Four areas have been chosen to pilot a model for promoting private sector investment in improving deprived communities. Bradford, Lewisham, Oldham and Waltham Forest will take part in the Under-served Markets project, a joint initiative between the Department for Communities and Local Government and Business in the Community.
The idea is to build on the on the successful experience seen in the Harlem district of New York and to identify investment opportunities in some of England’s most deprived areas. The involvement of private money has been welcomed by the Local Government Association which has stressed the key role that councils still have to play in the project.
The pilots will involve specific schemes in each of the four areas. In Bradford the plan is to attract commercial investment to support the reopening of the Bradford Canal. The Lewisham pilot will look at bringing an investor into the area to stimulate and support opportunities for existing small businesses, using the development of Deptford Railway Station as an anchor. Oldham will see two projects, one to support the local council’s attempts to stimulate growth in the town centre, and the other to regenerate Failsworth district centre to provide employment and training opportunities. Finally, in Waltham Forest the aim is to support revitalisation of the existing town centre, which is a priority for the local authority.
Local Government Minister Phil Woolas said the project demonstrated the Government’s belief that the private sector could play a key role in regenerating areas that have suffered historically from a lack of investment. “Government cannot solve all the problems on its own but by working with the private sector and local government we can now work with communities to achieve real and lasting improvements,” he said.
Councillor Chris White, who chairs the LGA’s Regeneration Board, added, “The private and public sector must work together to ensure that no neighbourhood is seen as an ‘investment no-go’ area. We need to attract investment to create a virtuous circle in which an increase in economic activity will lead to more local employment, increased local wealth and thus attract more investment. Local authorities have a key role to play to ensure that local communities benefit from this increased investment.”