Examination of Witnesses (Questions 460-465)|
WEDNESDAY 5 DECEMBER 2001
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.
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.
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.
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 doneand
I can give a note to the CommitteeI 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