still another few weeks of the course to go, but might actually post occasionally from now on, here’s hoping.

In the meantime here is my dissertation abstract so you can feel some of my pain.

Can community assets help stimulate neighbourhood identity and participation in placemaking in urban areas?

Successive governments have positioned community ownership and management of land and building assets as a vehicle for community empowerment and increased civic participation, while the current government has linked these factors to neighbourhood identity through its localism agenda, particularly its reforms of the planning system.

Through a literature review, case study content analysis, survey of community organisations, councillors, professionals and members of the public and a series of interviews with community-based and professional stakeholders, this paper finds that in some cases, particularly where a threat to the community drives motivation and cohesion, community assets can be a factor in stimulating neighbourhood identity and community participation through encouraging volunteering, generating a sense of ownership and responsibility, increasing the prominence of communities of place in everyday experience and building community capacity and social capital.

However, significant difficulties exist for broadening both community control of assets and neighbourhood-based participation in placemaking: a skills gap in both public and third sectors, the possibility of divergent interests with businesses and local authorities, the need to engage people beyond their key interests and maintain momentum over long periods, a lack of financial resources and inequalities between areas, and a focus of key community stakeholders on more tangible outcomes.

Though many inspiring possibilities arose throughout, the cautions and concerns emerging through both primary and secondary research suggest that considerable additional work by central and local government and others will be required to build community capacity, ensure the presence of suitable local democratic frameworks, support the generation and fair allocation of financial resources and help communities to work together to define working neighbourhoods in order for both community asset control and localist planning initiatives to achieve mainstream success in urban areas.

The paper concludes by suggesting some possible changes to policy and practice that could help achieve this.