The Role of Development Corporations in Shaping Communities

As part of our work considering new economic development policies, we are completing a programme of activity examining some of the major interventions of the past both in the UK and internationally. This short article considers Development Corporations and their role in regeneration projects.

Development corporations are organisations designed to spur economic growth and community development, playing a crucial role in reshaping both urban and rural areas. These corporations are tasked with planning, funding, and implementing projects aimed at generating economic development and improving the quality of life for residents.

Development corporations are focused on driving economic growth by attracting investments, creating jobs, and supporting local businesses. Through strategic initiatives, they contribute to the overall prosperity and longevity of a region, particularly promoting investment in infrastructure, transport and public spaces.

Advantageously, development corporations enable the regeneration of regions to be cohesive, as one body overseas the entire development process, removing space for cross-purposes, disagreements or time delays. As a result, redevelopment projects run by development corporations should be more efficient, both time wise, but also in delivering the intended outcomes.

However, development corporations do not come without their challenges, one of which being the lack of community involvement or cooperation. In other regeneration schemes, for example the Single Regeneration Budget, community was at the heart of the redevelopment, however a development corporation typically addresses the areas which the organisation itself deem most crucial, instead of consulting the local residents. In a similar way to this, a development corporation is so outcome driven that it sometimes fails to consider its environmental impact, secondhandedly impacting the residents again, as well as the wider community.

In 2022, the department for Levelling up Housing and Communities released a response to a consultation of development corporations, in which the government emphasised the importance and practicality of development corporations, and hence want to make their establishment a simpler process. As a result, the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill proposed reforms to simplify the process through which development corporations are set up, allowing for smaller locally-led corporations to better establish themselves to make an impact sooner.

Going forward, the response highlighted how development corporations could be improved to ensure the most effective outcomes, including sharing plans and knowledge with communities, but also governmental departments such as Homes England. In this way, an aggregation of expertise, funding and power can ensure better results, whilst enabling a cohesive and comprehensive strategy for the regenerations of regions.

Following the review, practical steps are being taken to enhance accessibility and tailor development corporations to individual local circumstances. The ongoing reforms, as reflected in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, aim to make these entities more efficient and adaptable, acknowledging their potential as powerful drivers for project delivery. Whilst the government highlighted the benefits of the existence of development corporations, it does acknowledge the fact that there are other means of regeneration which can be used to make a difference across regions.

If you are looking to develop interventions for today’s programmes but want to ensure that we don’t overlook the lessons from the past, then do contact Nigel Wilcock at or on 07747 085400 and join the discussion.

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