Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Council Is under Fire; Watchdog Hits out over Regeneration

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Council Is under Fire; Watchdog Hits out over Regeneration

Article excerpt

Byline: Robert Weatherall

AMULTI-million pound regeneration scheme has been heavily criticised by a council watchdog.

The Local Government Ombudsman has accused Newcastle City Council of failing to have any concrete policies in place which would have policed new developments in a run-down area.

The Ombudsman was asked to investigate the pounds 55m re-development of the Elswick and Westgate area of the city and specifically the decision the allow a hostel for homeless people to be built.

The Ombudsman investigated following a complaint from campaigner Hazel Brady whose home is near to Wentworth Court - the new hostel.

The Ombudsman was critical that the city council was undermining its own goals of increasing investment and home ownership in the area by not having additional planning restrictions in place on new developments.

The Ombudsman's report uncovered evidence that crime is likely to increase in some areas of the Elswick and Westgate wards rather than fall because of the lack of concrete policies.

Miss Brady has claimed the report is a vindication of her belief that "the right hand of the council doesn't know what the left hand is doing".

She said: "Millions and millions of pounds have been invested in this area.

"Families have been encouraged to buy their council homes in the belief that the council was determined to reduce deprivation in the area.

"I have long campaigned against the Wentworth Court development, saying it would damage the neighbourhood and the efforts to improve the area.

"The Ombudsman seems to agree with me."

Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes has admitted the decision to build Wentworth Court in the area was a "catastrophe" and has pledged to introduce planning rules which should help ensure regeneration is not further hampered.

He said: "Four years ago I said when in opposition that something needed to be done to control the number of hostels in one area, but the proposal never got anywhere. …

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