The Housing Minister has said new cash payments for communities who go for growth could offer a lifeline to local areas campaigning for more facilities for young people, and give teenagers across the country something to do during the holidays.
Cash for campaigners
Mr Shapps said that thanks to a new government scheme where communities receive cash payments to spend as they see fit in return for giving the green light to housing development, local youth projects may also get the go ahead or existing facilities improved. In a boost for local campaigners he said this could be spent on new playgrounds, refurbished swimming pools or five a side football pitches if that is what the local community wants.
The minister said that from Wanstead to Watton communities are calling out for new facilities for young people - but despite tight public finances a new 5-a-side pitch doesn’t need to be a football fantasy thanks to the New Homes Bonus. Mr Shapps called on youth campaigners across the country to contact their town hall to see what plans their council has to use this new government cash.
Reducing anti social behaviour
Mr Shapps believes this extra cash can also play an important part in reducing anti-social behaviour caused by teenagers having nothing to do or nowhere to go during school holidays, and urged councils to consult local residents on how this money could be used to tackle this problem.
Grant Shapps said:
“Up and down the country teenagers are calling out for more fun things to do and places to go to meet their friends. But with public finances so tight many communities have given up hope on the prospect of new facilities.
“But thanks to a new government scheme where communities receive cash payments in return for building new homes many of these projects have a much needed lifeline. Communities themselves get to decide how this money is spent so if a lack of facilities for teenagers is a major problem then a playground or 5-a-side football pitch could get the green light. Thanks to the New Homes Bonus a new 5-a-side pitch doesn’t need to be a football fantasy if it’s what the community needs and wants.
“So I urge all local campaigners to get in touch with their council to explore what plans they have to use the proceeds of growth to meet local needs and whether it can be used to get some of these projects off the ground.”
There are hundreds of campaigns around the country for new or improved facilities for young people. As communities get to decide how to spend cash from the New Homes Bonus this scheme could help some of them get off the ground. Examples of campaigns include;
Amateur football players faced losing 5 pitches at local playing fields run by Exeter City Council. Parents, clubs, coaches, Devon FA and Exeter City Football Club joined a campaign run by the local newspaper to keep the pitches open and more than 1,500 people signed a petition in support of the facilities. Local clubs have now been giving permission to take over responsibility for running the pitches - in future, they will be able ask the council that cash from the New Homes Bonus is used to keep the pitches open and make improvements, for the benefit of the local community.
Darlington, Durham County Council
A campaign is underway to get community support to raise up to £40,000 to install an all-weather pitch at Firthmoor Community Centre. It would replace the original tarmac surface which was put in when the multi-use games area was opened in 2007.
Martin Landers, Development Manager at the centre:
“This pitch is now out of date and interest has dwindled with a football league recently folding. A new surface is urgently needed to get us up and running again as a much needed facility for the area. It would have huge health benefits, help reduce anti -social behaviour and raise money for the young people of Firthmoor”
Jarvis Brook, East Sussex
Plans are currently being drawn up of what a new park could look like with residents then able to decide which plan they prefer. The ideas include:
- an enclosed playground for young children
- seating and picnic benches
- fresh landscaping and community notice boards
- a skate ramp, youth shelter and games area for football and basketball for young people
Deirdre Harris, chairman of Jarvis Brook Residents Association, explained why the revamp was needed;
“It is very run down. The play equipment is about 25 years old and a lot of it is broken and unsuitable. So we want to encourage everyone to go there, right from the babies in the enclosed playground to the teenagers with a youth shelter, skate ramp and games area. It will have two ends - 1 where the houses back on to it for the little kids and the youth area by the car park.”
Through the New Homes Bonus government will match the council tax raised from new homes for the first 6 years. Empty properties brought back into use will also receive a cash bonus and an extra £350 per house premium will be paid for affordable homes. This works out at £9,000 paid on average to each Band D home or almost £11,000 for an equivalent affordable home.
So if an area increased the number of homes by 1,000 units this could earn the community £10 million to spend as they see fit - whether on skate parks or other facilities for young people, council tax discounts or boosting frontline services such as rubbish collection.
This will mean that for the first time rather than having development forced on them from Whitehall through centrally imposed targets there is a reason for communities to support growth. Through, for example a new skate park giving teenagers something to do and cutting down on anti-social behaviour, communities will be able to see the benefits of development in their area for themselves.