Residents’ relief as Government backs big regeneration scheme

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A HUGE scheme to improve housing in one of West Yorkshire’s poorest areas is one step closer after it was given Government backing.

The long-awaited regeneration of Little London, Beeston Hill and Holbeck in Leeds, has received final approval from central Government, which will enable Leeds Council and its contractors to push ahead with the plans.

The city council was forced to scale back the plans last year because of a national budget review.

It meant that a planned upgrade of community facilities in Little London had to be dropped from the Private Finance Initiative scheme.

The regeneration scheme is now worth £190m and will provide 400 new council homes and renovate 1,200 more council properties, including two sheltered housing complexes, has been the subject of intensive negotiations with the Government in recent months as the final details were established and the Treasury sought further “value for money savings”.

The scheme is a 20-year PFI contract.

Last month, the Council confirmed that the SC4L consortium would carry out the work.

Local politicians have welcomed news of the Government backing after months of uncertainty, which has proved frustrating from local residents who have been waiting years for significant improvements.

Labour Councillor Peter Gruen, Leeds Council’s Executive member for regeneration, confirmed that the project’s final business case had been given Government backing.

He confirmed the Council and SC4L are now in a position to move towards “financial close” - contract signing - for the project later this month, with a view to starting construction on site in July.

Councillor Gruen, who is also the deputy leader of the council, said: “This is a huge landmark that enables us to move the project forward with certainty.

“The importance of this scheme to the people of Little London, Beeston Hill and Holbeck cannot be overstated – it will provide not just 400 new homes built to high environmental and design standards, but will also completely renovate 1,200 more and provide other tremendous improvements for these areas.

“Final confirmation of the Government’s support means that it is now full steam ahead with our contractor SC4L as we work on the final details that will enable us to get on site in July.

“I know local people are desperate to see construction start, so it is very pleasing to be able to give them this welcome news.

“We are also working with SC4L to ensure that there are employment, training and work experience opportunities on site for local people.

“There will be apprenticeship and training opportunities for local people and 48 work experience placements, giving local people a unique opportunity to shape their neighbourhood and their future.”

The council has not written off the proposed improvements to existing community facilities in Little London. although these will not be covered by the PFI project.

Although the planned upgrade of community facilities in the central “community hub” of Little London had to be dropped the council is working with residents on ideas for improvements.

The existing shops, community centre and housing office will be retained.

The council has gone on record saying it would work with residents to “identify short-term improvements to the existing facilities at the community hub and opportunities for longer term redevelopment and reprovision”.

Councillors said the Government decision to back the project came as a relief after months of uncertainty.

Talks to get the scheme approved involved councillors, MP Hilary Benn and the Homes and Communities Agency.