Byker Grove – filmed in Benwell but added much to the Byker’s stash of legend and lore. Photograph: Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Ala/Alamy
Newcastle’s famous Byker housing estate has taken another step along its ever-interesting journey, now 40 years old and sometimes lurching rather than progressing smoothly through the decades.
Ownership of 1,800 homes in the vast, carefully-planned and grade II* listed structure above the Tyne has passed from the city council to the locally-rooted Byker Community Trust.
The transfer is one of the biggest yet of similar arrangements which are seeing municipal assets move into new and usually energetic hands as councils no longer have the funds or staffing to maintain them. As a Yorkshireman I’m pleased to report that the deal has been made practicable in part by a £12 million loan to the trust from the Yorkshire Building Society. Whenever I ring Leeds city council, I seem to get a cheerful Geordie, so this is payback time.
Looking out across the Tyne; the Byker estate
The Byker is legendary in housing circles as a 1970s successor to great social housing schemes of the 1930s such as Quarry Hill in Leeds which were modelled on such monuments as the Karl Marx Hof flats in Vienna built by the pre-Nazi socialist council. The architect Ralph Erskine, a passionate believer in social housing who was raised in Northumberland by Presbyterian and socialist parents, was given free reign to create a utopia for working people.
It did not entirely work out like that, with the sheer size of the complex generating as many problems as the undoubted affection for the place which still lasts. Residents wearied of the processions of foreign architects which came to analyze them, and – as per my colleague Maev Kennedy’s interesting piece here when the flats were listed in 2003 – complained at times that they were ‘the most consulted people in Britain.’
They are now effectively in charge of their future, through the trust whose 13-strong board combines four tenants, two city council reps, four independents and a co-optee and one rep of Your Homes Newcastle, the arms length organisation which manages the city’s council’s housing properties. The Trust says:
The transfer is not privatisation – the new trust will not make a profit and will be run by local people. It is about getting what is right for Byker both in terms of investment and the management of the estate.
We will be looking to secure significant investment for major improvements to buildings and the environment across the estate. In the short term we will be celebrating with all residents and are planning a street party for one and all.
Part of the towering Byker Wall, Newcastle Photograph: Stephen Emms/guardian.co.uk
Apart from guaranteeing the future of the buildings, including the ten storey shield of the Byker Wall which Erskine modelled on Arctic housing in Sweden where he worked for most of his life, the new arrangements are designed to unlock money for improvements. The building society loan will build on recent work such as the £2.2 million spent last year by YHN on the Bolam Coyne section of the estate. The trust’s chair Mark Scrimshaw says:
This is a great day for the Byker community. Changes of ownership are usually marked by disagreement and division, but that has never been the case here. The Homes and Communities Agency, the city council and YHN have been committed throughout to getting the ideal for the people on the estate.
Nick Forbes, Labour leader of the city council, says:
A transfer of stock of this scale is a great achievement reflecting the unique issues facing the Byker estate. It provides the fresh begin that Byker residents have been looking for and I’m pleased that after much hard work the council has been able to help them realise their vision. As well as improving Byker as a place to live, the transfer will create the conditions for local economic growth and put residents in control of the estate.
The Yorkshire is pleased too, and stresses the merits of its decision not to join the Gadarene rush for bank status in the 1990s. The chief executive Chris Pilling says:
As a mutual organisation, we believe passionately in giving back to our communities. Our funding facility for BCT will empower residents to secure their future and involve local people in the ownership and management of the area in which they live.
The funding for the Byker is the Society’s first post-Decent Homes Standard stock transfer and increases our total commitment to the social housing sector to over £250 million in facilities ranging from £5m to £50m in size.
Here’s an interesting YouTube clip about the estate and Erskine, from the excellent Photographs of Newcastle blog, which concludes that it is ‘one of the most enjoyable and successful examples of social housing in Britain.’
- UCSD surgeons test drive future tools
- Samsung CEO Hails 10 Million Galaxy S4 Sales in 3 Weeks, Hints at 100 Million in Future
- Gauge of US economy’s future health up in April
- We have created an emergency plan for any future building collapses: Sadat …
- Housing strategies key to future, says author
- Change of mind for future life
- Our wireless future will bring breakneck speeds and tablet-powered homes
- Malaysia's youth forging a new future?
- Lebanon Valley Council on the Arts seeks input on future of building
- Future of computer interaction on display in Paris
Submited at Thursday, July 19th, 2012 at 1:00 am on Uncategorized by samantha
Comment RSS 2.0 - leave a comment - trackback