The government’s flagship Millennium Communities programme has been put on ice until problems at the Allerton Bywater village have been solved.In a further embarrassment to deputy prime minister John Prescott, details of competitions to build five more villages are being held back while the west Yorkshire project is restructured.
Ralph Luck, regeneration director at government agency English Partnerships, has taken over responsibility for the entire Millennium Communities progamme and is leading a shake-up at Allerton Bywater.
Luck, who was responsible for the competition for the first village in Greenwich – which has also been hit by a catalogue of delays – said: “I’d like to get this one on an even keel and know where it’s going before we launch into more.”
A spokesperson for the DETR confirmed that the programme, which is expected to include villages in Manchester, the Thames Gateway and the south coast, was on hold: “Obviously, we couldn’t announce the next one until we have learned lessons from Allerton Bywater. We want to see what has happened at Allerton Bywater and take what we learn there into the next round [of competitions],” he said.
The Allerton Bywater scheme, to regenerate a former colliery site near Leeds, has been hit by a string of problems, including fierce opposition from the local community, doubts about its commercial viability and disagreements between English Partnerships and the consortium over the delivery schedule.
Following the shake-up, English Partnerships has wrested control of the scheme’s commercial elements and community facilities from the competition-winning consortium Aire Regeneration Partnership.
English Partnerships will itself develop facilities, including a miner’s welfare centre and environmental improvements. The agency is in talks with two developers, Network Space and Priority Sites, to take on the commercial elements.
Aire Regeneration Partnership, led by housebuilders Miller and MJ Gleeson, will retain responsibility for the housing. “To make things move forward, we are splitting the responsibilities,” said Luck. “It’s a restructuring; it allows the housebuilders to carry out the bits they’re good at.”
Architect Broadway Malyan will carry out detailed design for the first phase of 175 homes, replacing Aire Design, the architect member of the consortium. Other architects could be brought in in the future.
Aire Design will retain responsibility for masterplanning and will produce a “design code” to ensure that the new architects deliver the innovations promised in the proposal.
Luck admitted that the scheme has now been even further delayed, with the first of the 578 homes expected to go on site in spring 2001 – almost 18 months late. Luck will attempt to get the community on-side before lodging a planning application: “There’s going to be further consultation with local residents. That may delay the planning application going in.”