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Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Eleventh Report



ECONOMIC COMPETITIVENESS

85. The evidence we received about economic policy concentrated on the need to: see towns and cities as the focus of economic activity; curb out-of-town development; attract innovative industries to urban areas; and get more balanced growth in the regions. We questioned Ministers, in particular Mr Caborn and Lord Sainsbury from the DTI, about witnesses' concerns.

86. The views expressed by these Ministers gave the Committee some grounds for optimism. Lord Sainsbury recognised the importance of the urban economy. In particular, his Department's study of business clusters (ie. the way that similar businesses are clustered together) had shown that "clusters are basically an urban phenomenon".[114] "They are very much more (in) towns or urban areas because what is the most striking factor about them is the extent to which people operating them want to have very close contact with the other players ... and indeed with centres of excellence".[115] He put forward the multi-media film cluster in Soho as a classic example.[116]

87. Lord Sainsbury thought that cities were in a good position to take advantage of the trend towards 'knowledged-based' jobs. He told us that the criteria which tended to attract them were "centres of excellence, research and so on. That is why there are many opportunities in urban areas such as Manchester where there is a real concentration of those facilities in the centre, to draw them into areas of urban renewal."[117] Research and development were very important to the economic well-being of regions, and it was particularly important to stimulate spin-off companies.

88. The Ministers agreed that cities could be prosperous if they were able to attract skilled mobile workers. To do this, however, they needed to be offer a good quality of life. To be economically successful they needed to pursue the design excellence promoted by the Urban Task Force. Lord Sainsbury told us that "one of the more obvious factors about clusters, particularly hi-tech clusters, is by and large you are dealing with very mobile workers who can go to a number of places. One of the criteria they take before joining a company is the quality of life in a particular area."[118]

89. Of key importance was more positive planning. That meant that there had to be property available for businesses of all kinds to expand into. This would not necessarily be expensive ready-built workshops and factory units, but also cheap and unusual older properties. Mr Caborn told us that the Government was trying through regional planning guidance to get planning authorities to become more proactive with their economic development departments.[119]

90. The Government acknowledged that most towns and cities, were dependent on the state of the regional or sub-regional economy, and recognised the need to address the imbalances between and within regions. Lord Sainsbury told us that if the country were going to be a "truly competitive", it "cannot be on the basis that there are significant geographical regions which are not participating in the economic success and competitiveness. Therefore it seems to me that any industrial policy has to consider the geographical dimension."[120] The DTI aims to give "a tool kit" to organisations like the Regional Development Agencies, the sub-regional partnerships and local authorities" to "get on and address the issues in their particular area."[121] Mr Caborn told us that the Regional Development Agencies in their short existence "had brought together strategic thinking in terms of industrial and economic strategy".[122]

91. Finally, the Government had in place a series of measures to assist urban regeneration, in particular in assisting more deprived areas. The DTI Minister, Mr Caborn, told us "I want to underline the DTI's competitive and enterprise agenda is underpinning Government's work on urban regeneration and that the social and economic regenerations do go hand in hand."[123] He stressed the role of the Small Business Service in assisting urban regeneration.[124]

92. However, there were a number of aspects of Government policy which did not appear to meet witnesses' concerns. While welcoming the department's measures to assist urban regeneration, we were concerned that the DTI saw such measures as the essential part of its urban policy and its main contribution to the White Paper. Ministers led us to believe that this was the case. Lord Sainsbury of Turville told us "We have a whole range of policies which complement what was being said in that report (Urban Task Force Report) and developments in terms like the Phoenix Fund, the Enterprise Grant Scheme and the Enterprise Fund generally which are about helping disadvantaged areas to put the economic base back in that. I think that fits in very well with what the Rogers Report was saying."[125] Economic policy for urban areas must be more than a collection of initiatives to assist deprived urban areas.

93. Most importantly the DTI does not sufficiently recognise the need to make the economic competitiveness of urban areas a priority. DTI policy does not discriminate in favour of urban areas and against out-of-town developments. The Department's memorandum pointed out "One key point pervades: DTI's work across the board is intended to ensure that conditions exist to encourage its sustainable economic growth across the UK. Our work is of significance in urban, suburban and rural areas and to all businesses regardless of their size or location".[126] Ministers accepted the need to restrict some out-of-town development, but, as we discuss below, their answers were not entirely satisfactory.

94. While the Government sees the importance of universities and research institutions in the economic competitiveness of urban areas and regions, particularly those in the north and midlands, its practice has been more disappointing. We questioned Lord Sainsbury on the location of the synchrotron, which is currently in Daresbury in Cheshire, but the new project is to be re-located to Oxfordshire. He argued that you could over-estimate the ability of a research establishment of that type to create a cluster, to stimulate spin-off companies. [127] "There is actually rather limited evidence that it has had much of an impact on the regional economy."[128] This has been strongly disputed. The Minister did not address a number of the consequences of the synchrotron decision. A major concern is the effect on the image of the north-west of removing the synchrotron project and the impact on the region's science base.[129] Moreover, the argument that research projects should be located to where they will produce the greatest synergy threatens much of the science base in the north, since the critical mass of scientific research is elsewhere.

95. While the Government has stressed the importance of regional policy, it could do more. Removing the synchrotron from Daresbury is, in the absence of alternatives, removing an important centre of scientific research from the region. It was suggested that research institutes, predominantly sited in the south of England, could be located in the north.[130] Similarly the Government could examine the dispersal of agencies employing skilled workers outside the south of the country where most are located. For instance, it might be appropriate in the long run to consider locating some of the DETR's agencies at towns or cities at major transport junctions such as Doncaster, Darlington or Preston.

96. Finally, witnesses raised the question of the advantages and disadvantages of restricting development in the growth areas of parts of the south and east of England.[131] More needs to be known about the consequences of such a policy, and there is a need for more detailed investigation of this subject to explore whether and how economic expansion could be channelled into other parts of those regions or other regions, or whether the effect of attempting to do so would have adverse consequences for the English economy. However, in the face of the evidence available to us the planning system identified by some as a problem to economic development can be used, by applying liberal or restrictive regimes in different localities, to achieve differential development objectives. It seems to us that local people are best placed to make this decision about how restrictive or permissive their approach to development should be.

97. The Government should seek to ensure that economic development is concentrated in urban areas, including market towns, while having regard to rural needs:

-  The DTI should re-examine its policies to ensure that they take account of spatial policies and priorities. It is not just sufficient to get economic development. It matters where it is. Out-of-town development should be an exception. This principle has been accepted in PPG 6 and should be included in other government policies, including guidance on business clusters.

-  DTI and DETR should seek to ensure that urban and regional policy are complementary through getting better co-operation between regional institutions.

-  Government should encourage knowledge and innovation-based industries to locate in northern and midland cities and towns by stimulating in these areas: the expansion of universities, the location of research and development institutions, and spin-offs from these institutions.

-  The Government should review the location of many of its own agencies, with a view to moving them, in the longer term, to towns or cities in need of significant regeneration.

SOCIAL WELL-BEING

98. Two quite different approaches to addressing the social problems in our cities were presented by witnesses: the one focuses on the need to transform the fortunes of the whole city, creating mixed communities; the other concentrates on improving the situation of individual deprived communities. These two strands of thinking reflect the different approaches taken by the Urban Task Force and the Government's Social Exclusion Unit.

99. The Urban Task Force stated:

"In responding to social problems we must avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. Developing large amount of social housing in one location does not work. Many existing social housing estates have a strong sense of community - often more so than many wealthier neighbourhoods - but there is not the economic capacity to make these neighbourhoods work over the long term....our objective should be that a visitor to an urban neighbourhood is unable to tell the difference between social and market housing".[132]

The Urban Task Force put forward a number of proposals to create mixed communities which we support, including restricting "public subsidy for social housing developments of more than 25 homes to schemes where homes for rent are integrated with shared and full-ownership housing" and ensuring new social housing is not built in areas where social housing is pre-dominant.[133] It recommended using the planning and funding system to enable more mixed housing schemes to proceed.[134] At the same time, as at Poundbury, new social housing should be included in and fully integrated into urban extensions and other new housing developments.

100. The Task Force also emphasised the important role of better design and higher density. It argued that successful urban regeneration was design led. "Promoting sustainable life styles and social inclusion in our towns and cities depends on the design of physical environment ... The Task Force's visits to Barcelona, Germany and the Netherlands confirm the importance of urban design in turning cities round. Well-designed urban districts and neighbourhoods succeed because they recognise the primary importance of the public realm, the network of space between buildings".[135] Too often housing in England, especially social housing has been built cheaply with inadequate attention to good design.

101. While the Government commissioned the Task Force to consider how to revive our towns and cities, the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU) was asked to look at different issues; "the aim of the strategy is to arrest the wholesale decline of deprived neighbourhoods, to reverse it, and prevent it from recurring" The strategy involved "action on four fronts: reviving local economies; reviving communities; ensuring decent services; and leadership and joint working".[136]

In 1998 the SEU published a report on deprived neighbourhoods.[137] Since then, as the Prime Minister observes in his Foreword to the most recent report, "18 policy action teams (PATS) have been at work involving hundreds of people from inside and outside Government on issues as varied as better management of housing estates, dealing with anti-social behaviour and ensuring investment leads to jobs which last".[138] This report, published in April 2000, brings together the main conclusions of the PATS and "invites feedback from people involved with deprived neighbourhoods". This is not the final strategy. It contains "proposals, not announcements". Following the publication of the spending review in July a final strategy will be set out.[139]

102. The Social Exclusion Unit makes a number of important suggestions which would help many deprived communities and which should be implemented. The Director of the Unit, Ms Wallace, stressed three key issues to be addressed: "how you get mainstream services to deliver partnerships into all the neighbourhoods?", whether local strategic partnerships were going to work, and neighbourhood management.[140] We consider local strategic partnerships below.

103. Better targeting of the money spent on mainstream services is a key issue for the Urban White Paper. On this there was agreement with the Urban Task Force. The question is how it should be done. The Task Force recommended that Public Service Agreements set for government departments should be amended "to include urban renaissance objectives. A single 'Urban Renaissance Public Service Agreement' should be developed to operate across Whitehall following the 2001 Spending Review".[141] The Task Force also suggested a number of performance indicators so that the main departments, DfEE, DETR, Health, Home Office, DCMS and DSS would have targets for improving the quality of services for the 20 largest urban local authorities relevant to other authorities. The SEU had other interesting suggestions such as paying GPs more to work in deprived areas.[142]

104. We were unable to take evidence directly on the Social Exclusion Unit Report since it was published at the end of our inquiry. Nevertheless the types of proposals on neighbourhood management and dealing with anti-social behaviour were supported by other witnesses and should be implemented.[143] The Chairman of the Housing Corporation stressed the need to have measures to deal with anti-social tenants such as introductory tenancies.[144] One proposal which would be particularly useful is to give local authorities powers in respect of landlords who fail to act reasonably against anti-social tenants.[145] We recommend that such a power be given to local authorities. We also think that local authorities need to consider carefully their allocation policies in low-demand estates. In particular, they should assess to what extent allocations may be adding to any existing problems.

105. In addition, Ms Wallace emphasised the importance of reviving local economies. We were told "one issue is can you get medium and big businesses in. Another is, can you encourage local entrepreneurs, local self-employment, where people who have looked at that in detail have found that a lot of the services the Government has to encourage enterprise have not been focused on these areas".[146] One service that could be improved is the small business service. The SEU argued that they should make deprived areas one of their focuses.[147] The third thing is more complex but is about looking at how all the public money which is spent in these neighbourhoods can be spent in a way that generates local jobs. "It is a common complaint that money spent in these neighbourhoods is often spent on earnings for people who do not live there".[148]

106. The majority of estates will respond to improvements to the fabric and better management practices, but not all will. The communities living in some areas in the north where there is a low demand for housing of all types are probably unsustainable despite the determination and courage of many of their residents. There is a great danger that resources spent in the ways proposed by the Social Exclusion Unit will be wasted and that the Unit's proposals will do little more than tinker with the problem.

107. A more radical approach was put forward which pointed to the success of Hulme in Manchester where a run down estate had been largely demolished and replaced by new housing following the design principles advocated by the Urban Task Force. The population density was considerably increased, and as a result people who wished to stay could, but in addition half the new housing was private homes for sale. AMEC, the strategic development partner, believed it had been a success.

"Turning round low housing demand areas in social decline is achievable (look at the example of Hulme in Manchester) but does require radical action. It is resource intensive at present because these areas have to compete with new towns and rural fringe extensions. The recommendations of the Urban Task Force, if implemented in full will produce a transformation in most areas of this type."[149]

Manchester City Council's evidence stated:

"The urban renaissance advocated and promoted by Lord Rogers Task Force, and supported by the City Council, rests crucially on a comprehensive and integrated approach to address these problems. The experience of the City Challenge programme in Hulme, to take but one example, is clear evidence of the potential to transform an inner city area which, less than eight years ago, had little demand for housing and offered few housing choices to local people to one which today is characterised by a strong market for private housing, rising property values, and an inward migration of people from elsewhere in the conurbation and beyond".[150]

Mavis McDonald DETR told us:

"Bringing back properties into the area that people can afford to buy is quite a successful way of creating demand. Some of the regeneration that has been done in the centre of Manchester, for example on the Hulme Estate, showed that that was very successful because the social housing has been replaced by mixed and both sets of property are very popular".[151]

108. On the other hand, several witnesses were opposed to large scale demolition. A few witnesses did not believe that creating mixed communities would bring benefits to the socially excluded.[152] Others based their views on the grounds that it would foolish to split up existing communities, although at Hulme existing residents who wished to remain were able to. It was also argued that 'bricks and mortar' solutions had been tried in the past and failed, but such a criticism seemed to be more directed at the sort of clearance schemes carried out in the 1960s and 70s rather than at a deliberate attempt to create mixed communities. However, the rebuilding of Hulme was expensive, and this approach cannot be adopted everywhere. It can, however, be very effective where there is a regional or sub-regional demand for housing. We were told: "in many instances complete demolition is probably the most effective response, in areas where you have some reason to think that there is demand which might refill a site".[153]

109. During our visit to Leeds, we visited two former council estates (some of the housing has been transferred to housing associations) in East Leeds: Ebor Gardens, and further out Halton Moor.[154] The former had appeared on the "edge of terminal decline" in 1991, but following an Estate Action programme, the estate now seems to have recovered. In contrast, Halton Moor appears to be in greater difficulty, and may be the type of area which would benefit from significant redevelopment. It is a large, low-density, estate, consisting mainly of semis, built in 1938 following an inner city slum clearance programme. In other places the houses would be seen as very desirable. However, here there are many voids, some burnt-out housing and high levels of poverty and social deprivation. The estate is surrounded by poor landscaping and apparently uncared for green space. It has received Estate Action Funding since 1989, but much of the work already done has been wrecked and new installations such as boilers have been stolen. Most of the problems are caused by children aged 10 to 16, and more effective action against anti-social behaviour is clearly needed. We were impressed by the tenants' representative, who told us that he had no confidence in the local authority, the police or anyone. All were inadequate.

110. We doubt whether Halton Moor can be turned round in the long-term without substantial change. Given the low density and low demand, this might include further demolition and reconstruction, with existing tenants being rehoused on the estate and a number of new private houses being provided at the same time. This appears an attractive proposition given that there is strong demand for housing in the conurbation and Leeds City Council is short of locations for new housing. The other option, to build on greenfield sites in the countryside with its associated undesirable consequences, not least the pollution and other problems caused by commuting into the centre of Leeds, would quite unnecessarily develop further acres of our limited green fields.

111. The Government should implement the recommendations made by the Urban Task Force to create mixed income neighbourhoods and diversify tenure. It should ensure new social housing is not built in areas where there are already large numbers of such houses or where there is low demand for social housing. Good design can turn cities round; cheap, shoddy social housing is unacceptable. The White Paper should indicate how the Government will improve the quality of services in urban areas by emphasising the need for mainstream services to concentrate on producing better outcomes. The Government should also implement many of the measures proposed by the Social Exclusion Unit on neighbourhood renewal, in particular on neighbourhood management, and should introduce new measures to deal with anti-social behaviour.

112. Some estates, albeit a minority, are beyond any incremental revival, suffering from low demand and without a realistic likelihood that they will recover in the long term. Here the best option may be large scale demolition and re-construction as mixed communities, following the design principles laid down by the Task Force, especially in areas where there is a strong demand for housing in the wider conurbation. This might be called the Hulme solution, after the area of Manchester where this approach has been successfully implemented. The Government should encourage local authorities and Regional Development Agencies to consider whether areas should be re-developed in this way. It should ensure that RDA strategies take account of the Task Force's proposals. Before its final report the Social Exclusion Unit should be asked to consider how the Task Force's recommendations should be integrated into its strategy.

URBAN ENVIRONMENT AND MANAGEMENT

113. To improve the management of the urban environment, the Task Force recommended that the Government provide an above inflation increase in central resources allocated to local authorities for this purpose in each of the next seven years.[155] This recommendation was widely supported.[156]

114. In addition to the provision of more funds, the Task Force and other witnesses recommended a number of structural changes. These included "strengthened enforcement powers for local authorities to use against individuals or organisations who damage the quality of urban life through their actions or neglect"[157] and "long term changes in management towards arms-length neighbourhood-level organisations based on the model of town centre management initiatives".[158]

115. The Government should stress the importance of improving the state of the urban environment, including simple measures such as more effective litter collection. The Government should provide additional funds for managing the urban environment and should implement the proposals of the Task Force to give local authorities greater powers to tackle those who damage it.

URBAN REGENERATION AND GOOD GOVERNANCE

116. Most witnesses argued that local authorities should be the lead players in the urban renaissance. They agreed with the Urban Task Force that there was no alternative but to "empower local authorities to ensure the whole of the urban environment is well managed". We were told

"Local authorities must be given a clear mandate to lead the urban renaissance in partnership with local people under the regional and local institutions. This means greater devolution of power and resources to ensure that urban institutions are equipped for the task ahead. The key recommendation is to deliver long-term funding commitments to local authorities and their partners and increase the freedom available to local institutions in raising, combining and allocating available resources."[159]; and

"We would like to see the Urban White Paper starting to set some national priorities for regeneration, then allow local authorities, indeed to trust in local authorities, to get on and deliver that at a local level and monitoring that performance afterwards"[160] and

"We would expect support for the principle that local urban areas are different, experiencing different challenges and opportunities and that the autonomy of local government is essential."

117. Like Towards an Urban Renaissance, which lists many of the failings of local authorities, witnesses took this view despite acknowledging the shortcomings of urban services.[161] One said: "Some really need a bomb under them."[162] However, they recognised that there is no satisfactory alternative to local authorities. The initiatives of Whitehall departments have not been more successful.

118. The White Paper should make a clear statement of the role of regional organisations: regional planning conferences, regional development agencies, the government offices in the regions and regional assemblies\chambers. Witnesses argued that it was unclear what their respective roles were, as the Performance and Innovation Unit Report concluded. The relationship between Regional Planning Guidance and Regional Economic Strategies is, as we have previously reported, uncertain. There is considerable overlap between the Single Regeneration Budget run by the regional development agencies and the New Deal for Communities under the government offices for the regions. European funds should be co-ordinated with other funding.

119. The sub-region is particularly important given the peculiar and tight administrative boundaries of many cities. Sometimes, as at Leeds, the city has broad boundaries, but elsewhere, for example Manchester, they end not far from the city centre, producing several adverse consequences. Witnesses argued for politically powerful conurbations. Birmingham City Council made the point in this way:

"Traditionally, urban policy has been based upon small areas or the local authority area. More recently, the regional dimension has been strengthened. Yet many of the key problems and opportunities occur at the level of the city-region. By this we mean a functionally integrated area normally comprising a core city, contiguous urban areas, and free standing towns and villages. It is at this level that the housing market, labour market, transportation system and leisure and cultural systems operate, and it is these systems that create many of the principal problems and opportunities. The city-region is therefore a critical level for strategic planning and intervention."[163]

The White Paper must establish mechanisms to enable decisions to be made for the whole city, town or conurbation in a sub-regional context.[164]

120. Local authorities, as many witnesses argued, must encourage participation and involve local communities in decision making.[165] Mr Brown of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors told us:



"I think local authorities are the critical player. They are the body with local democratic accountability but that is not to say they are the only player. I think they need support from regional development agencies and English Partnerships for example. They also critically need to engage with communities."[166]

Another witness told us:

"If it is to be effective the urban white paper must set the ground rules for partnership. It must provide clear and explicit statement indicating the expectations that Government may have of the relevant stakeholders and urban policy and clear indications of what powers will need to apply if those expectations are to be fulfilled.".

121. However, while it is clear that some decisions, such as those involving their management, should be taken by neighbourhoods, others should not. The White Paper must clarify which decisions should be taken by the neighbourhood and which by the local authority, or regional bodies or central government.

122. The SEU recommended establishing Local Strategic Partnerships. The Minister told us: "At local level there would be a local strategic partnership which would bring in all of the key players to look at regeneration needs across the area of the authority and to identify priorities".[167] These could bring advantages, but it is important that they have the right powers and resources. They should not be a way of sidelining local government.

123. Most witnesses agreed with the Director of the Government Office for the North East that there should be fewer initiatives.[168] They also need to be better co-ordinated. To help achieve this the Government proposes to strengthen the government offices and has established a Regional Co-ordination Unit, which will seek better co-ordination of departmental initiatives. It was set up following a critical report by the Performance and Innovation Unit , entitled Reaching Out, and is headed by Lord Falconer of Thoroton who gave evidence to the Committee.[169] Matters relating to the new unit which require collective agreement will be considered by an inter-department Committee of Ministers which will meet under the Deputy Prime Minister's chairmanship when business requires. Lord Falconer told us that it was "a structure at central government level whereby the process compels the Government as a whole to look across the piece and whether or not this meets regional objectives"[170]. It is certainly an attempt to deal with a very evident problem, but we are uncertain about its likely effectiveness. It is hard to stop Ministers who want to announce new initiatives on the Today programme.[171]

124. The need to ensure that regeneration initiatives are undertaken on a wide scale and are well co-ordinated meant that many witnesses welcomed the New Commitment to Regeneration and the Task Force's recommendation for Urban Priority Areas and Urban Regeneration Companies. The LGA, supported by others, advocated the New Commitment to Regeneration "whereby all agencies operating in an area deploy their mainstream funds to meet the agreed regeneration objectives enshrined in a locally agreed strategy" to achieve better co-ordination of funding streams.[172] The Task Force proposed strengthening this programme "by combining government departments' spending powers to deliver longer term funding commitments for local authorities and their partners. Central government should be a signatory to local regeneration strategies to local regeneration strategies where they accord with national and regional policy objectives."[173] One of the ways in which Government could most usefully contribute to this process would be to focus its funding more on out outcomes rather than outputs.

125. A major recommendation of the Urban Task Force was the introduction of Urban Priority Areas. These would be designated areas to "provide a focus for the application of packages of special measures to help achieve regeneration, and to provide a basis for integrating physical regeneration with economic and social objectives."[174] The Urban Priority Areas would apply "the most effective set of measures for any given area, avoiding wasted expenditure and duplicate provision", but they are also "a potential means of rationalising other area-based initiatives." This recommendation was widely supported. We were told that the Urban Priority Areas should be used to "hoover up the various existing area designations for physical regeneration purposes".[175]

126. In addition the Task Force proposed the creation of "arms length urban regeneration companies to co-ordinate and deliver area designation projects".[176] The Task Force welcomed the fact that regeneration companies had been established in Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield but pointed out that it had recommended that they needed to be equipped with sufficient powers to do the job in hand and that those steps had not been taken. We were told that they should have five additional freedoms:

-  Private sector partners should be able to make contributions to these companies while not being penalised through the tax system.

-  Local authorities should be given more freedom to operate through these companies without restricting them to having a shareholding of 19.9% (to avoid financial penalties).

-  Registered social landlords should be able to participate in these companies.

-  The companies should work through a spatial master plan.

-  There should be a system of after care through a 10 or 15 year period.[177]

127. Witnesses supported these proposals but it is clear that care must be taken as to how they are constituted.[178] Urban Priority Areas must not be another local initiative which duplicates other schemes. Concern was also expressed that it would be difficult to find suitable personnel to run them. Mr Brown of the RICS told us:

"In themselves they will not be effective unless you have a group of people with the right skills, the right resources who are tasked with making regeneration happen. At the moment urban regeneration companies are being set up ... it is not clear to me that these groups of people will first of all be able to find sufficient numbers of people with the right skills, and, secondly, would be given sufficient resources and powers from local authorities and RDAs to get the job done".[179]

An essential feature of the Urban Regeneration Companies would be the need to allow local authorities to participate in companies without restricting their stake to 19.9%. This change should be put into effect at the earliest opportunity.

128. The Urban Task Force also recognised the need for "simplified assembly of brownfield sites in creating new development opportunities."[180] Ms Thomson of the Task Force told us "Some of the rules around compulsory purchase orders act as a serious disincentive towards assembling and retaining some of the complex brownfield sites that are needed for the kind of residential growth that we need in our urban communities. CPOs for example currently have a requirement to demonstrate commercial viability which in some areas we think should be lightened".[181] The LGA emphasised how helpful streamlining processes affecting compulsory purchase orders would be. Ms Markham, representing the organisation, told us "I believe that the CPO powers we have are old fashioned and their genesis was in the large-scale housing clearance of the type carried out in the 1960s. There was a lot of frustration on the part of our private sector partners who wanted us to facilitate a big development. We had to go through a tortuous route to use CPO powers for a purpose for which they were not intended".[182] The Department has been undertaking a review of compulsory purchase powers since 1998. We were told "we pick up the kind of recommendations that came from Lord Rogers' report and of course the report on popular housing about the ease of land assembly and whether any assistance can be given to problems there."[183] It is unclear when it will be published.

129. The White Paper should indicate the role of each aspect of Government in urban regeneration. In particular, it should stress that:

-  local authorities should "lead the urban renaissance" by devolving powers and resources to them, in particular by providing long term funding and giving local authorities more freedom to raise and spend money;

-  local authorities should be permitted to have a stake of over 19.9 per cent in companies, without any financial penalties, to enable them to play a significant role in regeneration;

-  there should be clarification of the relationship between local authorities, national Government, regional and sub-regional institutions; and of the role of regional development agencies, regional planning conferences , regional assemblies and government offices in the regions;

-  local authorities need to work closely with local communities, voluntary groups and private sector organisations;

-  local strategic partnerships have an important role to play, but care must be taken in constructing them to ensure they have the right powers, duties and resources;

-  neighbourhoods are important as the key building blocks identified by the Urban Task Force; measures to turn round 'neighbourhoods in decline' should be a priority, while recognising that local authorities will also need to take decisions on a city-wide basis; and

-  there is a need to reduce the number of area-based initiatives of central Government Departments and get better co-ordination of them.

1. The White Paper should set out that it intends to ensure that urban regeneration is well-co-ordinated, carried out on a large scale and over a long period by:

-  strengthening the New Commitment to Regeneration; and

-  establishing Urban Priority Areas and Urban Regeneration Companies as recommended by the Task Force, with the appropriate powers to ensure they do not increase duplication; Urban Regeneration Companies should employ masterplans to ensure developments are well-designed.

Government should introduce an improved CPO procedure to facilitate land assembly. The current review should be completed as a matter of urgency.


114  Q441 Back

115  Q442 Back

116  Q448 Back

117  Q441 Back

118  Q438 Back

119  Q439 Back

120  Q429 Back

121  Q423 Back

122  Q494 Back

123  Q419 Back

124  Q436 Back

125  Q421 Back

126  UWP115 Back

127  Q473 Back

128  Q454 Back

129  Q482 Back

130  Q58 Back

131  Eg. UWP102 Back

132  Towards an Urban Renaissance, p 45 Back

133  Idem, p295 Back

134  Idem Back

135  Idem, p49 Back

136  National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal: A framework for consultation (April 2000), p 9 Back

137  Bringing Britain together; a national strategy for neighbourhood renewal (1998)  Back

138  National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal: A framework for consultation, p 5 Back

139  Idem, p 6 Back

140  Q953 Back

141  Towards an Urban Renaissance, p 298 Back

142  Q914 Back

143  UWP63 Back

144  QQ579-80 Back

145  QQ946 Back

146  Q905 Back

147  Q906 Back

148  Idem Back

149  UWP50 Back

150  UWP90 Back

151  Q866; and see UWP86 Back

152  UWP7 Back

153  Q52 Back

154  See Annex Back

155  UWP103 Back

156  Eg. UWP10, UWP55, UWP66 Back

157  UWP103; and see UWP51 Back

158  Paying for an Urban Renaissance, p 10 Back

159  UWP103 Back

160  Q604 Back

161  UWP21 Back

162  QQ310-11 Back

163  UWP26 Back

164  UWP31, UWP64 Back

165  UWP32, UWP 61 Back

166  Q307 Back

167  Q861 Back

168  Q199 Back

169  Reaching Out,:The Role of Central Government at Regional and Local Level, A Performance and Innovation Unit Report (February 2000); and see UWP117 (from the Regional Co-ordination Unit) Back

170  Q812 Back

171  Q823 Back

172  UWP84 Back

173  UTFp154 Back

174  Towards an Urban Ranaissance, p 142 Back

175  Idem, p 143 Back

176  Idem, p 151 Back

177  Q25 Back

178  UWP13 Back

179  Q306 Back

180  UWP103 Back

181  Q14 Back

182  Q617; and see UWP52 Back

183  Q92; and see UWP64 Back


 
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