Memorandum submitted by Alan Wilson
1.1 As with most things Governmental (National,
County and Local) when providing a solution to a problemthere
is a headlong rush for a physical answer with little or no regard
for the social implications.
"Housing Building a Sustainable Future"
is no different. Although the rhetoric is strong with terms such
as "sustainable communities", there is little if any
true involvement of the community, with decisions being taken
by bureaucrats totally divorced from the real world. How can communities
be sustained if the bulldozer has flattened their homes and environments!
How can demolition and the consequent manufacture of the building
materials to replace those homes be good for the environment?
1.2 Housing renewal policy, namely Pathfinder,
is being driven ahead irrespective of what the communities want
and against the well being of the environment. In my home town
of Goole, East Yorkshire, the East Riding of Yorkshire Council
(ERYC) have authorised demolition of 117 homes (two streets) which
through a very dubious and flawed consultation process were deemed
to be "Non-Sustainable", and therefore only fit for
demolition. We also have another 3,000 homes designated as "Fragile".
Neither of these definitions would stand up to close scrutiny,
yet East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) feels justified in
demolishing the lives and homes of the residents in these two
streets with nothing planned to replace the homes lost.
1.3 The decision as mentioned above was
taken in Cabinet, (9 councillorsnone of whom represented
Goole) despite letters from ERYC to the contrary clearly stating
that the matter would be debated in full council and the decision-making
process would be "open". ERYC comprises 65 councillors
yet the Cabinet (7 Tory, 1 Labour, 1 Liberal) felt that such a
monumental decision to remove individuals and families from their
homes, their friends, and their community could be made by the
few rather than the many without "open" discussion.
1.4 A limited questionnaire was sent to
the residents and some of the landlords, with strong incentives
to vote for demolition; but yet there were no incentives offered
for individuals to stay in their own homes. Even this could not
persuade the majority of residents to vote for demolition65%+
opting to stay. ERYC through some "creative" statistical
analysis turned this into "a majority in favour of demolition".
1.5 ERYC held open days where apparently
no notes were taken, and no attendance sheets were keptyet
they proudly proclaimed that the open days were well attended
with the majority in favour of demolition. When asked for proof
of this statement, a senior ERYC official stated that all records
had been destroyed!
1.6 How can any policy succeed against a
backdrop of such inappropriate (even dishonest) behaviour by the
Council and a total ignorance of the community's wishes! But again,
it would seem that County Councils are acting with the same heavy
handedness all across the North, totally against the will of the
people but with the full approval of the Government.
2. FISCAL MEASURES
2.1 Fiscal Measures should be introduced
to reward innovation and renovation. Demolition should not be
rewarded unless it can be demonstrated without a doubt, that all
other measures have been exhausted, and that it does truly carry
the full weight of the community behind the decision. Once these
homes are demolished, the town's heritage and community are destroyed.
In Goole we have a local developer, willing to take on and renovate
the two streets under threat of demolition but who is meeting
strong opposition from ERYC. Renovation would cost a fraction
of the amount needed to demolish these homes and turn this area
into a wasteland or car park!!
2.2 Serious scrutiny should be applied to
councils such as ERYC, who through flawed consultation processes
seek to impose their policies on a community that will resist
fervently. In the meantime, an area that has been seriously neglected
by ERYC, but could through limited intervention be a jewel in
the town's crown is now an area blighted by demolition and will
be allowed to "run down" even further, as the Council
seek to "buy out" more residents by a policy of intimidation
and misinformation. Once a resident moves out, the council moves
in and boards up the property, some of which have been boarded
up for at least six months, and could continue to be boarded up
for several years to come. Surely this is in direct contravention
of "Empty Dwelling Management Act", or does this only
apply to private landlords. Councils within the "Pathfinder"
areas are the biggest culprits, but seem to evade any form of
prosecution, even though they are increasing the housing shortage!!!
2.3 There are several examples of homes
and communities being renovated to very high standards, but at
reasonably low cost (The Trevor Macdonald TV programme). As a
cost/benefit analysis will show, it is much more beneficial to
the community to renovate and not demolish. But yet all the incentives
are awarded for demolition!!
3. FIVE YEAR
3.1 The Governments "Sustainable Communities
Homes for All" will see two streets comprising 117 quality
low cost terrace houses demolished, and a community vandalised,
in order that ERYC qualify for a Government grant. This grant
or what will remain of it (after demolition costs have been met)
is supposedly going to be spent on renovating another 3,000 "fragile"
houses over a period of 10 years. In amongst the homes designated
as "fragile", are properties valued in the region of
3.2 ERYC will receive approximately £10
million in grants, the vast majority of which will go in compensation
and demolition costs. The remainder is supposedly going to be
spent on the renovation of the 3,000 "Fragile homes",
over a period of 10 years. It is estimated that at least £8
million will be spent on compensation/demolitionnot a lot
left to regenerate a town!! "Throwing" money at individuals
in the form of housing grants does nothing to address the social
and environmental issues. The Community must be involved; they
should decide how the money should be spent. They should be responsible
for the spend and the environmental upgrades.
3.3 In order to regenerate an area or a
community, the heart of that community, which has been bled dry
over many years of council neglect, must be restarted. Demolition
of 117 homes against the wishes of the residents and landlords,
and a refusal by ERYC to listen to any ideas of renovation does
not do anything to reinvigorate that community. In fact it does
just the opposite, it reinforces the view that the council patronisingly
"knows best, all the time", which it categorically does
3.4 The very process of demolition, and
the councils failure to consult in a fair and meaningful manner
will mean that the timescales will be elongated to as much as
10 years! Blighting the area and lives of the remaining residents
and those living close by.
4. GENERAL COMMENTS
4.1 ERYC have failed on every occasion to
answer the question "Why demolitionwhy these houses".
The Consultation and Neighbourhood Renewal Assessment Report failed
to demonstrate that any homes in Goole qualified for demolitionexcept
that the conditions of the grant state specifically that x number
of homes has to be demolished. ERYC have no plans to replace these
4.2 These homes are ideal for those wanting
to begin the climb up the property ladder, and for those who want
to downsize. Should these homes be demolished, in a town that
is already desperately short of housing, prices will surely rise
out of the reach of these prospective homebuyers. This will create
a higher demand for social housingin direct contradiction
to David Miliband's (Communities Minister) speechrecently,
when he said he wanted less social housing rather than more.
4.3 Contrary to its intentions this government's
policy does nothing to address the need to provide a wide range
of affordable housing, or indeed to provide sustainable communities.
It seeks to remove those people at the lower end of the housing
market, by pushing them away from property ownership and into
rented accommodation, where because of the shortage of houses,
rental payments have become much higher. This forces people who
were once "comfortable" homeowners into a potential
"poverty trap", with all its attendant problems. Thereby
increasing the pressure on local services.
4.4 I believe that communities and the environment
must be repaired before attention is turned to physical aspects
of property refurbishment. The majority of tenants when asked
"would you like new pvc windows and doors, or the anti-social
person(s) removing from next door" would invariably select
the removal of the anti-social elements. In order for this to
work local communities have to become empoweredresponsible
for their own neighbourhoods. This means that local communities
should be supported not thwarted by the County Council. It means
that the County Council when dealing with the community must always
be honest and open. It means the County Council going that "extra
mile" to ensure that all the community is involved in the
decision-making that affects them. Sadly in the case of Goole
and ERYC this is not the case.
4.5 It is the people that must become involved
and direct the regeneration of their community, which ultimately
will be the "ripple in the pond" for the whole town.
This cannot be achieved if the houses are demolished.
This submission is from Alan Wilson. Resident
in the Renewal Area, and a landlord with a house in the street
designated for demolition.