Design-led regeneration has been promoted in the UK since 1999 with varying degrees of success, and it is an increasingly important tool in the drive for greater urban competitiveness, at least in local government rhetoric. This paper focuses on experience in Cardiff, the Capital of Wales, and in particular the regeneration of Cardiff Bay over the last two decades. Unique among British Urban Development Corporations CBDC was charged with achieving high standards of design in regeneration, and this paper evaluates its efforts against its seven stated objectives. It explains how, and why, the Corporation, and subsequently the City Council, failed to achieve these objectives, and what the implications of these failures are for smaller cities, and particularly those in Wales. It identifies the mismatch between the development ambitions and market size and trends, and suggests that a much more inclusive, collaborative, focused and master-planned approach to brownfield development is required in future. This needs to be backed by a more interventionist and policy/guidance-based control process that raises the general quality of design, rather than a mega-project focused project approach that proceeds largely outside the planning process.
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