How derelict land can boost local economies

A new paper advocates the re-development of derelict sites for durable and citizen-led economic revival.

The report, published by the Common Weal think tank, advocates asset based community development (ABCD), using the north east of Glasgow as its template.

The paper, created by Mhairi Love, a student of Economics at the Strathclyde business school, with the assistance of Anne McLaughlin, SNP MP for North East Glasgow, investigates the use of provision in the community empowerment act to re-claim derelict land and buildings for economic empowerment.
CommonSpace looks at five key ideas from the report that could help transform urban Scotland.

1. Community-led over top-down regeneration

Urban areas across the UK have been subject to repeated waves of top-down regeneration attempts. In Scotland in recent years, the authorities have used large scale events such as the Commonwealth Games to try and regenerate parts of the east end of Glasgow.

Critics claim that these attempts often exclude or alienate local populations from decision making. By contrast, a programme of community-led regeneration from the bottom up, using powers to reclaim derelict sites, would empower local communities to make their own decisions about regeneration.

2. Social entrepreneurialism

Rather than see intellectual and physical labour imported into the community for disjointed projects, an ABCD approach would utilise not just derelict sites but also latent ability in the community.

The organisational and entrepreneurial abilities of the community would be deployed in rejuvenating derelict land, educating and empower elements of the community in a broad range of economic skills.

3. Asset-based rather than deficiency-based

The report points to another difference between top-down and community led redevelopment, the difference between asset based and deficiency based regeneration.

City elites and administrators are more likely to see communities as something to be managed, rather than a body of unrealised assets. Those who live in the community are better positioned to understand where improvements are needed and what resources are at the community’s disposal, the paper argues.

4. Circular economy

The form or redevelopment advocated in the report could lead to a wide variety of community services, such as childcare facilities, employability clubs, credit unions and others being established on derelict sites. These community initiative could form part of their own economic supply chain, developing a section of the local economy relatively independent from corporate and state sectors.

5. Recession-resistant communities

This in turn would help Glasgow’s local urban communities be more resilient in the face of a sluggish and crisis-prone global economy. Social enterprises could help create both services and employment opportunities in the heart of communities most affected by unemployment and under-employment, de-skilling and a relative lack of savings and control over economic assets.


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