space shaper, place maker, policy advisor


A Case Study of Inverness, Scotland, UK

Real estate development is an intensely social process dependent on rich networks of relations between varied actors across the public and private sectors. Much previous research has focused on the extent to which such relations are often formalised in large cities or across major metropolitan areas through the creation of shared coalitions of interest intended to promote urban growth. Relatively little attention has been given to the nature of informal network relations in smaller cities, which is the particular focus of this research. 

Together with Prof David Adams and Prof Iain Docherty, both colleagues at the University of Glasgow, we draw on case study research undertaken in the city of Inverness, the capital of the Highlands in the north of Scotland. The paper we are preparing at the moment reveals how disruption and informality characterise the local development network, producing a strong reliance on network construction through trust and reputation.

We focus on competition and collaboration can exist side by side in such informal networks, and the continuous play between teh actors involved heavily shapes any attempt made to artificially construct a shared agenda or ‘partnership’. Control over the land needed for urban growth is seen to provide a particular focus around which these tensions play out since it can enable particular interests to gain rapid network dominance. ​We show who the key landowners in the area are and how they have influenced the development of Inverness.     

The latest strategy for Inverness, courtesy of Stuart Black, the Highland Council

These findings raise important concerns for the way in which small cities should seek to promote their own growth and especially on whether they should rely on informal local development networks to grow the city or whether they should try to construct formal coalitions of interest that may attract more externally-based actors.