Redhills Chair of Trustees Professor John Tomaney recently illuminated a pressing contemporary issue at Oxford University: the dynamics of social infrastructure in what are often termed “left-behind places.” The occasion marked the discussion of his recent publication bearing the same title, which shed light on the intricate interplay between social infrastructure and the socioeconomic landscapes of these marginalised communities.

The work, co-authored by Redhills’ Maeve Minns, Lucy Nararajan, Dimitrios Panayotopoulos-Tsiros, Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, and Myfanwy Taylor, delves into the essence of these once-thriving industrial hubs, now relegated to the peripheries of economic prosperity. These “left-behind places” stand as poignant reminders of the fractures within our societies, where the promise of progress has bypassed entire communities, leaving behind a landscape of neglect and disillusionment.

The lecture served as a platform to explore the nuanced narratives of these locales, tracing their journey from prosperity to neglect and, perhaps, the tentative steps towards renewal. Through meticulous research and poignant anecdotes, Tomaney navigated the labyrinth of factors contributing to the making, unmaking, and potentially remaking of social infrastructure in these forgotten corners of the modern world.

The event, hosted as part of the part-time MSc in Sustainable Urban Development program, underscores the imperative of integrating academic rigour with real-world challenges. In confronting the complexities of urban development, it becomes increasingly evident that sustainable progress cannot be achieved in isolation from the social fabric that binds communities together.

Through Tomaney’s insights, attendees were confronted with a stark reality: the infrastructure of a society extends far beyond physical structures; it encompasses the intangible bonds that weave individuals into the fabric of community. The neglect of social infrastructure in these left-behind places serves as a poignant reminder of the dangers of overlooking the human dimensions of development.

The challenges faced by left-behind places are not merely isolated anomalies but symptomatic of deeper fissures within our societies. Addressing these disparities demands a concerted effort to reimagine urban development through a lens of inclusivity and social cohesion.

You can watch the lecture below: