Harris Lamb Blog – 4th April 2011

Andrew Groves

4th April, 2011.

£210m, Money Well Spent?

By Andrew Groves, Commercial Agency.

That was the headline in The Sentinel on the 28th March. Andrew Groves, Head of Agency in Harris Lamb’s Stoke office, probes the question…

The question was raised over Renew North Staffordshire, the regeneration organisation who were charged with clearing areas of Stoke on Trent for new projects.

It transpired that Renew brought 1,661 homes and 35 businesses since April 2006 with the aim of knocking down ‘crumbling Victorian structures’ and replacing them with high quality modern homes.

As Renew’s cash ran out on Friday 1st April the time is right to look at whether Renew have had success and the tax payer has had value for money.  The money Renew has spent is the single biggest capital spend in North Staffordshire history.  Some 12,000 homes were planned to be built but the target date for completion was 2024.  The MP for Stoke on Trent, Tristram Hunt says ‘too much was promised and not enough delivered’.

The MP for Stoke on Trent North, Joan Walley says “a clear masterplan should have been in place before demolition began”.  The most damming quote comes from Stoke’s original elected Mayor, Mike Wolfe describing Renew as: ‘the disappointment of the decade’.

Hardial Bhoghal former Director of Renew and now Director of City Renewal at Stoke on Trent Council says the aim was to ‘de-risk’ development opportunities for those wanting to build and by that he says they need to look at joint ventures with developers.  He says the empty houses that they had, have got to be replaced in such a way that people want to live in the City rather than in the Moorlands and quieter villages around the Potteries.  Bhogal says ‘We haven’t got the housing estates which are attractive to people earning £50,000 or £60,000 a year’.

From a property perspective then the best initiatives seem to be those very specific projects that aim to give clear and measurable benefit within a timeframe that everyone understands and most importantly are deliverable.  Perhaps Renew set its targets too ambitiously.  One criticism was that whilst Renew was at work it effectively ‘blanked’ the private sector developers who were trying to dovetail with Renew’s programme and a lot of residential developers were deterred from credible projects in Stoke as all focus from the Council was on the work of Renew.

The successful schemes of urban regeneration, are collaborative and have a clear focus and drive.  Good examples include Gloucester Docks, Longbridge Birmingham on the site of the former MG Rover works and, more locally, Festival Park.

Sadly when it comes to Renew there are too many people who believe the money has been poorly spent.

For the Sentinel’s original article, published in the March 28th edition of the paper, visit the website at http://www.thisisbusiness-staffordshire.co.uk/

If you would like to speak with Andrew about any issues raised in his blog, he can be reached on 01782 272 555 or via email: andrew.groves@harrislamb.com.      

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