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Pathfinder bosses call for continued government support

The chiefs of the nine Pathfinder Housing Market Renewal Initiatives (HMRI) have called on the government to continue backing the controversial programme at the Labour Party conference.

According to the HMRI bosses, the programme has been a 'major success in halting urban decay' and, contrary to the widespread criticism, has been 'the best-researched Government policy for a generation'.

The Pathfinders' chairs are now hoping to convince senior ministers, including communities secretary Ruth Kelly, who took over from the programme's creator John Prescott - the former head of the now-defunct DCMS - to commit to funding the initiative 'long term'.

In the wake of Prescott's departure, rumours were rife that Kelly was not as keen on the initiative as the often-bullish Deputy Prime Minister (AJ 07.06.06).

The 15-year programme, which is now into its third year, has stirred up heated opposition from residents, particularly in areas of the North West, where large swathes of terraced housing are earmarked for demolition.

However, the new HMRI report, which has been handed over to Pathfinder chairs, maintains that there is a 'compelling case for sustained financial and political support of the programme', which has already cost the government £550 million.

Titled From Transition to Transformation, the research says: 'Some commentators suggest that Pathfinder programmes are just about demolition, but this is just one element of a rich and varied programme.

'We have improved more than three times as many homes as we have demolished. Over the life of the programme, current proposals will directly secure the improvement of over 130,000 dwellings.'

by Richard Waite

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