rose to draw attention to the impact of Her Majesty's Government's regeneration policies upon the economic, social and environmental quality of life of urban areas, especially those most in need; and to move for Papers.
My Lords, in moving the Motion on the Order Paper before the House, I am pleased to have this opportunity to introduce a debate that provides the House with the opportunity to explore the Government's commitment to improving,
"the economic social and environmental quality of life in our urban areas".
I warmly welcomed the publication of the Urban White Paper in November 2000, and I have followed with great interest the policy being put into action.
Perhaps I may begin by declaring that I am a non-executive director of a development company with interests in urban regeneration schemes. I am also a partner in two businesses—some of whose clients from time to time are companies with development interests.
My noble friend Lord Rogers of Riverside reported in June 1999, having been set the task of identifying,
"the causes of urban decline in England and to recommend practical solutions to bring people back into our cities, towns and urban neighbourhoods".
I look forward with keen anticipation to my noble friend's contribution to our reflections this afternoon.
The Government's White Paper was published in November 2000, with the title Our towns and cities: the future—delivering an urban renaissance. These are ambitious goals reflecting a feeling that for far too long we had allowed our urban areas to develop, or in some cases to decline without vision, with many older areas gradually losing the vitality of their past. In an age of apparent prosperity and rising living standards, the public face of large parts of our towns and cities was all too often down-at-heel at best, derelict and poverty stricken at worst. And behind the physical contrasts of private affluence and public decline lay a deep and deepening gulf between the haves and the have-nots of society.
Urban regeneration policies can achieve a great deal—I shall comment on those later—but they must take place in a supportive macro framework of policy. Stable economic growth has brought increased living standards overall, increased investment opportunities, increased confidence in the private sector, and increased resources for public investment. In the same way, the gap between rich and poor needed determined action nationally to tackle the problem, whether that individual poverty is experienced in urban or rural environments.
Between 1979 and 1995, noble Lords may recall that incomes rose by 68 per cent for the richest 10 per cent of the population, while the poorest 10 per cent saw their incomes fall. In 1979, 10 per cent of children—one in 10—lived in households with below half the average income. By 1995, that figure had risen to show that nearly a third of all children were living in such homes.
As a result of tax and benefit changes announced by the Labour Government in the previous Parliament, there are now 1.2 million fewer children in poverty than would otherwise have been the case. As part of the next stage of tax and benefit reform, a new tax credit for families with children—the Child Tax Credit—will be introduced next year, building on the foundation of the universal child benefit. In addition, extra funds have been made available for Sure Start, Neighbourhood Renewal and the Children's Fund. The Government are now well on the way to meeting their targets of reducing child poverty by a quarter by 2004, halving it by 2010, and eradicating child poverty within a generation.
Under-investment in our schools and health services has also had to be tackled nationally. Only by providing a solid base of increased investment in our schools and health services can we provide better standards all round, while leaving some room to tackle the additional problems of concentrated poverty and deprivation.
Implementation of the NHS Plan, particularly in relation to primary care reform, will have a special impact on urban regeneration. The 26 health action zones (HAZs) set up to tackle health inequalities have been taking forward a range of activity that impacts on the determinants of health.
I anticipate that we shall have a wide-ranging debate this afternoon, touching upon economic, social and environmental issues, and upon the physical and human attributes of urban regeneration. There are those who are impassioned by the need for vision, courage and confidence and by the need to understand and build on the organic and holistic nature of vibrant urban communities. On the other hand, there are those whose sights are firmly focused on the everyday realities of urban deprivation, as it determines and blights the lives of generations caught in its vicious circle. Both approaches are essential for urban regeneration that goes beyond sticking plaster palliatives.
Better design, better architecture, better use of private and public space, vibrant arts and culture are essential if we are to recapture the vitality of urban living in so many of our towns and cities. But for far too many of our citizens, such aspirations might seem like luxuries. The poorest people have become concentrated in areas of acute need and many of those acute differences lie in our towns and cities. Our poorest neighbourhoods often exist in the shadow of some of the most prosperous areas. England's poorest ward, Benchill in Manchester, is only a few miles away from wealthy Wilmslow. Some of the most deprived neighbourhoods lie only a mile or two from prosperous city centres where employers find it hard to fill vacancies.
In my own city of Leeds, over 41,000 net jobs were created in the 1990s. By 2010, a further net expansion of 48,000 jobs is forecast. The city centre is home to the largest financial and business services sector in England outside London. Yet the inner area of Leeds, around that centre and containing almost 230,000 people, has large concentrations of high levels of deprivation and social exclusion. Tackling this two-track economy and society is now a key issue for the Leeds Initiative, which the Government recently credited as the local strategic partnership for the city. Under its neighbourhood renewal strategy, Leeds Initiative is currently targeting three regeneration areas, the Aire Valley, Beeston Holbeck and Harehills. All are very different areas with very different problems requiring different solutions. I think that many speakers in today's debate will echo that that is a theme of regeneration issues.
The Aire Valley is an old industrial area spreading out from the centre to the very outskirts of the city. Some 359 hectares in area, currently containing 10,000 jobs, it aims to keep those jobs and has the potential to absorb a further 5,000 jobs. It is one of the most strategically important employment locations in the whole of the Yorkshire and Humber region. It offers job prospects for the many who need them so desperately in the inner-city communities. It has massive environmental clear-up problems and needs major road and public transport investment.
On the other hand, Harehills has 17,000 people, with 17 per cent from black and ethnic minorities, living in one of the most densely populated areas in the whole of Europe. Compared with the average figures for Leeds as a whole, unemployment is three times higher, households in receipt of benefits are twice as high, as is the mortality rate for lung cancer. The crime rate is 50 per cent higher, while the achievement of pupils at GCSE is 50 per cent lower. Some 95 per cent of all properties fall into the lowest band for council tax. Housing issues loom large, involving private landlords and tenants, public sector housing, open spaces, schools, jobs and shopping facilities. On the very doorstep of Harehills is St James's Hospital, with an expansion which will offer a base for innovative employment action.
In the region, the Yorkshire regional development agency, Yorkshire Forward, has been innovative in its strategic approach to urban regeneration issues. It has stood back in order to get a clearer understanding of the potential and requirements for the different urban areas of the region, because each requires a different solution. The aim is to build on the special strengths and contributions of each centre, each township, so that each can prosper and contribute to a regional strength.
One of its initiatives is the Urban Renaissance Challenge programme. Under this, Yorkshire Forward has funded external international quality expertise to work with six towns to develop a vision and long-term development plan to create the conditions for a reinvigoration of each town, attractive to people and to investment. The first six towns are Scarborough, Grimsby, Doncaster, Barnsley, Wakefield and Halifax. A recent weekend public event held in Barnsley to discuss the ideas and proposals being brought forward was attended by 1,200 people, a sign of real community involvement by a whole township. Those are the kind of townships that give character and meaning to regional identity, along with the big cities and the rural villages and countryside. Yorkshire Forward is to be congratulated on its initiative.
Nationally, in January 2001 the Prime Minister launched A New Commitment to Neighbourhood Renewal: National Strategy Action Plan, which sets out how the Government intend to meet their objectives over the coming 10 to 20 years.
The Neighbourhood Renewal Fund will provide 88 eligible local authorities and their local strategic partnerships with £900 million over three years to improve services in the most deprived neighbourhoods. Funding totalling over £1 billion will be made available for 22 more areas in the second round of the New Deal for Communities.
I am especially interested in the Towns and Cities: Partners in Urban Renaissance project launched in September of last year. Twenty-four towns and cities throughout England are working as an active partnership, together with a team from the Urban Policy Unit and the consultants URBED, the Urban and Economic Development Group Ltd. It is important to learn from the experience of what is happening on the ground.
Quality of life can also be affected by environmental issues and I welcome the Urban Green Spaces Task Force set up to develop proposals for the design, planning and management of green spaces. As noble Lords will know, the task force published its final report this month. I look forward to reading the Government's policy statement which I anticipate will follow in July, addressing the recommendations of the task force.
From my limited observations, so far there are a few lessons that I would share with noble Lords. There has to be a basis for economic prosperity somewhere in the vicinity of a regeneration scheme. Areas of growth and prosperity must not be neglected or seen as a threat to the priorities of regeneration. Problems and hence their solutions differ for each regeneration area. Regeneration requires comprehensive action, not piecemeal action. Previous policies aimed at tackling urban deprivation and renewal were often too piecemeal. Individual projects with quick outcomes are not the basis for long-term regeneration.
Regeneration requires long-term commitment, not a short-term fix. Once we start aiming to regenerate an area, we must stay with it until success is achieved. I worry a little that the time-frame for some of the financial frameworks is currently too short and the horizons too close.
Regeneration does cost and will cost a great deal of money. It is not a cheap option. Purely locally generated resources are not sufficient to tackle deep-seated regeneration problems. This means that regeneration proposals must be realistic from the outset, so that resources are not then diverted from other areas, which then start their own downward spiral.
Some tough decisions have to be taken, priorities established and adhered to. The role of vision and leadership is critical. For example, not all areas and not all housing can or should be saved. Sometimes, demolition is required and a fresh start made. Cheaper solutions often mean that good money is thrown after bad.
Partnerships involving both the private and public sectors are essential and all the stakeholders have to commit themselves to supporting the regeneration goals, even though sometimes this will mean changing their own priorities and budgets. That is difficult for some of the agencies involved. Managing those relationships requires a high level of commitment and skills from all sides. That is another area in which there is a skills deficit. Perhaps only time will enable those skills to be developed.
Just as local agencies, enterprises and people need to remain focused and prioritised, so too do the Government. New national initiatives thrown into the middle of existing programmes can create real tensions and problems on the ground.
The Government's ambitions for urban regeneration and reducing urban deprivation are high. The days are still young and I for one wish them well in those ambitions. There is much that I have not covered, and I look forward with great interest to learn from the considerable experience of other contributors to our debate this afternoon. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
My Lords, the whole House is indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer of Leeds, for initiating the debate, especially given the nature of his background, and for the manner in which he did so.
In the same spirit, I start by especially commending the Government for what they have achieved for rough sleepers, who, to quote the Motion, are among "those most in need", but it would be misrepresentation of the wildest kind to represent myself as any sort of authority on the subject of the debate. However, I had an introduction to it more than 40 years ago in the United States, and nearly a quarter of a century as an inner city MP fed that interest.
My introduction to it was through the late Oskar Stonorov, an American architect who was tragically killed in a small plane crash in 1970 when flying with the late Walter Reuther of the United Automobile Workers to see a country club in upstate Michigan which Stonorov was building for the UAW. Reuther was equally tragically killed in the crash.
Stonorov had been much involved in the regeneration of Philadelphia and the renewal of its inner city area. His nearest neighbour and great friend was Ed Bacon, head of city planning for Philadelphia, author of the book Design of Cities, who, rare among planning officers, had his portrait on the front cover of Time magazine, and, wholly incidentally, the father of Kevin Bacon the film actor.
Stonorov was one of those unusual architects whom highway planners regarded as an expert in their own field. He was co-author of a pre-war book on Corbusier, his own self-designed house at the head of a valley was a joy, and he had a powerful capacity to enthuse the young. It was through him that I met Frank Lloyd Wright.
Turning my back on what I was already doing to become an architect was not really available to me as a personal option then, but I know that if I had not done what I have done I would have liked to have been an architect, especially because all human life is there. We are exceptionally lucky that the noble Lord, Lord Rogers of Riverside, will be speaking in the debate. I look forward to a reprise on his most notable report.
I want to concentrate specifically on brownfield sites, which of course derive from the housing forecast debate and, indeed, the Rogers report. There is a risk of being over-telegraphic in a short debate but I am struck, after the immense precision of the forecast for new homes between now and 2016 and the bipartisan concentration on using brownfield sites, by the relative imprecision of brownfield site identification.
Let me sketch a scenario. The House of Commons Environment Select Committee report of 1995, following up on the earlier work in the late 1980s when Sir Hugh Rossi chaired the committee, estimated that there were 20,000 contaminated sites in the country. Throughout the 1990s, those working in the field went through the pain and anguish of triggering Part II of the Environmental Protection Act in April 2000 to place local authorities under a statutory duty to identify relevant sites. My understanding is that, against the 1995 forecast I have just quoted of 20,000, only 30 or 35 sites have so far been identified in the past two years by local authorities, perhaps because of a lack of both money and expertise.
But transfer of responsibility for identification of sites to the Environment Agency, which has responsibility for the worst sites, also looks in present circumstances like a counsel of despair. Those working in the field do not detect any real cohesion and coherence in this area between the Environment Agency's main office and the office in Solihull working on contaminated land, amounting even to uncertainty as to whether a recent senior management change in charge of the latter office has led to a replacement being announced.
This individual uncertainty mirrors uncertainty as to the statistical scale of the problem, and without the latter it is difficult to calibrate how much money will be needed to resolve it. When there is overlaid on this uncertainty the further uncertainty engendered by the EU draft directive, with concepts that do not fit readily or comfortably with British experience, it is no surprise that morale is lower than it should be in so centrally critical an area.
More generally, I am sure that other noble Lords will have received the briefing for this debate from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. As it is presumably common to us all, I do not propose to rehearse particular paragraphs except where they touch on my own experience.
I first became interested in bringing into use flats above shops during the great planning controversy over Bath in the days of Sir Colin Buchanan's research, when the city architect of Bath said memorably that he was prepared to preserve Georgian artisan dwellings if someone would show him Georgian artisans to live in them.
In my own constituency, I recall hosting a lunch in the Commons in the late 1970s for Hugh Rossi, then shadow housing Minister, and that most entrepreneurial, responsible and imaginative of Soho residents, Matthew Bennett, to discuss flats above shops in inner London. It provides a hook on which to hang the observation that Soho has for the past 30 years been a model of an inner city community in its vibrant alliance between residents and commercial interests, who have between them also preserved a Georgian hinterland which 30 years ago was, like Covent Garden a decade earlier, threatened with destruction. Soho is the epitome of mixed use development, in which I passionately believe. I am only sorry that the late Lord Ridley's change of use legislation did not allow other trades and crafts to continue in Soho, as they had in the 17th century when there were 16 Huguenot churches in that small area. But I shall be interested in what the Minister has to say about practical experience with the scheme for flats above shops.
I hope that other noble Lords besides myself will be grateful for a clear exposition from the Minister of how much freedom from Brussels control the Treasury has in altering the pattern of VAT rates in the construction area. We all remember gratefully the VAT announcement on churches some years back, but also that it turned out to be contingent on Brussels approval.
I conclude with a curiosity derived from my former constituency. The Economic and Social Research Council publishes lists reflecting poverty and morbidity for the 659 parliamentary constituencies. The list in relation to poverty calculates the number of households living within the poverty criteria as a percentage of the total number of households in the constituency. The health table reflects the divergence from the standard morbidity tables. In the 1980s, my constituency was high in the tables of both poor and morbid. In the late 1990s, it was still high for poverty—it was the 48th poorest constituency in the country by the definition used; possibly the only Conservative seat in the top 100—but it had become much more healthy at around 385.
I drew this paradox to the attention of the ESRC. The only resolution we could think of was the arrival of asylum seekers, who did not change the poverty figures but whose age sharply reduced the morbidity statistics. That shows how careful one has to be, even when statistics are being adjusted for ward boundary changes in constituencies, and how much can change so swiftly because of some external factor.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer of Leeds, for initiating this important debate. I start by pointing out what seems very obvious when one looks at some cities, including the noble Lord's own city of Leeds—that is, that next to areas of quite successful regeneration are areas of dismal poverty. One has only to go down river from here to the Docklands to see the developments there, which are full of people we used to call "yuppies" and some people we now have to call "dinkies". People in those developments are living next to, or in, three London boroughs which are among the five most deprived local authorities in the country—Tower Hamlets, Newham and Hackney. If you take the tram from the middle of Manchester to Salford Quays, the same phenomenon can be seen very clearly indeed.
Within our major cities, and in many other urban areas, there are not only remaining areas of poverty, but areas of deprivation which would not have been so classified 30 or 40 years ago. To a large extent this phenomenon—typified by the areas to which I have referred—is due to a national policy which, for more than 20 years, has placed all the emphasis on economic growth, so sacrificing social progress in those areas. There has been a prescription of financial rewards for business and professional success, allied to increasingly punitive regimes—for example, in relation to benefits—designed to pressure people, whether sick or unemployed, back into work. That has led to inequalities in wealth in this country that are unparalleled in western Europe, and which were unknown in this country for over a century. Twenty years of under-investment in essential public services has created across Britain urban populations blighted by what may be described as multiple deprivation. It has created whole communities characterised by: high mortality; ill health; low educational achievement; poor housing; a worsening physical environment; inadequate youth services; high levels of crime and disorder; and bad transport services—all underpinned by low levels of personal income. And in many areas the situation is not getting any better.
It is not only a question of national policy needing to be addressed. The first important point that I want to make is that, without a national policy aimed at improving the lot of people in such areas, all the local initiatives in the world will constantly be fighting obstacles and difficulties. There are many examples of local good practice. There are also many examples of bad practice.
One of the problems of urban regeneration schemes in the kinds of areas that attract such schemes is the bewildering plethora of quangos which have grown up mainly in the past 10 to 15 years, and mainly at the expense of democratically elected local government. It might be termed the burgeoning "quangocracy". Perhaps I may point out three or four features of these new instruments of governance—as we must now call it—in such areas.
The first is their complexity. Much of local government has been moving—much of it at the instigation of my own party, but not always—towards a much more open and clear means of working, involving people on a far greater scale and making the work of their local authorities much more transparent than it used to be. But alongside that, as I have said, is a burgeoning quangocracy. Frankly, most people do not have a clue as to who does what, which organisation does what, or what the whole new range of names of such organisations actually mean. Some have names linked to national initiatives, such as Sure Start. People will say, "Oh, I'm going round to the Sure Start tomorrow morning"—whatever that may mean. Others have official, formal names: a local community economic development body may use that phrase. Many invent local names which mean nothing to anyone in terms of accountability, who is involved and so on.
A friend sent me some information about Leicester. He writes:
"Here in Leicester I have counted 11 city-wide and 10 locality partnerships or Action Zones responsible for the regeneration of separate public service areas which are now to be pulled together and co-ordinated through a Local Strategic Partnership"— which might make everything a lot simpler; or it might make it even more complicated. That august body, the local strategic partnership, will have just one member who is answerable to the electorate; namely, the leader of the city council. Overwhelmingly, these bodies meet in private. They are neither accountable nor subject to private scrutiny. If they are accountable, they are accountable to greater, better and higher quangos somewhere up the chain at sub-area, county or regional level. Their membership, often self-appointed, is largely drawn from the same hermetic pool of people employed in the statutory, business and voluntary sectors. Local politics has atrophied. It has been replaced by a new and exclusive quangocracy. That is my experience in Lancashire too.
The second feature of such bodies has been the creation of a new local élite. It is an unelected élite, many of whom were already there—people from colleges; those on training schemes; council officials—though not usually councillors; self-appointed community leaders, whose organisations may or may not be legitimate; and local businessmen. It is a new élite which builds on skills which were not previously needed. They are people who have a map by which they can personally navigate this extraordinary new system of governance and who have the skills of insider networking. It is almost impossible to remove such people because they do not have to be elected.
These bodies are accountable to further and larger quangos, not to local people—certainly not to democratic local authorities, which are often deliberately kept out of matters. In many cases, the wonderful word "partnerships" is used. But often, it is not a partnership between local people in any real sense; it is a partnership between people who already have power and influence in the community. Where the partnership is between those in the private sector and those in the public sector, there is a great danger that private sector ethics, the private sector ethos—about which I have no complaints in terms of the private sector—gets into and corrupts the public sector.
Noble Lords of a certain age and older will remember the Poulson scandal, which was all to do with inappropriate relationships between private sector people and public sector people and the way in which the private sector ethos and ethics were corrupted by commercial values of a certain kind. We shall have a lot of Poulson-type scandals in the coming years; many of them will be generated within partnerships which have been set up for the very best of reasons.
A great deal of good is done in many of these bodies. They contain a large number of people who are working for the good of their communities. But the structure in which they are now being forced to work is not appropriate. It will lead to tears.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, for initiating the debate and for providing us with the benefit of his long experience of working in this field. He and I have spent many years in various forums fighting in an attempt to improve people's lives and to improve urban and semi-urban areas. I am delighted that he has introduced the debate.
I declare an interest as chairman of the Forestry Commission. It will come as no surprise to the noble Lord that the aspect that I want to address is the environmental quality of life in urban areas. I strongly approve of the way in which the Government are trying to "green" aspects of urban regeneration.
It is 32 years since I made my maiden speech in the House of Commons. I took the opportunity to raise the issue of environmental and indeed forestry concerns in the urban metropolitan areas. I have taken great pleasure over the past few months in trying to help to drive forward the "greening" of the urban regeneration of many parts of this country.
I make no apology for my belief that trees, woodlands and forests can enhance the quality of life of many people in this country. We often think of the rather nice parts of the cities with their greenery. I have always argued that all cities ought to have a great deal of greenery.
The great change that has taken place in forestry over recent years is that it is now no longer solely about producing timber. The days have gone when we tried to create a strategic national wood reserve. The Forestry Commission's task now is conservation, recreation, biodiversity and sustainability.
As I never miss such an opportunity, I should add in parentheses that I am very proud to head an organisation that is the world's first state forestry service to be deemed by international standards as sustainable not only in timber production but in production techniques and woodland management. I was delighted that, only a few months ago, the WWF International gave us its very esteemed "Gift to the Earth".
The result of the change in Britain's approach to forestry has been to re-emphasise the importance of trees and woodlands in our cities. Indeed, the forestry strategies for England, Scotland and Wales—there are three separate strategies—all stress that forestry has an important role to play in the economic regeneration of the country and especially of our urban areas. Not only can they improve the environment; they can reclothe the environment and make it much easier to attract industry into formerly derelict areas.
The new strategy also means that we shall be planting thousands upon thousands of hectares of trees particularly in older industrial areas. It is certainly true that, in the next few years, most of the sites for new planting in England will be on brownfield sites. I think that that is a great plus. A couple of months ago, we even went as far as to appoint a forestry conservancy here in the city of London. Although that might seem a little strange, in view of all its trees and woodlands, London is probably the largest urban forest in the world. London has 65,000 woodlands and stands, a very large percentage of which are designated as "ancient semi-natural" or "ancient". We have not utilised those woodlands for the benefit of either tourism or the local communities, but that is what we want to try to achieve. In short, therefore, we see a real opportunity for woodlands to play an increasingly important part in regeneration programmes.
The urban White Paper focuses specifically on the 58,000 hectares of brownfield land which will be used for hard end-uses. The Forestry Commission is particularly interested in the other 100,000 hectares of land deemed unsuitable for hard end-uses that can be used for soft end-uses. Much of that land is contaminated, but it could be cleaned up over the years by planting trees on it and using it as woodland.
We really do have different objectives in relation to the new woodlands—which are about greening the environment, screening development, filtering noise and air pollution, providing habitat for wildlife and providing opportunities for recreation. All those aspects of woodland use enhance the quality of the environment and opportunities for regeneration. In the past 10 years, 10 community forests have been established, but lately the pace of creating such forest has quickened. The Forestry Commission has recently been awarded £9.4 million from a capital modernisation fund to create 1,000 hectares of new public access woodlands in three sites over the next three years.
In the East End of London, 40 square miles in the Thames chase will be planted for access woodland. In the Mersey forest and the Red Rose forest, there will be a great extension of woodlands on brownfield sites. There is also a particularly exciting development in South Lancashire known as the Newlands initiative. Although I shall not follow the argument on partnerships advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, the Newlands initiative is a £10 million programme resulting from a partnership between the North-West Development Agency, the Forestry Commission and other bodies to reclaim hectare upon hectare of older industrial sites. I recently visited some former colliery sites in South Yorkshire and saw the imaginative work being done in partnership with Yorkshire Forward.
I have also seen the initiatives in Nottinghamshire, where they have not only reclaimed pit heaps but incorporated fish farms in the vicinity. In Wales, they have targeted a scheme called Cydcoed—I apologise for my pronunciation—to offer Wales's 100 most deprived wards the opportunity to bid for woodland opportunities. All these opportunities have been taken up as part of the effort to alleviate social deprivation.
I hope that I have persuaded noble Lords that there is a very exciting tale to tell about urban forestry. Woodlands have a great deal to offer in a very cost-effective way. They can improve the landscape and the quality of life for all our citizens. They have a critical part to play, particularly in the regeneration of our urban areas.
My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of Richard Rogers Architects, as chief adviser to the Mayor of London on architecture and urbanism, and also as adviser to the Mayor of Barcelona. I, too, wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, for drawing attention to the Government's policies on urban regeneration. I am also grateful for the wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, and the other speakers whom I follow. My contribution will focus on the architecture of our cities and urban public spaces.
In coming years, we shall need 4 million new dwellings in London, more than equal to the current number of dwellings in London. As England is already the third most densely populated country, after Bangladesh, our landscapes and cities will have to be conserved and well planned. Some 90 per cent of us live in towns and cities, which are the centres of our culture and the engines of our economy. Civil society is rooted in the culture of cities. Men build cities, and cities make citizens. At their best, cities are the most beautiful and joyful manifestation of civilised life, from Cornish hamlets to Georgian towns to some of the modern cities.
The built environment provides a physical framework for all our institutions and government programmes on issues such as education, health, crime reduction, jobs and transport. If the city fabric is well designed and maintained, government programmes will flourish. If the fabric is badly designed and fragmented, these public programmes will disintegrate and the money and time invested will offer poor value.
Today our cities are poor shadows of the best cities on the continent. Even in Copenhagen, with its adverse climate and dark winters, one third of all trips are by bicycle; in England, it is less than 2 per cent. Amsterdam has wonderful housing and mixed live/work communities where decisions are made both bottom up and top down. Barcelona is the ideal example of an enlightened modern city. Five miles of the city's formerly rusting port area have been transformed to create a beautiful urban linear neighbourhood, facing golden beaches and once more linking the city with the sea—a model of imaginative urban regeneration.
In England, with some exceptions, our towns and neighbourhoods are still squalid and fragmented with whole segments of cities turned into ghost towns from which all skilled labour has fled. Nothing could demonstrate more clearly that urban squalor goes hand in hand with social deprivation and exclusion.
The good news is that, after decades of shameful neglect and under-investment, the present Government have taken up the challenge. They set up the Urban Task Force which I chaired, the mission of which was to identify the causes of urban decline and to establish a vision for urban regeneration. Our report, Towards an Urban Renaissance, was completed over three years ago. We made 105 recommendations of which 22 were deemed to be key. It was extremely well received by all. I was delighted to hear how many speakers have made statements related to it. That created a demand for urban regeneration programmes in many of our cities. Unfortunately, a lack of skills at local level is frustrating the realisation of such programmes.
Symptomatic of that uninformed approach to urban regeneration is the recent announcement by the Minister responsible for culture of the judging panel for the selection of the European Capital of Culture for 2008. Even though the guidelines mention urban regeneration I was shocked to see that not a single architect is included in the panel of 12 which does, however, include five journalists as well as a javelin thrower and a pianist! That demonstrates a serious lack of understanding of the importance of the physical environment as a key ingredient of civic success. That once more puts the UK at a serious disadvantage when compared with continental cities.
The Government have called for an urban summit at the end of the year which I hope that the Prime Minister will address. Spurred on by that I have reconvened the Urban Task Force in order to assess what has been delivered to date, what is currently under way and what has been totally ignored. Unfortunately, though the study has only just commenced, there is real cause for concern. Despite many promises and some limited intervention, the Government have yet to face up to the sheer magnitude of the problem. The record is not impressive: a failure to deliver clear policy and urban vision; a failure to deliver urban education and skills and a failure to offer clear delivery mechanisms. It is still not too late. I ask the Government to recognise that urban regeneration requires the same priority as social exclusion, crime, education, health and jobs. Without that commitment our cities and towns will not be fit to live in.
Finally, my message to the Government is to invest generously and skilfully in our urban fabric. If that is not forthcoming, the future of this country is grim indeed: a future of increasing social division and decline.
My Lords, I hugely welcome this debate and am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer of Leeds, for initiating it. This is one of the most pressing issues of our time. I am particularly proud to follow the noble Lord, Lord Rogers of Riverside, and to make my contribution. I declare my interest as director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which produces research in this field. It also joins regeneration partnerships and funds others to do so and has undertaken developments in Leeds and in Birmingham.
Are the Government's regeneration policies helping to turn the depressing, neglected, shunned parts of this country into vibrant places where people want to be? Will they save more of our "green and pleasant land" by ensuring that use is made of the tracts of land where currently no one wants to live? Will they, in the words of the Prime Minister, ensure that,
"no one is seriously disadvantaged by where they live"?
Well-intended government initiatives of the past have regrettably often failed. New policies have taken on board two key factors—I consider that they are the two key factors—which shine through in research reports on regeneration from my foundation. First, it is clear that it is no good smartening up existing areas if there are declining job opportunities for the people who live there. Research published by my foundation, by Professor Thurrock of Glasgow University, has demonstrated how, when the jobs go, the people will drift away too. So reviving the local economy has to be a prerequisite for sustaining any area regeneration.
Secondly, a large proportion of reports from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have concluded with ringing phrases about "community empowerment"—the engagement of local people in decisions about their neighbourhood. We know that if professional people from the outside descend upon an area and impose changes upon it, however much is invested there is little likelihood that local residents will feel any new "ownership" of what has happened. By contrast, where there is investment in building up the capacity of those living in the locality—for example, involving people in environmental improvements, including forestry projects, or even through bringing people together through social or cultural events—improved good neighbourliness and mutual support will have far-reaching positive results. Government policies have taken on board that approach with a real commitment, as is illustrated by the Yorkshire examples mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer. But although the revival of economic activity and the creation of real partnership with the local community are probably the two prerequisites to the success of regeneration projects, I contend that we now know that those changes alone can lead to a repetition of the disappointments and failures of previous policies.
In relation to jobs, it is now clear, with the considerable success of the Chancellor in sustaining economic growth across the country, that a fall in unemployment can lead not to the revival of a declining council estate or unpopular neighbourhood but to an acceleration in the flight from those places: the correlation between falls in male unemployment and increases in properties standing empty and abandoned in parts of cities such as Liverpool and Manchester shows that many people use their improved incomes to get out. Unless there are jobs regeneration will not work. But a more successful economy does not in itself lead to the revival of unpopular places.
Similarly, the powerful effects of local communities taking more control and the increasing trend for local councils to devolve decision-making in a participative way may not turn around the fortunes of the neighbourhood. Indeed, it seems unfair as well as unrealistic to expect the drivers of regeneration to be those people now in the area—the people who, almost by definition, suffer from poverty and exclusion from mainstream society. Relying on local communities to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" is asking more than we would of any middle-class area. Empowering communities may be an essential component of regeneration but it will not be enough.
My contention is that sustainable regeneration will happen only if new and different people come back and move into the area: people with the income to choose where they go—the kind of people who have been consistently choosing to reject those neighbourhoods. If people with spending money can be attracted back, they will change the perceptions not only of those on the outside but also of those living there already. The stigma attached to living in depressed neighbourhoods begins to lift; there are new role models to raise the aspirations of younger people living there; the discrimination and disadvantage of having a particular address begins to go.
How can regeneration policies take on that approach? I suggest that they need to do the following. First, in considering the social problems to be addressed those who plan the area's regeneration—the local authority, the new local strategic partnerships, New Deal for Communities boards and local neighbourhood management bodies—should look specifically for the triggers that will stop the exodus and bring back and retain people with a mix of incomes. Is it about schools or street crime? The underlying causes of people staying out of the area should be tackled.
Secondly, I suggest that the building of any segregated social housing for the poor—housing "apartheid"—should be outlawed and that public money should never be available to housing associations or other bodies for the recreation of that failed concept. Affordable housing, including homes for those on the lowest incomes, should be in mixed estates among homes for sale and for shared ownership.
Thirdly, achieving comprehensive physical regeneration on the scale that will change the image of a whole area is not just about money. Civic leaders will need to be bolder and more assertive. They will need to engineer imaginative master plans to ensure mixed use and mixed tenure developments in partnership perhaps with the major housing associations which can organise such exercises. Since land ownership will be the key to turning a masterplan into reality, councils or regeneration agencies must not be squeamish about the use of compulsory purchase orders against those owners who hold society to ransom and block the progress of much-needed regeneration schemes.
Finally, the experience from developments built by my foundation suggests that the time is right for constructing hundreds of new blocks of privately rented apartments for single people in inner city areas. They bring back those with money in their pockets.
In conclusion, I congratulate the Government on their important and successful policy initiatives, not least their national strategy for neighbourhood renewal and the excellent partnerships that have followed with the engagement of local communities, against a backdrop of economic improvement and consequent falling unemployment. But I believe that the next chapter in this story requires a recognition that regeneration policy must target not just the well-being of those currently living in the area concerned but the return of those who are able to choose where they live. The pursuit of that goal offers the very real prospect of investment paying for itself as the reputation and image of the area turns around and degraded neighbourhoods are renewed on a permanent basis. I look forward to hearing the response of the noble Lord, Lord Filkin.
My Lords, as we have already heard, regeneration is particularly important to northern towns. In the 19th century, they were at the forefront of the industrial revolution, creating the coal, steel, engineering, textile and railway industries. Great wealth was amassed by the new industrial and manufacturing class. Bradford millionaires were legendary at the time. Although they brought the dark satanic mills and all that that implied, communities were enriched by the fine buildings, libraries, museums, galleries, lecture and concert halls, houses, parks and, of course, the magnificent town halls that were a symbol of that new wealth.
Commercial centres flourished, too, as did technical colleges and, later, the provincial universities. That is why I found the report of my noble friend Lord Evans of Temple Guiting, entitled, Renaissance of the Regions, so opportune. Galleries and museums deserve investment in the same way as do other contributors.
Central to a vibrant economy—including the expanding tourist industry—is the need to attract and retain a highly skilled and professional workforce. In turn, that depends on a high quality of life with an adequate provision of cultural and leisure facilities.
Bradford, on which I shall now concentrate, recognises that. The key to its "capital of culture" bid is regeneration. Although it has all the same problems as Leeds, which was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Woolmer, it still has much going for it. A distinctive feature, its multicultural and multi-ethnic mix, was seen by many as a disadvantage, but it is now rightly seen as an advantage. That comes through strongly in its bid. Its logo, designed by Bradford-born international artist, David Hockney, includes the words "One landscape—many views".
Diversity is a central theme. Bradford straddles two valleys—Airedale and Wharfedale. It contains inner city wards, leafy suburbs and upland farms. Its ethnic mix goes back to Roman times, to post-war mid-European and Baltic refugees and to West Indians and Asians, who were welcomed at the time to take the jobs that we no longer wanted. They are now in the third generation of Bradfordians and Keighley-tikes and play an important part in our economic and cultural development.
Nowhere is that more evident than in the arts. Cartwright Hall, once the hall of a textile magnate, now houses a unique collection of work by British Asian artists and designers. Bradford acknowledges that its 8 million visitors a year come for its concerts, theatres and galleries. The National Photographic Film and Television Museum alone attracts more than 1.25 million visitors. I also refer to Haworth village, Bronte Parsonage, the world heritage village of Saltaire and its Mill Galleries—which feature Hockney—Ilkley's famous moor and many festivals.
However, we need to attract more people, to encourage them to stay longer and to spend more. For that, we badly need to redevelop the city centre, which is now on the cards, I am glad to say. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Best, that the redevelopment of Leeds city centre, for example, brought back a new generation of people.
The University of Bradford adds a further cultural dimension, and as its chancellor, I declare an interest. I want to mention three ways in which the university is contributing. First, I refer to technological transfer, which takes place through the university's close links with business and exploitation of its research base and patents. It recently launched two very successful plc companies. The school of management, too, is transferring its know-how to local small and medium-sized businesses, many of which are Asian in origin.
Secondly, I refer to the university's department of peace studies, which has a record for conflict resolution, reconciliation and development studies. It is providing leadership and is an invaluable resource, following last year's much-publicised disturbances, which completely distorted the image of the city.
Finally, I refer to education. Today's regeneration cannot depend, as did the 19th century regeneration, on training by sitting next to Nellie or "on the job" training. We need a much more sophisticated system. Standards need to rise, as do aspirations and expectations, particularly among those in the North.
As part of its widening participation scheme, the university is collaborating with the college in seeking further ways to provide wide paths of progression from schools to college and university—perhaps even through a merger of the two institutions. Bradford's "capital of culture" bid is Yorkshire's sole bid. The whole region will share the benefit of success and the whole region is now beginning to support that bid. All of that chimes well with the national objectives and the regeneration strategy of regional development agencies. We may live in a global world but local and regional regeneration are the ways to provide success.
My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Woolmer of Leeds for initiating this important and fascinating debate. It is a great pleasure to take part in a debate to which my noble friend Lord Rogers has contributed. I suppose that I have to declare an interest as his publisher.
When the city of Manchester invests, over a 10-year period, £400 million in its arts, sports, and museum and library facilities, what we see is the arts as a powerful driver not only of economic regeneration but of social regeneration as well. Manchester city region has the nation's largest regional concentration of employment in the cultural and tourist industries—nearly 25,000 people. The city attracts 17 million visitors a year. Tourism and visitor activity contribute around £530 million a year to the city's economy. The critical mass of arts facilities in Manchester is also being enhanced by neighbouring attractions such as the Lowry Art Centre and the forthcoming Imperial War Museum in Salford Quays.
The arts and culture as a driver for regeneration is not only a Manchester story. It is happening in all our major cities. The south side of the Tyne at Gateshead was previously an area of semi-dereliction. It has been regenerated through the arts with a wonderful linking bridge uniting Newcastle and Gateshead. The Baltic—an old flour mill—will be the largest gallery outside Tate Modern in the UK. The music centre will include a 1,600-seat concert hall and architecture that is striking and of world class. This is a 15-year, £300 million regeneration programme creating 7,500 new jobs. When the total scheme is finished, 4 million visitors will be expected each year. The whole development gives back the river to the people of Tyneside with a spectacular new cultural landscape. It will be the centre of a cultural and creative renaissance in the area.
Go to any major city in England—Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford or Sheffield—and you will hear the same story. As traditional industries decline, so the new economy driven by culture emerges. There is a great deal of work still to be done to evaluate and monitor the emerging creative industries. But one thing is sure: money spent on the arts plays to the Government's regional economic agenda as well as that of education, access and social inclusion.
Without a doubt, lottery funds have been the catalyst for this radical change and radical new direction. The 99 most deprived boroughs in England have, between them, received in excess of £900 million from the Arts Council of England's lottery projects. That represents 72 per cent of the total lottery money distributed by the Arts Council.
Before I sit down, I wish to mention a project, already referred to by my noble friend Lady Lockwood, in which I have been involved as chairman of a group that produced a document called Renaissance in the Regions: a new vision for England's museums. Many noble Lords will have read about it in the Guardian yesterday. Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor delivered a letter, signed by 11 major British artists and illustrated by David Hockney, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer asking for funds to be made available in the next spending round to implement that report and save our great regional museums from decay.
The report suggests that a framework should be designed to empower all museums and galleries—the nationals, the regional museums, the university museums and small local and community museums—to work together in a creative way for the greater good of an audience which already generates more than 77 million visits per annum. The report argues that museums and galleries have an important part to play in education, learning, access, social inclusion and the development of the regions, as well as the modernisation of public services. The report plays precisely to the regional and regenerative agenda.
I do not expect my noble friend Lord Filkin to rise at the end of the debate to promise the £267 million that we need in order to implement our exciting proposals. But I hope that what I have said will register strongly on the radar screens of those responsible for making decisions during the next, imminent, spending review.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, for having instigated this important debate. I want, if I may, to begin with three sets of statistics. At the end of the 15th century, the city of Norwich—one of the wealthiest cities in this country with close economic and cultural links to the Low Countries—had a population of approximately 10,000 people, but it also had 46 churches. York was not far behind. It had a population of 8,000 and 40 churches.
When historians look at those figures, they frequently, and rightly, draw a link between the economic well-being of those cities and the fashion in those days for church buildings. Many of the churches in Norwich and York have, of course, disappeared. But many remain, and millions of people visit them on an annual basis. However, they remain not simply as vestiges of a great medieval past; they are living and vibrant communities which remain devoted to the cities in which they are set. Meanwhile, when cities such as Leeds and Liverpool, which were mere hamlets in the 15th century, grew dramatically as a result of the Industrial Revolution, they found new churches being planted everywhere.
Perhaps I may move to some contemporary figures—this time taken from an independent study of 15 churches of all denominations spread throughout the East of England. In that study we discovered that in those churches the average number of volunteers per church giving service to their local communities was 47. That is not the number of worshippers—that is a much higher figure; it is the number of adults per church involved in voluntary activities which reach out into their community. One has only to multiply that figure by the number of churches in England alone to realise that, on average, approximately three-quarters of a million adults on a regular, probably weekly, basis are volunteering, out of their commitment to the church, their time to their local community.
I realise that I have extrapolated that figure from a very small sample base. But I venture to suggest that the number that I have given is an under-estimation, not least if one adds in volunteers from all the other Christian churches in England and all the other faith groups.
At this point I want to make two points. First, churches are absolutely and completely committed to serving in whatever communities they find themselves and whatever the ethnicity or faith stance of those communities might be—whether they are in the deep country or the inner city. Secondly, no other body in the country has, as it were, a representative and committed group of people which tries to exist not for itself but for the worship of God and the well-being of others.
In the inner cities, for example, long after the doctors, social workers or other professionals have commuted to their leafy suburbs, the Church remains. It remains rooted and deeply committed because of our fundamental beliefs and our commitment to the people. With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, I venture to suggest that the cultural commitment of Leeds Parish Church, the commitment of St George's Crypt to the homeless, and the work of the hospital chaplains in Jimmy's and the General Infirmary pre-date Yorkshire Forward by a little while.
I suppose that it is a matter of quiet pride that the impact of Faith in the City, published in 1985, and the impact of the Church in cities such as London, Liverpool, Bradford and Manchester continue to be felt. That impact may be seen, if only implicitly, in the language in which debate about regeneration in our cities is now couched. Words such as "regeneration", "renaissance", "rebirth" and "vision" are part of the Church's theological stock in trade.
We try in very practical ways, too, to express our commitment to our local people. I give another example from a project in South Oxhey—an area of significant deprivation on the edge of Watford. There, the local church has created a project which cares, and provides very practical help, for those seeking employment. It also provides crash pad projects for those who are homeless. That is done through links with the Three Rivers local authority.
It is out of our presence as a Church and our commitment to the cities, historically and in the present, that I want to raise a few concerns. First, now that the "R" of DTLR seems to have been moved with precipitate speed overnight, will regional governance—if it is to be part of the framework of government in this country—receive the coverage that it needs? We cannot talk with honesty about "letting the people decide" if, notwithstanding recent White Papers, they have never heard of regionalisation.
Secondly, now that the development agencies have been quietly shifted from the DTLR to come under the umbrella of the DTI, will all the value-driven and exciting cross-cutting issues on social exclusion and sustainable development, for example, which were there at the beginning of the RDAs' lives, now be dropped in favour of a purely economic regeneration agenda? Does it mean that all the creative and partnership-based thinking that launched the RDAs is simply, and possibly cynically, being binned? I venture to suggest that good will is much more easily lost than gained.
Thirdly, the evidence thus far of genuine attempts to encourage faith communities to be part of regeneration schemes is patchy. If the Churches and the faith communities have such huge commitment to the well-being of the people in their areas, why is that not more formally and more generously recognised?
Fourthly, the evidence thus far of the work of the regional cultural consortiums and their awareness of the vital cultural and educational role played by the Churches and other faith groups is likewise very patchy—which is a euphemism for saying that we are being deliberately sidelined. I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Lord, Lord Evans, about the importance of the arts as drivers for regeneration. I venture to suggest that the cathedrals of our country have been involved in that kind of regeneration for centuries. They do not feature on regional cultural consortium maps. I also question whether some of the work in the arts, to which I am totally committed personally, touches the genuinely poor.
Fifthly and finally, the danger of simply concentrating on cities and their needs for regeneration, as though their suburban and rural hinterlands did not exist, is that we will fail to see how interconnected life on these islands now is. City and country need each other and need to understand each other. I was delighted by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Clark. I grew up in the Forest of Dean and love trees like he does, so it gives me great joy to know of the Forestry Commission's commitment to urban regeneration.
It is magnificent that there are so many people in government and across all parties in Parliament, as well as in the voluntary sector and in the Churches, willing to tackle the challenge of regeneration in our cities. However, it would be even better if those constituencies could be brought into serious partnership with each other. It would be wonderful if the spiritual regeneration of our nation could be given as much weight in our strategic thinking as is our proper desire for wealth creation and economic well-being.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Woolmer for initiating the debate. It is clear from the large number of people wishing to speak this evening that it is timely.
When the Corby urban regeneration company was launched in 2001 by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, a number of firsts were achieved. Corby was the first project to be announced following the three pilot schemes in Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield. It was the first to be located outside a major city and it was the first to encompass a whole town.
I became chair of the new URC—Catalyst Corby, as it became known—building on my local knowledge as the region's former MEP. I needed little persuasion. Corby is a town with spirit—a town that refused to die and which deserves better. I shall devote my speech to sharing my experience to date, showing in the most practical way how the Government's regeneration policies are having such a profound and positive effect on towns such as Corby.
Corby's history is chequered. The massive expansion of iron and steel making in the town drew in new workers, many of them from Scotland. Three generations later, the Scottish accent still abounds. Little Scotland lives on in Northamptonshire.
Massive unemployment followed the closure of the steelworks. With that came disinvestment in housing, health and education. The new town status that had been promised was never completed. European funding helped put the town back on its feet in the early 1980s, but the jobs tended to be low-waged and low-skilled. Long-term government help was withheld in the 1980s as Corby's deprivation was masked by Northamptonshire's prosperity. Blackspots were ignored.
Credit has to be given to the council for helping reduce unemployment from a high of 25 per cent to less than 3 per cent now. However, social and economic deprivation is there for all to see. Catalyst Corby gives a prospect at last of a step change in the town's fortunes. With the Government's focus on regeneration as a priority, Corby is being given a splendid chance. The Government are providing the framework and we in Catalyst Corby can redraw the overall picture.
Partnerships are the basis of the project—public and private partnerships on the board, pooling their experience and resources, as well as partnerships in government, with support coming across ministerial departments, cross-fertilisation from committed civil servants and innovative support from all Ministers involved in urban renewal.
The core of our URC has to be Corby Borough Council, which instigated the bid for URC status and has a huge investment in the success of the project. Alongside the council, the two other major pillars are English Partnerships and the East Midlands Development Agency, which are totally committed, professional, supportive and creative. Those three are the foundation of our company, providing funding, expertise and support for all our work. We then add to that our community representatives, including local business people, developers and, of course, our outstanding MP, Phil Hope. That gives a small snapshot of our board.
The obstacles are clear. They have been identified in the baseline study that forms the foundation of the board's work. On the down side, we have low-skilled, low-waged employment. We have very poor housing, which has been under-funded for years and is almost entirely local authority housing. We have dreadful transport infrastructure. Corby has the dubious distinction of being the largest town in Europe without a passenger railway. It also has only the most basic and meagre bus service, which is currently under threat. We have a very run-down retail centre. In fact 75 per cent of retail-spend occurs outside Corby. We have the highest incidence of heart disease in the UK and the health and education opportunities could at best be described as patchy.
In case I am painting too gloomy a picture, I must say that Corby has an upside. Corby has a proven record of attracting new industries to the town and we have low-priced land in large quantities—some brownfield and some olive sites. A town centre developer is determined to transform the town with splendid plans for fine architecture with the addition of leisure facilities, cinemas, libraries and so on. We also have Rockingham Motor Speedway, a product of one man's dream, which has huge economic potential for the town as a whole.
As the noble Lord knows, Corby is set in beautiful, leafy Northamptonshire. We have just appointed a superb chief executive officer in Bob Lane, who currently is the CEO in Liverpool—Speke and Garston—and probably the most respected person in urban regeneration in the UK. Our master plan is under way. We have achieved several good hits already, helping to improve the infrastructure, closing down some dangerous walkways in our older estates and providing facilities for voluntary community projects. But we have been cautious in raising expectations too soon. Corby people can rightly be cynical. They have seen it all before, so our approach of being community-advice led helps to retain reality.
That is not a quick fix but a long-term programme of systematic, sustainable and appropriate regeneration and development. Of course, we are dependent on government initiatives and funding. We have already benefited as a town from Sure Start and healthy living projects. We have drawn financial support from the urban renewal scheme and, of course, welcome the tax breaks that make regeneration more attractive to inward investors. And we hope for more.
The conversion of Corby from an isolated small town of 50,000 to one, we anticipate, of 100,000 brings with it the benefit of critical mass. Our schools will be better with higher pupil numbers as will our health provision. Our pledge to broaden the population from one that is largely working class to one that is more evenly spread in terms of socio-economic backgrounds, means building homes to buy and homes to rent, a bigger town with better shops, decent leisure facilities, a more stable community with less deprivation leading to less crime, and possibly a commuter town, just an hour from London if we had a fast railway service.
Those are our visions of Corby for the future. With commitment, with public/private co-operation, with full government backing and the strength of the community of Corby, all that can be achieved. Together we are stronger and together we can succeed.
My Lords, like the previous nine speakers, I add my thanks to my noble friend Lord Woolmer for providing this opportunity to debate the Government's regeneration policies. I understood the debate to be about the policies already put in place by the Government.
The initiatives taken by the Government so far are to be welcomed, as is, more importantly, the action already undertaken in a number of areas. The combined policies of regeneration, together with the equally welcome community cohesion initiatives that are being actively pursued at the present time, signal hope to so many communities that are suffering from decades of neglect. Such neglect has brought levels of deprivation of which we should all be ashamed. I know that people who live in certain parts of Burnley will welcome the start that has been made by their local authority, Burnley Borough Council, in implementing a number of the recommendations made by the task force that I had the privilege to head following the serious civil unrest that took place almost a year ago.
Burnley Borough Council faces serious difficulties. The start that has been made must be seen for what it is: a start. It recognises the need to press on as quickly as possible. Other local authorities like Burnley will succeed only if they receive positive support from regional and national levels of government. I am aware of the Government's announcement that financial resources are to be made available to local authorities, including Burnley, for what is called a "market renewal pathfinder".
That pathfinder will be started in nine designated areas. They will receive amounts of pump-priming money to tackle the problems caused by the low demand in housing and to provide lasting solutions through investment and innovation for communities blighted by derelict homes. It is essential that that work proceeds as quickly as possible. It is important that the people of Burnley, as in other areas, see that something is being done and that attention is being paid to their problems. Most of them will not know about the lovely titles given to schemes. They want to see what is happening with their own eyes.
When I listened to my noble friend Lord Rogers of Riverside give an eloquent description of Barcelona and other cities, I was moved because I could see the beaches and the sea. My thoughts went to Accrington Road in Burnley and the dear loves who sit in their houses too frightened to go out in case someone robs them while they are doing their shopping. My thoughts also went to the children whom I met in Burnley Wood. They said, "It is no good sending in job applications; we live in the wrong postcode area". How wonderful it would be if young people could have the vision, a vision so eloquently put by my noble friend Lord Rogers, that they may live in such a place.
Once identified, further finance must be made available on a much larger scale to get on with the job of regenerating whole areas where, without exaggeration, boarded-up, derelict and abandoned properties and piles of rubbish are the norm. The locals do not even know who owns such properties. I wish the pathfinder idea success.
I want to ask the Minister whether he will do something about the pathfinder concept. The experience in Burnley shows that people did not know what was going on. If boundaries are to be drawn for the pathfinder areas, they must be communicated to those in the areas so that everyone knows for what the money is provided. Otherwise, there will be a repeat of the biased and prejudiced views expounded by the far Right people in that part of the world. I do not for one moment believe that local authorities can solve the problems on their own. That is why I am particularly pleased that a real effort is being made to bring together the authorities. One of our recommendations was to bring together regional development agencies, housing corporations, the local authorities and all who can contribute towards regeneration. There is much good among all those organisations, but the history is that too many people are travelling their own roads.
The task force report to which I have referred recommended that specific resources should be made available to assist the administration and management of the local strategic partnership. I am pleased to tell the House that the local strategic partnership in Burnley has already commenced its work. It has held three meetings and is receiving the assistance for which we asked. I ask the Minister to take note that Burnley would be helped even more if it were designated as an inner-city area because it has all the problems of an inner city and probably more than many other cities. The recently published White Paper on regional government provides Burnley with a chance to use the consultation period as a means of reinforcing the task force view that it should obtain such a change of status. As I say, Burnley has all the problems but it does not have the status.
This debate gives your Lordships the opportunity of welcoming the comments made by my honourable friend John Denham, the Home Office Minister, in his recent speech at the Local Government Association conference, where he was able to show what the Government are doing, although time does not allow me to mention the whole range of policies being pursued. I welcome his call for a drive for improved community cohesion. He is so right when he says,
"Community cohesion must be our commitment to tackle poverty and deprivation in all communities".
He is also right when he says that community cohesion must be done,
"in ways which make it clear and transparent that it is opposition to poverty—not a bias for or against different communities—that drives our policy".
It is very important that people and communities are not pitched against each another. I am sincerely pleased at the action already taken by the Government as it applies to Burnley.
Perhaps I may be political for a moment. I inform the House that if the Government fail and are not able to drive forward this policy of regeneration as quickly as possible, making it visible and transparent, although we may not see a situation where far Right neo-fascists can get 12 per cent of the vote in local government elections against 9 per cent for the established Conservative Party in the same town, we shall see a growth in that if we do not address the problem. Such people are playing on the fears and worries of others.
I wish all success to those who are working to bring stability, progress and renewed hope for places such as Burnley. I ask my noble friend to pay particular attention to the need for local authorities and those who drive these policies forward to be able to explain them clearly in language that people understand.
My Lords, I commend my noble friend Lord Woolmer on an excellent choice of topic. As he is well aware, I have an Unstarred Question on a similar topic that is yet to be reached. But, never mind.
This is a rare opportunity in your Lordships' House to discuss urban issues. In the three years that I have been a Member of the House we seem to have been dominated by matters rural. Today's debate has demonstrated the variety of experience that exists in your Lordships' House on urban issues.
Before I move on I should declare my interest as leader of the decidedly urban Wigan Council. As my noble friend is aware, we have recently been awarded beacon council status for our urban renewal projects. So I think that I have something to say on the topic.
I understood much of what the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, was saying, but I did not recognise his downbeat analysis of some of these issues and of some of the ways forward. I remind him that urban problems are hardly new. I am sure that he is well aware of Engels' book, The Condition of the Working Class in England, which described problems 150 years ago in inner Manchester. So nothing is new.
To my mind, the current problems are generated by the global changes in industry that took place in the last quarter of the 20th century. Most of our urban areas and cities were based on industrial activity. The great decline that took place in industry during that period created large levels of unemployment, swathes of industrial wasteland and dereliction and some other problems.
Using my experience I should like to analyse some of the issues I think are important in successful urban policies. Many of the Government's new neighbourhood renewal strategies meet those criteria. I shall then make some suggestions to my noble friend the Minister that the Government may wish to consider further.
First, everything said by noble Lords today suggests to me that we cannot discuss this matter on a single-issue basis. Every approach must be holistic. We must look at all-embracing strategies that understand the multi-dimensional nature of problems in urban areas. A related point is that we must understand that these are local problems. Although we have similar problems in urban areas across the country, each area has a unique combination of those problems. The problems in Wigan will be different from those in Manchester, Corby, Bradford or east Lancashire. So we need to understand how the strategies will work out in each area and we must give the local authorities the flexibility to meet those local needs.
Thirdly—and this is perhaps where I disagree most strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Greaves—I believe in the benefits of partnership working. Local authorities can contribute much to solving these problems but they cannot do that by themselves. They must engage with other public sector agencies—the police, the health service and so on. They must also engage with the business community, because if we are to solve these problems, we must look for economic solutions.
Most of all, local authorities must reach back into their local communities. They must ensure that they work with local people and design policies that work with them, rather than simply impose them from the top. We have had that problem in the past and it is one of the reasons why urban policies have not worked properly. The neighbourhood renewal strategy will assist in that regard.
There needs to be an additional ingredient. My noble friend Lord Rogers in a sense said that. We must inspire people. If one lives in these areas one develops a great cynicism—life is fairly awful and people do not seem to want to help. So we must try to make sure that we raise aspirations; things can be better. Physical regeneration is one way forward. It is not the only way forward. We must make sure that we give people an opportunity to participate.
In our area we find that with sport we can get many younger men involved in the community. Of all the great institutions in Bradford referred to by my noble friend Lady Lockwood, she did not mention the Bradford Bulls. Sport reaches out into the community. It allows people to participate, both as spectators and also in an active way. We can actually convince people that things can change and that we can change with them.
We must also make sure that things do change. Unfortunately, civil servants are very much into measuring outputs. What they should measure is outcomes. After renewal projects in my own ward, an eight year-old resident was interviewed. I am proud to say that he said:
"This area has never been so nice".
When one receives a compliment like that, that is the way forward.
I ask my noble friend to pass on three additional points for the Government to consider. First, again from his great experience, my noble friend Lord Clarke talked about Burnley and the problems of east Lancashire—other noble Lords mentioned Manchester and Liverpool—and housing abandonment and the excellent pathfinders scheme that the Government have brought forward. In addition to housing abandonment there is also much commercial abandonment.
The secondary shopping areas of our towns, often in small centres or spread along urban routes, have suffered badly. The changes in the way that people shop—we now go out to supermarkets to shop rather than walk to local shops—have really affected those areas. Empty shops blight neighbourhoods and bring further problems. Who would want to shop in an area where two out of three shops may well be boarded up? The local young people of Wigan—and I am sure everywhere else—have a great ability to get into those shops to cause further dereliction and further bring down the area. Unfortunately, the shops are not in a strategic area. They are scattered through shopping areas with some trading well and others boarded up.
Although we have a policy of compulsory purchase available to us, one of the problems of the commercial sector is the unrealistic values that many people put on those urban shops. It is difficult to get people to agree to sell up when they simply have this unrealistic view about how much the shops might be worth in the future. We need to shrink in size some of these secondary shopping areas; we need to provide a better environment; and we must look at the greening mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Clarke. Therefore, the Government should bring forward a strategy to help—as they have done with housing abandonment—areas of commercial activity.
I refer next to European funding. Noble Lords will be aware that in 2006 the current round of regional strategy in Europe will end. Clearly, with the new members from the east, there will need to be a re-jigging of regional policy in Europe. We might look at helping to achieve the cohesion which is part of European strategy by bringing in an urban strand for European regional policy. That could help the urban areas of the UK and other countries in western Europe, particularly where these problems are paramount. I am going to a conference in Barcelona next week to talk about that matter. I shall be pleased to share with my noble friend the views I hear there.
Finally—here I must declare a further interest as vice-chair of the Special Interest Group for Municipal Authorities—I cannot help but mention local government funding, which is also being reviewed at present. Urban areas need adequate resources to run education, social services and so on, because if we let those basic services run down, there will be further depopulation of urban areas, which is part of the problem.
My Lords, I join the thanks to my noble friend Lord Woolmer of Leeds for enabling us to have this timely and important debate. I live slap in the middle of a city centre—the city of Birmingham—on the banks of a canal of which we have 42 miles, which has massively helped to regenerate that city centre. When your Lordships visit, you should also notice that we have more trees than the Bois de Bologne in the city centre.
I must first declare an interest as chairman of the Castle Vale Neighbourhood Management Board, the first in Birmingham and one of the Government's non-funded pilot schemes to help to develop their national strategy for neighbourhood renewal. The Castle Vale Housing Action Trust was voted into being by 93 per cent of tenants about 10 years ago. The estate was a despairing, neglected, out-of-city-centre estate with all the hallmarks of an inner city. It was an area that declared when one walked into it for the first time that nobody loved it and nobody cared about it. The tenants and residents there were given the opportunity to have a hands-on regeneration scheme. Of course, they jumped at it.
The housing action trust is an acknowledged successful pathfinder in pioneering ways to develop partnerships with tenants, residents and service providers such as the primary care trust, West Midlands Police, Birmingham City Council, the Learning and Skills Council, the Churches and other faith groups. It is that patient work, especially during the past six months, that has prepared the ground for the neighbourhood management board. I am grateful to my honourable friend in another place, Sally Keeble, who was last week kind enough to attend the launch of the neighbourhood management board last week, and to my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer, who is not in his place, for his encouragement during the whole process.
There are some valuable lessons to be learned from the work of the six housing action trusts as they complete or near the end of their work. Your Lordships will understand if I concentrate on Castle Vale HAT to provide some examples.
The first point, to which other noble Lords have referred, is that successful regeneration means doing things with, rather than for, people in the area. There are examples from all over the country of well-intentioned regeneration schemes under a variety of names where people simply turn up, spend money and go away. The HATs have succeeded because each in its different way had a holistic approach. Yes, of course they provided bricks and mortar but also training, education, health promotion and crime prevention, among other things, that focused on a defined area for a known period and set out to involve people living there from day one, so that the solutions were community-grown rather than made in Whitehall and pressed down on people.
In Castle Vale, about 60 community groups and organisations have been involved in regeneration. The Government must find ways to ensure that the best practice from the experience of the HATs does not get lost and is made widely known to those concerned with the 3,000 other estates across the country in need of regeneration. We are so clever at reinventing the bicycle every time when there is one in the shed that other people can learn to ride.
The newly-published Corporate Social Responsibility Report 2002 from the Department of Trade and Industry details the partnership built by Castle Vale housing action trust with business, which has won an estimated £86 million of business investment for the local community. I shall give two brief examples.
First, against the background of a 25 per cent unemployment rate in 1993, the HAT worked with Jaguar Cars, which is housed in a factory across the road from the estate that built more than half of the Spitfires which flew in World War II, to offer training and chances of jobs when the S-type Jaguar was being planned. A customised training programme, part-funded by the HAT and partly by the European Social Fund, led to 81 per cent of those who went through training getting jobs at Jaguar Cars. I can tell your Lordships that if five or six years earlier people from the Castle Vale estate had crossed that road, gone to the security hut to ask if there were jobs available, been asked where they lived and said that they lived on the Vale, they would have been told to go back across the road.
Secondly, the HAT worked with Sainsbury to bring a £35 million shopping centre to Castle Vale, creating 500 jobs, a third of which are held by local residents and are truly walk-to-work jobs. Overall, almost 1,300 jobs and more than 2,300 assisted training places have been created, and unemployment is now 5.2 per cent—astonishing in that estate—against 7.6 per cent for Birmingham as a whole.
I stress that the active involvement of local authorities is vital to the regeneration process. A self-assessment toolkit to help communities and local authorities is being developed to bench-mark progress in neighbourhood management. In all regeneration schemes, succession and sustainability are crucial elements. When the lead agencies, such as HATs, have gone, a mix of bodies needs to be in place to enable residents to continue to build on success. Nothing stands still; if development does not go forward, it will go backward.
That is why Castle Vale HAT has set up a community regeneration partnership to work with Birmingham University and the Balsall Heath Forum to share best practice in the city and around England to support less experienced communities and partnerships. The cost of HATs—I aim this point at the Treasury—and other regeneration programmes needs to take account of all the gains: improved health, better employment, reduction of crime and increased investment in land and property. They must all be on the balance sheet.
Perhaps what the housing action trusts have demonstrated most of all is that small is beautiful—that a focus on a small but cohesive geographic area and community gives the best chance of success. I have one plea for my noble friend the Minister: please, thin out the legion of bodies used to help regeneration and the bureaucracy that sits upon them. Much has been done, but we now need to find better, more effective ways to share the success with those communities not yet given the chance to succeed.
My Lords, I join in the words of appreciation offered to my noble friend Lord Woolmer.
Last Sunday, I walked up the hill that overlooks my home. I was admiring the view from the top when I met two youths. I chatted to them and one said to me, "I am leaving school this summer". I asked him, "What are you going to do?", and he said, "I am getting a job". He said it with confidence—a confidence I had not heard from a young person for a long time. A few years ago, when I examined the figures for school leavers from a good school not far away in my constituency, only four of the summer leavers had obtained jobs by the autumn. So the confidence in that young man's voice was pleasing.
We have faced devastating problems of unemployment and the destruction of our economy. What worried me as I watched that devastation was that the biggest and most serious consequence would be social corrosion. Those fears came at a time when the Prime Minister of the day said that there was no such thing as a community. The hill that I mentioned was the spoil heap of Cortonwood colliery. Looking down from there, I can see where the colliery used to be. There was a community there, all right. There was a community there when I was told that that colliery would have five years' life. Five weeks later, they said that it would close in five weeks. The strike showed that we had a community. However, it was a community in anguish, so there was a chance of lasting bitterness, as well as economic deprivation.
On top of all that, the Government changed the rules governing derelict land grant and said that it was available only where derelict land would be subject to immediate hard after-use by the private sector. In the Dearne Valley, we had hundreds and hundreds of acres of derelict land. We needed only a small part of it to be covered with hard after-use. I did not care whether it was public or private sector, but it had to be private sector before a penny piece would be made available.
Fortunately, the then Prime Minister told me during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons that my constituency was getting vast sums under derelict land grant. The Minister in charge, Mr Trippier, who, I think, is no longer involved in politics, took a swift and sensible approach. The rule changed shortly afterwards, and that hill now has trees and grass. There is a lake beside it. I looked at our cygnets before I left on Monday morning. Down on the low ground are the new jobs. On the higher ground to the east are the new houses. However, we still face the social consequences that I feared in the 1980s.
In 1970, when I entered the House of Commons, I was put on the Standing Committee that dealt with the misuse of drugs. None of the police forces in my area had any experience of the problem, and I had to talk to someone in Sheffield to find out about the impact of the problem. It is a serious problem in my area now.
Crime did not exist then. The children of today are the grandchildren of people who lived in my ward when I was a young councillor. They did not know where the front-door key was; they could leave the milkman's money on the window-sill. I did not have to bother locking my car until the late 1970s. In the 1960s, when I was chairman of my local council, there were three local criminals in Wath-on-Dearne urban district and Brampton Bierlow, where I now live. I hesitate to guess how many there are now.
The work of the voluntary organisations and the churches—I was delighted that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans spoke about it—is vital. We need more sporting opportunities. Idle hands make mischief, and, if kids do not have the opportunity to burn up their energy, crime will flourish.
I am delighted that, in the past 12 months, there has been a 25 per cent reduction in unemployment in our ward, the worst in Rotherham metropolitan borough. Last year, the reduction was 20 per cent, and we shall soon be down to the national average. I look forward to the time when not only will there be jobs, opportunities and leisure activities, but crime will have reverted to the level that we experienced not that long ago. We still have a long way to go.
My remarks may not have related entirely to urban areas, for the coalfield areas of Britain cannot always be described as urban. When the Boundary Commission considered my constituency in the early 1980s, it divided it in two and suggested that both should be metropolitan borough—not county—constituencies. If it was a county constituency, we could spend another farthing per thousand electors or something; we never got anywhere near the maximum permitted levels of expenditure, as the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, knows. I said to the lawyer conducting the hearing, "When you get into your car, turn right out of the car-park, drive a mile, turn half a mile, drive another half a mile, stop, and get out of the car. If you can see a house, I will accept that it should be called an urban constituency. If you can't, it should be classed as a county constituency". We won.
We have a lot of trees already. I can see superb woodland from the top of the hill. I look forward to the visit of my noble friend Lord Clark of Windermere because we want more. Many of the hundreds of acres of the Dearne Valley that we do not need for industry or housing could usefully accommodate trees. I firmly believe that we will not build up the wealth and spirit of the communities in our area unless the environment is such as to justify the comments made by Walter Scott at the beginning of Ivanhoe describing the pleasant part of Merrie England watered by the River Don. When I entered Parliament, the Don and its chief tributary, the Dearne, were foul, open sewers. There are fish in them now; I want to see the rest of the area green as well.
My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer of Leeds, for introducing a wide-ranging debate on the important subject of regeneration.
Regeneration stems from the need to manage and develop sustainable solutions for our towns and cities against a background of changing ways of life. Perhaps it is because I am getting older, but it seems to me that life changes even more rapidly now than I ever remember. Many of us talked about regeneration in the early days, when areas declined as their major industries—their economic mainstay—disappeared. That upset the whole framework. We heard from various speakers about what has been done in such areas. The noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, spoke eloquently about Corby, and the noble Lord, Lord Clark of Windermere, spoke specifically about forests and the role that they can play. That was followed by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath.
The nature of neighbourhoods in Britain has changed. They remain important social units, but they are less central to many people's life than they once were. For many, the neighbourhood in which they live is less significant than their family, their work or their school. Communities of interest have developed, rather than communities of place. However, that does not happen equally across all groups. Some groups miss out on it, particularly women, smaller settlements, where communities are more self-contained, poorer neighbourhoods and areas with a high concentration of often marginalised people from ethnic minorities.
For many people, family, work and school are at greater distance from home than was once the case. Access to the Internet, television and other media is made privately, in one's home. Other leisure pursuits, particularly sport, often take place at a greater distance from people's homes. Research has shown that recently formed young, childless households do not know their neighbours. More worryingly, many do not want to know them. Often, incoming middle-class settlers socialise and take their children to school outside the area in which they live. All that has been accelerated by the wider use of cars for personal mobility.
Despite all that, the efficiency and effectiveness of communities remain important to people, not least in dealing with anti-social behaviour or when crime restricts freedom and quality of life. I specialise in housing and know that homes are of key importance to individuals, but I think that, as today's debate has shown, neighbourhoods are not just about individual homes, and regeneration is concerned not just with providing new homes but with much more.
In tackling the problem of failing neighbourhoods, we must identify the key factors that have contributed to decline and seek solutions that produce key building blocks for the future and are based on robust forecasting and research. I shall say more about that later. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, touched on that.
In his speech, the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer of Leeds, demonstrated the wide range of the debate. It was interesting that noble Lords mostly brought to the debate their own areas of interest. I have known the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, for many years. His background is as a representative of Westminster, an inner-city area. He touched on the problem of VAT on refurbishment and repair, but I am sure that we will not get an answer from the noble Lord, Lord Filkin. That issue comes up in every discussion that I have on these matters and we need to tackle it.
My noble friend Lord Greaves was slightly controversial as usual, but he showed how important it is to have good national strategies if local communities are to be successful. The noble Lord, Lord Rogers of Riverside, brought his knowledge on the work that he has done on urban renaissance and architecture. The noble Lord, Lord Best, emphasised something with which I totally agree. I have heard him say several times before that, when it comes to regeneration, one must regenerate the economy in a much wider way than in only one set of particular jobs. When one looks at how an area is developing, one must look at what is happening to the people. If people are fleeing an area and it starts to go downhill, one must examine how to attract a cross-section of people into the area to make it successful.
Various speakers referred to the importance of the arts and their bid for various cities to be cultural capitals. I strongly support them in their view that the health of neighbourhood arts and culture is very much part of people feeling comfortable in their communities. Such activities also do a tremendous amount for the economy.
Lest we should be carried away with material things, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St. Albans, reminded us of the church. He was emphasising not so much the spiritual side but how the development of the church went hand in hand with the development of the community. He reminded me of my early days in local government and inner city problems when he spoke about Faith in the City, which was a very important document. Many of the ideas and practices, especially about working in partnership, started in those days.
There are certain areas that we need to consider in regeneration. Various people have touched on what I would describe as urban democracy and the need for people locally to take hold of what is going on. We have different views on how to enhance innovation in local government to ensure that it has the power and freedom to do that. There were certain disagreements about partnerships and how to involve local people. My experience, and what I have heard this evening, suggests that we must involve a wide range of local people to ensure that not only is there finance to carry out their aspirations but that we help with skills and training.
I have seen, as I am sure have others, how people have developed their own skills tremendously when becoming involved in regeneration projects. We have heard about the importance of education and training in expanding local businesses. The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, talked about the importance of the university in Bradford. She will have heard some weeks ago at a meeting here in the House about how the university in Teesside had done a lot of work to try to ensure that its graduates with all their skills and abilities do not run away to the hotspots of England in the South East and the M4 Corridor. Areas have been set up where entrepreneurs can start up businesses.
The urban environment is also important and many noble Lords have talked about it. The level of public services is vital. In areas of deprivation the level of spending on a breadth of public services needs to be higher. Our system does not enable that to happen and the Government should be looking at that. Often extra money for an area has to be gained through a beauty contest and one must understand all the different ways of bidding for bits of money.
One of the issues about which I feel strongly and which the noble Lord, Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, touched on, is that we must be rigorous in how we account for what is done in an area. The noble Lord mentioned housing action trusts. I remember being shocked at how much money individual housing action trusts received. If we gave that to all areas they would be doing very well. We need to be rigorous in our research before going ahead with projects. I recently read a report of the Urban Affairs Committee in another place. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, was asked about the role of regional development agencies and whether there was best practice in the tasks that they were asked to carry out. He said no, and that they just had to follow Government policy. When he was pressed further, he said that they were given £200 million last year but he did not know exactly what it was spent on.
That is one of the areas about which I am most concerned as we consider regeneration. It is clear that we need to emphasise sustainability, which is about regenerating the way in which we adapt to change so that we can avoid some of the worst disasters that we have seen and for which we are still trying to pick up the pieces.
My Lords, I declare my usual interest as a recently re-elected member of a local authority.
The noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, has indeed generated an interesting and informed discussion. All those who have contributed to the debate have demonstrated immense experience of the problems associated with the challenge of improving the quality of life and the environment in our inner-city areas. These problems have been with us for far too long and, as has been said, they encompass many facets, including poor and run-down property, crime, inadequate schools, the environment and unneighbourly communities.
Contrary to what has been suggested, the recognition of these problems has been well understood for many years, and they were the subject of intensive efforts long before this Government came to power. It may be contrary to the understanding of some people, but the world did not start in May 1997. Regeneration initiatives which involved the private and public sectors, voluntary organisations and local people were promoted and carried out by the previous government. I am bound to say that, as I remember it, such initiatives were greeted with rather less than enthusiastic support from the then opposition, largely because they involved bringing in the private sector. That is an issue that is now being embraced widely and carefully, and is probably being welcomed by those on the Government Benches.
I recall the work that was undertaken by the previous government to regenerate Liverpool and to bring in the city challenge programme—the sort of comprehensive policy extolled by the noble Lord, Lord Woolmer. Where it was implemented, it was by and large extremely successful. It brought together representatives of the community, including private companies, local authorities, voluntary organisations and, indeed, the churches. It levered in many millions of pounds from non-governmental sources over a seven-year period. Certainly, in the London borough that I represent, the standard of the whole city challenge area was raised and the local community felt part of what was done. That partnership continues, despite the fact that the seven-year programme has been completed, and it continues to generate further regeneration programmes and a strong community.
My noble friend Lord Brooke, to whom I am indebted for providing 50 per cent of the Opposition Benches' contribution to the debate, spoke of the initiative of flats over shops. He also gave us a real reason why he should have been an architect but was much better as a Member of Parliament. Part of the city challenge programme was to try bring back into use flats situated above shops. In addition, small-scale regeneration projects have been raised from the Single Regeneration Budget.
But the sad story of initiatives is that they seem to start and stop, as has been mentioned by a number of noble Lords. That lack of continuity is one of the reasons why there seems to be a perpetual need to invent new ways of trying to do the same thing. Indeed, that point was made by the Cabinet Office in its report, Reaching Out, in February 2000. It drew attention to the fact that there were altogether too many government initiatives, not enough co-ordination and too much time spent on setting up systems rather than delivering them. Just a few of the initiatives have been mentioned today.
I am constantly reminded by the noble Lord, Lord Best, with his knowledge and experience, about the practicalities of redevelopment and I welcome listening to him on many occasions. I was fascinated by the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Clark, about the need for greenery, for trees, in urban areas. There is not the slightest doubt that planting trees in streets raises the quality of the environment and the tone of the area in addition to contributing to a general feeling of well-being and a reduction in pollution. I welcome the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Rogers, who I remember well from our days on "London First" and his influential report. So much expertise and knowledge is going into the problem.
I have counted at least 18 initiatives—I am sure that there are many more—which are running across ministries. That is why my colleagues in the other place have said that they would like to see a position of "Minister for Regeneration" to bring coherence and co-ordination to the whole policy across all arms of government. We consistently hear about cross-cutting in other areas, so let us have a bit of cross-cutting on regeneration.
The confusion has been worse confounded by the Single Regeneration Budget money having been transferred to the regional development agencies. All experience is that as a result the budget has been considerably underspent. The Institute for Fiscal Studies showed that for the years 1999-2000 and 2000-01 the underspend was considerable. Such an outcome for something which is so important demonstrates either a lack of purpose or a lack of initiative.
So how does one put together a programme which brings about regeneration and builds the confidence of the community in its area? First, one must ensure that members of the local community—whether it is tenants of social housing, local homeowners, those who rent, and representatives of commerce, the Churches and the voluntary organisations—are involved in any proposals which affect them. But do not ask them to be the leaders delivering the policies. That is without doubt the responsibility of the local council, which is the democratically elected leader of the community. The local community should be involved in any proposals that affect them and the area in which they live, and investment and development companies should be encouraged to build on brownfield sites. We do not want temporary prefab housing for key workers, but permanent homes for all those who are required to support and sustain the community.
It seems odd that in all the verbiage about this, the Government, while making concessions for refurbishment of property, have still not lowered the VAT on such developments. A number of noble Lords have spoken about that. Why is it that the cost of stamp duty for first-time buyers, rather than being removed as promised in development areas, remains in place? The intention to remove it was predicated in the Finance Act 2001. Will the Minister say what steps are being taken to encourage investment by equity funds, and what venture capital trusts are to develop deprived areas by being given tax credits?
If young people, whatever their economic status, are not encouraged to remain or move to inner-city areas, those communities have no future. Far from the population staying in the cities, the pressure for housing in areas outside cities is increasing dramatically, particularly in the South East where the estimate of the number of new houses required has increased by nearly 30 per cent. There is the likelihood that those will have to be built on greenfield sites as opposed to being provided by the kind of imaginative scheme referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Best.
For the young to remain, they need an assurance of good education for their children—something which is not evident in all those places—and improving failing schools is essential. It is one thing to send the mother of truanting children to prison—I do not necessarily disagree with that—but why, having given that discretion to the courts, have the Government only recently lifted the limit on the number of disruptive children who can be excluded from any one school, thus undermining the control by head teachers of their schools? The schools themselves need to be in charge of the management of their pupils.
Returning to housing, many estates have, in the past, been developed in a way which encourages crime. We now need to ensure that practical measures, such as good lighting, CCTV, secure doors and windows and the eradication of dead zones are implemented. Perhaps there is no one better than the noble Lord, Lord Rogers, to describe how to do that. It is essential that communities have more power over their areas. Voluntary projects should be encouraged with funding being directed straight to the front line.
Local partnerships and, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, quangos, are one way of dealing with the matter, but local authorities are still the best placed organisations to lead any local initiatives. They have too often been side-lined under this Government, who prefer centrally driven and, as I believe I have demonstrated, unfocused schemes.
Urban degeneration has been part of the canker of society for a hundred years. It needs co-ordinated policies to achieve results, which is what I believe that we do not yet have, as this debate has demonstrated.
My Lords, I, too, want to begin by congratulating my noble friend Lord Woolmer of Leeds. It is regrettable that it has been a long time since we discussed such issues in this House, yet they are crucial to the society and economy of so much of Britain.
I want to make two apologies. First, my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer was delighted when he saw the Motion on the Order Paper because he has put considerable energy into his role as regeneration Minister. Unfortunately, it has been one of those days, as noble Lords may have noticed, and he has been detained elsewhere. Similarly, I apologise for missing the first few minutes of the speech of my noble friend Lord Smith. I was detained with the Home Secretary stressing to me how crucial it was that the Home Office and the DTLR should work together on regeneration to tackle some of the problems of ethnic diversity in Britain. It is not a sufficient excuse, but at least it is in part plausible!
The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, is right in saying that urban policy did not start in 1997. Nor would I claim that everything the previous government did before 1997 was wrong and that everything done subsequently was right. However, there is an analogy between how governments have learnt to control inflation and how they are becoming progressively better in considering the handling of regeneration. In that respect, the debate has highlighted the lessons which are coming into good currency.
In the past, there was a strong emphasis on economic renewal and on central mechanisms, such as urban development corporations, that bypassed local authorities in some inner-city areas. A shift took place towards tackling social as well as economic issues. That occurred through City Challenge and, later, most importantly through the Single Regeneration Budget.
However, the emphasis was also as much on competition for limited resources as on creating a lasting partnership between agencies in the public, private and voluntary sectors to address causes rather than just the symptoms of problems. Despite all the money and effort on the part of a sequence of governments, we did not always find that regeneration worked or succeeded in ways that had been envisaged. The most deprived places of 30 years ago, tend still to remain the most deprived places of today.
The publication of the Urban White Paper and the National Strategy for the Neighbourhood Renewal Action Plan has, we suggest, signalled a fundamental shift of direction. There are three main differences in the new approach that have been mentioned by a number of speakers in this debate.
First, the Urban White Paper built on the quite remarkably influential work of my noble friend Lord Rogers, and the task force. It is so good to have my noble friend with us today, and to have the benefit of his experience and wisdom. The White Paper was a recognition that the future of towns and cities and the concept of urban renaissance were vital to regeneration, but also to creating sustainable patterns of development. It marked a new emphasis on the use of broader policy instruments, such as planning and neighbourhood renewal.
Secondly, the National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal recognised that agreed concerted action across the board was necessary to reduce the gap between the most deprived neighbourhoods in urban areas, and the rest. I do not have time to illustrate the latter, but noble Lords will know how wide those gaps are and what that says in terms of the poverty and the quality of life for people who inhabit some of our most deprived neighbourhoods.
Thirdly, the problems should be tackled not just by initiatives but by bending main programmes, both at central and at local government level, as well as through other agencies. The emphasis is now on using indicators and setting targets to reduce gaps in performance, rather than through programmes aimed at tackling individual problems. A sequence of central government departments have very clear baseline targets to improve the quality and performance of public services, and of opportunity, in the most deprived neighbourhoods in Britain—as well they should.
As has been said by many speakers, there are good reasons for being optimistic about current urban policies. First, they now involve the local community in better ways than was the case with previous initiatives. The emphasis is on recognising that they have to be bottom up, not top down. Economic and social regeneration needs to be self-sustaining, but this will happen only if it is based on local strengths and weaknesses, local needs and aspirations—not in response to some central directive.
Secondly, our emphasis is on a comprehensive strategic approach. The best of local agencies and of local authorities fully endorse that approach. Regeneration is not just about bricks and mortar, though, as my noble friend Lord Rogers said, the physical environment is crucially important. It is also about having coherent and joined-up strategies at different levels of government and agencies that provide a basis for practical action from the regional down to the neighbourhood level. It means linking economic, social and environmental policies, which is easy to say.
Thirdly, our policies are based on the bending of mainstream programmes so that there is a reduced risk that funding will cease after initiatives have proven their success. Fourthly, we are focusing on improving the connections between areas of prosperity and deprived areas, as was mentioned by one or two noble Lords; in other words, not to see the inner-city in isolation but to see how the different parts of a city may be able to contribute to each other's needs and thereby foster improvement.
In spatial terms, regeneration policies and programmes operate at three levels: regional, urban and neighbourhood. At the regional level, the Government approach is based on the principles of strengthening the economies of all our regions, and supporting the regeneration of towns, cities and neighbourhoods. The regional development agencies (RDAs) are charged with being,
"strategic leaders of economic development and regeneration in their regions".
It is still relatively early days. I note the point made about not spending all of the SRB funding, but the Government are optimistic that the RDAs will make a significant contribution at regional level. That is why the Government and the Treasury have been minded significantly to increase the budget for such agencies over the coming years. RDAs have been set clear regeneration targets to tackle poverty and social exclusion in the bottom 20 per cent most deprived wards in the region. It is not just letting the successful areas get rich; there is a focus towards addressing the most deprived wards.
I turn to the urban level. The White Paper sets out the Government's vision for making our towns and cities into places where people want to live, work and invest, not places that people seek to leave as soon as they have the opportunity to do so. The noble Lord, Lord Best, and other speakers made mention of that point. The emphasis is on each town and city setting its own strategy that responds to local needs and aspirations. Although central government must, with the help of agencies, look to where they can set the right framework of policies and funding in order to address regeneration, the lead must ultimately come from the localities. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, and other speakers, as regards the crucial importance of local authorities working with others to provide some of that cohesion and leadership.
At the neighbourhood level, which is where one sees some of the worst concentrations of social, economic and physical deprivation in our society, the National Strategy Action Plan for Neighbourhood Renewal is central to the Government's plans for closing performance gaps between the most deprived communities and the more advantaged ones. The new approach to urban policy is place-based. It also depends on developing links between policies and programmes in a horizontal as well as a vertical way.
Local strategic partnerships, within which local authorities are clearly one of the fundamental players, are bringing together local authorities, local residents, the private sector, and other stakeholders to agree overall community strategies for their areas. Again, it is early days. However, I believe that they will be crucial for the success of local regeneration strategies in many areas in Britain.
We are also working closely with 24 partner towns and cities around the country to understand better how different urban initiatives work together. That is one of the Government's responses to the challenge laid down by my noble friend Lord Rogers and the Urban Task Force. It is not simply looking at the worst areas; it is looking at a range of towns and cities and considering what can and should be done to improve the physical environment—the quality of the built environment, the quality of open spaces, and, as my noble friend Lord Clark reminded us, the quality of the green environment.
My noble and learned friend Lord Falconer and my honourable friend Sally Keeble visited all 24 of these partner towns and cities over the past few months to gain a better understanding of the main opportunities. I shall return later to those visits in terms of some of the learning derived from that experience.
Much good sense emerged from the debate. In the limited time left to me, I shall try to respond to many of the questions and challenges that were raised. The opening speech of my noble friend Lord Woolmer was profoundly thoughtful as regards stressing that "partnership" is not a mealy-mouthed vague word but a concept at the heart of successful regeneration. There was also the recognition of the fact that problems, whether they be found in the physical environment, in the economy, in society, or in service delivery, differ most significantly throughout the country. That is why we have local government. It is why a top-down approach is not appropriate by itself. It is why we must try to foster local creativity and leadership. My noble friend also said that solutions must not be piecemeal; they should be comprehensive, and hang on in there for the long term. This not quick start, and it is not a matter of quick fixes. The Government endorse all of those points.
It was very good to hear the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, speaking from his considerable experience; and, indeed, as regards what might have been his career in terms of being an architect. I have a similar confession to make: for about two years I was a planner, but then I strayed away and ended up in sin afterwards. Indeed, one can only wonder at what might have happened to me had I stayed. The noble Lord raised several issues, but spoke particularly about flats over shops. I recollect discussing with the noble Lord, Lord Best, about 20 or 30 years ago the importance of how one addressed that as regards housing units and trying to improve the built environment in urban areas.
The White Paper introduced a package of fiscal measures to aid regeneration, with costs estimated at around £1 billion over the next 10 years, including 100 per cent capital allowances for creating flats to let over shops. We are committed to monitoring the take-up of these and other fiscal measures to ensure that they achieve their objective of increasing investment in urban areas. I am not sure whether that is a complete response to the point raised by the noble Lord. I shall take it away and reflect on it.
The noble Lord also mentioned brownfield sites and referred to the identification of contaminated sites. Clearly, not all brownfield land is contaminated, although much is. Following a government review, in April English Partnerships announced its intention to put a new focus on identifying and remedying brownfield sites which we hope will help to secure more joined-up working on the issue.
There is and has been some uncertainty, as the noble Lord also remarked, on the position of the European Union. The Government are pressing for a new regeneration framework which would allow the payment of state aid for regeneration. We think that it is fundamentally important that that is cleared. Furthermore, we believe that the Commission is willing to consider the possibility of change which will help to aid the regeneration of brownfield sites.
The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, spoke of the importance of considering this problem in a national context. Although this has not been raised widely in the debate, ensuring that the national economy is sound and growing well, that national unemployment levels are low and that we do not suffer periods of boom and bust, is vital to progressive regeneration. At the national level we must provide the fundamental underpinning of a sound economy. That is one of the contributions that central government can make towards local regeneration.
The noble Lord mentioned the plethora of quangos. Both he and the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, mentioned the excellent report, Reaching Out, published in 2000, which was highly critical of the multiplicity of initiatives. The Government take that point seriously and are considering what can be done through the Regional Co-ordination Unit to limit—as I think we must—new initiatives and rationalise some of those already in place.
The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, also spoke of the importance of addressing poverty as a part of regeneration. Again, at the national level, it is not irrelevant to mention our commitment to halving child poverty by 2010, addressing pensioner poverty and seeking to ensure that, by the end of the decade, there will be the highest ever proportion of people in work. I shall not go into the mechanisms which will seek to achieve that aim.
The noble Lord also spoke—slightly too sceptically, I thought—of how local people are not trusted. They would simply pinch the money and run away with it. Perhaps I do him an injustice with that comment, although a hint of that sentiment came across in his words. Many noble Lords have spoken of the importance of engaging local people, doing things with them rather than for them. One has to find ways of resourcing and skilling people to enable them to participate rather than assuming that they cannot do so. We do not support the argument that says, when referring to baths, "Well, they'll only put coal in it".
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for allowing me to intervene. The point I tried to make was that, while I agree entirely with what the Minister has said, the problem is that many of the existing quangos do not do that. In their operations they actually exclude local people.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his comment.
Reverting to how we support local people to become effective participants in the process, we have established the Community Empowerment Fund aimed at equipping local people to join in with local strategic partnerships. That will make some contribution towards greater local participation.
Along with other noble Lords, I thoroughly enjoyed the contribution of my noble friend Lord Clark of Windermere. He sought to reposition the importance of landscaping, afforestation and trees. Until I spoke to my noble friend, I had not realised that the Forestry Commission is not active only in Scotland, but focuses on urban areas. I wish more strength both to his arm and to that of the commission for that involvement.
It is clear that trees enhance the quality of life. One has only to look at the success of some of the new towns and the emphasis they place on addressing the question of landscape architecture in order to improve the feel of those towns. Let us hope that the noble Lord and his agency are able to transform the quality of many of our urban environments. We wish him the best of luck also with regard to the 100,000 hectares of land unsuitable for anything other than cultivating trees that he mentioned in his remarks.
My noble friend Lord Rogers of Riverside reminded us that, while rural areas and issues are important, some 90 per cent of the people of Britain live in towns and cities. The quality of the physical environment and our public spaces, in terms of their visual appearance, the sense of security, cleanliness and enjoyment is extremely important to the success of Britain. We all know that when we visit Florence, Siena or Barcelona, it is a joy to walk around those urban spaces. We have to catch up with those cities and demonstrate that we can provide the same.
In that respect, the Government and my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer are studying an initiative addressing the issue of open spaces. We are considering what more needs to be done in order to address the care of public spaces. We shall wait to see the outcome of those deliberations as a part of the Comprehensive Spending Review. However, that issue is certainly on the Government's agenda, as well it should be.
My noble friend also mentioned the importance of the quality of architectural and other skills leadership to urban regeneration. Again, I agree with his comments. I would mention in this context the creation of regional centres of excellence in each of the nine English regions to promote architectural design skills, working with the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. If I recall correctly, Sir Stuart Lipton is producing a report of the Urban Design Skills Working Group which will set out a plan of action to make progress in this area. We shall monitor its progress.
The noble Lord, Lord Best, spoke from one of the greatest depths of experience of any noble Lord in terms of the work on regeneration of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation carried out over the past 20 years or so. The House acknowledges the consistency of that work. From that experience, the noble Lord pointed out that it is essential to have a vibrant local economy; that is vital to provide local employment; and that one must have local ownership. All these are crucial and the Government endorse that thinking.
I thought he encapsulated very well the aim of turning areas from which people want to flee into ones where people want to stay. He was right symbolically, but it is more complicated than that. I was struck when I heard Sir Robin Wales, the leader and now the mayor of Newham, describe how he and his officials had stopped boasting that Newham was the poorest place in Britain. They want to turn Newham into a place where people want to come and to stay in rather than to flee as quickly as possible. If we are to avoid ghettoisation, then that will be necessary. Furthermore, it will be necessary if we are to avoid undue pressure being put on land in the green belts, a point mentioned by my noble friend Lord Rogers and other noble Lords.
The noble Lord, Lord Best, opened his remarks by discussing the issue of abandonment, which is absolutely critical on the Government's agenda, both for reasons of housing and regeneration. The Special Housing Market Renewal Fund is under consideration to tackle problems of low demand. It is recognised that regional housing markets will require interventions. Appropriate mechanisms are currently under discussion. I cite also compulsory purchase powers, but I acknowledge that those powers are in need of reform. Proposals will be taken forward as a part of the planning Green Paper.
My noble friend Lady Lockwood spoke interestingly about regarding multiculturalism as a strength, about the location of a university as a potential strength, and recognising that regeneration strategies have to try to identify what is unique in an area in terms of potential assets—canals and so forth—rather than simply to list the problems.
With the leave of the House, I shall take a few more minutes in order to address all the issues that have been raised in our debate.
My noble friend Lord Evans of Temple Guiting spoke of the importance of regional and local museums and art galleries. The commission for museums and art galleries was tasked by the then Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to study these issues. I am sure that consideration will be given, whether favourably or not, to the noble Lord's innovative bid for further funding, as was well publicised yesterday in the Guardian.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans reminded noble Lords that this is not an issue only for the Government or for local government; it is an issue for civic society. In other words, regeneration involves us all. He stressed the importance of volunteering and mentioned a whole range of volunteer groups, of which clearly the Church is one of the most influential. That, too, forms part of successful local regeneration.
The Local Government Association, in conjunction with the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions and the Home Office, produced in February 2002 the report, Faith in the Community, a guidance for partnership between local authorities and faith communities. It contains many wise words on these issues. He was worried about what was happening to the DTLR. The "T" is being lost from "DTLR" but "the Regions" remains with the rest of it and therefore the Government's commitment to regeneration remains as strong. It is, of course, a cross-government and a cross-departmental commitment.
The noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, illustrated how Corby—which most saw as a failed steel town, to put it too crudely—had a vision for transforming itself into a completely different place. That sense of vision of what can be done is an important part of successful regeneration. One has to identify where the opportunities are and provide skilled local leadership.
The noble Lord, Lord Clarke of Hampstead, referred to the market renewal pathfinder. I have spoken about that already and I shall not repeat what I said. I agree with his point about communication to local people and their involvement in the strategies, rather than something being done by agencies separate from them.
The noble Lord, Lord Smith of Leigh, spoke powerfully and with great experience about what has been happening in Wigan and about the importance of looking not only at residential but at retail and commercial areas of risk as well. We need to reflect on that point. There is no promise that SIGOMA will necessarily get all that it wants in any funding review, as the noble Lord will not be surprised to hear.
The noble Lord, Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, spoke from a lot of local knowledge. I agree with his point about not losing the experience of best practice in housing action trusts. If the skill and experience is in local communities and local projects, one of the roles of central government is to ensure that that experience is retailed to each other, is not lost and is reflected on. Ultimately, local communities have to learn how best to do it themselves.
As to the multiplicity of funding bodies, I have already spoken about the work of the regional co-ordination unit. The noble Lord, Lord Hardy, gave an eloquent description of his successful efforts to remove old slag heaps and to change some of our former mining areas into better places following the collapse of their industry.
Given the time, I shall not go into any further detail. I hope that I have commented on most points. I conclude with a sense of humility. The Government think that they have better strategies than they had for addressing regeneration. The fit between what has been said in the debate and what I have said from the Dispatch Box gives some hope that a consensus is developing. Nevertheless, we have to keep learning and we have to keep developing. It is therefore important that we use mechanisms such as the urban summit in October, when all areas will get together to discuss what has been learnt, and continue to reflect on how policy and practice, both at national and local level, need to change and improve to increase our success at regeneration.
My Lords, it has been a wide-ranging debate, as I thought it would be. It has been good humoured and has drawn upon the experience of many noble Lords. I am grateful to them for participating in the debate and for making it, I hope, a considerable success. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.