Bellway wins Midlands regeneration contract

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The Independent Online

Bellway, the Newcastle-based housebuilder, confirmed yesterday it had won a contract from Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council to deliver one of Britain's largest regeneration schemes.

The company, which has already won six similar contracts to run regeneration projects around the country, said the first tranche of work, building about 700 new homes, would begin soon.

Bellway refused to give a value for the contract, which will include work in about 15 West Midlands neighbourhoods to remodel housing and improve transport links and other local infrastructure.

However, the company said it estimated the whole project would deliver up to £1.8bn of public and private investment over the next 15 to 20 years. The work will take place in North Solihull, which has been designated as a site of economic deprivation, even though South Solihull is one of the most affluent areas of the Midlands.

Bellway is emerging as a key player in the social housing sector, aided by its experience in building property at the cheaper end of the market. The company's average new home, excluding social housing, costs about £165,000, the lowest figure of any of the major housebuilders. It has already begun regeneration projects in Liverpool and east London.

However, the sector is not straightforward, with political controversy dogging many projects. John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, has said urban regeneration will be one of the key themes of Labour's third term in government. But the Government has suffered a backlash over plans to build 200,000 new homes in the South-east. And Mr Prescott's plan to demolish up to 400,000 homes across the North of England and the Midlands have met with fierce opposition in some areas - critics have called for the properties to be restored, rather than replaced with new estates.

Peter Stoker, Bellway's commercial director, said one of his first tasks would therefore be to discuss the regeneration project with local residents, to try to win their support for its plans.

"Residential regeneration of North Solihull will unlock value and act as a catalyst to create community benefits and enhanced value," Mr Stoker said. "The proposals will improve the quality of life for residents as well as attracting new people and investment."

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