Are there areas near you which have been 'upgraded' and transformed? Maybe the area used to be derelict, maybe factories used to be there from the Industrial Revolution or maybe the environment was contaminated? This process of upgrading an area for long-term benefit is called regeneration. There are many ways an area can be regenerated, many reasons why areas are regenerated and many consequences of regeneration. Chances are you've seen evidence of it in action at some point!

Regeneration Regeneration

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Table of contents

    Regeneration definition and meaning

    Regeneration can take many forms and differs from place to place, which can make it hard to understand. However, we can start by looking at the basic definition of regeneration and the context of regeneration in the UK.

    Regeneration definition

    Regeneration is the long-term upgrading of existing urban, rural, industrial and commercial areas to bring about social and economic change. There are many reasons that people choose to regenerate an area, which we will come onto later.

    Regeneration meaning

    In the UK, global changes in trade affected local factories. For example, in areas such as Port Talbort, Redcar and Scunthorpe, the low cost of steel from other countries caused the steel industry to close. Deindustrialisation caused by globalisation affected the people living in those areas. Regeneration is needed to help adjust to the post-industrial economy.

    Deindustrialisation happens when a country moves from secondary economic activities (e.g. manufacturing) to tertiary economic activities (e.g. services). Typically, this involves factories closing down and can result in lots of people losing their jobs.

    Regeneration in geography

    Regeneration in geography involves strategies to improve an area. This could be through the construction of infrastructure, development of new housing, refurbishing the existing buildings, encouraging investment or any other activity that would improve an area.

    Examples of regeneration in the UK include the construction of infrastructures such as the Heathrow expansion, the development of new settlements in Milton Keynes, and marketing heritage and culture through festivals like Notting Hill Carnival and New years fireworks in London.

    Regeneration, Regeneration in geography, StudySmarterFig. 1 - A performer at Notting Hill Carnival parade

    Regeneration in geography: Infrastructure

    Although regeneration is a local process, infrastructure projects are generally expensive and require the help of the government. These projects are public-private partnerships, where the government provides most of the money needed and the private company would manage the plans.

    There are various government departments that are involved in regeneration projects such as:

    • Local councils
    • Department for Culture, Media and Sport
    • Department for Environment, Food
    • Rural Affairs UK Trade and Investment

    The benefits of regeneration through infrastructure are the high volume of jobs produced due to construction. Also, improving transport links can lead to improved trade and migration links and help with increasing economic productivity.

    Economic productivity refers to how much money or product is produced in comparison with the number of hours and resources put in. In other words, it compares the inputs (e.g. labour; money for equipment) and outputs (e.g. products to sell; money). If something produces a lot of money for not much labour, then it is very productive and vice versa.

    However, the risks of regeneration through infrastructure are the high costs that could change during the construction because of inflation and changing circumstances. Another risk to consider is the environmental risk from the number of resources used, such as concrete, which produce large amounts of CO2 and contributes to the issues of lowering air quality and climate change.

    Regeneration Examples of infrastructure projects in the UK

    The expansion of Heathrow airport is a project to build a third runway at the airport. It is expected to cost under 20 billion pounds and potentially create 70,000 jobs. However, there has been objection from local residents, MPs and environmental NGOs concerned about the pollution and increased traffic at Heathrow airport.

    High Speed 2 (HS2) is a project to connect London to Wigan with a high-speed railway line. This could reduce the time of travel between the North and the South. It is also expected to support 34,000 jobs in total.1 However it has been criticised because of the environmental damage it will cause.

    Regeneration, A high speed train, StudySmarterFig. 2 - Artist's illustration of HS2

    Types of Regeneration

    We know that not all regeneration is the same, but what are the different types of regeneration? Types of regeneration include sub/urban regeneration, cultural regeneration and rural regeneration. Let's take a look at what all of these things are:

    Types of Regeneration: Suburban new builds

    In the UK, housing is an important strategy of regeneration as the population continues to grow, and the demand for housing increases beyond what is supplied. Also, with the lack of social and affordable housing, there are currently unequal opportunities for people to access housing. There are a few factors that cause this situation.

    • Lack of social housing: This stems from the large amount of social housing that was sold due to Margaret Thatcher's "Right to Buy" scheme to the occupants at a considerably less price than market value and there were not enough houses to replace them.
    • Large number of empty and derelict properties: Private investors and private companies buy land to sit on for the price to increase or to get the planning permission to build on it.
    • Overseas investors: the rising house prices in the UK and the investor visas have attracted overseas investors to buy properties that are then left empty or rented out.

    The benefit of building more houses is that it works to overcome these challenges. There is a major issue concerning the lack of housing. This type of regeneration not only addresses that, but also creates construction jobs in the process. The risks for housing constructions are investors regenerate brownfield sites than greenfield sites due to profitability so habitats are lost and natural environments are damaged. There are problems also in limited projects concerning social housing and the houses being constructed aren't always affordable. This can mean that the regeneration projects don't always benefit the people who need them most.

    Brownfield sites are places that have been built on before.

    Greenfield sites are places that haven't been built on before, e.g. a field.

    Types of Regeneration: Cultural regeneration

    Cultural regeneration can be seen in the retail, leisure and tourism sectors, where projects focus on rebranding and developing culture in the UK.

    Examples of cultural regeneration include the regeneration of East London with the aim of hosting the Olympics and Paralympics, retail parks being developed on disused industrial estates (such as the Trafford Centre in Manchester) and the rebranding of declining cities such as Belfast to attract tourism, investment and inward migration.

    The benefits for cultural regeneration are that using disused brownfield land can be sustainable, retail and cultural projects can create more job opportunities, raise the local reputation and celebrate diversity. However, it can be a long-term change and may not immediately benefit locals.

    Did you know? Rebranding isn't just something done by companies changing their logos - places can rebrand too! Place rebranding aims to change the image and reputation of a place, which is something that can be helped along by regeneration projects.

    Types of Regeneration: Rural regeneration

    Rural regeneration (regeneration of non-urban areas) is needed as well as rural areas experience economic decline, outward migration (usually to cities) and deindustrialisation. Some rural areas have a lack of opportunities for young people, create social isolation of minority groups and physical isolation due to a lack of reliable public transport and services.

    Rural regeneration works to improve areas facing these challenges. Some ways that this can be achieved is through the development of services, better transport links and improvement of the economy of a town. Let's take a look at a few examples:

    The Eden Project in Cornwall

    The Eden Project is a botanical garden built in a disused clay pit in Cornwall. It aims to attract tourists and provide employment and economic opportunities for the local Cornish businesses. The money created from more tourism, employment and economic activity has allowed the rural area to transform.

    Regeneration, Eden project, StudySmarterFig. 3 - Eden Project in 2008

    Bronte Country in West Yorkshire

    The Bronte country connects rural villages in West Yorkshire with English literature and heritage, attracting national and international tourists. This benefits local businesses and Haworth uses Victorian aesthetics to regenerate the areas by attracting tourists.

    Migration and Capital in Regeneration

    National government policy plays a key role in regeneration as they make the decisions regarding international migration and the deregulation of capital markets. Both of these things have major impacts on economic growth and direct and indirect investment. These policies can strengthen or weaken the national and local economies. Where economies are strengthened, regeneration is likely (and possible); where economies are weakened, places may degenerate and be more in need of regeneration.

    1. Migration: Open door immigration can help the workforce grow and fill in gaps in employment. Wealthy individuals from investor visa schemes are also attracted to the country, which can help boost the economy significantly.
    2. Deregulation: Deregulation of markets is when the government lets go of control over a certain industry or service. This can result in previously state-owned businesses becoming privatised and create sudden competition between businesses.
    3. Creation of business environments: Developing specialised business parks can attract businesses to a region and new start-up businesses. There are many factors that may encourage domestic or local investors which may be the workforce availability, the technology available or the reputation of the region.

    Local Government Policies of Regeneration

    Local government policies of regeneration concern local councils making planning decisions at a local level. Councils would draw up plans called Unitary Development Plans, which would identify areas of new housing, prioritise areas for regeneration, look for where new roads and major infrastructures are needed, and find areas for commercial development. These plans aim to create environments that would attract people and businesses such as retail parks, shopping centres, business parks and industrial parks.

    Negative Impacts of Regeneration

    Whilst there are expected positive impacts of regeneration from restoring or developing an area, there are negative impacts of regeneration.

    Gentrification is the regeneration of an urban area that is subject to environmental and socio-economic decline. It attracts wealthy investors to clear and prepare brownfield sites to make way for high-value properties.

    From the perspective of the "trickle down" theory, local governments see gentrification as benefitting the community. The theory is that the investors in gentrification projects will invest in local services and businesses, the workers would spend their disposable income in the local area and the investors and businesses would pay more taxes which then can be spent on local services and improvements. This would benefit everyone in the local area.

    However, there are negative impacts such as house prices increasing rapidly so that low-cost tenants are forced to leave and are replaced by high-income tenants. This creates a social division between the existing communities and the new residents (social segregation). Neighbourhoods can lose their identity as they start to look similar to other gentrified places. It is contested whether gentrification improves an area when there is a displacement of one social group, forcing another less affluent social group to migrate elsewhere.

    Regeneration, Writing on the wall that reads regeneration not gentrification, StudySmarterFig. 4 - Graffitti fighting against gentrification

    Measuring the success of regeneration

    Measuring the success of regeneration can be varied and can depend on what is focused on improving.

    • Economic regeneration = This can be measured through the growth of the local economy's size, comparison of employment rates, industrial productivity and before and after schemes.

    • Social improvements = Measurements include an increase in life expectancy, decreased applicants for social housing, literacy rates and reductions in social tensions.

    • Improvements in the living environment = This can be measured through improved air quality, abandoned land being utilised and an increase in green, open spaces.

    Regeneration case study examples

    By looking at particular case studies and studying the strategies of regeneration used, it is possible to see the various stakeholders having different criteria for assessing how successful regeneration is. Case study examples such as the Salford Quays, Stratford and Croyde will be examined further in the next articles.

    Regeneration - Key takeaways

    • Regeneration is the long term upgrading of existing urban, rural, industrial and commercial areas to bring about social and economic change.
    • Regeneration strategies include development in infrastructure, suburban new builds, cultural regeneration and rural regeneration.
    • Migration and capital in regeneration focus on national government policy making the decision for international migration and deregulation of capital markets which have major impacts on growth and direct and indirect investment.
    • An example of negative impact of regeneration is gentrification which can lead to displacement of one social group forcing another less affluent social group to migrate elsewhere.
    • Measuring success of regeneration can vary from economic regeneration, social improvements and improvements of the living environment.


    1. Edward Thicknesse (2021) HS2 to support 4,000 more jobs than first forecast. CityA.M.,support%2034%2C000%20jobs%20in%20total.
    2. Fig. 1: Notting Hill Carnival ( by DarwIn ( licensed by CC BY 3.0 (
    3. Fig. 2: HS2 train ( by Hitachi Rail ( licensed by CC BY 3.0 (
    4. Fig. 4: Regeneration not gentrification ( by Shiraz Chakera ( licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 (
    Regeneration Regeneration
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    Frequently Asked Questions about Regeneration

    What is a regeneration example?

    Stratford in Lower Lea Valley is an example of regeneration. It was used in the 2012 London Olympics and regenerated for the local people.

    What are the disadvantages of regeneration?

    Disadvantages of regeneration include the widening of inequalities, increased rents and the destabilisation of networks and community organisations.

    What is regeneration's definition in geography?

    Regeneration is the long-term upgrading of existing urban, rural, industrial and commercial areas to bring about social and economic change.

    What are the two types of regeneration?

    Two types of regeneration include rural regeneration and cultural regeneration.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Are there any schools in Croyde?

    When did Croyde beach get awarded by the MCS?

    How much did the regeneration of Stratford/London cost?

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