Colenutt details

[This web site was established to support projects funded by the Leverhulme Trust in 2009-10. It remains in use as a platform for publications directly and indirectly generated by that research.]

Community-led Property Development – Dr Robert Colenutt

[extract from application to the Leverhulme Trust]

Give an abstract of your proposed research in no more than 100 words.  This should be in non-technical terms so as to be easily comprehensible to a non-expert.

This research examines the potential of community-led land and property development for the renewal of deprived urban neighbourhoods.  Pure market-led developments often lead to gentrification and displacement in deprived neighbourhoods.  Many communities are seeking alternatives to this process.  Using UK and European examples, the research examines the experience of community-led planning and property development schemes run by community development trusts and neighbourhood associations.  It explores the challenges they face, and  asks whether the current crisis in property markets creates an opportunity for this type of development to be a major instrument of urban renewal.

Give a statement of your proposed research, including aims, objectives, methodology and outcomes to enable the Committee and your referees to form an evaluation of its scope and importance.

The aim of my proposal is to provide a strategic assessment of the impact of the current market-led model of land and property development on urban neighbourhoods, and the potential of community-led property development to change the balance of costs and benefits, particularly for disadvantaged communities.

My proposal is free standing, but has been developed alongside a parallel 2009 Leverhulme Emeritus submission by a colleague at UCL, Professor Michael Edwards. His proposal focuses on macro-scale alternative models of urban land and property development, while my research concentrates on community and neighbourhood alternatives.

My study brings together my work on neighbourhood development over the past 30 years, and brings it up to date in the current economic context. Firstly, I will draw upon research on the complex planning and property mechanisms that distribute social, economic and environmental costs and benefits. These mechanisms often produce displacement of residents, and businesses, leading to gentrification, housing shortages, and loss of local employment opportunities.

Secondly, I will assess the potential of community-led initiatives such as community development trusts, community investment banks, and community enterprise. Using examples from across the UK, I will analyse their effectiveness as a mechanism of renewal, in the past and in the current context, focusing on challenges of skills, finance, and organisation, and of sustaining these initiatives over the long periods required.

My research method will be both library research, and dialogue with key organisations in the community-led development sector.  I will up-date my knowledge of best practice, and validate my analysis, by meeting with national organisations, for example, the Community Development Foundation, and the Community Development Trusts Association. I will meet with representatives of community development trusts in the UK and in Europe with whom I have already had contact.  Finally, I shall make study visits to community led projects in Europe that I have had earlier contact with, and share my ideas with colleagues at the INURA annual meeting in Zurich with whom I have had a long term association over research on this topic.

The outcome of my research will be an innovative critical analysis of community-led development, based upon hands on my experience and academic research, placed in the wider context of the UK planning and property system, and its current crisis.

About the applicant

My field of research is the social and economic impact of urban property markets on local communities.  The research is based upon theoretical and practical experience gained from 22 years involvement in community planning research, 9 years of hands-on neighbourhood management in local government, and collaborations with university planning departments and researchers (including 11 years as a post-graduate External Examiner in Town Planning). I have been an active contributor since 1990 in the International Institute of Urban Research and Action (INURA) of whom I am a founder member.

My research and experience covers two interrelated areas; the community impact of urban development; and urban policy analysis.  In 1975, as a community based researcher, I wrote a book about the impact of commercial property development on deprived communities in London. In 1980 I was lead researcher on a Department of the Environment Inner Cities Research project on Inner City Labour Markets.  Between 1980 and 2000 I led a number of research projects (published as booklets) on behalf of Community//Local Government bodies about the development of  London Docklands. During this period, I prepared technical public inquiry evidence for community groups at over 20 public inquiries including the important Coin Street Community Builders project in London.  I led research projects funded by Barrow Cadbury Trust, and for the Centre for Local Economic Strategies. Recently, I ran a research seminar and Symposium on Sustainable Growth for the University of Northampton, and published a paper about the winners and losers from development in Housing Growth Areas in SE England.

I now want the chance (made even more urgent by the present economic crisis) to examine the potential of community-led land and property development to tackle deprivation in urban neighbourhoods more directly, and fill some of the vacuum left by the break-down of the market.

Major Publications (that relate to this research proposal)

Colenutt, R (2009)“Winners and Losers from the Growth of South-East England”, in Whose Urban Renaissance? Eds Kate Shaw and Libby Porter, Routledge, London, pp. 60-71.

Colenutt,R (2001) Will London Boroughs be Winners or Losers from the New Regional Structures for London?” in Governing London: Competitiveness and Regeneration for the Global City, eds Stephen Syrett and Robert Baldock, Middlesex University Press, London, pp.104-110

Colenutt, R (1999) “New Deal or No Deal for People Based Regeneration”, in British Urban Policy, eds  Imrie R, and Thomas H, Sage, London, pp 233-246

Colenutt, R (1997) “Can Town Planning be for People instead of Property? In Town Planning in the 21st Century, eds Andrew Blower and Bob Evans, Routledge, London , pp 105-119

Colenutt, R and Cutten, A (1994) “Community Empowerment in Vogue or in Vain?, ” Local Economy, pp 236-251

Colenutt, R (1992) Social Regeneration, Centre for Local Economic Strategies, Manchester,

Colenutt, R (1991) “The London Docklands Development Corporation: Has the Community Benefited?”  In Hollow Promises, eds Michael Keith and Alisdair Rogers, Mansell London, pp 31-42

Colenutt, R and Ambrose, P (1975) The Property Machine, Penguin, London.


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