Last Friday I invited a major private sector developer, Mark Hines and associates to Woodnook to discuss potential plans.
Having discussed Woodnook previously, this visit further pushed the discussions on to opportunities for the area. Whilst in early stages, it was helpful to see the regeneration of the area through private sector eyes. It is clear that part of any private sector regeneration is desirability rather than just refurbishment and this sets a whole new, far more ambitious agenda.
Particular emphasis being on sustainability and making the area a premier neighbourhood to live. Clearly major changes must occur for this to happen and Mark Hines plans do match those ambitions.
In order to secure profitability it is necessary and it is Council's lack of accountability to the market which has been the undermining factor in housing market renewal. Markets equally distort negatively housing and balance which Mark Hines and Co respect, must be struck.
From my perspective desirability, marketability, contemporary, ground breaking, energy efficient, community linked and yes after all that, bang for buck should be the backbone of such ambition. Otherwise cost overruns will equate to inevitably more public subsidy.
A key concern was the Council's current master plan which lacks ambition and stability for such an investment with the likelihood of a change of Council leadership come May's elections.
Clearly Mark Hines recognises these fault lines and the housing offer, if he manages to get it to market will be second to none.
Woodnook offers advantages over other sites the developers have visited.
It's all a long way off but every effort must be made to rid this Borough of the decrepit, substandard, unhealthy housing that blights the lives of our fellow citizens.