I listened with great interest over the weekend to the Prime Minister’s plans to release a £140m funding package which will help community groups, councils, housing associations and developers turn around some of the country’s worst council estates.
It’s a welcome initiative and something I’m fully in support of however the Government needs to ensure that each geographical area - even each former council estate - is looked at carefully and that the right solution is created for each.
It’s something we’ve done a lot of in the last 20 years, and you come to realise what’s appropriate and what will work. We’ve been working for example at New Islington in Manchester for more than a decade; it used to be known as the Cardroom Estate and was a notoriously deprived area of the city. Demolition of the existing homes was definitely the best way forward as it paved the way for us, Manchester City Council and other developers to create a new masterplan and ultimately contemporarily appropriate housing solutions as well as workspaces, a health centre, a park, a marina and a school.
In the case of buildings like Park Hill in Sheffield - we had a contrasting view. Back in the sixties, the vast building of 1000 flats housed hundreds of families and was regarded as an urban utopia. There was no doubt in our mind that retention and restoration was definitely the best way forward and we’ve already converted almost 300 homes there for modern buyers and tenants. We did the same at 3Towers on the outskirts of Manchester - the three buildings there were retrievable and hundreds of people live there.
This programme is a good start but there’s still much more that needs to be done if we’re to make full viable and sustainable use of the country’s most rundown housing blocks - £140m will not go very far between 100 estates!