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An Evaluation of the New Life in Urban Scotland Initiative - Research Findings

DescriptionThis study assesses The New Life for Urban Scotland (New Life) initiative launched in 1988, drawing out findings and lessons to inform future regeneration policy.
ISBN0 7480 8265 4
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateOctober 22, 1999
Development Department Research Programme Research Findings No 70
An Evaluation of the New Life for Urban Scotland Initiative

Roger Tarling, Andy Hirst, Ben Rowland, John Rhodes and Peter Tyler
Cambridge Policy Consultants

The New Life for Urban Scotland (New Life) was announced in 1988 and was a landmark in the history of urban regeneration in Scotland ('Progress in Partnership', The Scottish Office, 1993). Four peripheral housing estates were selected for the establishment of new urban regeneration Partnerships, Castlemilk in Glasgow, Ferguslie Park in Paisley, Wester Hailes in Edinburgh and Whitfield in Dundee. The Partnerships were Scottish Office led and were expected to provide valuable lessons on how to tackle urban regeneration, thus setting a pattern for the future. This study was the final evaluation of the initiative and was undertaken over a period of 19 months from February 1998 to September 1999. The Scottish Office withdrew from the chair of the Partnership in Whitfield in 1995 and has withdrawn from the chair in the other areas during the evaluation period (Ferguslie Park, March 1998; Wester Hailes, September 1998; Castlemilk, March 1999), leaving in place successor arrangements. The study did not produce four area reports as the interim evaluations had but sought to assess the initiative as a whole, drawing out findings and lessons to inform future regeneration policy.

Main Findings

  • As a pioneering approach to urban regeneration the New Life initiative has been successful in furthering policy development in a more informed and focused way. Clear lessons have emerged which need to be addressed as the Scottish Executive develops regeneration policy and approaches in Scotland;
  • The initiative has reinforced the importance of a comprehensive approach to tackling regeneration and demonstrated that results take time to emerge and require long term effort to effect. The 10 year initiative has made some significant inroads but problems of disadvantage on the estates still remain to be addressed;
  • Overall, £485million of public expenditure (at 1998 prices) was spent on the initiative. In addition, £75m of private sector monies was levered in, mainly for housing. New and rehabilitated housing has taken the biggest slice of public expenditure (£321m). In total, 3726 new houses were built, 9253 improved or rehabilitated and 6859 demolished. Local authority owned housing stock reduced from 96% to 56% over the 10 year period;
  • £55m of public expenditure was spent on enterprise, employment and training of residents. 18,582 job placements were made, 9726 training places provided and 3203 positive training outcomes achieved. Over 22,000 people were given formal job advice, guidance and/or counselling. During the life of the initiative the proportion of the working age population in employment rose significantly in Ferguslie Park (28% to 41%) and Whitfield (42% to 62%), remained constant in Castlemilk (38% to 36%) and fell in Wester Hailes (57% to 48%);
  • Despite remaining problems in the 4 areas, resident satisfaction with the estates increased by 27% between 1988 and 1998. The image of the estates also improved in the eyes of external residents and businesses;
  • In comparison with other large scale regeneration schemes (Single Regeneration Challenge Fund, The London Docklands Development Corporation) the New Life initiative has provided value for money;
  • Issues of population mobility and churning serve to mitigate against regeneration efforts and the results of the initiative need to be seen within this context. As job ready and employed people leave the areas they have tended to be replaced with workless households. Problems of poverty and disadvantage remain firmly rooted in neighbourhoods within each area;
  • The research has identified the retention of the population as crucial to enhancing and facilitating regeneration effort. The initiative has been successful in slowing down the rate of de-population of the estates. Overall, two-thirds of existing residents remain in the areas but they may have moved across neighbourhoods during the 10 year regeneration effort;
  • Programmes tackling health and education received belated attention in the Partnership strategies. Earlier action on crime and community safety linked to more intuitive neighbourhood management may have reduced the fear of crime and created earlier population stability.

Aims and methods

The study aimed to assess the extent to which the policy aims and objectives of the New Life initiative have been achieved; to identify the impact of the policy; to assess the role of the Partnership models adopted; and to draw out lessons to inform future regeneration policy.

It was undertaken by means of a large scale interview programme with Partners and Agencies, housing associations and local schools. Secondary data was obtained from the records of Partnerships, Partners and other relevant agencies and bodies. Project information was obtained through the Urban Programme monitoring and evaluation reports.

Household survey data was available for 1988 (1990 for Castlemilk) and 1994. Another comparable survey was undertaken in 1998. Baseline reports and interim evaluations were also used. Other new surveys focused on the perceptions of residents of areas surrounding the estates and nearby businesses.

Lessons for research and evaluation methods

  • Evaluating over a 19 month period enabled the researchers to see the Partnerships in action as they developed and/or implemented their successor arrangements;
  • Secondary data had limitations, particularly with regard to the early years of the period and it was difficult to compile evidence if it had not been collected systematically at the time;
  • Household surveys were extremely valuable in illuminating the disparities between individuals, and the extent of multiple deprivation for individuals and households.


Expenditures were expressed in gross and net terms to provide estimates of the total expenditure and the amount of money committed to the areas as a result of their designation. In total, measured in 1998 prices, £485 million of public money was spent on Partnership activities, roughly £301 million of which would not have been spent in the four areas in the absence of designation. Just under half of the expenditure was in Castlemilk. Two thirds of the expenditures were for housing renewal programmes. The Scottish Office, Urban Programme funding and other Local Authority expenditure accounted for just over half, with Scottish Homes contributing 35%, and the LECs and other Agencies contributing 5% each. Private sector contributions were primarily for private housing developments, all of which during the Partnership period were supported by a Scottish Homes GRO grant. There was however significant sports, leisure and retail development, particularly in Wester Hailes.

Key outcomes

Key outcomes for housing, the physical environment and the general satisfaction with housing quality and the environment of the area have shown substantial improvement over the period. The housing programmes in the Partnerships have brought about considerable renewal that has improved the fabric, internal quality and security of the accommodation, as well as bringing the benefits of an improved image for the area and a reduced fear of crime. There has been substantial change in the tenure mix, from a situation where 96% of housing units were local authority owned to a situation where 44% of units were for either owner occupation or housing association tenancies. These changes have brought more decentralised housing management into the estates, both through the housing associations and through the local authority offices and have helped to create more stable populations over the 10 year period.

All areas were successful in generating job placements for residents but long term employment outcomes have been mixed. There have been major increases in the proportion of people of working age in employment in Ferguslie Park and Whitfield but little change in Castlemilk and a decline in Wester Hailes. Outcomes reflecting softer issues associated with the quality of life have not shown major changes, with continued low educational attainment and poor health, compared to the Scottish average. However, this only demonstrates that these issues are intergenerational and deep-seated. What is important is that attitudes have been changed, awareness of issues has increased and long-term strategies are in place. Overall, residents were more satisfied with their area generally than they were 10 years ago.

The fact that all the Partnerships included The Scottish Office, local authorities, statutory agencies, the private sector and the community has enabled comprehensive regeneration to be undertaken. The role that The Scottish Office has played by taking the chair helped to maintain the seniority of Board representatives from the local authorities and statutory agencies throughout the period.

The original Partnership strategies, although developed with local communities, were heavily influenced by the priority given to housing, environmental and employment objectives over social issues such as education, health and crime. It was only later in the life of the Partnerships that the social strategies were more fully developed and in place to address these issues. This meant that the full requirements of comprehensive regeneration were only latterly recognised.

Whilst there was an awareness from the beginning that a holistic approach to comprehensive regeneration was essential, this was understood to mean that actions and strategies should be developed across all of the service areas. This failed to see, anticipate and respond to the interactions and dynamics of regeneration. Employment placements would be filled by the 'job ready' who might then leave. Private sector developments might, particularly if on the perimeter, simply cease to be part of the community. Empty units would because of housing allocations be filled by single homeless individuals and the more difficult to place. Tackling crime by prevention does not necessarily reduce the perceptions and fear of crime. A key conclusion drawn from these outcomes is that strategies were not part of a wider vision, which addresses themes, rather than traditional service areas, did not consider the implications of being part of wider area context and did not take account of the dynamics of these estates.

Key lessons

  • The value and benefit of regeneration resources can only be fully realised by concentrating effort on a stabilised population;
  • Residents' image of their estate is based on the reality of living there. Therefore, action to improve the quality of life for them will strengthen the sense of well being and community and increase residents' desire to stay;
  • However, actions that seek to remove the barriers to social inclusion for existing residents were not given sufficient priority. Damage caused to the image of the estates by, for example, visible substance abuse, intrusive behaviour in public places, graffiti and litter, homelessness and fear of crime increases the desire to leave;
  • People living outside the areas are heavily influenced by media reports relating to the areas and their residents. The most influential perception is the level of crime on the estates. The Partnership can address this by promoting events and good news stories about the estate. It is a first step in changing perceptions that can only be really achieved by drawing outsiders into the area, mainly for retail and leisure, so that they can see and experience improvements for themselves and tell their friends and relatives;
  • Businesses are also affected by the media stories about residents of the estates but even more so by the views of other businesses. The Business Support Groups have a role to play by promoting education-business links and spreading good examples among their contacts about good experiences of recruitment of estate residents;
  • Retail facilities and neighbourhood centres/facilities are important features of these estates. They provide access to local services, places to meet and interact and contribute to healthy lifestyles. However, there is a delicate balance between their viability and the affordability for local residents. If they are to succeed in drawing outsiders on to the estate, they need high quality goods and services and a competitive range of them. But they need to be accessible to local residents if the community is to retain its sense of 'ownership'. The key components, and the most vulnerable, are the anchor stores in retail centres;
  • Community involvement was at the heart of the New Life Initiative. The emphasis early on was about engaging the community in the Partnership process, and built on community organisations that already existed. Whilst this was an essential and valuable part of the process, it is arguable that it did not go far enough in recognising the inequalities in resources, capacity to deliver activities and ability to make strategic decisions. Much more thought needs to be given as to how to build relationships of trust and mutual respect between organisations and communities so that there can be effective transfer of local knowledge held by the community and transfer of development skills held by the organisations. This would be a major contribution to the strength of the successor arrangements;
  • The partnership approach to delivering the initiative was successful, bringing about a synergy resulting in an estimated additionality rate of 62% of the gross public expenditure devoted to the initiative. The longer term sustainability of the structures set up by the partnerships will depend largely on their capacity for plugging into wider structures and networks, mainstreaming and increasing community capacity and resources.

'An Evaluation of the New Life for Urban Scotland Initiative', the research report summarised in this Research Findings, is available priced £10.00. Cheques should be made payable to The Stationery Office and addressed to:

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