Interest in finding new uses for derelict or ‘brownfield’ land in urban areas is longstanding. In previous years the emphasis has been on bringing unused or under-used land back into productive use, with public subsidy directed towards treating contaminated land, funding site preparation or generating gap-funding in order to restore local land and property market functionality. This has been directed at a host of productive end-uses, with a particular emphasis in the context of English cities on recycling brownfield land in order to bolster the supply of urban housing and thereby contribute to broader urban growth and containment objectives.
More recently, however, the combination of retrenchment in public finances and, in many urban areas of Britain, sluggish local property market conditions has limited the scope for continued recycling of brownfield sites. The result has been to compel local policy actors to explore alternative ways of ameliorating dereliction and identifying feasible uses for brownfield sites. This has involved looking internationally at alternative possibilities for the re-use of brownfield sites in unpropitious economic and public policy contexts.
These issues are particularly pressing in ‘shrinking cities’ across Europe and across North America, where policy actors have been active in exploring alternative – and sometimes innovative –means of re-using redundant urban land. In cities such as Detroit, for instance, this has involved exploring urban farming or art and cultural projects as a means of sustaining liveable cities. Interest has also focused, for example, on ‘meanwhile land’: interim, remediative uses for derelict sites, pending future improvements in property market circumstances and increased demand for urban land. Existing research on meanwhile land, and on the ways in which land dereliction is addressed in an
unfavourable economic and political context, is in its infancy.
Research interest to date in the reuse of brownfield land has tended in the main to centre on assessment of how far land re-use targets are attainable, and on the barriers to meeting them. Empirical research at more disaggregated spatial scales has focused, in particular, on revitalised city centres, but has paid limited attention to the fortunes of other inner-urban areas. Given the spatial concentration of low-demand brownfield sites in these kinds of inner urban area, the proposed research would therefore look in particular at the experiences of efforts to address land dereliction in neighbourhoods in which targeted regeneration funding has been reduced or withdrawn.
Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council