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Action Space - Local Development Agency Review: The case of Laganside Corporation, Belfast, UK


Action Space - Local Development Agency Review: The case of Laganside Corporation, Belfast, UK

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Urban Development Corporations were the flagship of British urban policy in the 1980s, and between 1981 and 1993 a total of twelve were established.

The Laganside Corporation, Belfast, was set up in 1989 with the overall aim of regenerating an initial 140 hectare area of inner city land close to the River Lagan.  The legislation governing the Corporation set how this had to be achieved: by bringing land and buildings into effective use, encouraging public and private investment and the development of existing and new industry and commerce, creating an attractive environment and ensuring that housing, social, recreational and cultural facilities were made available to encourage people to live and work in the area.

The OECD was invited by the Laganside Corporation to analyse the impact made by the Corporation and its contribution to the economic and regeneration of Belfast.  The timing of the Review was important as at the time the Corporation was preparing for closure.  The OECD Review Expert Team used four key factors to assess the Corporation: economic, leadership, governance and implementation roles.  Overall, the Laganside Corporation was highly successful in these areas and the case study makes a strong contribution to the debate on local delivery vehicles as agents of change.

The outcomes of regeneration in Laganside are multifaceted and demonstrate the high level of achievement of the Corporation: tackling co-ordination failure by planning and visioning, fostering a new leadership and partnership role, improving the efficiency of urban property markets, increasing the urban quality of life and sense of place, providing good information and instruments to improve investment returns in cities, confidence in Belfast as a place, city centre living, city centre functions including retail, entertainment, hospitality and administration, a rapid growth in jobs, develop diversification of its sectors and to reverse the long term decline in population.


  • The top down model used did not take account of the role of local government.  Belfast City Council only had an advisory role on the Corporation’s Board and lacked any real decision making power.  The prospect of control being moved from the Corporation to the City Council provides the opportunity for co-ordination between various administrative levels to be considered more carefully.  This integration would enable greater co-operation, jointly agreed projects and consensus on management approaches.
  • Greater attention should be paid to partnerships in the future particularly those with local agencies and other agencies in order to integrate policies and actions in a more effective way. 
  • In the future there should be an increased focus on creating an entrepreneurial cultural and more active support of small and medium-sized local enterprises. Whilst the existing Corporation would be closing, there was option for creating a new mission and a new agency which focused on the whole metropolitan area of Belfast.  The Corporation therefore has the potential to become part of a new development agency which would enable it to build on its past experiences and integrate its learnings from the Review process.


Why the approach is relevant to Central, East and South-East Europe?

City and regional development agencies are a global phenomenon which play a unique role in the creation of sustainable economic cities and regions across the globe.  Most agencies are created to fulfill several rationales simultaneously.  The very nature of Development Agencies is demanding and even more so when it is recognised that local economic development is constantly evolving.  This is especially so in Central, East and South-East Europe. 

Involvement in the Review process will enable city and regional development agencies across this region to share experiences and ideas, to improve their capacity to continue to evolve and perform at the highest level and to carve out a niche for themselves in local economic development.

The OECD Development Agency Review Series takes place at an important juncture in the evolution of agencies worldwide and provides an agency or city with the opportunity to have its progress reviewed by an international team of experts, to have their successes and good practices documented and widely disseminated and to have a peer review process, involving both individual experts and practitioners and the representatives of OECD member countries. 


For more information on a Regional Development Agency Review, please contact