Evaluating the Regeneration Impacts of Intra-urban Transport Investment: Lessons from Sheffield, U-K



Evaluating the Regeneration Impacts of Intra-urban Transport Investment: Lessons from Sheffield, U-K

Authors

DABINETT G, Sheffield Hallam University, UK

Description

This paper reports on recently completed studies undertaken by the Centre for Regional Economic & Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University, which sought to identify and measure the urban regeneration impacts of road improvements and the cons

Abstract

This paper reports on recently completed studies undertaken by the Centre for Regional Economic & Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University, which sought to identify and measure the urban regeneration impacts of road improvements and the construction of a new fight rail system, in Sheffield U.K. (Lawless & Dabinett 1995, Townroe 1995). Sheffield is a traditional industrial city of 1.4 million people in South Yorkshire, located some 220 Ion north of London. It was dramatically affected by widespread economic restructuring in the 1980's, and in January 1997 still had a claimant unemployment rate of 8.8%, compared to that in Great Britain as a whole of 6.7%. In December 1990, the U.K. Government approved grant funding which allowed the construction of a new lightrail system in the city, the South Yorkshire Supertram (SYS). In 1992 consultants Afldns Wootton Jeffries, together with the Transport Studies Unit then at the University of Oxford, were awarded a contract by the Department of Transport and the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive to assess the transport and traffic impact of'the Supertram. At the same time, CRESR was awarded a contract by the same agencies to investigate and monitor the non-user impacts of the investment on development and the local economy. The focus of this study was then pulled wider by a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council under its Transport and Environment Programme. This allowed consideration to be given to major road expenditure occurring in Sheffield over the same period, and to assess more generally the relationship between urban transport investment and regeneration.

The link between transport investment and economic activity is a contested one, and any attempt to place an interpretation on more equivocal policy goals such as regeneration opens even further avenues of debate - "..in Britain the term urban regeneration tends to suggest a broad range of desired changes including the rebuilding of local economies - an influx of productive investment and new jobs, the development of new property and the refurbishment of existing buildings. It also suggests construction of" new homing, improvements in environmental quality, and possibly even a wide range of community facilities and a strengthened network of community organisationsl While the phrase urban regeneration is richly suggestive, it is rarely defined" (Halcrow Fox Associates 1990). Regeneration for the purposes of the CRESR studies was seen to be most appropriately measured by levels of new investment and job creation. For operational reasons, the research examined impacts on the city image, land and property markets, business operations and location, and the labour market.

An account of the major projects undertaken in Sheffield during the earty 1990s is provided elsewhere, but a short description is provided in Figures 1 and la (Lawless and Dabinett 1995). Whilst implemented between 1991 and 1997, the conception, design and funding for the projects occurred in the late 1980s, a period when regeneration was primarily seeking economic objectives to be reallsed from property- led renewal. The South Yorkshire Supertram (SYS) was by far the largest single project undertaken in this period, and represented the realisation of plans which first emerged in the early 1970s. These addressed transport and urban development issues which were then arising in the wider South Yorkshire conurbation, of which Sheffield is the principle urban area. However, by the late 1980s when both Central Government and local government (Sheffield City Council) gave support to the scheme, regeneration objectives were clearly on the agenda following the near collapse of local industry, and the extensive restructuring occurring in the urban economy (Dabinett 1995). When the Central Government approved the Section 56 Grant under the Transport Act 1968 for the scheme, this was largely on the basis of non-user benefits to be secured from investment in SYS, including regeneration impacts.

One line of SYS runs through the Lower Don Valley, which has been the main focus of regeneration policies in Sheffield in the 1990s. This area also contains three further investments: construction of an outer-ring road to the city centre, an upgrade of the the main link road to the industrial areas, and the construction of a city airport. All of these have featured strongly in promotional material used by the city's development agencies, and have clearly been implemented to secure regeneration impacts. The other two road schemes shown in Figure la did not have explicit regeneration objectives, being measures to up-grade the city's primary road network, although they were part funded by assistance from the European Union (the European Regional Development Fund). However, the Penistone Road scheme runs through a traditional, inner city industrial area requiring extensive modemisation in terms of its ~cture, and the Mosbrough link road provides access to new residential areas, but also to one of the city's new industrial estates.

The paper is divided into two main sections. The first undertakes an e~ramlnafion of the main methodological issues raised by previous evaluations of intra-urban transport investment. This reflects on previous studies in the UK and the ex-ame evaluations prepared for the South Yorkshire Supertram. The second part provides an account of the results and approach adopted in the ex-post evaluations of the regeneration impacts in Sheffield.

Publisher

Association for European Transport