Created: 19 April 2012
Bob spoke during a Westminster Hall debate on regeneration and the CLG Committee’s recent report in response to the Government’s published strategy.
Bob made clear the need for a wholesale regeneration of communities that does not stop at housing. It should be clear that if we have a regeneration strategy and Government funding is provided, competition is needed. Ministers should not simply dole out cheques for an area; people should come together as communities in partnership with the private sector and others to compete for the money that is available.
Bob spoke of the investment opportunities for local areas once even small regeneration projects have begun. On the site of Central Middlesex hospital in the London borough of Brent, 80 acres of prime industrial land were not going to receive investment. By using regeneration money, a new road was created and suddenly huge amounts of investment came in. That investment dwarfed the amount of public money that came in. Therefore, a relatively small spend on an infrastructure project produced large-scale private sector investment. If there are limited resources, they should be applied where the maximum gain can be achieved.
Investing money in the areas of greatest deprivation does not solve the problem entirely as as soon as jobs are obtained individuals move to a better area to be replaced by those that do not.
Bob returned to the situation in the London borough of Harrow, which relates to a much more recent development. The redevelopment of Harrow town centre was going to be promoted by Harrow College moving there. Harrow College had an imaginative scheme to transfer its main college from Harrow East to the centre of Harrow. Harrow on the Hill tube station, which is a fundamental hub in north-west London, would be regenerated. The college would move; there would be new housing and a new shopping centre; and the council would relocate its main civic centre to the town centre.
The scheme was put together creatively by a key partnership of the public and private sector, including Transport for London, but the fundamental issue was whether we would get funding from the Learning and Skills Council. It was presented as a multi-million pound project, bringing in huge amounts of private sector investment. Harrow College spent more than £10 million of its own resources to develop the scheme. At the last minute, of course, the LSC had over-committed all its funds and every scheme was pulled. As a result, the regeneration of Harrow town centre was put on the back burner and will never happen without substantial public sector investment. The key point is that a relatively small amount of money is required to produce huge private sector investment.
Bob regards that as a failure of regeneration activities under the previous Government, where everyone was led up the hill—to believe that all this would happen, funding was in place and it would all occur properly—only to be let down at the last minute, when there was never any possibility of public sector funding. That is why, in respect of a strategy for regeneration, we must be open and honest and say that the limited resources must be concentrated on areas that will produce the greatest possible return and improve the quality of life for the maximum number of people.
Bob made clear the need for a strategy that emphasises the need for private sector leverage coming in on the back of public sector investment. We should aim for the maximum possible private sector leverage. There must be clear priorities, a clear plan and everyone must know what is going to be provided and committed.
In any form of regeneration, strong community involvement is needed. After all, the community living, working and playing in those areas will suffer the consequences if we get it wrong. Therefore, it is important that people are not only consulted, but are part and parcel of the schemes that are to be developed. Bob warmly endorsed the capability of regenerating local areas. There is no single way to do so, but a coherent and convincing strategy is necessary, so that everyone who participates in regeneration can believe that things will changes