Friday, 10 May 2013

The Use of Sport Stadiums in Urban Regeneration: Trying to Understand the Area.

One of the aims of this research is to understand how the building of sports stadiums as part of regeneration projects is perceived by the numerous different individuals and groups involved.  Therefore, I need to obtain as wide a range of perspectives from the different individuals and groups involved in these projects as possible.  This might eventually enable me to reflect these views in conclusions on how successful, or not, this use of sports stadiums in urban regeneration has been.

Hoarding advertises a new sixth form
Academy for East Manchester
The Etihad Campus development is taking place across the road from the football stadium in East Manchester, an area of former industrial sites that included a mine, wire-works and a chemical dying factory amongst others.  By the 1980s most of this industry had disappeared and the local population was in severe decline.  This decline has at least stabilised with the New Deal for Communities investments, building of the Commonwealth Stadium in 2002 and new housing stock.  The plan is that the Etihad Campus development and other schemes that involve the football club, Manchester City Council and their joint development vehicle, New East Manchester Ltd (NEM), such as Beswick Library and a new sixth-form Academy will further improve prospects for people in the area.

As part of my research in October last year I attended a consultation and exhibition programme on the next phase of re-development of the area at Beswick Library.  I also took the opportunity to walk around the area.  Judging by the number of people attending the exhibition at the library somebody that I spoke with may have been right in their analysis that local people have become “consulted-out”.  This perception was supported by the fact that a representative from NEM was keen for me to complete a questionnaire despite being aware that I did not live in the area.

New housing in Beswick
Walking around the area surrounding the Etihad Campus development and accepting that it was an overcast October afternoon, I was struck by how desolate some of the area looked.  On approaching Beswick there are signs of large sums of money having been spent on new housing stock, although the new buildings can seem almost alien in this landscape.  It will be interesting to see if the football club’s development can effectively link with the local community.  The area did remind me of California in at least two respects: it is broken up by a series of major roads and it also seems that hardly anybody walks around.  This can be a bit intimidating, especially when you do eventually see a group of people walking towards you.  

In March of this year I spent a week in Manchester to interview a number of people connected with the development and attend a conference at the stadium.  The interviewees were all excited about the Etihad Campus Development.  There is certainly a positive story to tell from the perspective of those in control of developments in East Manchester, which makes it slightly surprising that there is sometimes a reluctance to discuss the details with researchers.  Although, from the many documents that I have already reviewed, I am aware that other perspectives exist about the football club and the regeneration project more generally, which might explain some of the reticence.  Perhaps they are also fed-up being asked questions by researchers.

I will be back in Manchester later this month at an event run by the football club in the hope of “snowballing” from a few more potential interviewees in order to eventually reach the research nirvana of saturation of viewpoints.

At the same time I am making a start on data gathering for my comparative case with Tottenham Hotspur’s Northumberland Park project, which includes a new football stadium.  Again this project seems to have been broadly welcomed, with the football club and local council working closely together to agree the details of the development.  However, there are also signs of some local disquiet about use of funds that have been provided following the 2011 riots that started in the area and the issue of top-down development.  The top-down development applies to a number of projects in the area including the Northumberland Park project.  The concerns of local groups include issues such as lack of consultation, use of compulsory purchase orders by Haringey Council, use of public funds to subsidise private developments and the failure to include social housing in newly approved plans.

At the moment the ideas my research cover seem to be expanding, together with the consequential need to interview increasing numbers of people that are connected to these issues.  At some point I am going to have to unravel and make sense of this research data, which seems to most resemble a mounting plate of spaghetti at the moment. 

To be continued.