Byker success story 'the embodiment of the Big Society'

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Housing Minister Grant Shapps has today put power firmly in residents’ hands by giving the green light for the iconic Byker Estate in Newcastle…

Housing Minister Grant Shapps has today put power firmly in residents’ hands by giving the green light for the iconic Byker Estate in Newcastle to be put into community control.

Visiting the Grade II listed estate, Mr Shapps applauded the efforts of tenants who “never took no for an answer” and campaigned for control of their neighbourhood, describing them as “the embodiment of the Big Society”, paying tribute to Newcastle City Council and the Homes and Communities Agency who supported their efforts.

And he welcomed efforts to ensure that, as residents work to secure Byker’s future for generations to come, they benefit from the Government’s Green Deal to make their homes greener and cheaper to run.

The Byker Estate was designed by Ralph Erskine, and won international acclaim as a prime example of 1970s social housing development. Byker gained Grade II listed status in 2006, but investment is now needed to bring the estate up to modern standards.

Under the plans, a Community Trust will be established to manage this investment, creating training and employment opportunities for local people. Residents would play a key role in the trust, and would work alongside Your Homes Newcastle, which would provide support and management services.

The Government will support this by writing off a local housing debt associated with the estate of up to £42m.

Mr Shapps also welcomed efforts for Byker residents to benefit from cheaper energy bills through the new Green Deal, and other green initiatives.

Plans under consideration include a new heating system so that, rather than controlling the heating centrally, tenants will be able to control their own heating in their properties and benefit from cheaper energy bills. This particular scheme is expected to cost £16m - with £11m coming from private investment.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps said:

Byker residents are rightly proud of their iconic estate, but have recognised the need for investment to secure it for generations to come. For years, they have refused to take no for an answer and have campaigned to take control of their own neighbourhood.

These residents are the embodiment of the Big Society in action and today, I can confirm that I am giving the green light for Byker to be put under community control, giving the power to tenants who have wanted for years to be able to determine their own future.

Newcastle City Council and the Homes and Communities Agency have also been instrumental in making this happen, and I would like to pay tribute to the work that they have put in. But for me, the story of Byker doesn’t end there. As the community looks to get the funding it needs to maintain their estate, they will also benefit from the Government’s Green Deal - making their homes greener, and cheaper to run with lower energy bills.

David Faulkner, Leader of Newcastle City Council, said:

Everybody, including local residents, has worked incredibly hard to put together a package which offers investment, security, and a real voice for local people. The decision will be theirs, but we welcome the support of government.

This announcement recognises the national importance of the estate and is a result of much hard work on behalf by our partners the Homes and Communities Agency and the Byker Investment Task Group in delivering an innovative solution to the investment challenges of the estate.

Professor Peter Roberts, Chair of the Byker Taskforce and a member of the Homes and Communities Agency’s Board, said:

Byker is an excellent example of how to put the community in the driving seat and deliver local solutions.

It brings together local people with the Council, the Homes and Communities Agency and central Government in a productive and positive partnership. It also builds on the deep-rooted tradition of community ownership of ‘their’ place: Byker people delivering a future for Byker.

David Curtis, executive director at the Homes and Communities Agency, said:

I’m delighted that the hard work of the Homes and Communities Agency, the Council and local people, which has led to a proposal representing good value for money for the whole community, has now been approved.


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