Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
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JOHN HEALEY PLEDGES SUPPORT TO A NEW VISION FOR BYKER

JOHN HEALEY PLEDGES SUPPORT TO A NEW VISION FOR BYKER

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 04 March 2010

Housing Minister John Healey has pledged to give his full support to a new vision published today for the future of the iconic Byker estate.

These proposals will bring up to £48 million into Byker and put the community in control of investment in the estate, redesigning homes, making them greener and creating new employment opportunities for local people. The plan has been prepared by a special taskforce set up by Mr Healey and independently chaired by Professor Peter Roberts. It will be subject to agreement by the Byker community themselves.

Mr Healey met with residents of the historic site today where he welcomed proposals for the future of Byker, and pledged Government backing by writing off around £44 million in local housing debt.

Alongside the Taskforce chair, Newcastle City Council and the Homes and Communities Agency, the Minister signed a commitment to work together to achieve the vision laid out by the Task Force to invest in a better future for Byker’s residents – refurbishing homes, tackling deprivation, and breathing new life into the area.

The grade II* listed Byker Estate has been well-loved by its community for almost 40 years, but is in clear need of investment to meet modern standards. The new proposals for the future of Byker published today include plans to establish a new Community Trust to take ownership of the area and continue the vital task of its regeneration.
The Byker Task Force propose:

• Establishing a Community Trust for Byker led by local residents to manage investment across the estate, creating training and employment opportunities for local people to tackle deprivation and work to develop homes, land and buildings across Byker.
• Investing in the redesign and renewal of the local environment, community safety, energy efficiency, improved access and better services
• Other priorities would include use of new technology on the roof to capture solar power, and better use of public buildings.

Professor Peter Roberts, independent chairman of the Byker Taskforce, will lead this important further work over the coming weeks.

John Healey said:
“The Byker estate is internationally acclaimed for its innovative and community-led design, and I want to see that continue. I would like to thank Professor Roberts and the Task Force for the work they have been doing to find the best way to secure Byker’s future for the local community.

“"Today's announcement is the basis for helping build a new future for Byker. Byker needs a unique vision for a unique place. While there is still a great deal of work to do this plan puts us on the right track, and I’m giving Government backing worth £44 million by writing off the local housing debt. We’ve all made a firm commitment today to work closely with the local community to bring these proposals to life. I want to ensure that tenants play a full part in this process so we can invest together in the best possible future for the residents of Byker.”

Professor Peter Roberts, the independent chair to the Byker Investment Task Force said:

“This is a new and very creative approach to secure the future of a highly distinctive estate. A whole range of organisations, residents and local Councillors have worked hard to find a new way forward for Byker, and today marks a great opportunity for the people of Byker to guide the future of their estate.”

“A community trust could bring new investment, and bring Ralph Erskine’s original vision for the estate into the 21st century by tackling issues like landscaping, recycling and energy efficiency,” said Pat Ritchie, Regional Director of the Homes and Communities Agency. “Erskine’s vision was all about the community, with distinctive neighbourhoods that could change over time with people’s needs. This proposal could adapt the estate’s environment and protect its heritage in just the way Erskine intended.”

Background
The Byker Task Force, is chaired by Professor Peter Roberts. The group included Your Homes Newcastle, Newcastle City Council, English Heritage and Bridging NewcastleGateshead.

THE BYKER ESTATE

• The Byker estate was designed by Ralph Erskine. Built to house the existing Byker community, it is distinctive and full of character, breaking the mould of the high rise orthodoxy of the time.
• The estate won international acclaim as an exemplar of 1970’s social housing development.
• It became a grade II* listed building in 2006, and is categorised as within the top 6% of all listed buildings in the country.

The Task Group
• Includes the Homes and Communities Agency, Newcastle City Council, Your Homes Newcastle, Bridging NewcastleGateshead and English Heritage.
• Chaired by Professor Peter Roberts of the University of Leeds
• Aims to maximise investment in Byker, protect its heritage value, involve the local community and strengthen the community’s role in the future as well as developing a self-financing and sustainable vision for the estate’s future.

The proposal
• The Decent Homes programme led by the Arms Length Management Organisation, Your Homes Newcastle, is well underway on the estate with £17m invested so far and £18m planned by end of 2011. However, the Taskforce has concluded that longer term investment is needed to secure and build upon the Decent Homes improvements works on the estate.
• The government will support a community trust by writing off housing debt of £44 million associated with the estate. The level of debt written off would be agreed with the HCA before a ballot on the proposals.
• The Taskforce will continue to lead to ensure that momentum is maintained and this scheme is completed before the proposed reforms of the housing finance system are implemented.
• The proposal would establish a Community Trust for Byker, to manage investment across the estate, tackle deprivation by creating training and employment opportunities for local people, and work to develop land and buildings across Byker. The local community would play a key role in the Trust and its Board, working alongside the ALMO Your Homes Newcastle (who would provide support and management services).
• Investment would focus on redesign/renewal of the local environment, better community safety, improved energy efficiency, improved access and parking and better services for waste management and recycling. Other priorities would include use of new technology on the roof to capture solar power, and better use of public buildings.

What happens next
• The decision to create a new Community Housing Trust rests with the local community, who will have the opportunity to vote on the proposal.
• A Community Trust would be a charity, and would own and manage the estate in perpetuity for the benefit of local residents.
• Once the community vote to create a Community Trust, the Government would be asked to write off the housing debt associated with the estate.

Contacts:

Communities and Local Government Press Office
Phone: 0303 44 41137
press.office@communities.gsi.gov.uk

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