Benlowndes

a perspective on PR in social housing and regeneration

Tag Archives: Homes and Communities Agency

Three thoughts from the #housingwhitepaper roadshow

“I am a man desperately in need of allies to help build the homes that we can agree are desperately needed in this country.”

Gavin Barwell, Housing Minister, 2 March 2017

I was in Taunton this week to see the housing minister’s white paper roadshow.

Gavin Barwell is at least the eighth housing minister I’ve seen in action since 2004. Five of those were on similar visits to the South West when I worked at the HCA.

To say that he’s inherited a tough gig is an understatement. The Housing White Paper has had a mixed response, which isn’t surprising for a sector with so many interested parties.

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Bristol Arena: now the hard work really starts

Councillors’ approval of Bristol’s flagship arena project is a welcome twist in a story that goes back two decades.

Bringing a big city arena to Bristol has been a long-standing cultural ambition. A huge collective effort has been put into getting the vision for a gleaming 12,000-capacity venue and a redeveloped cultural and residential quarter beside Temple Meads to this stage.

The former Diesel Depot site which will host the facility has lain largely fallow for years since it earned its name for engine goods storage.  And there are many good reasons for the seemingly slow progress.

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New era, same principles for engagement

I gave this presentation at JBP’s Bristol office on Monday night about how digital can be used to support engagement activity. The event was attended by professionals who work in planning, development and legal practice.

I was delighted that comms manager from East Devon Drew Aspinwall joined me to talk about activity that has taken place to support the development of the new community at Cranbrook. Listening to the conversation afterwards reinforced my view that Cranbook is out on its own in terms of the pace and scale of delivery and level of support it has locally. Partners can be proud of the community they’re helping to create.

My slides were put together using Haikudeck, which is great for clear and engaging content slides and easy to use if you know what you’re going to say. Like many tools, it seems to have its own quirky ways which can cause frustrations and I have struggled with sharing it and getting it to render properly in this blog which has added a couple of hours onto my day. I hope to get more up to speed with it soon!

My slides are below.

More detailed notes used with the slides can be found on Haikudeck.

Three reasons why I’ll champion the HCA’s work

Five years, one month and a day after joining the HCA, I departed last Thursday to take up a new job.

I’m returning to agency life at JBP, an extremely well-respected company which specialises in PR (in all its forms) consultation and public affairs. From tomorrow, I’ll be a senior account director in its Bristol office and I am hugely looking forward to the opportunity.

That’s not to say that it was an easy decision to leave the HCA. After all, I was able to influence discussion around a hugely important area of government work. I had a flexible and fair employer and I enjoyed what I did. In the end, I moved because it offers me an opportunity to progress my career in areas that are most important to me.

I will still champion the HCA though and there are many reasons for this. Three of them have stood out in recent conversations. Read more of this post

How housing helps growth and hits the headlines

A report by the think tank Centre for Cities was published yesterday which generated strong headlines and made a clear link between house-building and economic vitality in major urban areas.

Cities Outlook 2013 calls for more flexibility for local councils in these areas to develop ways of supporting house-building or improvements, which could plug the shortfall in the supply of homes the country needs (currently said to be running at more than 100,000 a year). Its research suggests that meeting this gap could create 150,000 new jobs and add 1% to national economic growth rates, making most of us a winner in the process.

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Cheers to 2011. Here’s three aims for 2012

It doesn’t seems like six weeks since I blogged about my reflections on 2010, which contained some personally important landmarks in my life. I’d like to take a different approach this time and look forward to 2012 rather than spend a lot of time looking back on a year which – for all sorts of reasons – was tough, extraordinary even, yet not as enjoyable. One reason why I have not blogged recently is because I have been absorbed in other matters and struggled to find the time to devote to writing (I can feel a new year’s resolution coming on here).

This is not to say some important things didn’t happen in 2011. I kept my job (which is positive), my wife lost hers in November and then was told she had got it back with a different organisation just before Christmas (negative then positive) and my little girl started school in September (life changing). Despite these things (and others), I will be quite glad to see the back of 2011 and look forward to a new year with optimism and hope.

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Totnes tale brings home benefits of affordable housing

Since joining the HCA, I have become less involved in developing human stories which can demonstrate the positive impact that affordable housing has than I have been in the past.

This is mainly because although we directly fund the delivery of tens of thousands of new homes, they are build and managed by organisations that have the direct links with tenants and first time buyers who benefit from this investment. This leaves us reliant on social landlords and housing providers to uncover those occasional gems needed to bring a standard story to life.

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Cashes Green consultation puts localism into action

I returned from the Easter break today to the good news that a planning application to transform the derelict Cashes Green Hospital in Stroud into new homes and community facilities has been submitted to the local planning authority to consider.

I blogged in January about the impressive level of consultation that had gone into shaping the proposals that have been submitted to Stroud District Council. Hundreds of people living near the site have been engaged, through attending the regular consultation events, having newsletters sent to their home or reading the dozens of media articles that have reported on the plans in recent months. In many ways the consultation led by Hab Oakus, a joint venture led by Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud and GreenSquare Group, has been textbook stuff.

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Affordable homes blend into Exmoor beauty

I visited a site today in one of the most beautiful villages I have ever been to, where the HCA is supporting the construction of new affordable housing.

Wheddon Cross in Exmoor is one of those picturesque villages most people would dream of living. Situated on top of the rolling hills of Exmoor National Park, with a smashing pub and hotels in the centre of the village and stunning scenery in every direction, it certainly seems popular with visitors.

But with average house prices in Exmoor approaching an eye-watering £400,000 last year, many locals undoubtedly find it impossible to afford to live in villages like this.

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Four things taken from Torquay this year

The Chartered Institute of Housing’s South West conference in Torquay seems to have been a success this year, in spite of the cutbacks that have hit sponsorship budgets and delegate numbers and made events like this much more difficult to put on.

The CIH is a key partner for the HCA and this is a really important event for us to be involved in, particularly at a time of reorganisation when colleagues who are new to the patch have the opportunity to meet the sector’s leading local figures and understand the issues that drive delivery here. Even though our sponsorship of the event is a thing of the past, I am glad we maintained a delegate presence this year (NB: three of us were guests, including two speakers).

I certainly found attending yesterday worthwhile, made some good contacts and found out a few nuggets of information which I would not have known if I had stayed in the office. Here are some of the more noteworthy discoveries, along with some thoughts about the event itself.

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