Deputy Prime Minister’s Award for Sustainable Communities 2005 - Four finalists announced

DCLG News Release 2006/0005

17 January 2006

Four local projects have been recognised by the Deputy Prime Minister for making outstanding contributions to their communities.

The Deputy Prime Minister’s Award for Sustainable Communities recognises projects and initiatives that contribute to making towns, cities and communities, including those in rural areas, better places in which to live and work. They pay tribute to those people whose commitment and enthusiasm are making a significant contribution towards the building of thriving and successful communities.

The four finalists are:

  • The Regeneration of Attwood Green, Birmingham
  • Springhill Co-housing Community, Stroud, Gloucestershire
  • A New Deal for Braunstone, Leicester
  • From Survival to Sustainability: Taking Pride In Gravesham (part of the Thames Gateway), Gravesend, Kent.

Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott said:

“Yet again we have had a terrific response from people and projects who are improving the places in which they live and work in across the country.

“These four projects really stand out for successfully involving local people and businesses in regenerating areas into well designed safe environments with excellent public spaces and access to services. All of those things that bring people together creating thriving sustainable communities.”

John Prescott will announce the overall winner at an award ceremony at the LGA Delivering Sustainable Communities Conference on 14 February.

Entries ranged from projects and initiatives of all types and sizes and have been considered by a panel of independent judges with a wide level of expertise in regeneration matters.

Last year’s winner and finalists will also be sharing their expertise at a one day national conference - Sustainable Communities: Vision Into Reality at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster on Friday 31 March 2006. www.sustainablecommunitiesconference.co.uk

Notes to editors

1. Judges comments on the four finalisits are below:

The Regeneration of Attwood Green, Birmingham

The Attwood Green area was once characterised by a high turnover of tenants, empty and derelict homes, and ‘no-go’ areas. By the 1990s the area had declined to the point where local residents staged roof top protests and sit-ins to draw attention to what they termed, “The Slum Quarter of Birmingham”.

Residents subsequently worked with the local authority to secure a way forward which led to the successful ‘yes’ vote for a stock transfer. Optima Community Association, a community driven housing organisation, was formed in 1999 with a vision to create a mixed-tenure, socially inclusive and vibrant community at Attwood Green. This was to include a mix of family houses, flats and student accommodation together with business zones. The project received almost £50m of Estate Renewal Challenge Funding and has involved the refurbishment of 1150 homes (including the 2 tallest social housing blocks in the UK), the demolition of 1350 unsatisfactory homes, the construction of 550 new rented homes and almost 2000 homes for sale.

The once highly oppositional residents have invested enormous energy into turning Attwood Green around. A sense of pride expresses itself through those residents who have remained firmly involved in the project since their original protests.

The project has retained a strong focus on quality of design in landscaping and the built environment. The community now has an outstanding park which provides high quality and safe outdoor space for children and families. A meticulous commitment to design has meant that new housing is effectively ‘tenure blind’, with no discernible difference between owned homes and socially or privately rented dwellings. Attwood Green has also demonstrated an exceptional approach to large scale recycling with over 90% of demolition and excavation material being re-used.

Springhill Co-Housing Community, Stroud, Gloucestershire

Springhill Co-housing in Stroud is the first co-housing community in the UK and is a model for future sustainable communities. This ‘creative way of living’ comprises 35 households plus a Common House where people cook and eat together at least once a week. This substantial additional space makes it easy for people to have smaller private dwellings with a safe pedestrian street through the middle of the site.

Designed by Architype, specialists in timber frame houses, the project shows how a small, inconvenient sloping site can be transformed into a new community. Recycling, community composting, high-intensity insulation, PV panels, a Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDS), and a car-sharing scheme all contribute to an environmentally sensitive scheme. Something in the overall attitude of the site minimises negative and enhances positive environmental and social impacts.

Co-housing promotes a very strong sense of belonging and encourages friendly, co-operative and helpful behaviour, including self-policing. The residents all became directors of the development company so were involved in commissioning the construction. Three out of the 35 units are subsidised in perpetuity at 15% below market value.

In Denmark 3-4% of the population live in co-housing. The high level of single parents at Springhill (nearly half the families with children) shows how co-housing responds to their need for safety, services and social interaction close to home. A third of the residents of Springhill work from home and the nature of the community means there is lots of business support sharing, offering a glimpse of a possible future for home-based enterprise integrated with more sustainable living.

In Stroud they are already working on schemes for co-flats and actively looking for other sites to develop. As UK households continue to change and shrink co-housing may be an answer more widely.

A New Deal for Braunstone, Leicester

In 1999, Braunstone was awarded £49.5 million from the Government’s New Deal for Communities Fund. The Braunstone Community Association (BCA) was set up to deliver an integrated programme to tackle poor health, low educational attainment and skill levels, high crime rates and unemployment levels, and a lack of physical infrastructure. The programme has also secured a further £18 million from other sources. 
Through joined up working with statutory agencies, voluntary sector organisations, and local residents, the programme has implemented more than 90 projects. Key transformational schemes include a leisure centre, a library and community centre and a dedicated youth house. The programme has also developed initiatives relating to young people and health. The FAB Fit and Active Braunstone project is particularly inspirational. A further venture has led to the total transformation of the Six Streets area from a rundown crime-ridden neighbourhood with high levels of vacancy to a totally refurbished area that now boasts a tenant waiting list. 

The Braunstone area now has a feel good factor with the community taking an active role in the new facilities. The programme has a very effective board with over 50% resident involvement as well as a young person’s representative and board meetings are open to all residents. The regeneration of Braunstone has been achieved through improvements to properties and the introduction of new community infrastructure rather than clearance and this has stabilised the community and made it an attractive location for people to want to live. 

A succession strategy is being formulated to ensure that the momentum continues beyond the NDC funding timeframe through mainstreaming and the continued local ownership of delivery backed up by a community asset base, and possible maintenance trust for the park.

From Survival to Sustainability: Taking Pride in Gravesham, Gravesend, Kent

This is a story of fighting back. In 1990 Gravesham was struggling with the legacies of industrial decline and Gravesend town centre in particular, was under threat from two major regional shopping centres on its doorstep (Lakeside and Bluewater). The Borough responded in an organised way with the formation of The Gravesend Town Centre Initiative. This strong public-private partnership, involving both business and residential communities has been central to the evolution of the Town Centre Strategy and to the many consultation exercises on specific proposals for various parts of the town centre.

This long term programme has conserved 85 listed buildings, addressed ‘eyesore’ premises, enhanced shopping centres and created landscaped pedestrian areas. The work has been underpinned by pro-active management, including a comprehensive security network and a dedicated town centre maintenance team to give a welcoming and safe environment, with prompt removal of litter, graffiti and pavement gum.

The multi-dimensional ‘Taking Pride in Gravesham’ project has given the area a renewed confidence and has acted as a catalyst for investment in the Borough. Vacant retail premises in Gravesend have fallen by 25%, whilst “Zone A” rents have shot up by 25% since 2003. A high quality refurbishment of the town’s Heritage Quarter has provided 10 new shops and 51 new homes for key workers in the historic High Street. In addition, the 1834 Grade II* Town Pier has been restored and a riverside walk created. Several mixed-use developments are also in the pipeline and it is anticipated will generate in excess of 1,000 new jobs and 1,700 new homes.

2.  The awards ceremony will be held at the LGA Delivering Sustainable Communities conference 2006 on 14 February. Further information can be found at www.lga.gov.uk/Event.asp?lsection=46&id=SXED73-A782F967

3.  The Award's criteria are the agreed definition of a sustainable community as published in the Department's two five year plans - 'Homes for All' and 'People, Places and Prosperity'

All projects and initiatives must demonstrate active involvement of the community including business and/or residents.

All projects and initiatives should be advanced to a state where there is a record of success with demonstrable results, and should meet some, or all, of the following criteria:-

(1) ACTIVE, INCLUSIVE AND SAFE – fair, tolerant and cohesive with a strong local culture and other shared community activities.
(2) WELL RUN – with effective and inclusive participation, representation and leadership.
(3) ENVIRONMENTALLY SENSITIVE – providing places for people to live which are considerate of the environment.
(4) WELL DESIGNED AND WELL BUILT – featuring a quality built and natural environment.
(5) WELL CONNECTED – with good transport services and communication linking people to jobs, schools, health and other services.
(6) THRIVING – with a flourishing and diverse local economy.
(7) WELL SERVED – with public, private, community and voluntary services that are appropriate to people’s needs and accessible to all.
(8) FAIR FOR EVERYONE – including those in other communities, now and in the future.

4.  The awards are administered, on behalf of the ODPM, by The British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA), whose objective is the identification and promotion of best practice in regeneration.

5.  Last year’s overall winner was the Grange Park Community Project in Blackpool. The other finalists were Chatham Maritime and the Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent; Joining Up Northumberland Park, Tottenham, London; and the Urban and Rural Renaissance Initiative, County Durham.

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