Money to demolish “sink estates” is really loans to developers!

David Cameron’s promise to spend millions on bulldozing and rebuilding sink estates as a key part of his prime ministerial legacy appeared to unravel last night as it emerged that the small amount of money set aside for the project can only be accessed by private developers in the form of loans.
To great fanfare, the prime minister announced his intention in January to potentially tear down 100 of the UK’s worst estates to tackle drug abuse and gang culture. The modest size of the £140m “fund” set aside by Cameron to meet costs was widely questioned at the time, but Downing Street insisted that the redevelopment programme would reverse decades of neglect.

The housing developments being targeted reportedly include the Winstanley estate in Wandsworth, south London, the Lower Falinge estate in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, and Broadwater Farm in Tottenham, north London.

Now the Observer has learned that the £140m is only available in loan form to private sector organisations who come forward to regenerate stricken areas. A statement quietly released by the Department for Communities and Local Governmentin February admitted: “£140m of loan funding has been set aside by government, to be used as a springboard for partnership and joint venture arrangements, with the active involvement of communities.”

A spokesman said the rate of interest on the loans to private companies would vary “scheme by scheme”. The application process, more than a month since the announcement, has yet to be opened to interested parties.

The revelation will be an embarrassment for the prime minister, who claimed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show at the time that “in the worst estates … you’re confronted by concrete slabs dropped from on high, brutal high-rise towers and dark alleyways that are a gift to criminals and drug dealers”.
Promising to transform the worst estates, Cameron added: “For some, this will mean knocking them down and starting again. For others, it might mean changes to layout, upgrading facilities and improving road and transport links.”

His announcement on the regeneration of sink estates was widely seen as an attempt to claim the centre ground as Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party moved to the left. The redevelopment programme is to be overseen by Michael Heseltine, who helped to transform the Liverpool and London docks in the 1980s. However, in the light of revelation about the reality of the funding, John Healey MP, the shadow secretary of state for housing and planning, accused the prime minister of making “hollow announcements to make headlines”.

He said: “After five years of Tory failure on housing, those living on estates around the country need investment in new homes and estate regeneration – not an announcement of a new fund that is quietly downgraded when it is hoped no one will notice.”

A DCLG spokesman said the loan status of money set aside for regeneration had been laid out in the autumn statement, ahead of Cameron’s claim in a Sunday newspaper and on the BBC to have put aside a “fund” for the initiative.He said: “We’re determined to kick-start the regeneration of council estates to provide high quality homes to benefit thousands of people.

“The autumn statement made absolutely clear that the government is providing loan funding for council estate regeneration projects. “The £140m will be used to lever in additional funding from local authorities, housing associations and private investment. High up-front costs and long timescales for development mean regeneration schemes can become stalled because upfront finance is unavailable. These low-risk loans will help remove blockages and speed up processes to transform estates.”

Time to put an end to retrospective planning applications?

East Devon District Council deals with a large number of retrospective planning applications – sites that were started without planning permission. If these sites remain undetected for long enough, sometimes a local authority is powerless to refuse permission.

One major area where retrospective planning applications has been relatively common is at Greendale Business Park, for example, where the speed of development appears to have outstripped the speed of obtaining the relevant permission at the proper time. And at Pooh Cottage (see previous posts)

What excuse is there for this? One can understand, say, a single householder not realising that they need permission for a new window opening or a new drive. But can one really excuse hard-nosed businessmen and women who know the score but don’t quite manage to keep to the rules, even with the best architects and “consultants” available to them?

Once there is a Local Plan, surely there is no excuse for this. A development is either in it or it is not.

In the case of illegal developments commenced BEFORE the Local Plan came into existence, people could be given six months to “come clean” and have their cases decided.

AFTER the Local Plan has been adopted and after the six month period of grace has elapsed the ability to put in retrospective planning applications should totally cease. The consequence of starting work BEFORE planning permission had been granted should automatically be that the building(s) be demolished within three months at the applicants expense. No ifs, no buts, NO fines – they would almost certainly be disproportionate and developers would happily pay up to circumvent the Local Plan – with planning lawyers getting rich on case law.

With a Local Plan there is no case for retrospective planning applications.

Retrospective planning applications

All those new jobs for “Greater Exeter” – we might need to think again!

Exeter has come top on the list of cities with the most jobs that will be lost to robots.

Roughly one-in-11 vacancies across the UK currently being advertised are likely to be obsolete by 2035, according to new calculations from jobs website Adzuna.

Of the 56 major UK cities studied Exeter has the highest proportion of job at risk, with 9% likely to eventually be replaced by robots.

The sorts of jobs at risk include billboard installer, tree trimmer and fence builder. …

… The report showed that of 56 major UK towns and cities studied, Exeter was revealed to have the highest proportion of advertised vacancies at risk of automation, with almost nine per cent of all ads for jobs in the city being for roles Oxford University researchers think very likely to be replaced by robots within 20 years.

Doug Monro, Adzuna’s co-founder, said:”The risk of a robot invasion on the Devon coast might sound fanciful, but there’s a serious message for younger workers, whether they’re looking for their first job, or are comfortably in a career: if you want to remain relevant in the workplace, you need to develop skills that cannot be easily automated.”

Hugo Swire – still doing the hokey-cokey?

Dave has decided in, Boris has decided out, George in, Michael Gove, out.

So, come on, Hugo – the “big brains” have now decided about the EU – time to shake it all about and make up your mind. That fence will be getting awfully uncomfortable very soon.

And, of course, apologies if you HAVE decided – it’s just that, as we don’t see you very much here in East Devon, we only have your website to go on when we want to find out what’s going on.

And as of this morning, it gives us no clues at all.