Delivering regeneration through environmental improvements

Client:
Environment Agency
Start date:
August 2006
Completed:
January 2007

Brook Lyndhurst was commissioned by the Environment Agency to show, through four case studies, how it contributes to regeneration through its environmental improvement, green space and community partnership projects.

The four case studies were:
‘Accessing Wetlands & Beyond’ project at Spring Gardens, County Durham – creating a wetland area and multi-user route to improve access to the countryside;
‘River Medlock Rehabilitation’ project in Clayton Vale Park, East Manchester - a physical clean-up project on the River Medlock transforming the riverside scrub land into a park (to encourage greater use of the area by local residents);
‘Pride in Our Communities’ project on the Fairyland estate, Neath Port Talbot - focusing on the ‘green’ aspect of the ‘cleaner, safer, greener’ liveability agenda through a fly tipping reduction project in South Wales; and
• ‘Get Hooked on Fishing’ (GHOF) project in Bournville, West Midlands - an introductory fishing project for disadvantaged children to improve access to the countryside.

Objectives

The aims of the research were fourfold:

• To demonstrate to regeneration partners, e.g. local authorities and Local Strategic Partnerships, the potential role of environment-led projects in meeting wider health, social, economic and ‘wellbeing’ objectives;
• To tell the story of how each case study has created a better place and what this means for the local people;
• To assist the Environment Agency in making the links internally between its more traditional role as regulatory body and the role it can play in regeneration; and
• To understand which Environment Agency roles and partnerships “work best” to establish how its involvement can be improved in the future.

Methodology

Methods were tailored for each case study, but the core elements of the research were as follows:

• Qualitative stakeholder meetings (site visits with project managers and partners) - enabling researchers to establish the onsite resources to draw upon in detail and get the ‘geography’ of the area clear enough to plan effective fieldwork;
• Quantitative surveys with project participants, e.g. face-to-face interviews with visitors, a postal survey of participating schoolchildren;
• Secondary quantitative sources (desk based), e.g. re-offending rates of participants, the number of non-accidental fires; and
• Depth interviews with project partners, local professionals and participants (e.g. local authority staff) - a mixture of face-to-face and telephone discussions.

Key findings from the case studies

• The projects were all successful in delivering local benefits. In each instance the first order impacts have been small-scale, localised and community-led (although in several cases - the potential existed for larger second order impacts).
• All four projects have involved different levels of community engagement (not necessarily undertaken by the Environment Agency).
• All four case studies were successful in strengthening social capital by increasing community pride, bringing communities together and promoting social inclusion.  

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