Waterfront Regeneration Knowledge #3 – Edinburgh

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Socio-economic Impact and Equity in Waterfront Regeneration

Scottish Universities Insight Institute

Event 3: Edinburgh – Friday 9 January 2015

The Knowledge Exchange programme brings together practitioners, policy makers and academics involved with waterfront regeneration in three of Scotland’s cities, where initiatives are evolving in parallel, developing independent approaches to city-building and shaping new places where people will live and work.

Through sharing experiences, the programme aims to contribute to the future development of the waterfront areas in the programme as well as other waterfront regeneration processes emerging in Scotland. It also aims to guide a debate over issues surrounding economic, social and environmental aspects of regeneration activities in order to inform policy development and implementation.

This note provides a summary of the third seminar in the series on Edinburgh which took place at Architecture + Design Scotland’s office in Edinburgh on Friday 9 January 2015 (the first event was held in Glasgow and the second in Dundee).

The focus was on the theme of socio-economic impact and equity, with waterfront areas typically offering scope for the establishment of new economic activities as well as potential for spread of resulting benefits to nearby deprived areas, a goal that has not often been successfully met in the past. A final workshop at the end of March 2015 will draw together conclusions and identify next steps for an ongoing knowledge exchange network of policy-makers, practitioners and academics.

More information is provided in the accompanying summary document.

David Givan, City of Edinburgh Planning Authority, provided an introduction to Edinburgh’s 18 km of waterfront development that has focussed on 350 hectares of former industrial land, centred on Granton Harbour to Leith Docks area.

In 2000 the vision was to create a ‘waterfront of international stature’, with mixed use, high quality sustainable urban form, placemaking which involves and benefits existing communities and an integrated new tram service. The intervening years have seen considerable challenges to the delivery of this ambition arising from: changing market conditions; macro economic circumstances; changing and fragmented land ownership; co-ordination of different masterplanning aims; critical-mass aligned to scale of opportunity.

Whilst a strong policy framework exists in LDP and supporting guidance, the ability to proactively shape development has been limited. The scale of opportunity is considerable with a number of separate large masterplan areas. Economic circumstances have stalled development delivery resulting in an impression of sporadic physical development sites sitting within areas of empty space.

There have been successes including guiding infrastructure investment, creating a linear park, attracting high quality projects, and efforts to get new development to engage at street level; but challenges exist in the creation of cohesive new communities that integrate with existing. A new proposed Local Development Plan is setting out a clear vision and succinct principles for how the Council sees future layout – mostly in the form of rectilinear perimeter blocks. These ambitions are supplemented by masterplan briefs; and there is a renewed focus on partnership working and community engagement.

A subsequent discussion raised issues concerning:

  • integration of new and existing communities
  • building sufficient critical mass in one area to create sense of place
  • limited ability to proactively guide development when reacting to proposals
  • piecemeal and fragmented nature of development dependent on developer interest
  • the challenge of working with market conditions

A field tour visited Leith and Granton areas of Edinburgh’s waterfront.

Jurgen Bruns-Berenteig (Manager in Chief at HafenCity Hamburg Gmbh) presented on the development of HafenCity, Hamburg and focussed on economic considerations. The project is the second largest rebuilding project in Europe (approx 2.2 km²). The inner city former ports and warehouses site is adjacent to the historic inner city area to the north and offers 10.5 km of new waterfront development along the tidal river frontage A masterplan prepared in 2000 representing approx 10.4 bn euro investment, is on course to be delivered over 25 years.

The masterplan calls for a fine grain mix of uses as a basis for urban development. A high density approach insists that all uses are publicly related at ground floor to generate urbanity for ground floor spaces; public and private spaces are merged and integrated.

Design is considered across three levels of detail: 1. Masteplan – flexible based on principles 2. Intermediate – quarters; urban design and landscape competitions 3. Micro – detailed regulatory framework to ensure quality; architectural competition for buildings

The economics of urban transition are achieved through a three-way partnership:

  1. The City State of Hamburg sets the political agenda; approves development plans and urban design guidelines; finances and builds: schools, universities, concert hall, subway
  2. HafenCity Hamburg Gmbh is a city/state owned quango that acts as entrepreneur; owns the land, and finances work through land sales (no subsidy); therefore in their interests to make sure the masterplan and public spaces, etc work
  3. Private sector develops individual sites and is free to innovate within the guidance/control

In a situation where large development is happening from new and where ‘typical’ market forces may not apply or produce public goods of high quality, four types of capital injection are observed:

  1. Communicate capital formation – explore/understand the capacity and potential of the place
  2. Cultural capital formation – come up with ideas before built
  3. Social capital formation – people ideas; social networks
  4. Economic capital formation – comes last; don’t start with economic; a more intelligent development approach understands the importance of spreading out supportive network structures.

This has been possible through control and ownership of the land which has enabled the possibility to generate the right physical and social infrastructure networks.

In order to achieve continuous spatial development HafenCity Hamburg Gmbh has sought to guide and shift the risk profile. This is evident in a staged ‘economics of space into place transformation’ process:

  1. ‘Information density generation process’ = market mobilisation based on target concept
  2. ‘Ideas production process’ = tendering process – 70% concept, 30% price; different prices for different uses; choose a developer that you want to work with for a particular project
  3. ‘Co-operation process’ = instead of selling the land, grant an exclusive 18-24 month option to demonstrate how the product is developed and delivered (to proceed, a project requires 50% occupancy); how ideas are defined and brought into the framework that is working
  4. ‘Commodification process’ = sale of land – on detailed contractual basis
  5. Start of construction

Rather than maximising price, the aim is to generate quality through diversified and varied urban environments that create more liveable networks where people are more likely to meet and interact. This is evident in different initiatives (e.g. diversified residential structures incorporate music studios where people can meet; space for start-up; showrooms for ideas); i.e. development is not simply a physical building provided by ‘the market’, but a basis to initiate underlying social structures.

Certain points were highlighted in concluding remarks, including:

  • a strong role for urban governance; the state as local entrepreneur and innovator
  • shifting the role of markets – markets for urban development projects do not simply exist; they can and should be created
  • rather than simplifying, aim for increased complexity – adopt a planning framework strong on basic features but flexible and adaptive to innovation

A subsequent Q+A session covered a number of considerations: • ‘tease the market’ as part of the normal process; understand and generate demand • de-risk doing the right thing; find new institutional structures and new possibilities • little of the process was thought out at start of masterplan; yet, with a financial bubble and collapse the project is still on timeline for delivery over 25 year period • the importance of integrating with the existing city – where people are now investing and moving back into the centre • fundamental direction needs to be set by city state; the importance of politics – the City Mayor is Chair of Board • an element of ‘top-down’ decision making – the project is too big to risk failure

Kevin Murray (Kevin Murray Associates) gave a presentation on socio-economic aspects and participatory approaches and experiences in waterfront development, by drawing on experiences from across Scotland, England and Europe.

Similar situations may arise and lessons may be learned from across the many different typologies of waterfront: e.g. trading ports (or former); shipbuilding; fishing ports; canal zones and hinterland; industrial zones; waterfront communities.

Major challenges may need to be addressed including: managing flood prevention; finding sustainable new uses for former port or industrial areas; creating a place that has a sense of community; overcoming concerns about gentrification where people may feel squeezed out.

Drivers for waterfront regeneration include: new economic rationale; addressing dereliction; reconnecting with surrounding areas; identity and place (re) creation; strategic role and new uses, sectoral activities, investment and jobs; political commitment; and need to create value.

Using ‘social considerations’ as a starting point to consider waterfront regeneration, there will be different perceptions of place by different groups of society, and strong community views of what the waterfront is and represents for differing communities (and what may be lost).

Any socio-economic study must consider a strategic approach to involving different audiences is to move from ‘Communicate’ to ‘Consult’ to ‘Engagement’ to ‘Empowerment’. Different techniques may be adopted, e.g.: VOCAL: Vision / Ownership / Commitment / Action / Looking after; long term. As people see things differently, a gradual process to working with communities (build ‘place momentum’) is required that is: open and honest; builds trust; addresses rumours and misinformation; removes fear; builds credibility; transfers ownership.

Other techniques to engage people to think about the future of the place include:

  • Walk the site and share analysis of visit
  • Appreciate historic evolution and connect with the history of the place
  • Develop a vision of possible scenarios – and compare it to where now/existing/current
  • Agree framing place principles – e.g. activities and uses; ground floor activities
  • Charettes may be useful methods of rapidly exploring ideas
  • Express ideas in graphics, and show comparisons

Concluding comments included: • Equity headlines: think about integration and access; mix of uses; address social housing and community composition; community facilities; co-creation. • Create an intelligent process – this may require ‘slow urbanism’ as opposed to ‘rapid regeneration’ • Consistency and continuity is important

A subsequent group workshop discussion reflected on lessons from the site visit and presentations under a series of questions according to three headings:


What resources are needed to achieve positive socio-economic impact and equity in waterfront regeneration and development? Key considerations included:

  • Attractions, events, ecosystems – a critical mass of things that interact with others
  • Adaptive skills
  • People – animating the place
  • Capacity (through social, cultural, community as well as economic)
  • Vision, leadership and championing over the long period
  • Control (is planning enough?) – the importance of land ownership

What resources do waterfronts already have that may contribute to this? Key considerations included:

  • Identity; character; distinctiveness
  • An edge, space, land • Water (tranquillity… or not!)
  • A water edge plan (blue plan)
  • Community – history; enthusiastic about their origins

Rules and Organisations:

What organisational arrangements and inputs can foster a positive socio-economic impact and ensure equity in waterfront regeneration and development? What rules /regulations may contribute to providing a positive socio-economic impact and equity on the waterfront? Key considerations included:

  • Relationship between resources and ideas
  • Need for innovation in urban development practice
  • Understand estate market • Design new rules for actors and institutions
  • Regulators – generative role – how to influence markets
  • Capacity to deal with complexity of urban change
  • Be realistic about how long is needed to undertake regeneration
  • Importance of co-operation and how to improve
  • Role of state as innovator and capital actor
  • And relation to value – social, cultural, equity; common good

Ideas and Mindsets:

What constitutes positive socio-economic impact and equity on the waterfront? Key considerations included:

  • Fairness and equality of opportunity; widely distributed benefit; assets for benefit of ‘all’
  • Benefits should be across scale – for the immediate ‘local’, and wider/city area
  • Quality of opportunity (for all) + Quality of value (for all)
  • People ‘buy-in’ to an idea/an ambition for their life… is this delivered? Where are facilities and services to support this?
  • Investment is not just in terms of ‘standalone projects’ – it should create and generate wider value: social, cultural, fairness about how a place will operate and perform
  • There needs to be a different starting point about ambition, attitude and approach to what is being delivered
  • It should support a richness of how the place operates – how social networks form and function – beyond mere ’physical’ to consider the necessary supportive infrastructure

What attitudes are in place to contribute to positive socio-economic impact and equity in waterfront areas?

  • A city’s brief for the masterplan outcomes must require social and cultural aspects
  • Willingness; desire; positive proactive (not reactive); a belief that it is possible and achievable
  • Challenge the market – shape and control the market to deliver what is desirable
  • Need land ownership
  • Strong personalities and individuals
  • Build resilience – lower the risk profile; make it easier to do the right thing
  • Not just a requirement to meet numbers or targets, or chasing capital receipts or ‘bottom line’ accounting
  • Deal with people (developers/investors) who provide the greatest socio-economic receipt
  • Seek a triple bottom line – a win / win / win
  • A responsible attitude – a sense of responsibility to do the right thing
  • Legacy; generate lasting benefit; deliver 25 year plan
  • Continuity and belief – flexible but hold fast to outcomes (don’t waver with changing ‘market conditions’)
  • More informed attitudes about positive outcomes for people – what they are and why they are important
  • Capture this in a briefing for place – what is it / describe in ways that are meaningful and aid delivery
  • Confidence that it is achievable and that difficult decisions can be made
  • Work with strong politics
  • Collaborative working
  • Mix of top-down/guiding visionary (Hafencity) and bottom-up/people led (Copenhagen) approaches

More information is provided in the accompanying summary note.

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