Demolition grant claim is rejected

BARNSLEY Council has denied Conservative claims that the Government is forcing it to demolish homes in order to qualify for lucrative grants.

Tuesday, 11th September 2007, 11:52 am
Updated Wednesday, 12th September 2007, 9:59 am

The Tories said grants under the Government’s Pathfinder scheme were linked to the number of homes that are flattened.

Tory local government and regeneration spokesman Alistair Burt said: “It is now clear that with a stroke of a pen, state bureaucrats in Whitehall are forcing the demolitions of family homes across England. Town halls which fail to meet the arbitrary targets for bulldozing or seizing homes face the threat of savage cuts to their funding.”

But the suggestion that local authorities were being forced into knocking down homes was dismissed today by Barnsley Council’s executive director of development.

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David Kennedy said:“The council has not been made to demolish any property by Government. We have demolished some properties which no longer meet the needs of families or the community in which they are placed, and are replacing these properties with ones that will meet these needs.

“We have also demolished some properties which have structural problems which make them unsuitable for meeting housing needs.”

Under the Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder scheme introduced by former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, councils receive central government support for regenerating rundown neighbourhoods by a mix of refurbishment, demolition and replacement.

A Barnsley Council spokesman said: “Barnsley Council’s approach to the Housing Market Renewal Programme is to develop a series of community-led masterplans for certain neighbourhoods.

“These masterplans are developed after extensive consultation with local people and key stakeholders within the community.

“The plans are a blueprint for improving these neighbourhoods and set out plans for property improvements, new homes and facilities and, where appropriate, any demolitions of obsolete and unfit housing.

Coun Bill Newman, Cabinet spokesman for Development, said: As far as Barnsley is concerned we do not have any programmes of mass demolition.

“We only demolish where the houses are not fit by modern standards and we are not prepared to leave people living in unfit homes which are below a decent standard where they cannot properly and economically be refurbished.”