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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 46-59)




  46. Can I welcome you to the second session this morning and can I ask you to identify yourselves for the record?
  (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 questions?
  (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.

Ms King

  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.

Christine Russell

  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 scheme?
  (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 and conversion.

  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.

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