UK's largest housing-led regeneration project places Education at top of agenda

(20th February 2006)

North Solihull Regeneration Partnership has unveiled strategic plans which places the creation of 10 new primary schools at the epicentre of its £1.8billion investment programme.

The Partnership believes that the £70million investment earmarked for new state-of-the art education facilities will create a strong market for private housing in North Solihull, which is currently among the 10 per cent most deprived neighbourhoods in the country. The pioneering four-strong joint venture comprises housebuilder Bellway Homes, investment-led regeneration company Inpartnership, Solihull Council and Registered Social Landlord Whitefriars Housing Group.

Duncan Sutherland, managing director of Inpartnership comments: "A key factor in determining where people want to live is proximity to good schools. We have therefore chosen to place the creation of new primary schools as the top priority in our £1.8billion investment programme. Whilst we are currently moving forward with each aspect of this multi-faceted 15-year regeneration project, we have anticipated reaching completion on the first of 13 new proposed schools as early as September 2007.

"We strongly believe that this investment in education will create a strong market for homes for private sale here. With the scope of the Regenerating North Solihull project covering 1,000 acres, and with around 6,000 crucial homes being created for private sale in order to plough investment back into the area, the Partnership's investment in education will drive the whole project. 

"This firm viewpoint illustrates a new way of thinking for large-scale regeneration projects. Whereas creating high quality accommodation is generally the first priority, we have spent a considerable amount of time with the community to establish what would improve their lives and what will ensure the younger generation want to stay in North Solihull as they grow older. Whilst it is obvious that education is only one aspect of the changes that need to be made, we are delivering a 'first' for UK regeneration by placing the construction of new schools at the top rather than the end of our delivery programme."

The project offers the opportunity for the new schools proposed for North Solihull to capitalise on recent Department for Education & Skills initiatives aimed at raising attainment in challenging communities, such as Excellence Clusters and the Behaviour Improvement Programme. 

The North Solihull Regeneration Partnership has developed a model for community-led regeneration that encompasses full consultation with the local residents and also addresses wide-ranging non-housing needs. In addition to the provision of primary school education, the five new proposed village centres will comprise health services (Primary Care Trust), shopping and first class community facilities.

New bus routes and infrastructure improvements are also planned, along with the creation of safe, open public spaces. And, underpinning the entire £1.8billion project is the desire to create better access to jobs, training and economic prosperity for every sector of the community.

Since the Partnership agreement was signed in 2005, a strategic planning framework has been developed for North Solihull and agreed by Council Cabinet. Already, Phase 1 detailed design proposals have received planning consent and are on site. And, to date, two of 15 neighbourhoods have been consulted intensively about the development plans for their area, which have now been approved by Council. Meanwhile, a further two neighbourhoods have been consulted, with the plans due to be agreed by Council imminently.

Running alongside the non-residential elements, in early 2007 it is expected that the first of 8,500 residents will be re-housed into new, design-led accommodation to fittingly meet their housing needs.