Monday, 20 March 2006

Residents helping to shape our vision for South Bank

Posted by Chris.

I spent this morning standing in the cold streets of South Bank dealing with the huge media interest in the latest proposals for tackling the housing market collapse in South Bank that incorporates residents' views and concerns.

Tyne Tees TV, turned up late and missed the briefing. Their coverage, as usual, focussed only on the negative. They clearly did not bother to inform their viewers about the plan to provide new housing, a health village, a new shopping centre, new schools and a new police station, they simply found an elderly resident and gave the impression she would have to leave the area. This is simply not true.

Redcar & Cleveland Council's Cabinet will be asked to agree 12 recommendations at its next meeting on Tuesday, March 28, including opening negotiations with residents who are living in homes among hundreds of empty properties in the clearance area, organising financial relocation packages and a promise of ongoing consultation.

The first phase of the scheme, officially titled the South Bank Renewal Plan, will focus on clearing the areas of older terraced housing with the highest proportion of voids, while ensuring others are not left in isolation.

The project team is ready to start visiting the occupied properties to begin the exit strategy with residents in the priority area for acquisition and clearance from April 1.

As the Council's Cabinet Member for Housing and Neighbourhood Renewal, I made the following comments: "We're not just knocking down houses - we're building a better community, one that will be sustainable and for the long term.

"We have listened to the community. We know there is backing and we also accept many want to see the newer housing left alone. These plans reflect that and they will help people who live in the worst- affected streets get the kind of modern homes they deserve for 21st Century living.

"Our consultation has shown the majority of people back the proposals, with support for clearance being strongest in the area where market failure is most advanced. I'm sure they will be delighted that we are making real progress to give them something to look forward to."

"We believe we have a proven track record - look at how houses are already being successfully cleared from Costa Street and Aire Street. The majority of those residents are now more than happy with their new homes and the relocation packages they received."

The blueprint has already received Government backing, with funding for the first two years to cover the acquisition process. Confirmation of the exact total of the Council's successful funding bid, through Tees Valley Living, to the North East Regional Housing Board, is due from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister next week.

The Renewal Plan is a key part of the wider vision for South Bank to create a sustainable community of more than 900 new homes, supported by substantial investment in health, education, recreation and retail services to benefit the whole Greater Eston area.

Latest figures show the first target area has 207 properties - 142 are void, while of the remaining 65, 29 are owner-occupiers with the rest a mix of private and social rented. The whole area, mainly to the west of Victoria Street and around the Queen Street/Redcar Road area, has 373 properties, with an estimated 176 void.

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