Mavis McDonald, Prescott’s permanent secretary, has set up a team of about 180 civil servants to concentrate specifically on pushing through the communities plan.
The move is in response to criticism from Whitehall committees and industry insiders over the deliverability of the communities plan. This is Prescott’s answer to the developing housing crisis in the South-east; it proposes 200,000 homes in the Thames Gateway alone.
The team will be known as the sustainable communities delivery unit, and will aim to address criticisms over issues such as the lack of detailed thinking over the supply of water and electricity to the site.
The team has been set up to focus on critical elements for the delivery of growth areas
Source close to John Prescott
Regeneration previously belonged to the main ODPM team, headed by senior civil servant Eugene Turton. His empire includes the housing, planning and homelessness briefs.
After gaining its independence, the delivery unit is being temporarily led by McDonald. Department officials expect a permanent replacement, who will receive a six-figure salary, to be appointed in the next month.
The unit is divided in half. Former Prince’s Foundation chief executive David Lunts has responsibility for urban policy and the regeneration of the Thames Gateway area. Andrew Wells will be responsible for the three other South-east areas earmarked for growth – Stansted, Ashford and Milton Keynes – and the revamp of rundown towns in northern England.