What is the value of 'urban agility': an investigation into the rhetoric and reality of urban adaptation in England

Kevin Muldoon-Smith, Paul Greenhalgh

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Post industrial cities have recently seen an exponential increase in vacant and underutilised land and property. In response, this article introduces the principles of ‘urban agility' (and its method: adaptive re-use) which is a heuristic concept that can be used to inform urban adaptation. The paper contrasts this approach with urban financial policy in England, revealing tension between the traditional aims of urban planning/renewal and the current fixation with urban capitalisation. Whilst the rhetoric of government policy in England is generally supportive with regard to 'urban agility,' evidenced by the recent relaxation of permitted development rights in relation to office to residential conversion, its agents of change are not. The paper concludes that contemporary mechanisms of urban finance preclude 'urban agility' and are preoccupied with buoyant economic areas and new build development. This ignores the latent value and transient possibilities of existing property stock and the dynamic needs of occupier demand. The key urban finance mechanism in England; the retained business rate model, precludes investment in existing urban development. This prohibition creates a significant barrier with regard to temporary and permanent means of countering urban depreciation and obsolescence. What this situation demands is a re-imagining of the prevalent urban business model based on progressive ideals and methods of urban value.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2015
EventTPUD - Transience and Permanence in Urban Development - Sheffield, UK
Duration: 15 Jan 2015 → …


WorkshopTPUD - Transience and Permanence in Urban Development
Period15/01/15 → …


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