How we did it ... Partners help to rebuild coalfield communities

Project: Meden Valley Making Places regeneration initiative of eight rundown housing estates in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Meden Valley: regeneration scheme
Meden Valley: regeneration scheme

Background: Towns built during the rise of the coal mining industry were hit hard by pit closures in the late 1970s and 1980s and needed help to lift them from their poor state.

Who is behind it? Mansfield and Bolsover District Councils, English Partnerships, South Yorkshire Housing Association, regeneration and housing agency LHA Asra Group, East Midlands Development Agency and Bellway Homes.

Project aims: To provide decent homes for communities through refurbishment or compulsory purchase, demolition and new build, as well as improving public spaces and facilities.

Skills involved: Partnership working, project management, fund-raising, strategic planning and consultation.

The rapid decline of the coal-mining industry hit some areas hard and the communities of north Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire were among those devastated. They were also affected by the drop in textile manufacturing. Many jobs were lost, with little hope of breadwinners finding other employment.

Towns and villages fell to levels of deprivation that were among the worst in the UK. Issues such as poor transport, a rundown environment and badly damaged social infrastructure compounded the situation.

In the 1990s whole streets became derelict, with 40 per cent of homes lying empty in places. Those houses still occupied were largely owned by a small number of private sector landlords who bought them from the National Coal Board and had invested little in improvements.

Meden Valley Making Places (MVMP) was launched by the then deputy prime minister John Prescott in October 2003 to tackle some of the severe problems faced by these crippled areas. The two local authorities, Mansfield and Bolsover District Councils, teamed up with East Midlands Development Agency to bid for money from a government regeneration pot set up in the wake of a coalfields task force report Making the Difference - A New Start for England's Coalfield Communities.

MVMP chief executive Gary Kirk says: "We were set up to revive these failing communities. The two local authorities could not tackle the issue themselves." The initial aims were simple, he adds: "We wanted to create sustainable communities through demolition and new build."

More owner-occupied housing and affordable homes were high on the agenda when the new organisation was formed. But improvements to public amenities and open spaces were also identified as priorities.

Compulsory purchase orders using powers given to English Partnerships were used to buy up large swathes of the troubled estates and about a year ago the first parcels of land were handed over to the chosen developer Bellway Homes in readiness for new-build plans. The two housing association partners, South Yorkshire and LHA Asra, are now taking on those properties that can be refurbished with the help of the Housing Corporation.

MVMP picked up a British Urban Regeneration Association award recently for the work that it has done so far in helping these ailing communities. Refurbishment plans for the 19th century Cresswell Model Village, built for colliery workers, won particular praise from the judges. Another coalfield regeneration project, the Clowne Campus sport centre in Chesterfield, was a joint winner.

Funding for MVMP runs out in 18 months' time, and the future beyond that is uncertain. Kirk says he is working with the local authorities to see if a bid can be made for cash from English Partnerships. He would like to see financial support in place for another five years to continue the regeneration work. There is much still to do, but MVMP has already made a very beneficial impact in an area that was on its knees.


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