‘Facelift’ housing plan under review

REGENERATION chiefs say they are “extremely disappointed” with the High Court’s decision to order a judicial review of a major scheme aimed at breathing new life into run-down areas.

Hartlepool Borough Council is planning to demolish the Carr Street and Hopps Street area of town after successfully applying for Government funding to help finish the housing market renewal programme (HMR) scheme.

The council was awarded £2m from the coalition Government’s £35m transition fund.

But the plans are up in the air after a judicial review was ordered by Mrs Justice Lang following a High Court hearing.

The transition fund, launched by former housing minister Grant Shapps, was aimed at helping councils adapt after the scrapping of Labour’s HMR programme.

Mr Shapps had been critical of HMR and argued it led to the widespread demolition of traditional terraced housing, and stated the current government’s policy was for housing to be refurbished.

But campaign group Save Britain’s Heritage (SAVE) appealed to the High Court after it emerged the transition fund would still see 5,000 homes demolished nationally.

Mr Shapps said he had “not been informed” that his signature would mean demolishing swathes of terraced homes, despite councils setting out how they would spend the money in their bids.

SAVE has called for councils to either be forced to repay the cash or allocate it to refurbishing homes instead.

Lawyers for the Government conceded Mr Shapps’ decision was unlawful as it flew in the face of stated Government policy.

Government barrister, James Eadie QC, said it would be “legally extremely problematic, if possible at all” to unravel the payments insisting it would serve “no useful purpose” for the case to go any further.

But Mrs Justice Lang said: “While recognising the difficulty of elements of the case, a full judicial review is in the public interest.”

With the Hartlepool scheme, the vast majority of the 189 properties are boarded up ahead of demolition and residents say they have to put up with damp, rats and crime.

Hartlepool Borough Council has committed all of the £2m funding to buying the remaining houses.

A council spokesman said: “We are extremely disappointed to learn of the High Court decision.

“The council made it very clear in its bid to the Government that the funding would be used to purchase the remaining properties in Carr/Hopps Street prior to demolition of the overall site.

“The funding bid was put forward by the council after the Government withdrew funding on a previous housing regeneration scheme in Carr/Hopps Street and this was seen as an excellent opportunity to improve people’s lives and the local neighbourhood once and for all.

“The council has an excellent track record of breathing new life into neighbourhoods by replacing unwanted, outdated housing with new, modern, energy efficient homes such as Chester Road and off Hart Lane.

“We are seeking clarification from the Government to determine what impact this decision will have on our scheme and are awaiting a response.”