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Estate regeneration plans risk deepening north-south divide

Current government plans for estate regeneration risk further leaving behind deprived communities in the north and the Midlands, a think tank has warned.

This past January former prime minister David Cameron announced plans to demolish and redevelop ‘sink’ estates across the country to tackle deprivation, making available a £140m fund designed to support the regeneration of 100 estates.

However, ‘Great Estates’, a report published by think tank ResPublica yesterday, stated that the current Estates Regeneration Strategy “lacks the funding needed to bring benefits to all parts of the country”.

“There is a clear gap between what can be delivered by the government through the Estate Regeneration Strategy in London and parts of the south east; and what it can reasonably facilitate in other parts of the country,” the report concluded.

“With significant deprivation on estates in all parts of the country, this should be a key focus of the prime minister’s Social Reform Cabinet Committee.”

Rather than an emphasis on ‘bricks and mortar regeneration’ which concentrates on improvements such as housing and the physical environment, ResPublica’s report recommended placing emphasis on ‘people-related’ outcomes – such as improving health, education, wellbeing and joblessness.

The think tank’s researchers calculated that reducing unemployment in just 12 well-known estates could save the government at least £140m by 2030 – the same amount of money currently available for the scheme.

“Without looking again at the way regeneration is funded and delivered, we risk leaving estates across the country – from Walsall to Blackpool, Carlisle to Bradford – further behind,” said the author of the report, Edward Douglas.

“Regeneration can, when communities are put at the heart of the process, deliver real benefits to local places and impact on people’s lives – and can at the same time deliver new homes in places that desperately need them.”

‘Great Estates’ analysed a cross-section of 122 estates and found that the government’s current private-sector led approach will not help poorer communities where land values are too low to attract investment and deprivation is deeply entrenched in the community.

The report therefore advocated the creation of a new Estate Endowment Fund to attract additional social investment initiatives to work alongside the £140m currently designated for housing.

It also recommended the creation of a four-point Residents’ Charter, outlining best practice in housing estate regeneration with a particular eye on community engagement, and the exploration of partial VAT relief on refurbishment costs in order to incentivise local investment.

“The new government has a great opportunity to look again at this to ensure opportunity and prosperity are spread to all parts of the country,” Douglas concluded.

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