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News in brief: Council plans for 1,000 new homes; Public Practice boosts council capacity

Words: Laura Edgar
Housing Alarmy

A round-up of plannng news: Tuesday 5 May, 2020

Council plans for 1,000 new homes

Shropshire Council has announced plans to build 1,000 homes over the next five years, including 400 council homes.

Following decisions made at in February 2020 at a meeting of the full council, Shropshire Council’s local housing company, Cornovii Developments Limited, will have access to a rolling loan facility of £35 million, on top of a £14 million loan previously agreed.

The council also agreed in principle for the Housing Revenue Account (HRA), which holds the council’s 4,100 council homes and is managed by Shropshire Towns and Rural Housing (STaR Housing), to borrow £10 million a year over the next five years.

Between them, the two companies will provide a variety of housing tenures to address the county's unmet housing need, such as affordable rent and low-cost home ownership.

The council said development would include homes for key workers, veterans, older people, those with learning and physical disabilities and those struggling to buy on the open market.


West Midlands invests in brownfield land

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has approved multimillion-pound investments in a bid to unlock and transform former industrial sites across the region.

These include Fountain Lane in Sandwell and Abbotts Lane in Coventry.

Along with housing, commercial premises and public amenities will be provided in line with the combined authority's Design Charter. 

The combined authority said the investment would help the regional economic recovery following Covid-19, and provide “hundreds” of jobs across several sectors.

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “Despite the challenges we are currently facing, the work of the WMCA continues and investments are being made now that will ultimately help our regional economy bounce back strongly from this crisis.

“It is crucial we keep up momentum in unlocking the region’s brownfield sites to deliver much-needed land for development, safeguarding existing jobs and creating new ones in the process.

“Continuing to move forward with our strategic investment programme will also help to maintain confidence in the market. The need to regenerate our derelict urban sites does not stop because of Covid-19, it becomes more important than ever.” 


Public Practice boosts council capacity

Public Practice has announced that its fourth cohort of built environment professionals will see 39 people start roles between now and June.

Recruitment for this cohort took place in late 2019, with associates coming from a wide range of professional backgrounds. They will be placed across 22 authorities in London and the South East. 

A total of 308 people applied to be part of the fourth cohort – 90 per cent of whom were from outside the public sector. More than 70 organisation submitted their interest to host associates.

Work for existing Public Practice associates includes assisting local authorities to respond to coronavirus (Covid-19), and new cohorts will join the effort.

Finn Williams, co-founder and chief executive officer of Public Practice, said: “Over the last few weeks we’ve witnessed the extraordinary strengths of local government through our network of associates and authorities. We’ve also seen an unprecedented shift in public and political opinion about the value of public service. The answer to this crisis cannot be further austerity – we need to reward councils for their role in the response to Covid-19, and strengthen their capacity to lead a national recovery.

“The situation for local government is changing rapidly – and it won’t go back to being the same. Public Practice is committed to evolving in response, and supporting authorities to develop the capacities and capabilities they need for these new challenges. Now, more than ever, we see the value in sharing practice across organisations, and planning proactively to rebuild the resilience of local communities and economies.”

Public Practice is a social enterprise that was set up to build local government’s capacity for “proactive planning”. 


Task force created for Covid-19 rough sleepers response

The government has announced that a specialist task force has been created to lead the next phase of its support for rough sleepers during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Dame Louise Casey will lead the task force.

It will work with councils across the country on plans to ensure that rough sleepers can move into long-term, safe accommodation once the immediate crisis is over. The government said it wishes to make sure that as few people as possible return to life on the streets.

The task force intends to ensure the thousands of rough sleepers now in accommodation continue to receive the physical and mental health support they need over the coming weeks as they self-isolate from the virus.

According to government statistics, more 90 per cent of rough sleepers known to councils at the beginning of the crisis have now been offered accommodation.

This has been backed by £3.2 million in targeted funding to assist councils.

“The storm of Covid-19 has affected us all in many, varied and sometimes deeply tragic ways – we know that it is a virus that does not discriminate. Due to the incredible efforts by people in local councils, charities, hotel staff and the public, many rough sleepers have been brought in and off the streets.

“Much has been done, and there is much still to do. We have all had to respond to this crisis with a deep resolve but also innovation – in bringing people inside, there is now a real opportunity to address the health and social needs of these individuals if we can stop them going back to the streets. This, like so much over the last few weeks, will take a huge national effort and I’m pleased to be able to be part of that.”

Image credit | Alamy