Sunday, 4 September 2011

Sheffield housing dream is left in ruins

Published on Saturday 13 August 2011 The Star - Sheffield Newspaper

"Three multi-million pound housing schemes in Sheffield including the controversial redevelopment of Park Hill have been hit by a massive government funding cut.

Town Hall bosses are rethinking plans for the redevelopment of Park Hill flats, Arbourthorne Fields housing estate and the Rise S12 project after more than £20m from the Government’s Homes and Communities Agency was withdrawn.

The cuts mean:

- The council is now looking to its own depleted coffers to secure Park Hill flats and rehouse remaining tenants, having lost an expected £2.3m.

- The £135 million Rise S12 project to build 1,000 houses on the former Scowerdons, Weakland and Newstead estates in Frecheville and Hackenthorpe is in financial difficulties, after an expected £8m grant was cut.

- Residents living in 200 crumbling homes at Arbourthorne Fields will have to remain in houses for at least another five years, after £10.9m of funding was withdrawn.

Residents today reacted with dismay to the grim news.

One Park Hill resident said: “I’m fuming. They’ve left us on a building site. There’s one lift. It’s disgusting.”

A resident from Newstead estate said: “We didn’t want this development at first, but we just want to see it finished now.”

Arbourthorne resident Shirley Eckhardt, aged 66, whose house was supposed to be knocked down in phase two of the development, said: “Our lives are on hold.

Coun Harry Harpham, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for homes and regeneration, said: “We haven’t got the funds from Government to do what we wanted to do That much is plain.

“But we are committed to making sure that we will use the resources we have to benefit those who need our help the most.

“I’m also very mindful that we have residents living in areas where development has stalled due to funds being withdrawn.

“We are exploring every option available to us to find ways to allow these schemes to continue.”

Coun Harpham said Urban Splash - the company behind Park Hill Flats - is in negotiations to get more funding from the HCA.

“We’re confident they will get the money for Park Hill,” he said.

“So much has been invested and much of the work has been done.”

But a spokesman for Urban Splash said they were ‘carrying on with work as planned’.

Coun Harpham said it was clear the HCA would not be able to continue to fund the Rise S12 or Arbourthorne Fields projects.

He said the funding cut would also mean the cancellation of several proposed schemes to redevelop parks and open spaces.

Opposition council politicians have slammed the Labour council for continuing to prop up the project to redvelop the listed Park Hill Flats.

Lib Dem group leader Coun Shaffaq Mohammed said: “At the time when the Park Hill project was dreamt up and signed off by Labour, Lib Dems warned it would end up being yet another Labour white elephant propped up by taxpayers.

“This latest news confirms that our fears are coming true as the private developers are set to go cap in hand to be bailed out by public money, something we can ill afford when money is tight.

“At a time when money should be used to protect front line services like youth centres and libraries it beggars belief that Labour could spend it on converting Park Hill into posh flats, when most Sheffielders would rather see it demolished. Once again Labour’s financial mismanagement has got local taxpayers into a mess.”

Reports are to be submitted to the council’s cabinet in the coming weeks."

Published on Saturday 13 August 2011 The Star - Sheffield Newspaper

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