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


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360-366)

MR JOHN EDWARDS, MS HEATHER HANCOCK AND MR IAN PIPER

TUESDAY 5 MARCH 2002

  360. The Department are receptive to that approach?
  (Mr Edwards) Yes.

  361. Should there be a new housing gap funding scheme?
  (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 encourage—and we have encouraged—DTLR to put forward and notify a housing gap funding scheme.

Christine Russell

  362. Can I ask you whether you feel you have got the mechanisms in place in your individual RDAs to deliver this 70 per cent—oh, I wish that it was 70—60 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.

Ms King

  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.

Chairman

  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.





 
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