A recent debate on regeneration in Westminster Hall brought him the terrible scale of the modernist destruction of the Labour Government's Pathfinder"housing renewal" programme. 10,000 homes were destroyed only 1,000 were built. The largest destruction of homes since the Luftwaffe. All this at cost of £1 billion. Victorian and Edwardian terraces were demolished instead of being refurbished – leading to protests in Salford and elsewhere. All to satisfy the prejudices of modernist architects.
Housing Minister Grant Shapps is angry about the legacy:
As I listened to some of the contributions from across the Chamber, my blood was starting to boil. The description of the housing market renewal programme that I heard this afternoon was so distant from the reality on the ground over the 13 years for which it was in place—in fact, it was slightly less than that—as to be a grotesque bending of the truth.
This is what one independent group called Save Britain’s Heritage highlighted about the housing market renewal programme. It said that Government inspectors condemned whole rows of terraced houses based on 10-minute visual inspections, even though it would have been cheaper and much more sustainable to refurbish those houses. In fact, the Select Committee in, I think, 2005 said that the designation of areas for demolition in effect increased deprivation in those areas. Many social landlords prepared the ground by voiding and boarding up properties. In turn, that undermined the housing market values.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mark Pawsey) referred to the hope value—he did not quite describe it in that way—of the private sector waiting for the public sector to come in and improve its returns. The Select Committee describes that as deliberately managing decline to make the notional benefits of wholesale demolition and redevelopment more attractive, ensuring larger windfall gains for the state.
Managed decline was precisely the right description of the housing market renewal programme, which I believe was a national scandal. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the housing market renewal programme was ultimately a huge disappointment. I have the figures with me. It destroyed 10 times
more homes in this country than it built. Nothing—no programme—did more to destroy homes and communities in this country than the Luftwaffe in the second world war, but the housing market renewal programme did more housing destruction and community destruction than there has been at any time since the war.
Shapps made clear the approach has now changed:
In the context of regeneration, I am surprised not to hear from Her Majesty’s Opposition, or perhaps in the report, more of a welcome for the fact that 20,000 homes that were empty are now full. Since the election, the number of empty homes has fallen faster than at any time since 2004, because our regeneration policy, which says, “Let’s stop knocking down homes and instead fill the ones that are there,” is starting to work.