Memorandum by English Partnerships (AFH
1. English Partnerships welcomes the opportunity
to provide evidence to the Sub-Committee's inquiry into affordable
housing. English Partnerships is the national catalyst for property-led
regeneration and development. We are a key agency for delivering
the urban renaissance and helping the government meet its targets
for accommodating household growth on brownfield land. Several
of our programmes feature in the Urban White Paper, including
Millennium Communities, Sustainable Urban Extensions and Urban
Regeneration Companies. With other initiatives such as the £385
million National Coalfields Programme and a land portfolio of
strategic sites, one of our main roles is to help deliver regeneration
and development projects and programmes across the English regions.
2. We are currently undergoing a review
by our sponsoring Department, DTLR. The first stage findings,
announced by the Minister in March 2002, clearly give English
Partnerships a long term, strategic role in the regeneration of
brownfield land; the remit to deliver special programmes such
as Urban Regeneration Companies, Millennium Communities and the
English Cities Fund; the task to commission and disseminate research,
evaluation and best practice in regeneration and development;
and the responsibility to deliver socially and economically sustainable
development through a programme of strategic projects. The second
and final stage of the review is expected to conclude this summer.
Further information on our activities can be found at www.englishpartnerships.co.uk.
3. English Partnerships has a strong track
record in the provision of mixed development which includes a
substantial proportion of what are termed "affordable homes".
English Partnerships' housing role in the former new towns and
inner-city urban areas has focused on facilitating the provision
of both private sector and affordable housing on land either in
our ownership or that of our partners. Such development integrates
social, environmental and economic goals. We have also promoted
sustainable mixed use development through our Millennium Communities
programme and our work with the Prince's Foundation on the concept
of sustainable urban extensions. Last year we approved developments
which would provide over 3,600 new homes, including affordable
homes in areas of high housing pressure. We also facilitated the
development of at least 1,200 new homes in Milton Keynes, for
example, over 350 of which will be affordable. This year we aim
to commit about 450 affordable homes in Milton Keynes across a
range of tenures, from housing association rent through to low
4. English Partnerships bases our developments
on a masterplan approach which will deliver communities where
people want to live with the widest possible range of house types,
costs and tenures supported by appropriate facilities and services.
This approach facilitates places where parents can retire, children
can live nearby and newcomers can make a fresh start within a
recognisable neighbourhood. Affordable housing of all prices and
tenures is the basis on which such lively places are based. Thriving
communities demonstrate commitment to the physical, economic and
social variety they embody. The masterplan approach delivers a
long-term vision of just such places.
5. Success is built upon variety and choice.
Enabling tenants to have a real stake in their homes has changed
large areas of single-tenure housing into mixed tenure neighbourhoods.
Residential development in the former new towns demonstrated the
benefits of mixed tenure and shared ownership as an affordable
bridge between leasehold and freehold, for example, was pioneered
in the new towns. Today, English Partnerships is exploring with
the Housing Corporation and others how more tenure choice can
be brought to the housing market in support of affordability.
6. The principal public sector bodies responsible
for housing strategy are local authorities, the Housing Corporation,
regional assemblies (through regional planning guidance) and Government
Offices in the Regions. All these regionally based organisations
perform largely strategic functions and the local authorities'
principal tool in managing the local housing market is the planning
system which provides the power to stop, rather than promote,
development. If the challenges of housing pressure and abandonment
are to be overcome, it is important that English Partnerships,
the RDAs and local authorities adopt a proactive approach to complement
the strategic and planning roles.
7. This will entail increasing the supply
by site assembly, reclamation and the provision of infrastructure
to bring forward brownfield land for development or, where this
is not available, promoting the sustainable expansion of existing
communities, in areas of high housing pressure. Intervention to
tackle the problems of decline in areas of housing market failure
requires the effective promotion of new economic activity, site
assembly, selective demolition, the introduction of new forms
of tenure, environmental improvements, transport enhancements
and community development.
8. English Partnerships works closely with
our partners to undertake housing need surveys and urban capacity
studies. We also facilitate new and renewed housing through a
programme of site briefing and disposal which delivers a regular
stream of completions. We therefore have the potential to make
an important contribution to delivering the required proactive
approach. We have practical experience of promoting the growth
of sustainable mixed use, mixed tenure communities, which are
the principal drivers for both accommodating growth in a politically
acceptable manner and promoting growth in areas of housing market
failure; and we have good market intelligence through the National
Land Use Database and our links with the major volume house builders.
Finally, we are in a position to attract substantial private sector
investment to support this proactive role.
9. The demand for accommodation is recognised
as a crucial limiting factor on the economic success of several
English regions. In the south east, for example, the number of
new homes actually delivered has slumped to the lowest levels
for decades despite rising demand, shown by escalating prices.
Significant numbers of new homes are therefore badly needed.
10. To assist our understanding of the areas
of England which are under the greatest housing pressure, English
Partnerships has developed a computer model, based on our National
Land Use Database (NLUD). This identifies those local authorities
with the greatest requirement to increase their output of residential
accommodation. Our research indicates "corridors of pressure"
which radiate from London to Kings Lynn, the West Midlands, South
West and Kent.
11. The model can also rank local authorities
by house price increases, average price level, planned volume
of housing and volume of brownfield land available. It is interesting
to note that only around 18 per cent of the brownfield sites registered
on NLUD are in the local authorities subject to the greatest housing
pressure. English Partnerships believes therefore that government
policy also needs to focus on sustainable "internal"
growthie, urban extensionsrather than solely on
brownfield development if the need for affordable homes is to
be met. Even where 60 per cent of residential development can
be met on previously used land, the remaining 40 per cent will
be required from the integrated use of greenfield sites.
12. English Partnerships is currently bringing
forward development in the south west district of Northampton
based upon a greenfield site in our ownership coupled with the
adjacent redundant hospital sites (brownfield land). This project
will deliver, over the next few years, a sustainable living and
working environment complete with schools, health and community
facilities, job opportunities, shops and a country park. Our scheme
has been developed with the help of local stakeholders, including
local residents, and we will begin implementing the scheme by
the autumn of this year. Northampton will demonstrate that sustainable
extensions to existing towns, on greenfield land, can meet local
and sub-regional need for affordable housing within the community,
not as a distant attachment.
13. As mentioned above, English Partnerships
supports housing need surveys which will tell us what is required
and urban capacity studies to indicate where it should be located.
Our development expertise enables us to bring forward integrated
mixed use schemes which can be delivered by the development industry.
A handful of rental dwellings marooned on the fringe of the urban
area with poor or little access to facilities and services is
not an approach we would endorse.
14. English Partnerships wants to apply
our resource to those areas where property-based activity can
make a contribution, where the need for growth and renewal or
the pressure of housing demand are greatest. The provision of
affordable housing is an important element of the sustainable
mixed use development that we are promoting to either stimulate
the growth of disadvantaged communities or accommodate growth
sustainably in areas of high housing pressure. The high vacancy
rates in many northern local authorities demonstrate that tenants
are no longer prepared to occupy property on large mono-culture
estates with poor access to jobs and community facilities. Investment
in affordable housing, therefore, needs to be complemented by
investment to produce a genuinely mixed-use, mixed-tenure, attractive
15. As we share the same sponsoring Department
and have complementary roles, our natural partner in contributing
to the delivery of the Government's affordable housing priorities
is the Housing Corporation. We have therefore established a good
relationship with the Housing Corporation based upon a practical
work programme. This has resulted in the agreement in principal
of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which aims to provide
a basis for closer working in the future. Accompanying the MoU
is an action plan of priority project on which we will work together.
It is intended that we will review our progress annually and roll
forward new and more challenging projects as our success and experience
16. English Partnerships very much looks
forward to taking up the new brief set out for us by the Minister;
in developing the national brownfield strategy we will of necessity
be considering the need for affordable housing as our first priority.
Developing a programme of strategic projects and demonstration
projects which can prove how the right type of housing can be
provided in the right place is a challenge we are keen to pursue.