£265m upgrades for estates is ‘a success’

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A SEVEN-year scheme to revamp run-down housing estates in parts of South Yorkshire at a cost of £265 million was a resounding success, with twice as many properties upgraded than predicted and 300 more new homes built than planned.

The revelations have been made by the Audit Commission after it examined the work of Transform South Yorkshire, the agency set up in the county as part of the last Government’s housing market renewal initiative.

Although the agency is being wound up at the end of the current financial year, inspectors found its work will have a ‘lasting impact’.

Some 21,483 homes have been refurbished or had external improvements under the scheme, which ran from 2004, compared with the 12,040 properties set to receive improvements under original plans. Meanwhile, 2,415 homes were built instead of the target of 2,110.

Under the scheme, 4,590 homes were demolished and work is continuing to build new homes. After Transform South Yorkshire is wound-up, councils will continue to work with private companies to carry on the redevelopment.

Areas where the scheme operated included Fir Vale and Foxhill, in Sheffield, the Dearne Valley, and Doncaster town centre.

The commission said some schemes, such as Park Hill, in Sheffield, were ‘progressing at a slow pace’ and had stalled at sites like Foxhill.

“This is primarily as a result of fewer sales of housing as a consequence of the market downturn,” the report said.

Auditors said Transform South Yorkshire had met its original aim to make ‘good design’ a key feature and had spent £650,000 on design work. They added that the refurbishments have had a visible impact on the county.

The scheme has improved demand for housing in the areas where work has taken place, with a fall in empty homes.

The Audit Commission said the biggest improvement was in Sheffield, where empty homes reduced from more than four per cent in 2002 to below two per cent in 2009.

Regarding the land still vacant, the commission said: “Transform South Yorkshire has accumulated a significant amount of assets, which will generate future capital receipts. Land acquired since 2004 and not yet disposed of will be used to support the regeneration plans of each council over the coming years as the economy recovers.”