Headlines: June 27th, 2003

Pathfinder projects designed to tackle the blight of low housing demand and abandonment in the North and Midlands are to share 28 million pounds of funding which has been approved by the Minister for Regeneration and Regional Development, Jeff Rooker.The Market Renewal Pathfinders, which aim to reverse the trend of people moving away from their communities by providing long-term solutions to housing problems, will each receive four million pounds to take their plans forward. The money will mean the schemes can begin immediately improvement work such as the demolition of obsolete properties has been completed.Pathfinders in Birmingham, Sandwell, East Lancashire, North Staffordshire, Oldham, Rochdale and South Yorkshire will each receive the money while they continue developing their long-term programmes. Approval has also been given to projects put forward by the Merseyside and Newcastle and Gateshead pathfinders from their emerging strategic schemes. They will now be able to begin work before submitting their full proposals, which is expected to happen later this year.

The Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, said areas affected by low housing demand or abandonment contained some of the most socially excluded people, living in some of the most deprived areas of the country with the worst health and life expectancy. The Pathfinder programmes, he said, were there to break this cycle of deprivation. The funding announced by Lord Rooker is for the 2003/04 financial year alone. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will monitor programme spend on an ongoing basis and money will be reallocated if there is under-delivery.