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September 23, 2009

Tories want powers passed to street level

The Conservative Party are trailing a number of policy ideas in advance of the general election campaign. On regeneration, they have identified much of the bureaucracy that surrounds the big initiatives as being a major block to progress and want to see the emphasis move away from large centrally driven programmes that feel imposed from on high. They say they want to “force power down to street level”

David Quinn, Regeneration & Renewal, 7 September 2009

The Conservative Party plans to devolve control of urban regeneration to community partnerships at the “street level” to better engage local people if elected to government, the shadow housing minister has said.

Following a speech to the Royal Institute of British Architects, Grant Shapps told Regeneration & Renewal that rather than having regeneration initiatives driven downwards from government through a series of quangos, such as the Homes & Communities Agency and the regional development agencies, the Tories would devolve control of regeneration to the “very lowest levels” of government, including at the parish and ward level. He said he wanted to cut back the “layers of impenetrable bureaucracy” and “force power down” to “street level”.

Shapps said: “Bureaucracy is a huge problem. The scale of regeneration that’s needed is so large that if you want to do it from the top down, the risk is that you don’t fulfil people’s aspirations. We want people to take control of the problem much quicker. Under a Conservative government, you wouldn’t have to sit around and wait for regeneration to come to you.”

Shapps said the strategy could involve encouraging communities to form partnerships, such as those developed by charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The idea of empowering “community advocates” could be an “important additional element” in the regeneration process, he added.

Chris Brown, chief executive at developer Igloo Regeneration, welcomed the proposals.

“Where large-scale regeneration is required, the community will need partners to undertake delivery, but having local communities shape regeneration plans is undoubtedly the way to go,” he said.