses the management of urban regeneration projects and the skills gaps amongst regeneration professionals. This article describes the urban challenges addressed and details the SURegen approach to meeting these challenges.
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A city is undoubtedly a complex spatial system simply because it involves a large number of interacting subsystems. There are complex interactions among those subsystems, e.g., transport network, water and energy supply, services network, and social network, etc. As a result, regenerating a city is difficult. It is concerned with relationships between society and space and requires the study, understanding and application of a diverse set of multidisciplinary knowledge. As stated by Roberts and Sykes, urban regeneration is a “comprehensive vision and action which leads to the resolution of urban problems and which seeks to bring about a lasting improvement in the economic, physical, social and environmental conditions of an area that has been subject to change” (Roberts & Sykes, 2000). A key word in this definition is “lasting”. However, there is little consensus in how to achieve lasting, sustainable regeneration beyond the common understanding that urban areas characterized by high levels of multiple deprivation, derelict buildings, crime, social disorder, etc., are clearly unsustainable. Recent approaches have tended to address only the symptoms, rather than looking at the underlying causes. Addressing such deep seated problems is the main focus of the Government’s Neighborhood Renewal Strategy which aims to deliver long term sustainable improvements to people’s quality of life - including economic prosperity, provision of safe and secure places with high quality schools, decent housing and better health (ODPM, 2003). However when faced with the complexity, uncertainties and ambiguities of delivering on all these ambitions the stakeholders involved lack the skills and understanding necessary to implement a fully integrated approach (Egan, 2004; Curwell et al., 2005; Deakin et al., 2007).

Since the late 1990s, urban regeneration has been given an increased public profile within the UK policy agenda. The Urban Task Force (1999) emphasized the need for good governance, strong partnerships, excellent public services and high quality design and identified a skills gap amongst regeneration professionals in delivering the UK’s Sustainable Communities Plan. The Egan Review (2004) confirmed the existence of a skills gap and looked at the skills and training required by professionals, planning authorities and developers so that they can work together to achieve measurable improvements in the communities they serve. This article intends to address the research question of the effective management of urban regeneration and the associated skills gap in urban professionals.

The research adopts the research model ‘Framework, Methodology and Area of application’ (FMA), which is a concept central to Soft System Methodology (SSM) (Checkland & Poulter, 2006). It represents an iterative research process where a Methodology (M) (i.e., an approach to creating a potential solution) is generated which is informed by a Framework of system ideas (F). It is then used to tackle the Area of concern (A) which is defined as ‘real-world problem situations.’ The main body of this research follows these three stages and this article discusses research outcomes from each stage in order. The structure of the remaining of the article is described.

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