On 16 November 2000 the Deputy Prime Minister launched a new Urban White Paper entitled Our Towns and Cities: The Future (DETR 2000b). This document laid down a vast array of policy initiatives dealing with the social, economic and environmental dimensions of urban life. It was billed as presenting a new 'joined-up' and long-term approach to the co-ordination of financial-fiscal measures, policy agendas (including planning), and the functioning of various government and non-governmental agencies, all seeking to promote urban 'renewal' and arrest long-term decline and under-investment. Such a document, the first White Paper to address exclusively urban policy issues for some 23 years, was constructed upon other works, notably the findings of the Urban Task Force (chaired by Lord Rogers) (Urban Task Force 1999), and research reports into The State of English Cities and Living in Urban England: Attitudes and Aspirations (DETR 2000c). The White Paper set itself a number of ambitious targets, with detailed monitoring by a newly formed cabinet committee and Urban Summit in 2002.
The creation of environmental sustainability, local participation and mixed communities in urban area renewal represented key themes that reverberated throughout the White Paper and warrant closer inspection. In 20 years time, it seems reasonable to conclude, commentators will look back to 16 November 2000 either as a day when new thinking emerged to shape the fundamental approach to urban renewal, or when yet another raft of regeneration initiatives was launched that failed to understand the complex interrelationship between economics, planning and society. This chapter will focus primarily on the implications of these new initiatives for physical planning, although other (social and economic) policy areas will be dealt with where appropriate.
Demographic change over the last 100 or so years has resulted in a population movement from rural to urban areas. At the start of the twentieth century around 10 per cent of the world's population lived in towns and cities. A century later this figure exceeds 50 per cent. This urban population accounts for almost all pollution (Urban Task Force 1999), while England's urban