A new independent report by the European Institute for Urban Affairs (EIUA) has taken an in-depth look at the Partnership’s work, and the changes for the better it has helped to bring about with the help of New Deal funding from the Government.
The comprehensive study - which runs to well over 100 pages - reveals that Kensington Regeneration has already achieved 29 of the 32 targets that were set at the start of the programme, with 22 of them being exceeded by a considerable margin including:
• Four times as many homes (1,897) being improved or built than the target of 465.
• 4,273 people benefiting from healthy lifestyle projects compared with the target of 1,396.
• 1,497 people being helped to find a job, more than 700 over the target of 794.
• 469 new childcare places being created, as against the target of 265.
• 163 Community Chest-type grants being awarded to local groups, compared with the target of 85.
The study also highlights the Partnership’s success in supporting local community groups and voluntary organisations (2,417 instances compared with a target of 1,491) and in the number of young people getting involved in youth projects (2,941 compared with the 1,332 target). At 3,822, the number of accredited qualifications obtained by Kensington residents was also higher than expected, with other particularly encouraging results in terms of the number of security improvements in homes and business premises and the total of grants and bursaries awarded for study purposes.
The number of new businesses receiving advice and support was also much higher than anticipated, as was the figure for the number of crime victims receiving support. And, of course, many of these figures will rise higher still before the end of the Kensington Regeneration programme in March next year.
It’s also worth making the point that the three targets not yet achieved relate to matters such as traffic calming measures and feasibility studies which do not detract from the overall success of the programme in a serious way.
The authors of the EIUA report also put the spotlight on what they see as examples of particularly good practice within the Kensington Regeneration programme.
Projects singled out for special praise include:
• Kensington Community Learning Centre, the award-winning facility which has helped hundreds of local residents to acquire new skills and qualifications.
• The Health Energy Advice Team (HEAT), who address the health needs of local people linked to housing and benefits issues, as well as supporting unemployed residents, victims of domestic violence and the families of drug users.
• Kensington Property Investment Fund, which was established to help residents bridge the gap between the compulsory purchase order valuation of local homes and the purchase price of new ones.
• The community wardens, who are a reassuring presence on Kensington’s streets, providing information and advice to residents and reporting problems such as vandalism and graffiti to the relevant agencies.
• Kensington New Deal Police Team, another award-winning project. Officers have done an excellent job in terms of tackling crime and improving community safety in the area.
• Music for Life, which has forged a unique link between the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Kensington’s five primary schools.
The study also highlights good practice in terms of Kensington Regeneration’s overall approach to improving the area, especially the way the Partnership has:
• Engaged with developers and contractors to get jobs for local people.
• Influenced where and how services are delivered in the area.
• Linked up with the Excite Education Action Zone and head teachers on schools projects.
• Collaborated with Liverpool City Council on public realm and environmental improvements.
• Championed the views of Kensington residents.
• Kept the programme under constant review in order to respond to changing circumstances as appropriate.
Community involvement is also seen as one of the great strengths of the Kensington Regeneration programme by the authors of the EIUA report, in particular:
• The evolution of engagement structures as the programme progressed.
• The Partnership’s BME outreach and diversity work.
• The Housing Focus Groups and Neighbourhood Assemblies,
• The creation of the thematic Task Groups.
The study says that the positive effect of Kensington Regeneration’s work and total investment of more than £80 million is evident throughout the area. For example, attainment is up at all levels in local primary and secondary schools, with significant rises in the number of students gaining five A* to C grades at GCSE and in the proportion of young people staying in full-time education after the age of 16.
The proportion of residents in paid employment rose by 10 per cent between 2002 and 2008, with average household incomes moving closer to the Liverpool average over this period. The percentage of people on low incomes has also decreased. In the area of of community safety, the total of recorded offences per 1,000 population has fallen, and the crime figures for Kensington have improved relative to the average for Liverpool as a whole.
In addition, the most recent MORI household survey in the area revealed that all respondents were less concerned about community safety issues than had been the case in 2002 and, in almost all cases, the difference was a significant one.
Other encouraging signs of change for the better highlighted in the EIUA report include a significant increase in local house prices, narrowing the gap between property prices in Kensington and the city as a whole. A higher proportion of people were also reporting their health as having been good over the previous 12 months in 2008 than in 2002. The report highlights a lot of positives, but the authors haven’t been frightened of addressing some of the more problematic issues that have occurred during the Kensington Regeneration programme.
One such issue is managing expectations, and ensuring that people are realistic about what can be achieved with the funding available. Another is the friction that can occur when the community’s desire to get things done in a certain way, or within a certain timeframe, comes up against the ‘rules and regulations’ that are an inevitable part of a Government initiative.
The report also acknowledges that certain projects have taken a lot longer to implement than originally envisaged. Sometimes this has been as a result of the Partnership’s wish to consult fully with local residents before proceeding. In other cases, there has been an operational factor, for example the time taken to acquire all the land required for the new Beech Street complex.
Notwithstanding these issues, the authors of the EIUA report are very clear that Kensington Regeneration’s work has been of huge benefit to the area. They point to the Partnership’s physical legacy in the form of the Academy of St Francis of Assisi, Kensington Community Sports Centre, the Life Bank, the Field of Dreams Nursery, the new housing developments and the improved shops and environment.
Equally importantly, they highlight the community infrastructure legacy. Individuals and groups across Kensington now have the knowledge, skills and confidence to continue improving the area by taking advantage of future regeneration funding opportunities, as and when they arise. And the study also emphasises that the effects of the Partnership’s work will be felt for years to come, for example as children grow up who have benefited from the
significant investment in early years education in the area.
Commenting on the report Kensington Regeneration Chair, Norma Williams, said: “Everyone associated with the Partnership is delighted that the European Institute for Urban Affairs has been so positive about our work.
“Although there is plenty of evidence in the area of the success of our projects and initiatives, it always very gratifying to have this confirmed by an independent and well-respected source.
“However, this certainly doesn’t mean that we’ll now be resting on our laurels. There’s still a great deal of work to be done and a lot to be achieved between now and the end of the programme in March next year.”