Major regeneration programmes that are transforming important areas of Stoke-on-Trent have been hailed by an influential national agency.
Robert Napier, CBE, chairman of the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) – the housing and regeneration agency for England – was given a whistle-stop tour of the city last week (5 June).
Stoke-on-Trent City Council hosted the visit, which included a series of briefings at the multi-million pound Centre for Refurbishment Excellence – a radically refurbished former pottery site in Longton which is a national leader in the refitting and refurbishment of old homes to eco standards; a visit to the developing Central Business District in the city centre, which will provide 750,000 square metres of offices, attracting 4,000 jobs; the £15m city centre bus station, and the development sites along Potteries Way including the site of City Sentral – a £350m retail and leisure complex.
Senior councillors and council officers also showed Mr Napier the Etruria Valley site, where major plans are being implemented to radically transform the transport connections to secure large scale employment opportunities for advanced manufacturing and new housing. Mr Napier visited an innovative housing scheme in Balfour Street in the city centre, where much needed larger family homes have been created by converting two smaller homes into one while restoring traditional features and using the latest eco technology to improve energy efficiency. In a full day of activities, Mr Napier also saw homes in City Waterside being developed with HCA and council support, including Wedgwood Gardens.
Mr Napier also held a focus group with the council, developers and registered providers to examine how the city is transforming to meet challenges and opportunities around housing mix and economic development, and attracting more investment into the city.
The HCA has a capital investment budget of £4bn for 2012-15 and has played an integral part in supporting acquisitions and demolitions for the Central Business District in addition to supporting the development of new homes across the city.
Council leader Mohammed Pervez said: “The HCA has been very supportive of the work we are doing to transform and regenerate our city. This visit was the opportunity to show Mr Napier we are a city that is delivering on its plans, we are creating a climate where house-builders are welcome, where we are making the best use of our assets and embracing radical ideas. This work is underpinned by our Mandate for Change commitments to create a great working city, where businesses are supported and people live healthy lives.
“We are undertaking a comprehensive assessment of more than 500 sites to look at areas for strategic housing growth. There are currently seven sites across the city where over 700 homes are being built with funding from the HCA and council. Improved market conditions are also beginning to show with a further 300 homes now being built by private sector developers which we expect to grow significantly on the back of the council’s investment across the city including in schools, the city centre and Etruria Valley.”
Mr Napier is a former chairman and non-executive director of English Partnerships, chairman of the board of the Met Office and President of the National Council of Building Material Producers.
He said: “The work taking place in Stoke-on-Trent is very impressive, in particular the transformation of existing terrace houses at Balfour Street to create homes which meet local need.
“I am proud of the successful partnership work between the HCA and others which has helped to stimulate economic growth in the Central Business District and enabled the transformation in the City Waterside area. The tour of the facilities and work being carried out at CoRE was really interesting and I wish them well in the future. My visit to Stoke-on-Trent was a great opportunity to further a culture of partnership working to galvanise effort and effectiveness of investment.”