Sector sets out vision for ‘new Bura’

Sector sets out vision for ‘new Bura’
Jill Theobald, New Start

The British Urban Regeneration Association’s anticipated replacement must have a strong focus on local people and communities, continue a knowledge sharing function and embrace new technology, according to leading figures.

Following an announcement that the association was being wound up, a Bura spokesperson confirmed that ‘a new, fit for purpose vehicle’ is likely to be launched in September.

Regeneration figures say any new incarnation must be inclusive of smaller, local projects, continue to showcase best practice and adapt to new technology.

Richard McKeever, communications manager with Community Links and a former Bura awards judge, said he hoped the successor body would ensure ‘knowledge and experience built up by practitioners over many years can be shared between stakeholders’.

Mr McKeever said: ‘Whilst it is clear we are now operating in a very different political and economic climate, I believe there is an increasingly significant job to be done in connecting key players across the sectors – local government, community organisations and developers – to collaborate in ensuring effective regeneration makes a positive difference to the communities at the heart of physical redevelopment.’

Of Bura’s awards, he said: ‘It would be disappointing if this initiative, celebrating the vital role that local people have in resolving local issues, were to be lost.’

Groundwork UK suggested a replacement body should ‘broaden out the notion of regeneration from improving the physical urban landscape to looking at what towns and cities can do to encourage wellbeing amongst local people’.

Head of policy and communications Fiona Taylor said: ‘It’s long been Groundwork’s view that regeneration is about people as well as places – and the key to sustainable regeneration is connecting people with their existing or new surroundings. We would argue that quality green space in urban areas is as important as new or restored buildings for doing precisely this.

‘There is a perception around that most of the urgently needed physical regeneration has largely been done in recent years. Groundwork would argue that this is not so – and that, in fact, when you look beyond the shiny new town centres or out of town shopping malls and get to some of the streets where we work, nothing could be further from the truth.

‘Therefore a new Bura would still have plenty of space to fill in terms of keeping regeneration on the agenda in the widest possible sense.’

Imelda Havers, managing director of Bluefish Regeneration, argued the sector required ‘a clear voice and influencing role as never before’.

‘We need a new organisation which can be set up quickly to rise to these challenges,’ she said, ‘and it must be much more inclusive and representative of the breadth of the sector than the old style Bura.

‘This means taking up the cause of local communities across the UK, whether urban, rural or coastal, and working globally, using new generation technology to network and share best practice.’

Empty Shops Network founder Dan Thompson said the demise of ‘big boys’ such as Bura highlighted ‘a big split in the way the UK is being regenerated – old and big versus new and nimble’.

‘I’m sure there’s important stuff in what they do,’ he said, ‘but at £750 a year I can’t imagine many small, grassroots groups who are actually delivering regeneration can afford to join.’

Big organisations such as Bura’s successor needed to support ‘real grassroots regeneration not with money but with practical support’.

‘Social media has reduced the time to get projects started by making it quick and easy to access expert information, advice, support,’ he added. ‘I think the big establishment organisations need to find ways to be flexible and adaptable in this climate – otherwise, like Bura, they’ll get left behind.’