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


Memorandum by North Warwickshire Borough Council (COA 22)

  I am writing concerning the above, with particular reference to the review of the reclamation and regeneration of sites.

  The economy of North Warwickshire was strongly driven by the coal mining industry until the late 1980's when the last but one pit closed. Now only Daw Mill colliery remains—the only working coal mine in the region.

  There has been an increasing push by the Regional Development Agency to move away from coal mining issues in favour of embracing the future. While we are making every effort to move forward, the fact remains that coal mining is still of relevance to our local and national economy and the legacy of the closed pits is being passed from one generation to the next, which reflects in the low aspirational and low skills base of our local economy.

  With regard to the regeneration of sites we would report that while we welcome the remit and role of English Partnerships, progress has been slow with one of our key sites (Pooley Colliery) making the reserve list and another (Baddesley) which does not seem to be included. It has been almost impossible to make any sort of contact with whom to open a dialogue and this problem is also being mirrored in our invitations to Advantage West Midlands, our Regional Development Agency. In fact AWM'S key Brownfield representative admitted at a recent CERTA conference on Brownfield land that she knew little about our Borough. We have written twice to invite them to open a dialogue with us with, to date, no response.

  The main problem that we are experiencing is that our sites seem to be too small to attract any real interest although their redevelopment would make a big difference in the regeneration of our borough. We did investigate the possibility of the Network Space programme but our sites appeared to lack the commercial viability needed to maintain them. This is a major problem in the borough as we have a proven need to diversify the local economy and provide smaller, modern start up and incubator units. At present there seems to be no real way of achieving this.

  Coalfield issues are being increasingly recognised in some regeneration sectors, such as the targeting of coalfields for Heritage Lottery funding to help overcome the fact that lack of capacity has hampered access to funds in previous years and this is appreciated. Likewise the Coalfield Regeneration Trust programme is highly valued. However as with the majority of regeneration funding streams, their short term, finite nature means that it is difficult to plan for the long term and much staff and community capacity is put into pursuing continued funding for good projects. In addition it is difficult to recruit and retain experienced staff to deliver initiatives on short term contracts.

  A key example of this is a project known as "Recruitment North Warwickshire". This is helping to overcome the legacy of the low aspiration/low skills base left by the closure of our mines by linking local people with local jobs. The project provides a package of support including training, help with transport, childcare and so on. It is very successful and is fortunate to have an excellent manager but is coming to the end of its co-financing support and so we are seeking to continue it through whichever means we can. It is this sort of problem that we face continually, when true regeneration can only take place over a much longer term. This sort of issue is being recognised in urban areas through the Neighbourhood Renewal scheme and related initiatives, but small rural coalfield areas like North Warwickshire continue to have to operate this short term approach as there is no alternative.

  Thank you for the opportunity to submit this evidence in relation to the Select Committee. I trust that it will be helpful and I look forward to any benefits the review may provide in assisting coalfield communities in the long term and sustainable regeneration of their areas.

Clare Eggington

Economic Development Manager


 
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