What one council did with a large development site

EDDC and Knowle and local NHS Estates: hang your heads in shame and pay particular attention to the last paragraph.

Housing can be a gloomy beat: most news stories focus on eviction rates, homelessness, rising house prices and rent rates locking people out of stable homes, while council housing is forcibly sold thanks to short-sighted government policies.

Obviously, bad news needs to be reported; often the people most subject to discrimination and homelessness are precisely those people the political class view as voiceless. But amid the doom, small symbols of hope appear in housing.

One such example, in a corner of Haringey, is the St Ann’s redevelopment trust Start: a disparate team of local residents working together to try to work out what housing the local area needs and then deliver it. The St Ann’s hospital site in the borough is being partially sold off – two thirds of it has been earmarked for private development. In itself, that is not unusual. The NHS has a lot of land that’s undeveloped or hasn’t been in use, and with services changing, empty sites often pop up.

Originally the plan was for the site to be sold for private housing development, with only 14% of the homes being classed as “affordable” (itself a loaded term). But Start Haringey had different ideas. It wanted to use the land for a genuinely community-led development and asked locals what they wanted to see in the area. The organisation held consultation events with hundreds of attendees, circulated a survey completed by more than 300 locals, and collaborated with architects, who were asked how the community’s desires could be realised.

The clear winners were truly affordable housing, and a development that considers health in the built environment and the need to be environmentally friendly. St Ann’s already has areas of great natural beauty that the community wants to retain, but locals also pressed the importance of green space that is accessible to all, not fenced off.

With mental health services continuing to run from the remainder of the site, the community was keen to integrate the development into the existing NHS services. The provision of affordable housing would not only be sympathetic to the needs of patients and staff at the hospital, but could also provide valuable accommodation for people who wish to live independently with support. At the same time, local outreach work could be carried out, so early intervention and preventative health work could seamlessly integrate into the development if done properly.

Community land trusts are growing in numbers throughout the UK, but perhaps key to this group’s success so far is how easy it is to get involved: meetings on the progress of the plan are held weekly at a local school, with a housing sub-group looking particularly at the type of buildings St Ann’s could benefit from. They’re open to all those in the area over the age of 16, and, while membership is £1, anyone can contribute without becoming a member. Costs are covered by a crowdfunding campaign, which is a quarter of the way to its target with over 100 backers. The funds will allow the group to finish the architect’s plans and put together a bid for the site.

Starting with a bottom-up approach, Start Haringey has developed a genuinely costed and doable plan for a development that meets local needs and helps mitigate the housing crisis locally.

Too often, locals are completely locked out of public consultations on the very land they live on, and neighbourhoods they have called home for decades: the assumption that locals don’t care about development simply isn’t true. You only need to see the strength of feeling involved in the many housing protests around the country. But in many cases, residents are patronised, offered a so-called choice between very similar models of development, and are never asked what they want their local area to look like – or, more importantly, why. Start Haringey shows that the appetite for proper consultation is there, and the political will to devote time to doing so is rising.


Bad news for our devolution councils and LEP

Particularly our LEP which has totally based its strategy on ever-increasing growth and productivity, continuing to receive EU funds or a similar level of funding from the government and for trickle-down from Hinkley C.

Plan B?

Growing uncertainty over the future of European funding for infrastructure and regeneration projects across England will hit economic growth unless there is clarity from government soon, councils have warned today.

In the strongest warning yet on the potential loss of regeneration funding following the vote to leave the European Union, the Local Government Association called for government action to prevent vital developments being lost.

The group said the majority of EU regeneration funding pledged to the UK in the 2014-2020 funding round remains tied up in thousands of growth-boosting proposals submitted to government. As these had not yet been approved, around £5.3bn of funding could potentially be at risk, particularly following the Brexit vote, LGA chair Lord Porter said.

“Communities and local economies have become increasingly reliant on what EU funds can achieve for them. Councils have used EU funds to help new businesses start-up, create thousands of new jobs, roll out broadband and build new roads and bridges,” he stated.

“Losing any of this vital money over the next few years would be a real blow for local economic growth and communities. It is important for the government to end the current uncertainty and guarantee that local areas will receive all of the EU funding they have been allocated by 2020, regardless of whether decisions over which projects it should be spent on have been made or not.”

In order to benefit from European funds, local areas are required to submit proposals, for example to create jobs or build new infrastructure, with government then deciding which projects the money can be spent on. Although the current period started in 2014, the LGA estimates that billions of this EU funding has yet to be released to local areas. For example, Cornwall and the north-east have both only received 20% of their EU funding allocations so far and Birmingham has only received 25%.

If these funds are not released soon, councils are concerned that Whitehall could hold onto this cash amid the uncertainty caused by the vote to leave the EU.

Projects that could be hit include the rollout of superfast broadband in Cornwall, which is part funded by the EU, as well as investments around Birmingham as part of the Midlands Engine devolution drive.

In addition, programmes in Greater Manchester supporting people into work, such as its flagship Working Well pilot programme that has so far engaged 4,000 residents on Employment and Support Allowance, are underpinned by European money. The initiative is being expanded to help a further 15,000 people who are on out-of-work benefits or in low-paid work. The expansion will run until March 2020 but is reliant on £12m of EU cash it is expecting to receive.”


Standards in public life – an example

It seems one of the rules for standards in public life is that no-one needs to resign if they don’t want to. And that lack of effective scrutiny is a widespread problem.

“A troubled NHS trust has paid millions of pounds to companies owned by previous associates of its embattled chief executive, BBC News has learned.
One firm received more than £5m despite winning a contract valued at less than £300,000, while another was paid more than £500,000 without bidding at all.

Both are owned by former acquaintances of Southern Health NHS Trust’s chief executive Katrina Percy.

The trust said it took its financial responsibilities “very seriously”.

‘Failure of leadership’

The BBC has also learned Southern Health has access to the services of former Labour spin doctor Alistair Campbell, after it hired Portland Communications to help with its ongoing problems.

Mental health trust Southern Health has been under intense scrutiny since an NHS England-commissioned report in December found it failed to investigate the unexpected deaths of hundreds of patients.

A failure of leadership and governance at the trust was blamed for the problems, a conclusion a subsequent CQC report in April agreed with.
In light of the criticisms, Katrina Percy, the only chief executive the trust has ever had, has faced widespread calls to resign but has refused to do so. …”


Hinkley C: NOT (yet) a done deal

“Plans to build the first new UK nuclear plant in 20 years have suffered an unexpected delay after the government postponed a final decision until the early autumn.

French firm EDF, which is financing most of the £18bn Hinkley Point project in Somerset, approved the funding at a board meeting.

Contracts were to be signed on Friday.

But Business Secretary Greg Clark has said the government will “consider carefully” before backing it.

According to reports, EDF’s chief executive Vincent de Rivaz has cancelled a trip to the UK on Friday following Mr Clark’s comments.

Critics of the plan have warned of environmental damage and potential escalating costs.

They are also concerned that the plant is being built by foreign governments. One third of the £18bn cost is being provided by Chinese investors.

EDF still hopes to have more than 2,500 workers on site by next year.
Announcing the approval of investment earlier, EDF described the plant as “a unique asset for French and British industries”, saying it would benefit the nuclear sectors in both countries and would give a boost to employment. …”


Hinkley C: if it brings 5,000 jobs, where are the other 20,000 promised by the LEP coming from?

On Spotlight tonight, the spokesperson for Hinkley C said that it would bring 5,000 jobs to the Devon and Somerset area (presumably mostly in Somerset).

However, our LEP says:

Hinkley Point C will see investment of by EDF of £20m in training, education and skills in the Heart of the South West. By the time the project is completed, we expect to see 25,000 new employment opportunities with 5,600 people and 400 apprentices employed at its peak. Over the lifetime of the project, over £2bn will go into our area’s economy.”


How do these numbers stack up – 25,000 jobs but 6,000 at its peak? What happens to the other 19,000 jobs? Zero hours? Or is it 19,000 people doing education, training and skills for 5,000 jobs!!!

EDF board member resigns as company expected to vote to construct Hinkley C

“A board member of the French energy giant EDF has resigned ahead of a vote to give the green light to construction of the controversial Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset.

Gerard Magnin, one of 18 board members, quit today saying that the £18bn project is too financially risky for EDF and will divert France away from investment in renewable energy.

Is support for Hinkley nuclear plant Philip Hammond’s first bad move?
The resignation of Magnin, who has a background in alternative energy, is not expected to derail EDF’s approval for the project today.

But it signals growing doubts about Hinkley Point and the financial capacity for EDF to deliver the UK’s first new nuclear power station in 20 years.

The firm’s chief financial officer, Thomas Piqemal, resigned in March over the project, saying it would jeopardise EDF’s financial situation.

“As a board member proposed by the government shareholder, I no longer want to support a strategy that I do not agree with,” Magnin wrote in a letter to EDF chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy which has been seen by Reuters.

EDF is listed on the French stock exchange but the French state retains an 81 per cent stake.

When the project to build a state-of-the art European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) on the Somerset coast was originally outlined in October 2014 EDF was only supposed to take a 50 per cent stake.

The rest was supposed to be financed by Chinese state companies and another majority state-owned French-nuclear engineering firm Areva.

But Areva has subsquently stumbled financially and its nuclear unit has been absorbed by EDF. And the Chinese have said they will fund no more than a third of the project, leaving EDF to finance 66 per cent of Hinkely Point.

Since January 2015 EDF’s share price has fallen by 50 per cent and its market capitalisation is just €22bn, less than the entire Hinkley Point project value.

The company, which has €37.4bn of debt, also needs to spend €50bn to upgrade its French nuclear plants over the next decade.

“Let’s hope that Hinkley Point will not drag EDF in the same abyss as Areva” said Magnin in his letter.

EDF unions have six seats on the board and have suggested they might vote against the Hinkley Point investment, arguing that it could jeopardise the company’s future.

The Hinkley Point reactor is also controversial in the UK as the UK government has agreed to buy electricity from the plant for 35 years at a price that is more than twice current market rates.”


Cranbrook: what can happen when you are tied to one district heating energy supplier

From the Cranbrook Town Council Facebook page:

Your Town Council recently brought a matter to the attention of E.ON that their annual energy service charge not changing other than by inflation contradicts the residents’ Customer Supply Agreement. Following our initiative, E.ON have now reviewed what the residents have been charged up until 31 March 2016, against what they would have been charged up to the same date, had they priced your energy service charge in line with inflation. We understand that residents will receive a letter stating how much has been credited to their Heat account and if you are affected by this you will receive a credit on your account in July.”