THE go-ahead for a £100m scheme to transform a Southampton estate has been put on hold, the Daily Echo can reveal.
In one of their first major decisions since coming to power the city council’s new Labour leaders have postponed any decision on the scheme for Townhill Park.
They say it is merely to have a closer look at the proposals, drawn up by the previous Tory administration which lost power at the local council elections earlier this month.
But Conservatives said they fear the delay means their ambitious plans to demolish five blocks of flats in Townhill Park to make way for up to 657 new
homes and a shopping parade are now in jeopardy.
The proposals also include a “central park” to create a focus for community life, alongside a “village green,” which would provide a hub for community events and celebrations.
Under the scheme, around a third of the new homes would be sold off by the developers as payment for completing the work. The rest would be handed over to a housing association to manage, because
they are able to bring in additional Government funding not offered to councils.
Former Tory housing boss councillor Peter Baillie said: “I have grave concerns that it's under threat and they will find an excuse not to go ahead with it. It will be a massive lost opportunity to
improve the quality of life for residents and well as health, schools and the local economy.”
He added: “There’s a big lobby within Labour who don’t like the idea of selling off council land and that’s a big stumbling block.
“I do worry that it’s going to be ideological, that they want to keep control of land and houses.
“They want the council to be building everything. If they want to do that as an idea, they're going to price themselves out of doing it.
“We haven't got £100m -– we’ve got £10 or £20m.”
Cllr Baillie said despite accusations of “selling off the family silver”, the rebuilding project is the only way to achieve a “fundamental change” to an estate where 35 per cent of adults have no
qualifications and there are serious health issues connected to economic problems.
Labour vow Despite the hold-up Labour have vowed to press ahead with the regeneration scheme. The council's new finance boss Councillor Simon Letts said a decision on the scheme would be made by
the council on July 11 once the plans had been examined in detail.
He added: “It’s such a complex scheme it’s only right we take time to make sure we are happy with it. We don’t want to commit excess funding for this until we are absolutely certain.”
He said there would be a scheme in Townhill Park with broadly the same number of units, possibly with changes to the mix of houses.
He would not say at this stage whether the same amount of funds would be used until they had looked at the details.
“Broadly speaking it will be a similar scheme if not identical,” he added.
Cabinet member for housing councillor Warwick Payne added: “The decision regarding the Townhill Park regeneration framework will be taken in July 2012 rather than May 2012.
"Southampton City Council’s new administration are fully committed to estate regeneration and the Townhill Park scheme and look forward to bringing forward these exciting plans in July 2012.”