Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360-366)|
TUESDAY 5 MARCH 2002
360. The Department are receptive to that approach?
(Mr Edwards) Yes.
361. Should there be a new housing gap funding
(Mr Piper) I think as an interim measure before we
were able to put in place a more broader regeneration framework
then I would say yes. It is one of the gaps that is there at the
moment. What we are after at the end of the day is all round flexibility
and, to use the analogy of the tool kit, as many tools as possible
to deliver the overall agenda. At the moment there is a gap with
housing in particular so as an interim measure we would encourageand
we have encouragedDTLR to put forward and notify a housing
gap funding scheme.
362. Can I ask you whether you feel you have
got the mechanisms in place in your individual RDAs to deliver
this 70 per centoh, I wish that it was 7060 per
cent housing on brownfield sites?
(Mr Edwards) The target that has been set is for the
regions through what is known as our "Tier 2" outcomes.
We have to help deliver the Government's target. In our region
it is higher than 60 per cent, it is closer to 70 per cent in
the West Midlands because historically that is the sort of level
that we have delivered. We will deliver part of that through our
programme development on brownfield land and then working with
our colleagues, particularly in local authorities and in the private
sector, in using the planning framework to encourage the delivery
of the balance of that target. It is the five per cent/95 per
cent issue again. We only have control of five to ten per cent
of resources. We have to influence the rest and we will do that
through regional planning guidance and other measures.
363. Are you confident of achieving that in
the South West and Yorkshire?
(Ms Hancock) It is a similar position in Yorkshire
and the Humber. Our direct engagement with housing schemes is
relatively slim but the region has to reach the target and we
have to ensure that the powers are there for them to do that.
There is a contradictory influence on us, which John hinted at
earlier, which is that the brownfield land housing target is pushing
up the cost of potential development land and the issue of the
challenges to appeal the designation of that land is to such an
extent that our resources can be diverted to retaining land for
employment use in conflict with the housing requirement.
364. That is a point. Roughly how much of your
activity is taking place in the inner urban areas and how much
is still on greenfield sites?
(Mr Edwards) Let me deal first with the West Midlands
perspective. We are working with our partners in six designated
regeneration zones in the West Midlands, which cover about a third
of the region's population, a half of the region's unemployed,
and two-thirds of the region's long term unemployed, and those
regeneration zones contain all of the ten per cent most deprived
wards in the West Midlands. They are focused on Birmingham, the
Black Country, Stoke-on-Trent, Coventry and Nuneaton, so they
are picking up the inner urban areas. 70 per cent of the Agency's
resources will be deployed inside those regeneration zones.
365. Has the DTLR involved you in its discussions
around the new EU Regeneration Framework and what do you think
such a framework should include?
(Mr Piper) As one of my other jobs I chair the RDA
Best Practice Group and there have been some discussions with
the DTLR on the framework, but I think there should be more involved
discussions. I think if there were a criticism of the DTLR in
replacing PIP it was that they did not engage with practitioners
in the RDA and elsewhere when they formulated those replacements.
Certainly we are actively seeking involvement to help shape that
framework. I think the key word in terms of what it should consist
of is "flexibility". I think the point was made earlier
that we do need to persuade the European Commission to divorce
the concept of regeneration from the concept of state aids. If
we can overcome that key principle then I think we could end up
with a flexible regeneration framework.
366. We understand that the Department is putting
great faith in this conference it has got with other EU countries
about this whole regeneration issue for 21 March. Have the regional
development agencies been invited to that conference?
(Mr Piper) I do not think we have.
(Mr Edwards) We certainly have not.
(Ms Hancock) No.
Chairman: It does seem to be a little bit of
a mystery as to who has been invited. Can I make it clear that
as far as the Committee is concerned we are in a sense working
to a slightly odd timetable because having had these two sessions
last week and this week we have now got a gap until 30 April when
we are seeing the Lord Falconer to pursue these issues. The reason
for this is that we hope that with the result of this conference
on 21 March the Department will have got its act together rather
better and that when we see Lord Falconer we will be able to pursue
the question of the way forward. Anyway, can I thank you very
much for your evidence.