David Warburton presented a report on the opportunities to enhance the existing processes in the region for the deployment of housing and land funds to make it best in class in the country and some of the challenges with the current approaches operating in the region. Enhancing the efficiency and clarity of deployment of devolved funds and its alignment with the region's housing and regeneration goals was critical to securing new investment from HM Government and achieving key targets on housing delivery, job creation and inclusive growth.
Simon Marks offered to share the work that the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership had carried out in relation to this matter.
Councillor Ian Courts requested an update on the latest position with the use of the funding provided to the Telford and Wrekin Council provided by the Investment Board in October 2017 to deliver 540 housing units across a variety of sites in that area. He also suggested that the region needed to address the need for an electric vehicle charging infrastructure to be provided. The Chair commented that there was a need to identify whether the funding provided to Telford and Wrekin Council had provided ‘Value for Money’.
David Warburton updated the Board on the current position with use of the funding provided to Telford and Wrekin Council which included the creation of a pipeline of schemes to utilise the funding. Councillor Daren Pemberton acknowledged that the decision on the provision of funding pre-dated the establishment of the WMCA Housing and Regeneration Team but was concerned whether it was only now being decided what the funding was being spent on. Councillor Ian Courts commented that the decision made no link to the role of Telford and Wrekin in meeting the demands of the Greater Birmingham Housing Market Area. Gareth Bradford assured the Board that the paper being discussed today, including the proposal for a single commissioning framework, would help to ensure that, going forward, funding aligned with the overall housing and regeneration strategy and would secure appropriate value for money.
Councillor Richard Overton advised that the sites in the Telford area under consideration were of a complex nature and that land values had increased following the announcement of the provision of funding. He commented that the ‘Duty to Co-Operate’ issues were a separate matter entirely. Roy Stokes suggested that Telford and Wrekin Council should be encouraged to comply with the latest criteria for use and eligibility for funding.
Councillor David Humphreys asked as to the likelihood of HM Government seeking to recoup any monies awarded to the WMCA for housing purposes. Gareth Bradford reminded the Board that the Housing Deal had required the region to demonstrate to HM Government best endeavours were being made to utilise any devolved funding to achieve the ambitious goals and KPI’s detailed in the Housing Deal and to maximise the additional sources of finance
Karl Tupling reported on the intention to create a dedicated Planning Portal which could be used to identify potential development sites within the Walsall – Wolverhampton Corridor. He also informed the Board on proposals by Homes England to simplify its website relating to sources of available funding. He encouraged the Board to utilise national recoverable funds in the first instance on sites which could be developed more easily whilst using dedicated funds for the development of more difficult sites. Gareth Bradford welcomed this approach and commented that it aligned strongly with the proposal being discussed in the paper for a more consistent and efficient approach to housing and regeneration funding in the region, developing a single commissioning framework with a clear set of transparent criteria and a funding portal for key customers to access quickly devolved housing and land funds.
1. That the positive progress in deploying devolved funds to deliver significant housing and employment outputs be noted;
2. That the feedback received from developers, councils and investors on opportunities to improve further access to the different housing and land funds in the region be noted;
3. That the proposal to develop a simpler, efficient and more transparent process that was market leading in the UK for developers, investors and local councils to access devolved housing ad land funds to unlock a step change in housing and employment delivery on brownfield sites be endorsed;
4. That subject to the above, the WMCA work with partners to develop within six months a single clear commissioning framework for all devolved housing and land funds;
5. That subject to the above, the WMCA develop a more consistent approach for deploying all devolved housing and land funds;
6. That the proposal to create a clear set of criteria that enabled the Housing and Land Delivery Board to deploy funding in a manner which was consistent and more closely aligned deployment of land funds with delivering the strategic housing and regeneration of goals of the WMCA and wider goals of the WMCA (e.g. inclusive growth toolkit) be endorsed;
7. That subject to the above, a working draft proposal for a single clear commissioning framework built around a clear set of criteria be presented to the next meeting of the Board.