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A comparison of public-private partnership development of previously used land in the UK

Williams, David; Atkinson, Rob; Tallon, Andrew


David Williams


In the UK public-private partnerships are currently the only method of developing previously used land. How these partnerships are formed and how they work can differ considerably however, depending on the approach taken by the partners. Through interviews with the key actors, including the developers, local authorities and interest groups, the paper explores three case studies of urban regeneration projects in the south-west of England: Harbourside Bristol; Gloucester Quays; and Firepool, Taunton. The paper is designed to identify the processes, procedures, contracts and relationships that exist and enabled the regeneration process to occur.
At the time of selecting the case studies there were over 600 regeneration projects taking place in the UK. These were predominantly focused to the south and south west of the country. Many of the large-scale regeneration schemes such as London Docklands have been studied extensively and it was noted that there has been little research on the impact of development on small-medium towns and cities in the UK, and this is a knowledge gap that the paper has been designed to address. The background to each of the selected case study, shows why they are of interest.
The first case study is Bristol Harbourside, a city centre location that had been awaiting redevelopment for a number of decades. The land owners and City Council created the Harbourside Sponsors’ Group in 1993 to identify the appropriate developers for the site and bring funding to the city. Developers Crest Nicholson were chosen to develop the area in 1997, and had to go through several planning applications and met with considerable public opposition before the final masterplan was approved in 2001 and was completed in 2015.
The second case study is Gloucester Quays, a small to medium city location. Gloucestershire County Council, along with the now defunct Regional Authority founded a regeneration company in 2004 to bring investment to the city and this included the £200m development of the Quays by Peel Holdings and British Waterways (the landowners).
Firepool, Taunton is a property led development of the former livestock market and railway yards, close to the mainline railway station. The local authority set up the Taunton Vision in 2002 to develop the consultation process for the redevelopment of the town. In addition to the development the County Council were awarded funding for a new distributor road adjacent to the western section of the development to ease traffic movements within the city centre.
The similarities and differences between the partnerships and how the developments proceeded was examined to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, with an institutional map developed to provide a greater level of understanding and will help identify the best practices for future public-private partnership developments.

This paper forms part of the PARCOUR project is funded by the FAPESP-ESRC-NOW joint call ‘Sustainable Urban Development’.


Williams, D., Atkinson, R., & Tallon, A. (2016, November). A comparison of public-private partnership development of previously used land in the UK. Paper presented at RSA Winter Conference 2016

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name RSA Winter Conference 2016
Start Date Nov 24, 2016
End Date Nov 25, 2016
Acceptance Date Aug 24, 2016
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords urban regeneration, public-private partnerships, public interest
Additional Information Title of Conference or Conference Proceedings : RSA Winter Conference 2016