Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 460-465)



  460. And that would be a sufficient definition for a CPO codification of what the definition is?
  (Mr Osborne) I think we could do with a bit more work codifying what the definition is and maybe looking at variations across boroughs because what may be obsolescent in Salford will be a beautiful house in Tameside because of the local housing market. It is difficult and there would have to be a local definition, a local understanding where maybe the regional housing group or board or the North West Government Office could have a look at and decide what the range of definitions was.
  (Mr Brown) I absolutely agree with Bob, but for me it is not so much an issue about the individual houses as about the neighbourhoods. I am nervous about the dangers of wholesale clearance. I would much prefer to see us promoting these sorts of initiatives in the context of neighbourhood renewal rather than the context of housing policies. There is a danger that we get back to what were the bad old days of the 1960s where clearing and nothing to replace it with will make the problem worse, not better. We need to be thinking about neighbourhoods much more than about definition of an obsolescent house.

Mrs Ellman

  461. Could I ask you about the Partnership Investment Programme and its removal. What impact has that had and have recent Government initiatives done anything to restore the situation?
  (Mr Brown) I think this Committee probably knows more about it than anyone else. I think as we predicted, there has been, effectively, a complete cessation of gap-funded projects as a result of the removal of the scheme. A partial scheme has now been reintroduced but it is also fair to say that the RDAs are not terribly enthusiastic.

Mrs Dunwoody

  462. It might have something to do with the fact it will not work.
  (Mr Brown) Finally, it does not apply to schemes with more than 50 per cent housing content. If you go into the sort of areas Bob is talking about, trying to do private sector housing development, you simply cannot do it. This is what urban renaissance is about and we cannot do it. It seems crazy.

Mrs Ellman

  463. Is there evidence that the schemes are not coming forward?
  (Mr Brown) I can give you evidence of schemes that are coming forward to the extent they are being worked up but they are not being delivered. In fact, what I have done—and I can give a note to the Committee—I have done a short case study of the project in Wolverhampton, St John's urban village. It sits next to the New Deal for the Communities area, between that and the town centre. It has a 75 per cent housing content. There is a developer there willing to do it. It needs a grant. The grant can probably be delivered within the aid intensity limits of the scheme but because it is 75 per cent housing the RDA said, "Sorry, nothing to do with us."

  Mrs Ellman: Have RDA changed their policies in relation to housing?


  464. They do not like housing.
  (Mr Brown) They do not like housing. I am not sure they have changed their policies. I think there is a bit of north-south divide as well. I think the southern RDAs regard it as more of an issue than the northern RDAs. Probably the consensus among the northern RDAs, particularly now they report to the DTI, is they are saying we are the bodies dealing with the regional economy, housing is an issue but we cannot get into that because if we do we will be distracted from our main tasks.
  (Mr Osborne) There is some evidence of the use of funding to help us remove derelict tower blocks, for example. If you look at the policy statements and the broad statement coming out of the North West Development Agency, there is very little mention of housing at all.

  465. Is that a change?
  (Mr Osborne) It is the same, no change basically.

  Chairman: On that note, can I thank you both very much.

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