Housing specialist and property firm appointed to pioneer regeneration plans for Tees and Don valleys

HTA architects is to draw up development plans for Middlesbrough and Sheffield that could act as central planks in deputy prime minister John Prescott’s “Northern Way” strategy.

HTA will produce frameworks for the Don and Tees valley in association with the local councils and Transform South Yorkshire, the regional pathfinder. The aim is to link up urban areas to improve their economies and halt depopulation. This could be accomplished partly by the demolition of failing housing.

The two commissions fit in with Prescott’s Northern Way strategy, which addresses the need for northern cities to regenerate their inner city areas.

HTA’s first appointment, funded by Transform South Yorkshire, is to unite existing masterplans for the Don Valley area between Sheffield and Rotherham, and to identify areas that are suffering from housing market failure.

It has been appointed to undertake similar work in the Tees Valley between Middlesbrough and Stockton-on-Tees.

Ben Derbyshire, HTA’s design director, said the work was intended to tie up the assorted pathfinder initiatives and other piecemeal ventures in the two areas.

Up until now, regeneration has happened where it has happened to happen

Ben Derbyshire, HTA Architects

He said: “Sheffield and Rotherham are joining forces to try to get an area development framework which adds up to more than some incoherent ideas. Up until now, regeneration has happened where it’s happened to happen.”

It is understood that northern cities find it difficult to devise coherent strategies because regeneration budgets are allocated through competitive bidding, which makes it hard to plan strategically.

HTA’s study will involve working with property consultancy DTZ to come up with environmental and spatial statistics for Sheffield.

According to one insider, the project is one of the first to address what northern cities can offer. The Northern Way hopes to stem the flow of northerners moving south, a trend that is contributing to the overheating of the South-east’s housing market.

He said: “The scheme’s about defining what the North is for. It’s not an evacuating balloon, but there needs to be recognition that places such as Stockton-on-Tees have no future on their own. These towns have got to look to each other.”