Sunday, 30 April 2017

Shapps accuses authorities of misspending £35 million of regeneration cash

Councils angry at regeneration funds claim

Councils have hit back at claims that they misspent government money earmarked for regeneration schemes on major demolition projects.

Housing minister Grant Shapps has called for a review of how councils are using a £35 million transition fund for Housing Market Renewal pathfinder areas, amid concerns that it has been spent on demolishing thousands of homes.

Inside Housing has found several councils have spent the cash, which was allocated in November, on either demolishing homes or buying up properties in advance of demolition.

Hull, Stockton-on-Tees and Wirral councils have used their full allocations - £7.5 million in government funding - to clear former HMR sites.

Sefton Council in Merseyside will spend £4.4 million on acquisitions, with 480 homes slated for demolition in one estate alone, but only £800,000 will go towards relocating residents.

Bidding guidance issued by the Homes and Communities Agency last summer specified the money should mainly be spent on relocation and refurbishment ‘and at the margins some site security or clearance costs’.

But councils this week retaliated with claims that the money was always intended to be used for clearing ‘ghost streets’ created when the coalition pulled HMR funding in 2010.

Alan Lund, director of built environment at Sefton, said that refurbishment was not viable in the area. ‘From my perspective, this [funding demolitions] was why the fund existed,’ he said.

A source at Hull Council, which is spending its entire £3.3 million allocation on site clearance, said: ‘It could not have been made any clearer: this was intended for demolitions.’

David Ireland, chief executive of Empty Homes, said he was ‘shocked’ by ‘the difference between the rhetoric used about this and what it is actually doing’.

Mr Shapps said councils ‘should not be pursuing large-scale demolition’.

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