Speaking to the BBC over the weekend, Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans that that Government is set to spend £140m, with added money from the private sector, on regenerating 100 housing estates in England (view BBC video clip here).
Whilst Wetherby wholeheartedly welcome any proposal for investment which helps to alleviate fuel poverty, it’s feared his plans to focus entirely on demolition and rebuild are extremely short-sighted and will require significant additional consultation.
A number of people have already comment on the proposals, including Neil Marshall, CEO of the National Insulation Association (NIA) who said: “Whilst we support the Prime Minister’s proposals to improve housing estates in England we are concerned that the plans appear to focus purely on demolition and rebuilding. Housing estates can be regenerated and transformed by upgrading the existing properties including the installation of attractive external wall insulation. The cost of upgrading estates is significantly less than demolition and rebuilding which means more households could be helped with the money. In addition, upgrading the existing buildings avoids the hassle and disruption of having to re-house the occupants which is associated with demolition and rebuilding.
Along with the NIA, Wetherby would urge the Prime Minister to reconsider the proposals and focus more of the investment on upgrading existing properties.
Wetherby Managing Director Bob Deane said: “Some of the old buildings that the Prime Minister refers to are structurally insecure, so of course these should be demolished. However many of them are still perfectly robust buildings that could be made habitable by adopting a proven energy improvement scheme, to include external or internal wall insulation, new boilers, draught proofing etc. Improving energy efficiency and increasing a home’s external longevity is something we’ve been doing successfully for the last 20 years. It’s a proven method that works.”
“Thought also needs to be given to the people and families who will be affected by these proposals, including the vulnerable and elderly. Such significant changes might not always be readily embraced, since refusing to build high will mean having to build out, forcing people to move from communities they may have called ‘home’ for decades.”
Brian Robson, policy and research manager for housing at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation charity, said it was true that poor housing and run down estates could trap people in poverty, but he said he worried the government was relying too much on private investment, which risked “pushing people out of the places where they have roots”.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of the charity Shelter, said: “It is essential for the government to consult with the people who live in and around these developments as they develop their plans, and, even more importantly, replace every home which is re-developed like for like.”