Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Hyndburn's Labour Council - Woodnook Community Update | Dec. 2012

Your Labour Council continues to invest in Woodnook with further plans for wider  neighbourhood investment.


The Labour Party is committed to Woodnook with a £multi-million refurbishment programme about to begin.

The Tories failed to do anything in 13 years in Woodnook.

Labour Counclllors and I expect that residents will be kept informed. Below is the second Council newsletter detailing current policy (and progress) in Woodnook as part of Labour's promise to regenerate the neighbourhood.

Further, as your Labour MP I have added my thoughts (italics) on the future of Woodnook. I am excited that finally after years of broken Tory promises, development is finally about to begin, that a Labour Council has pursued and secured further funding, the very high quality of the refurbishments with low running costs, that working families will add to the stability of the neighbourhood and the local primary school, and crucially that there will be a 50% reduction in rents compared to a typical house in Woodnook.

Woodnook Newsletter

A few months have passed since our last newsletter and there’s been a lot going on behind the scenes during this time; the Council have secured extra funding from the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) to tackle the wider issue of empty homes in Woodnook; the joint venture between PlaceFirst and Twin Valley Homes has secured funding to deliver the first phase of property refurbishment and, together with the Council, we are developing a plan to invest in further property refurbishment, public realm improvements, and neighbourhood management across the wider Woodnook area.

A summary of the key developments since our last newsletter is highlighted below.



empty homes funding

The Council have secured £3.76m from the HCA Empty Homes Cluster Fund and this will allow us to tackle empty properties in the wider neighbourhood outside of the phase 1 area between Booth Street and Augusta Street.
"The Tories promised to do the whole of Woodnook with up producing plans to spend some £35m. Labour inherited a scheme which had been reduced to just three streets (5 blocks). There was insufficient funds and not all properties had been bought. They had bought properties on other streets too highlighting the policy chaos and lack of due care to affected residents.

Your Labour Council has found the funds to complete the 5 blocks. It has also secured considerable public and private funding to enable refurbishments on other streets.

I am concerned there are significant issues on the lower section of Woodnook and believe our primary objective is; to create a significant number of 2 into 1's (stock reduction); assisted equity release for home owner refurbishment; stock management through regulation and community empowerment."
Working in partnership, the Council and the joint venture between PlaceFirst and Twin Valley Homes, are currently developing an investment strategy to ensure this money delivers long-term sustainable benefits to the Woodnook neighbourhood and, ultimately, re-establishes the area as an attractive place to live through a range of high quality housing offers and improved public realm.

More detail on the investment planned for the neighbourhood will be communicated in our next newsletter planned for March 2013.



phase 1 updateBooth Street, Royds Street and Augusta Street.

As outlined in our previous newsletter, Phase 1 will deliver 71 remodelled and refurbished family homes through a mix of 2, 3, and 4 bedroom properties. All properties will be available through a well managed private rental company set up through the joint venture between PlaceFirst and Twin Valley Homes.

The first phase of property remodelling and refurbishment will focus on 5 rows of terraces between Booth Street and Augusta Street, the majority of which are now in the Council’s ownership.

It’s likely that we will undertake the refurbishment works in groups of terraces, and not the whole site at one time. We anticipate tackling two rows of terraces between Booth St. and Royds St. first, and then the remaining three rows of terraces between Royds St. and Augusta St.

timescales

The Phase 1 project will be delivered in two stages; stage one will focus on internal strip out and demolition of the rear boundary walls and outriggers; stage two will be the actual refurbishment and remodelling of empty properties.
The strip-out and demolition works are planned to commence on 14th December, albeit the contractor will only be on site for a week before closing for the Xmas break; activity will resume in full early in the new year and we anticipate completion of this work by early March 2013. Roads will remain open throughout this work with minimal disruption.

There will be a brief delay in commencing the refurbishment/remodelling works and we anticipate this work commencing by Spring 2013 - further, detailed information on this will be communicated in our next newsletter in March.

Spring 2013 should also see the start of a marketing campaign, including detailed information on leases, rents, and anticipated running costs of the houses - we anticipate a 50% reduction compared to a typical house in Woodnook.

Overall, we anticipate the Phase 1 project taking around 18-months to complete, with the first homes available from Spring 2014.

The timescales around tackling wider empty properties across Woodnook is not so easy to estimate, however, the Council and the joint venture partners aim to have all funds committed and a clear programme of works agreed by March 2013.
placefirst

private landlord licensing


Hyndburn Council has designated parts of Accrington and Church as an area for selective licensing, and this includes a large part of the Woodnook area. From December 1st 2012 all private landlords operating in the designated area must obtain a licence from the Council for each property they rent out. Anyone living in a private rented property or landlords of private rented properties are advised to contact the Council’s Private Rented Team on 01254 380125 for further information. Alternatively, further online information can be found on the Council’s website:
www.hyndburnbc.gov.uk/selectivelicensing

council tax changes for empty homes

Hyndburn Borough Council is currently consulting on proposals to use new Council Tax rules to encourage owners of empty homes to bring them back into use. For further information, including details of the Council’s proposals, can be found on the Council’s website:
www.hyndburnbc.gov.uk/counciltaxemptyhomes

We encourage all residents of Woodnook to let the Council know of properties you suspect may be empty by calling this number: 01254 388111
"I must declare an interest that I am sure most people have read about following the disgraceful Tory attacks. I have a temporary second home, inherited from the gran. It does not change my view. We should increase taxes on empty homes to the maximum of 150% and remove all other council tax discounts on empty properties except in the most sympathetic of cases. Probate, armed forces etc.. "

neighbourhood management


The Council and the joint venture partners have agreed to recommence neighbourhood management in Woodnook; neighbourhood management is a way of working with communities to make sure that local people can influence decisions about their neighbourhood. It ensures that service providers coordinate their activity to address local priorities.

A Neighbourhood Manager role is currently being defined and we anticipate advertising the post locally in December, with the chosen candidate taking up their role early in the new year.

the britannia inn

The Britannia Inn on Nuttall Street is an important building in Woodnook due to its age and location on a key route through the neighbourhood; the building has been for sale for some time now and, more recently, we have heard rumours about who is buying/bought the property.
"Neighbourhood management in Woodnook was set up by Labour in 2005 and funding/closed by the Tories in 2010. It was seen as too successful by the then Tory leadership.
Labour is back in power in the Town Hall and we have been able to re-commence Neighbourhood Management in Woodnook.
"
We can confirm that the joint venture between PlaceFirst and Twin Valley is in the process of buying the Britannia Inn with a view to converting it to a neighbourhood office where the new Neighbourhood Manager will be based and, potentially, members of the team from PlaceFirst and Twin Valley may also be based there throughout the programme of regeneration in Woodnook.

Longer term, we will explore other commercial/community based uses for the building but, at this stage, we felt it would be a good base for a local office and will stop this important historical building falling into disrepair and blighting the wider neighbourhood.
"I have spoken with the Police about a permanent base for the neighbourhood policing team in the neighbourhood office."
woodnook steering group

Having met with a number of local stakeholders and community groups we have decided not to set up a steering group. We will attend every other monthly Woodnook Residents Association meeting, and these are open to anyone with an interest in their community. In addition, we intend to set up a regular series of public ‘drop-in’ sessions to provide updates on the project - all members of the local community will be welcome. The newsletter will continue to be published on a quarterly basis.

tell your friends & family

We all want the same thing for Woodnook - a safe, sociable, and confident community. Whilst we intend to start a marketing campaign in Spring next year, the value of ‘word of mouth’ cannot be underestimated; so if you know of any friends, relatives, colleagues who are looking for a high quality rented home with low running costs and good landlord management, please let them know about our plans for Woodnook and how they can register interest on any of the contacts provided below.