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SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES PLAN - FROM VISION TO REALITY

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Deputy prime minister John Prescott has visited some of the ...
Deputy prime minister John Prescott has visited some of the

projects helping deliver the government's£38bn commitment to

tackle housing shortages and regenerate communities in the wider

South East.

In Milton Keynes, Mr Prescott saw 43 new affordable homes being built

for key workers and other local residents near Westcroft.

The site is part of The Housing Partnership, an innovative scheme

being driven forward by English Partnerships and the Housing

Corporation to develop more affordable homes in the South East.

Mr Prescott went on to Wolverton where£7.3m of

growth area funding is revitalising the old railway town whilst

maintaining the heritage of the area by restoring the former Royal

Train Shed and canal side.

Mr Prescott then visited a landmark project in Upton (near

Northampton) led by English Partnerships and planned using design

code techniques. This will see 1,200 homes built in a new sustainable

community, which will include a school, shops, a country park and

playing fields.

The deputy prime minister said:

'The£38bn Communities Plan set out our vision for creating

thriving and sustainable communities in all regions. Now we are

turning that plan into action. We are determined to deliver more

affordable homes, where people need them most, especially for our key

workers and young families.

'The projects I have seen today show we are beginning to make this

happen. Not only are we putting down the foundations to tackle

housing shortages, we are ensuring that the infrastructure - the

schools, hospitals, shops and green spaces - is in place to create

places where people want to live now and in future generations.'

Mr Prescott also announced today that the next design coding pilot

project will be in Swindon. The pilot scheme will test whether coding

can accelerate the delivery of better quality places with the sort of

well built, well designed homes that communities are so keen to see.

Urban design coding is part of the government's response to the Egan

Skills Review, which was published today. Work to take forward the

main recommendation, the National Centre for Sustainable Community

Skills, is also already underway, with a task group set up to develop

plans for the centre.

Mr Prescott said:

'High quality, well designed housing is vital to creating sustainable

communities. We must avoid the mistakes of the past and ensure new

homes are sympathetic to their local environment. That's why urban

design code techniques have an important part to play. Today's

announcement of the Swindon pilot is an important step forward in

helping to speed up the delivery of high quality new homes and

services to create successful communities.'

Commenting on the Egan Skills Review, Mr Prescott added:

'We need a culture change in skills and training for a broad range of

occupations in order to deliver sustainable communities. To do this,

we are moving ahead with Sir John Egan's radical skills agenda.

Already, we are taking forward plans for a National Centre for

Sustainable Community Skills, which will be instrumental in

developing generic skills. Crucially, it will play a vital role in

making the changes needed in everyone's attitude, behaviour and

knowledge.'

Other key recommendations being taking forward in the Egan Skills

Review include:

* Work to develop a broader understanding of what makes up a

sustainable community, with a definition and components to be agreed

with key stakeholders by September 2004.

* Local authorities to take the lead responsibility for delivering

sustainable communities. This role will require local authorities to

identify local priorities, set targets and monitor progress towards

achievements.

* Developing local authorities' Community Strategies so they become

Sustainable Community Strategies, which will set out how the vision

for an area will be delivered.

* Improving planning processes to deliver quality and timely outcomes

Whilst visiting Northampton, Mr Prescott also announced the

chair-designate of the proposed West Northamptonshire Urban

Development Corporation (UDC). Keith Barwell, currently the chair and

chief executive of Northampton Rugby Football club, will begin work

as the chair-designate of the proposed UDC in September 2004. He will

play a key role in delivering better education, skills, leisure,

health and employment in the area as well as tackling deprivation and

driving future economic prosperity.

Commenting on the appointment Mr Prescott said:

'Keith is well known locally and cares passionately about the area.

He has the vision, experience and local knowledge to deliver

sustainable growth and regeneration that will benefit the local

community as a whole.'

NOTES

1. Mr Prescott's visit to Milton Keynes was hosted by English

Partnerships' chair, Margaret Ford, and chief executive, David

Higgins, who accompanied Mr Prescott during his visit to highlight a

number of the new development and regeneration initiatives in the

town.

2. Westcroft 7 is being developed by Bedfordshire Pilgrims Housing

Association (BPHA) under the Challenge 2 Fund programme launched in

July 2003 by The Housing Partnership to deliver new affordable homes,

quickly and more cost effectively.

3. In July 2003, the deputy prime minister announced£7.3m for growth

fund projects in Wolverton including£2.6m for the Triangle Site and

£2.7m and£2m respectively for restoration work at the Canalside and

Royal Train Shed. The funding is part of£19.8m allocated for growth

projects in Milton Keynes.

4. The government wishes to test the potential for design coding as a

means of delivering higher quality development at greater speed

through the planning process. The development projects which it has

chosen to monitor and evaluate in order to assess the effectiveness

of the coding approach are subject to approval through the planning

system in the normal way.

5. The Swindon Southern Development Area project is a large scale

urban extension in the western corridor of the Town ofSwindon. The

site is bordered by the M4 motorway and the London to Cardiff main

line railway. For further press information, please contact Charles

St George or Jo Hatton PPS (Local and Regional) Ltd 01454 275630.

6. Swindon joins six other design coding pilots across the country.

These are: Aldershot, Ashford, Cirencester, Hastings, Newcastle, and

Rotherham and were announced by the deputy prime minister on 12 May

2004.

7. John Prescott asked John Egan in April

2003 to conduct a review of the skills needed to bridge the gap

between our current skills base and skills we require for creating

sustainable communities.

8. Sir John presented his review to the deputy prime minister in

April 2004. Sir John argued that all communities should adopt a

common vision of what makes up a sustainable community.

Responsibility for delivering that vision should rest with local

authorities, supported by the right skills base.

9. Work to take forward the main recommendation, the National Centre

for Sustainable Community Skills, is also already underway, with a

task group set up to develop plans for the centre.

10. The national centre, will develop world class generic skills for

the core occupations engaged in planning, delivering and maintaining

sustainable communities. It will identify skills gaps, review

education and training available and encourage more entrants into

these professions. The national centre will start work in early 2005.

The full response to the Egan Skills Review can be found at:

http://www.odpm.gov.uk/stellent/groups/odpm_control/documents/contentservertemplate/odpm_index.hcst?n=3933&l=2

11. The chair-designate will be offered the formal post of chair,

subject to parliamentary approval of the order to establish the Urban

Development Corporation.

12. During the interim period Keith Barwell will be the

chair-designate of the shadow UDC and employed as a consultant to the

ODPM.

13. Keith Barwell will begin work as chair-designate of the shadow

UDC in September 2004. One of his first task will be to assist the

deputy prime minister in the process of appointing a shadow board for

the proposed UDC.

Disclaimer note concerning design coding pilots

The government wishes to test the potential for design coding as a

means of delivering higher quality development at greater speed

through the planning process. The development projects which it has

chosen to monitor and evaluate in order to assess the effectiveness

of the coding approach are subject to approval through the planning

system in the normal way. It is possible that some of these projects

may, at a later stage, be referred to the secretary of state for

decision (for example on whether an application should be called in

for his own determination or on an appeal against the decision of a

local planning authority).

For the avoidance of doubt, partners involved in the design coding

exercise should understand that the ODPM is encouraging the use of coding on these sites without

prejudice to any decisions the secretary of state may be required to

take through his formal role in the planning process. The fact that

development is proposed in accordance with a design code does not

imply that the secretary of state is content for any particular

development proposal to proceed. Any decisions which fall to be made

will be taken having regard to the facts and merits of the case,

taking into consideration all relevant matters.

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