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Pathfinder outrage: revamp funds unlawfully used for demolition

The government has admitted that money earmarked for renovating homes in controversial ‘Pathfinder’ areas has instead been used for further demolitions

The confession came yesterday (18 September) at the High Court in response to claims by SAVE Britain’s Heritage that £35.5 million of so-called ‘transitional funding’ had gone towards flattening more houses rather than helping local authorities exit from the scrapped programme.

In late 2011 former housing minister Grant Shapps slammed the contentious Pathfinder housing market renewal initiative - a £2.2 billion programme which once complete would have seen around 400,000 mainly Victorian homes and local landmarks in the North West flattened - as an ‘abject failure’.

He subsequently unveiled a £35.5 million cash pot of capital grants which was to be shared between the 13 authorities, funding renovation work and assisting families ‘trapped in half-empty ghost streets’.

We were appalled that funds assigned for refurbishment have been used for continuing demolition

However a Freedom of Information bid by SAVE revealed that the money was being channelled towards further demolitions and yesterday the organisation was granted leave by Mrs Justice Lang to bring full judicial review proceedings against the government.

SAVE wants the money already spent to be repaid to the government and the remaining cash ring-fenced to refurbish thousands of empty homes, including swathes of empty terraces in Liverpool. Although the government conceded the money had been used contrary to Shapps’ policy statement, its counsel argued it would be ‘legally extremely problematic, if possible at all’ to unravel all the payments.

Earlier in the month SAVE won another victory against the secretary of state Eric Pickles over the minister’s refusal to conduct an environmental impact assessment (EIA) in the case of an historic Welsh Presbyterian Chapel in Bootle on Merseyside.

SAVE argued that the chapel, partially demolished by Sefton Council in January this year, fell under a larger area-wide Pathfinder scheme for demolition of some 480 homes in the Klondyke neighbourhood and that alternatives to being bulldozed should be considered.

Marcus Binney, SAVE’s President said: ’We’ve been at the forefront of the battle to stop the demolition of up to 400,000 traditional terraced houses in the north of England, which in our view can be economically refurbished to provide pleasant and comfortable homes for families left for years on housing waiting lists.  

‘We were appalled that funds assigned by the government for refurbishment have been used for continuing demolition.  These judgements potentially open the door towards one of the most important and productive regeneration schemes in Britain, with renovation of thousands of empty homes and local landmark buildings.’

A DCLG spokesman said: ‘We cannot comment on matters subject to legal proceedings.’

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