Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Eric Pickles Stops Gateshead Demolition

A senior Cabinet minister has put the brakes on a controversial housing scheme which could see families forced out of their homes.  For eight years, Saltwell and Bensham Residents’ Association has fought against Gateshead Council’s plan to knock down 440 homes on the estates which authorities said were failing.

Demolition was earmarked as part of a huge regeneration project under the Pathfinder scheme to revitalise housing markets on Tyneside.  But now Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles has stepped in to support residents in their fight against the plans in Bensham and Saltwell.  He issued an Article 25 'stopper notice' forbidding demolition of the terraces while he decides whether or not to call in the proposal.

He has 21 days to make a decision.

Yesterday, secretary of the residents’ association Nancy Bone said despite only 10 houses still being occupied the group wouldn’t give up its fight against the plans.
She said:
'People still want to live there and about 10 houses are still occupied. We have been fighting against the demolition for eight years at least and we won’t give in. We will fight until the end.  We were really pleased with the decision.  There is nothing wrong with the homes that are there. The same homes are in Jesmond.  They are literally knocking streets down and refurbishing others.'

In June 2011, a judge declared that Gateshead’s demolition of 115 homes was unlawful. Campaign group SAVE Britain’s Heritage had obtained interim injunctions to halt the demolitions but these were ultimately discharged by the courts in November 2010 and the council began demolition work.
A meeting of Gateshead Council’s Planning and Development Committee voted unanimously that it was minded to approve the planning application for retrospective permission for the 115 demolitions along with a further 291 demolitions.

The application was for the retrospective demolition of the 115 dwellings, three retail units, and 14 garages and the phased demolition of the further 291 dwellings and four commercial premises.
The three sites covered in the planning application include the vacant site on the west of Saltwell Road, and flats near Kelvin Grove and Hyde Park Street, which are mostly empty.

Gateshead Council Strategic Director of Development and Enterprise Paul Dowling said:
'We are disappointed that the decision has been made by the Secretary of State to delay this planning decision, but we acknowledge the need for him to consider the request he has received.  We have long pursued a planned approach to a mix of refurbishment and new-build homes in Bensham and Saltwell to create a sustainable community. This can be seen by the 1,250 homes that have already been refurbished.  Taken as a whole, the replacement proposed equates to no more than 5% of properties in the area. But there is a clear need for different types of home in this area and the regenerative impact that they will deliver is obvious. It needs to be recognised that Tyneside flats alone cannot support a vibrant community in this day and age.'

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