Nevertheless, valuable conclusions are drawn from the available data. The authors devise a five-point scale ((1) significant encouragement, (2) encouragement, (3) neutral impact, (4) discouragement and (5) severe discouragement) (ibid. :142-3) denoting the extent to which the landowner has encouraged the development of his site. Using the five tests of development feasibility devised by Barrett et. al. (1978), which relate to ownership, public procedures, project viability, physical conditions and market conditions (Adams, 1994:49-52).
Adams et. al. find that just over half the owners encouraged or significantly encouraged redevelopment during the research period of 1991 to 1995. Approximately a third had a neutral impact on the redevelopment of their site. Fewer than one fifth discouraged development. Those that significantly encouraged redevelopment did so via such activities as assembling land, gaining planning permission, obtaining development finance and securing tenants. Those considered to have encouraged it intended either to complete the necessary actions themselves or to pass the task over to others at a later date (Adams et. al. 2002:143).
Those considered to have discouraged development often did so for rational reasons, preferring to keep their land vacant or in its present state for future use. There was also evidence of unwillingness to sell due to unrealistic expectations of price. This observation is in keeping with the earlier findings of Goodchild and Munton who attribute this lack of realism to limitations in landowners’ abilities to evaluate and anticipate market changes, in spite of a high general awareness of market conditions (1985:95).
Further, it concurs with the Llewelyn-Davies study of the re-use of brownfield land in Strathclyde, which highlights ‘a determination [on the part of landowners] to hold out for the highest possible value on a site [and] an unrealistic/optimistic assessment of the value of a site and its attractiveness to developers’ as being among the main issues constraining or discouraging development on brownfield sites (1996:43). In view of the above, it would appear that rather than coming up with substantively new information and observations, Adams et. rmed some of the logic expressed in previous studies.
Nevertheless, by doing so on the basis of such sound empirical reasoning, they successfully answer their first question, as to whether or not brownfield landowners impede or encourage redevelopment, and go some way toward formalising the mythology as to their behaviour. Equally, in the manner in which they deal with their second research question – ‘does the tendency to impede or encourage redevelopment vary between different types of owner? ‘ – they take an evolutionary rather than revolutionary approach.
Here, they refer to a number of factors highlighted by Goodchild and Munton (1985) as determining the character of the landowner, and essentially develop Adams’ own 1994 analysis of the Greenwich Reach case study in a comparative direction, focussing once again on the four provincial cities used previously. Looking first of all at the legal personality of owners, that is the distinction between the individual landholder or trustee and the private or public limited company, Adams et. al. find that public sector owners were more likely to encourage or significantly encourage redevelopment than those in the private sector (73% versus 53%).
Local authorities were particularly active in pushing redevelopment forward. This finding is an interesting one, but it does not add substantively to Adams’ earlier observation from the Greenwich Reach case study that ‘not all individual owners, companies or public bodies behave alike in planning and development. For example, some individual owners participate enthusiastically in local plan preparation while others ignore the process altogether. ‘ (1994:95).
The role of ownership reasons, in other words the motive for ownership of land, was found to be significant in determining the degree to which brownfield landowners encouraged redevelopment of their sites. Of those whose main stated reason for ownership was to sell the site in future, some 82% were found to have encouraged or significantly encouraged development (Adams, et. al. 2002:145). By contrast, only 22% of those who wished to retain the site for their own use without any development had encouraged redevelopment.
The fact that some of the latter group did encourage redevelopment coincides with Goodchild and Munton’s earlier (1985) observation that ‘owner-occupiers are primarily concerned with use value, but may be tempted to sell by high exchange value. ‘ By the same token, an examination of the role of development within ownership strategies renders the predictable observation that owners whose main business lay in property were much more likely to encourage development than those to whom property was peripheral to their main activities (Adams, et. al. 2002:146).
If the rigorous empirical framework employed by Adams et. al. in response to their first two questions ratifies the mythology that they set out to question, then their answer to the third question succeeds less fully. It does so not through shoddiness of empirical method: Indeed, their findings are based on detailed contextual interviews with 36 national and local organisations. But rather, one suspects, they have again been hampered by the limitations of space in undertaking a review of complex principles and research that would better be examined in a longer article.
Their argument is in many respects a progression of the work of Patsy Healey, whose highly abstract institutional model of the development process (1992) deploys a structure and agency model to characterise the ‘complex interplay between structural driving forces which shape individual behaviour and the strategies and interests of individual agents engaged in the development process. ‘ (Healey, 1994:180).
She describes a general interrelationship between rules, resources and ideas, the ideology of the state and the developer and the strategies and interests of the developer which, she argues, can serve as a base from which to understand the motivations of developers in any institutional, political or economic context. This approach has been convincingly criticised by Hooper (1992) who contends that it is too abstract and descriptive, and that it lacks a material referent and a contextual apparatus to enable it to engage with actual events.
In being less ambitious in terms of its scope (it attempts only to explain the motivations of brownfield landowners in a known institutional setting – not all developers, everywhere), the approach used by Adams et. al. is somewhat more credible. It argues that, ‘at two levels, the processes of urban change and redevelopment are critically dependent on the way in which the strategies, interests and actions of those who own vacant urban land and obsolete urban property connect with broader structural forces. ‘ (2002:147-8).
The landowner is regarded as unable to influence the so-called upper level, at which social, economic and political change manifests itself in diminishing demands or needs for existing land use, leading to urban vacancy. His success in development is determined, rather, at the lower level, where the most successful owners capture resources, master rules and exploit new ideas. In practice, the significance of factors that Adams et. al. place at the upper level is satisfactorily demonstrated by their empirical findings, as described in the chapter.
Indeed, they argue that over 50 of the 80 research sites had originally become vacant as a result of structural economic change evident, for example, in manufacturing decline (2002:149). They argue that the symptom of this was a tendency on the part of the private sector to extract as much capital as possible from its sites by encouraging retail development. Another case example is used to demonstrate the importance of national property market cycles in terms of their impact on the timing of developments.
Convincing evidence is also proposed to the effect that two other factors, namely national planning policy and public expenditure priorities impact restrictively on the behaviour of landowners. In the case of the former, reference is made to the increasingly restrictive policy toward greenfield development (as outlined in BGPSD, 2000 and POST, 1998), which has encouraged developers to turn to brownfield sites as a forced substitute. The allocation of factors to the lower level is somewhat more contestable, however. This is the level at which the precise nature of any response to changes at the upper level is determined.
In some respects, the categorisations are intuitive: for example, local planning policies, being largely subjective, are thought to be subject to the influence of a number of different parties. Accordingly, 52% of owners interviewed felt able to exert some influence over local planning policies (Adams et. al. 2002:153), while only 12% felt so able in the context of national planning policy (ibid. 151). By a similar token, cultural values and ideas are highlighted in the context of a Dundee landowner’s ability to redevelop a particularly unattractive brownfield site close to a motorway into a technology park (ibid. 154).
These particular factors correspond well to the notion of a lower level, where the agent reclaims a degree of influence vis-i?? -vis the structure. The more controversial allocation to the lower level, however, is that relating to the availability of development grants and subsidies promoting brownfield redevelopment. While they make the case that ingenuity is often required in the procurement of such incentives, Adams et. al. also refer in detail to the EC’s decision in December 1999 to declare the UK’s Partnership Investment Programme unlawful (ibid. 153).
Taking into account the supremacy of European Union Law, this judgement effectively elevates the availability of grants and subsidies to the higher level of the Adams et. al. analytical framework, outside the scope of negotiation of landowners and developers. This analytical flaw is magnified by the great importance of such incentives in overcoming the adverse characteristics of brownfield development. According to the Llewelyn-Davies report, ‘the size of the public subsidy required to make private sector development viable on brownfield land is quite significant. ‘ (1996:10).
Meanwhile, in cases where brownfield owners are concerned about the implications of decontaminating their sites, ‘some state intervention may be necessary to bring sites to market and/or attract private capital to finance reclamation and redevelopment. ‘ (Meyer, 2000:1). To conclude, Adams, Disberry, Hutchison and Munjoma’s chapter makes a substantial contribution to formalising, if not dispelling, the prevailing mythology regarding the behaviour and motivations of brownfield landowners. The empirical research on which the chapter is based is rich in both depth and rigour.
In answering the first two research questions they pose, the authors do not make observations that differ greatly from previous ones made both by themselves and others. This merely adds weight to the theoretical underpinnings of their study. Their explanation of the motives of brownfield landowners is a sophisticated though flawed one. It represents a substantial improvement over the structure/agency model proposed by Healey (1992), in being simpler and in admitting of engagement with actual events.
The final query raised here does not demolish the account, but rather highlights the need for it to be more receptive to changes in the legal influents of property development determined above the national level. 1 In passing, the term development pressure is not defined, though it seems fair to assume that it refers to the demand for new property expressed in terms of the number of new developments for which planning permission is sought in a given period of time. Research Concepts for the Built Environment (M. A. European Real Estate) Edward Andrew O’Brien