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Pathfinder plans criticised

Greater certainty and clarity needed over housing market renewal programme objectives

The Government must get to grips with its housing market renewal pathfinder programme if it is to justify the £2.2 billion being spent on it.

That is the conclusion of a National Audit Office report published last week that looked at the progress of attempts to revive demand for housing in nine blighted urban areas through refurbishment, demolition and rebuilding of homes. The report states that with 10 years still to run it is still too early to judge the success of the programme.

It recognises that housing demand has improved in the pathfinder areas - Newcastle/Gateshead, Merseyside, East Lancashire, Oldham and Rochdale, Manchester/Salford, South Yorkshire, Hull and East Riding of Yorkshire, North Staffordshire; and Birmingham & Sandwell - but says it was unclear how much of this improvement is due to the work carried out under the pathfinder projects.

It also points out that demolition of existing homes is unpopular with those living in the pathfinder areas.

The report concludes: “If the programme is to justify the additional value for money, risk and community stress of its housing market-led approach and achieve its long-term objectives, the Department of Communities and Local Government needs to provide greater certainty and clarity over the future objectives and governance of the programme.”