Examination of Witnesses (Questions 46-59)|
TUESDAY 26 FEBRUARY 2002
46. Can I welcome you to the second session
this morning and can I ask you to identify yourselves for the
(Ms Havers) Imelda Havers, St John's Urban Village.
(Mr Chetwyn) Dave Chetwyn, Senior Planning Officer,
Stoke City Council.
47. Do either of you want to say anything by
way of introduction or are you happy for us to go straight to
(Ms Havers) Very briefly if I may I would like to
point out, because it did not come out in my submission very clearly,
that I am an employee of Wolverhampton City Council, so any answers
I give have to bear that in mind, but I will be as honest as possible
within those parameters.
48. Could you give us a bit of background on
St John's Village and why some form of gap funding is required?
(Ms Havers) Yes. The Urban Village is a major regeneration
project for Wolverhampton. It covers nearly half the city centre
so it is slap in the middle of Wolverhampton. It covers quite
a lot of historic buildings and quite a complex area. An urban
village, as you probably understand, is a fairly complex project.
It is not something where you can just knock everything down and
have a huge great monolith that pays for itself. There are a lot
of very complex aspects to it such as quality, community involvement,
human scale and, very importantly, a mix of tenures and uses.
Once you get that complexity the market, certainly in areas of
relatively low land values like Wolverhampton, will not necessarily
support it, so it is anticipated that, certainly in the early
days, funding from the public sector will be necessary to get
it off the ground.
49. How does it fit in with the strategies that
are already in place from RDAs, from other regeneration initiatives
in Wolverhampton and from the local planning authority?
(Ms Havers) It fits in with all of them really. It
appears as a priority in the Regeneration Zone which Wolverhampton
falls into, which is the single pot, as you probably know, and
it also fits into the local plan with Wolverhampton City Council
and it is in its own right seen to be a priority regeneration
project for Wolverhampton, so it is not just in rather drily written
strategies. It is something that anyone who is involved in the
regeneration of Wolverhampton will very quickly identify as a
high profile project.
50. Can I ask you about the Little Brickkiln
site? In your scheme you have identified that as a mixed use site.
(Ms Havers) Yes.
51. The reason why it has not proceeded is partly
because of the high residential component, is that right, in the
(Ms Havers) That is correct.
52. Could you explain to us why you feel in
Wolverhampton it is essential that you do retain that residential
component in the scheme?
(Ms Havers) The main reason is that Wolverhampton
has very few residents in the middle. If you are going to regenerate
Wolverhampton you have to have people living there. Just having
shops and offices is not going to be good enough, so simply from
a usage point of view it is desirable to get the mix. The other
reason is that the land values in Wolverhampton will more readily
support residential than they will commercial. Retail and office
values are relatively low in Wolverhampton. The housing market
is untried and untested but there are plenty of developers who
are very interested in giving it a go, but they do need encouragement.
There is a lot more promise attached at this stage, if we take
this snapshot in time, to residential than to commercial.
53. Will it be new build residential?
(Ms Havers) Not necessarily.
54. Or conversion?
(Ms Havers) Urban Villages are a mix of new build
55. What is the view of the developer you are
working with towards the residential component?
(Ms Havers) They are primarily a residential developer,
so clearly they have that bias. That is very correct as far as
the Urban Village is concerned and local strategy is concerned.
He very much wants to get involved and can see the potential in
Wolverhampton, so he is very keen on the residential element.
56. Can I ask you to bear in mind what you said
earlier, the caveat about working for Wolverhampton Council, and
put your head above the parapet and comment on your local RDA
as to how supportive they have been? Could they have done more
to help and in what way could they have done more to help?
(Ms Havers) Yes, they could have done more to help.
I find that they have been, for various reasons which I can go
into if you wish, unpro-active.
57. We might quite like to know the reasons.
(Ms Havers) Oh, all right then. I think the reason
is that the RDAs generally have a very broad remit. It is very
easy, I would assume, if I were in their position, to take what
was closer to the brief, ie, economic development, job creation
and that type of thing, on easier sites such as science parks,
business parks and those sorts of sites, than to get involved
in these rather unglamorous projects (in terms of outputs) that
are very complex, that are really very much an integral part of
inner city urban regeneration.
58. So you think it is a fundamental difficulty
with your RDA in particular, and maybe other RDAs too, that they
see their prime purpose as economic development and they do not
see it as regeneration?
(Ms Havers) Definitely, yes.
59. Who is putting the money up? The developer
is putting the money up and there is a gap. Is any other money
coming in from any other source at all?
(Ms Havers) I think there could be money for the commercial
aspects from SRB3, which covers the Wolverhampton area, or part
of it. There could also be some European Regional Development
Fund Objective 2 money potentially, but in the main it is the
gap funding, the Partnership Investment Programme, that we have
been looking at to fill that gap.