Deputy prime minister John Prescott will unveil plans for regional skill centres at the urban summit in Birmingham next month.
The centres are to be used to improve the skills of local authority planners and engineers. The idea was floated in the urban white paper, but an attempt to launch the programme in north-west England failed after funding problems.

However, Prescott, who took over the regeneration brief in May, is convinced that skill centres must be introduced if housing and brownfield targets are to be met. A source close to Prescott said: "The deputy prime minister is intent on step change through the housebuilding industry and will look to increase build capacity through the skill centres. There will probably be some sort of announcement at the summit."

The source added that a pilot scheme would be held outside London.

Prescott wants to use the conference, which is being held to assess government policy, as a launch pad for several regeneration initiatives.

The issue of skill centres has been pushed by the Richard Rogers-led urban taskforce, which has been meeting regularly with ministers and civil servants in recent months.

It is expected that Prescott and his civil servants will look into what went wrong with the centre in the North-west. Jim Chapman, chairman of the Centre for the Understanding of the Built Environment, said: "If we believe there is a skills shortage we need to use core funding."

Regional Development Agencies, which would run the centres, are understood to have complained that the government has failed to fund the initiative adequately.