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Housing project scheme criticised

3 July 08 04:18 GMT

A government housing programme has proved more successful at demolishing properties than building new ones, according to a new report.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has accused the Pathfinder scheme of threatening the historical character of some local areas.

Pathfinder was launched in 2002 to revive the housing market in depressed areas of England.

A government spokesman said it had made "a huge difference" to communities.

Pathfinder was created because economic decline and lack of investment had left thousands of dilapidated homes almost impossible to sell or let - resulting in entire streets of empty properties.

More than £2bn has been invested, either renovating homes to attract new buyers or demolishing and rebuilding.

Pathfinder projects were set up in Newcastle and Gateshead; Hull and East Yorkshire; South Yorkshire; Birmingham; North Staffordshire; Manchester; Merseyside; Oldham and Rochdale; and East Lancashire.

The schemes refurbished 40,000 properties and demolished 10,000, building 1,000 new homes, the report found.

But MP said where houses have been knocked down - sometimes against the wishes of local people - not enough have been rebuilt.

The committee also claims waiting lists for affordable accommodation in some areas have doubled.

Committee chairman Edward Leigh said the programme had been "more successful at demolishing old homes than at building new ones".

He added: "The Department for Communities and Local Government must work to foster confidence among local residents, especially where the programme has led to community stress.

"It does not help where demolition plans threaten the distinctive historical character of neighbourhoods.

"The desire of those who wish to continue living in their areas should not be disregarded. Ways need to be found of helping existing residents bridge the gap between the compensation they receive under a compulsory purchase order and the cost of another local property."

'Huge difference'

Mr Leigh added that, five years into the programme, it was "difficult to tell whether Pathfinder interventions are having any more effect on local housing demand than the normal operation of the market".

The government insists the scheme has helped bring people back to previously run down areas and points to the number of homes that have been renovated - four times more than have been demolished.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "The Pathfinders programme has made a huge difference transforming local communities in desperate need of regeneration.

"Almost 50,000 homes have been refurbished, they have closed the gap in house prices, and people are now returning to live in these areas.

"It is completely wrong to suggest Pathfinders have only succeeded in demolishing homes when four times as many houses have been refurbished through this programme.

"Meanwhile, the number of properties expected to be demolished has been cut by over a third, reflecting the success in increasing house prices in these regions and the improved consultation with local communities."

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