Olympic legacy: will it bring real regeneration?

There’s a certain amount of angst in the property world over the plans for the Olympic legacy.

The legacy vehicle – charged with securing new homes, jobs and opportunities once the Games are over – has been unveiled. Unlike previous agencies, such as the Docklands Development Corporation, the Olympic legacy body won’t have its own planning powers and won’t therefore have the final say in what happens on the sites.

Instead it looks like being a toothless quango, negotiating with the different boroughs involved. It would be more honest to have either a full-blown exectuive agency; or a partnership between the existing local authorities. There’s little point creating another quango, when it can’t actually get the job done. And it’s still not clear how or to whom it will be accountable.

Unsurprisingly some of the property developers would prefer an executive agency approach. No faffing around with councils wanting them to consult or fund community benefits then! There’s already concern that some of the so-called Olympic boroughs will get little or no lasting benefit.

But as Roger Madelin of Argent St George (developers of Kings Cross Central and Birmingham’s Brindley Place) says: ‘I may be in the minority on this issue but, even after a long and very expensive process at King’s Cross, I do believe there has to be some kind of accountable local democracy involved. I don’t think putting in planning powers across the whole thing and railroading the process through is good in the long run.’

It’s not just poverty that crushes communities – it’s a sense of total powerlessness in the face of major change, change that affects their area but in which they have absolutely no say. If regeneration is to mean anything, it must mean involving local people and their elected representatives.

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