Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by West Pennine Housing Association (GRI 01)

  I am currently managing an SRB 6 part funded "capacity building", project in the Hollinwood ward of Oldham. The project is co-financed through the European Regional Development Fund and is scheduled to run for three years from 1 January 2002 until 31 December 2004.

  The Hollinwood Capacity Building Project is designed to involve and empower local communities by raising their confidence and awareness as individual citizens and as part of a civic society. It is, simply put, a way of effecting local solutions to local problems.

  Any regeneration initiative will succeed only if it has the support of the local community. To gain this support it is essential to undertake capacity building activities in order to enthuse local champions capable of "cascading" information to the community. Luckily I delivered a smaller scale version of the current programme in 1999-2000. This concentrated on a smaller area within the ward, a pocket of deprivation within a pocket of deprivation. This gave us the local champions, with greater credibility among the community than I could ever hope for.

  The project was designed in consultation with the Hollinwood Voluntary Forum, a collection of all the tenant and residents groups from within the area. This gave it local support and grass roots ownership, a factor that influenced the SRB panel in awarding the funding.

  The ultimate aim of the project is to form a community development trust; this will be a democratic and locally owned charitable company with the ability to interact with service providers as well as advocate on behalf of local people. It will also be capable of accessing funding for training, support and other appropriate measures for sustained improvement once the SRB funding has ceased.

  Groups have already visited existing development trusts in the North West of England and are enthusiastic to start planning the next stage of the project, setting up the "theme groups" to address identified needs in their community. These include a market garden linked to a healthy eating campaign, environmental improvements by creating "pocket parks" and a cycle way and a youth inclusion initiative.

  The project has only been running for eight months and we are about to have our first Away Day planning session to discuss the way forward. Residents have invited attendees from neighbouring wards (some with a high Asian background population as opposed to Hollinwood's almost all white background) to see how we can work together on joint projects for the future.

  Despite the short period involved I feel that this project will deliver permanent, resident-led regeneration. The formula for success is not complex, involve the residents in designing the project, set a good action plan and have a viable exit strategy.

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