Headlines: March 29th, 2004

Almost 200 million pounds is being made available for three Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder projects in the north of England. The funding has been announced by the Deputy Prime Minister who said it would help to reverse decades of decline in communities affected by low housing demand and abandonment. There will also be more money for former mining districts.The pathfinder districts are South Yorkshire, East Lancashire and the Oldham and Rochdale area. All three take in some of the areas worst affected by collapsing house prices and problems like abandoned homes, poverty, poor health and anti-social behaviour. Mr. Prescott also announced 25 million pounds for the regeneration of former coalfield areas.

The pathfinder funding is intended to help local people make radical improvements to their homes, increase confidence in the housing market, and restore pride to communities struggling to survive. The largest sum, 71 million pounds, goes to the Transform South Yorkshire Pathfinder for work across Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley. Transform South Yorkshire plans to repair, improve and refurbish over 2,000 houses to revive the local market and encourage neighbourhoods to be cleaner, safer and smarter places to live.

The Elevate East Lancashire Pathfinder will get 68 million pounds to tackle abandonment and poor quality housing. It plans to refurbish 1,100 homes and demolish a further 800 surplus properties. This should encourage private sector housing developers to invest in local communities including Burnley and Blackburn. The Rochdale and Oldham Pathfinder will use its 53.5 million pounds to turn around a weak housing market where there are neighbourhoods that suffer severe overcrowding next to those blighted by abandoned houses. Three hundred poor quality homes, for which there is no demand, will be demolished and 400 houses will be bought and improved as they come onto the market.

The money for former mining areas includes a 10 million pound Coalfields Enterprise Fund, to finance new and existing small or medium sized businesses, and a further 15 million for the Coalfield Regeneration Trust.

The allocations are part of a wider 500 million pound programme to improve a total of nine Pathfinder areas across the North and Midlands. All three Pathfinders have already received 4 million pounds of initial money to fund early action work, such as community regeneration projects.