Further help urged for Cross Heath after £7.5m 'Kickstart' grant

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20 Nov 2009

Newcastle’s MP Paul Farrelly is pressing government ministers for further assistance with new housing on a demolished estate in Cross Heath after gaining a £7.5 million government ‘Kickstart’ grant for the area.

The grant was announced three weeks ago to get construction going at the old Collins & Aikman factory on Lower Milehouse Lane and Newcastle Borough Council has now just granted planning permission to developer Keir to build 80 new houses on the site.

Since then, Paul has met with housing minister John Healey and Communities and Local Government Secretary John Denham to ask for further help to get replacement housing on the Wilmot Drive estate locally, too.

Last week he also received an update from the senior management of Aspire Housing, the local registered social landlord, and will be meeting Mr Healey again to raise the   issue again at the beginning of December.

Much of Wilmot Drive has been demolished as part of regeneration agency Renew North Staffordshire’s so-called ‘Area of Major Intervention’ in Lower Milehouse, which aimed to improve the local area.

With the advent of recession and fall in house prices, however, preferred private sector developer Bellway pulled out, leaving the estate derelict.

The case for the Kickstart grant was given fresh impetus by a meeting Paul called in his offices in May involving Aspire, local councillors John and Gill Williams, the Borough Council, Renew and the government’s Homes and communities Agency.

As a result, Cross Heath was the only scheme in Staffordshire to receive a slice of the £450 million the government announced for the Kickstart schemes at the end of October.

"I have made it clear that as far as I am concerned  the legacy in Lower Milehouse cannot be demolition. With Kickstart, the old Collins & Aikman site will come into use, right next to the new Health Centre and fabulous elderly ‘extracare’ home at Mill Rise. The aim now, though, after Kier complete their other adjoining site, too, is is to make Wilmot Drive a more attractive place for people to live," says Paul.

"I am also pursuing what’s happening in Charter Road in Cross Heath. Like many areas, we have a long waiting list for housing, we should be building more affordable housing locally and bringing more homes back into use."

"I will keep pressing this with ministers and the regeneration agencies, and supporting Aspire, as the government wants to build more homes to meet this pressing need, create more jobs and preserve valuable building skills."