Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Twelfth Report


(a)We look forward to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's full report on the wider effects of the 1999 decision on all regeneration programmes (paragraph 9).
(b)The fact that the English Cities Fund, which attracts significant private investment into a regeneration investment vehicle, has been affected by the 1999 ruling is a particular disappointment. We recommend that the Government tries again to develop a new vehicle that fulfils the objectives of the Urban White Paper, within the State aid constraints (paragraph 10).
(c)We recommend that the Government provides more training about State aid to front-line staff. A full-time State aid expert should be appointed in each region. Within the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister there should be an information point which can give advice over the telephone or e-mail giving people instant answers (paragraph 11).
(d)We recommend that the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister seeks amendment to the 'PIP replacement' schemes to include loan and rent guarantees (paragraph 18).
(e)The Government must in future ensure that practitioners are consulted on the detail of any new regeneration schemes, prior to notification to the Commission (paragraph 19).
(f)All Regional Development Agencies should advertise the gap funding schemes, setting out clearly their criteria for awarding grants (paragraph 20).
(g)The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Regional Development Agencies should place the guidance on the PIP replacement schemes on their websites now. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister should also publish a plain English guide to the new schemes immediately (paragraph 21).
(h)Regional Development Agency direct development must in future be undertaken according to the principle "urban, brownfield first" (paragraph 24).
(i)The Government should ensure that additional funding given to the Regional Development Agencies as a result of the higher cost of direct development should be spent on physical regeneration and not redirected to other purposes under the single budget (paragraph 25).
(j)The outcome of Stage 2 of the English Partnerships review will only be considered to be successful if the relative roles of English Partnerships and the Regional Development Agencies are clearly defined. We were not reassured by Lord Falconer's statement that the RDAs have "committed themselves to being just as committed to regeneration as they had ever been." Whoever is held to be responsible for brownfield redevelopment should pursue it with vigour (paragraph 26).
(k)We welcome the Government's new 'twin track' approach to dealing with the European Commission but are disappointed that it did not pursue this approach from January 2000 (paragraph 27).
(l)The DTLR clearly lacked any sense of urgency in dealing with the barriers to regeneration caused by the absence of a housing gap funding scheme (paragraph 28).
(m)The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the devolved administrations should develop protocols to ensure that when schemes are notified to the Commission, they can be used by all parts of the United Kingdom. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister must ensure that England does not lag further behind Wales and Scotland in regeneration initiatives (paragraph 29).
(n)Office of the Deputy Prime Minister guidance to those operating the housing schemes in the UK (once approved) must make it clear that regeneration funding should not be used to develop greenfield sites (paragraph 29).
(o)It is imperative that all the Regional Development Agencies use the housing gap funding power once approved, wherever there is housing market need (paragraph 30).
(p)It is imperative that housing market renewal does not get caught by the State aid rules and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister should make sure that Housing Market Renewal Areas are assessed for State aid compliance at a very early stage (paragraph 31).
(q)It is essential that the Government identifies a ring-fenced budget for the housing gap funding scheme. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister should direct the responsible agencies to advertise it openly and make the funding criteria clear (paragraph 32).
(r)As with many other elements of its response to the European Commission's 1999 decision, it seems that the Government has been slow to act on derelict land and heritage (paragraph 33).
(s)We were pleased to hear that the Government will be talking to the Commission about whether a successor to the Deprived Urban Areas Framework could be agreed and recommend that it looks at its potential role in the work of Urban Regeneration Companies or other regeneration initiatives (paragraph 34).
(t)Lord Falconer told us that he hoped that the housing, derelict land and heritage schemes would be approved by the Commission by the end of October 2002. We will monitor progress (paragraph 35).
(u)We are concerned that a team of four people is not enough to undertake negotiations with Brussels, develop new schemes, undertake 'lateral thinking' to ensure that projects comply with the State aid rules, provide training and advice to front-line staff and give advice to potential applicants (paragraph 36).
(v)Rather than the sometimes innocuous generalities regularly traded at European Summits, Heads of State should address the issue of 'joined up thinking' in the Commission with specific reference to the conflict between the Regional Policy Directorate and Competition Directorate on regeneration funding issues. The UK Government needs to be proactive in pursuing UK interests in regeneration before Commission policies are formulated and in creating a consensus among our partners on the pressing need for changes in attitude (paragraph 40).
(w)The Government has begun to press for a new European Framework for regeneration but we remain concerned about how long it will take before this is agreed. We recommend that our successor Committee sees the Minister again in six months time to hear how much progress has been made (paragraph 42).
(x)Better co-ordination is needed between central Government departments. In addition, the United Kingdom Permanent Representation to the European Union will need to monitor the Commission to ensure that it is not delaying the approval of schemes unnecessarily and report back to Ministers and civil servants in the UK (paragraph 43).

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