Executive director Mike Palin wants councils to show willingness and ambition. Credit: Place North

UKREiiF | Homes England ‘looking for willing partners’

With its strategic plan to 2028 now published, more emphasis is to be given to regeneration partnerships – but executive director Mike Palin stressed it is “not a universal offer”.

Speaking to Place North at UKREiiF today, Palin said that Homes England is keen to build up its roster of strategic partnerships where it can bring its economies of scale to bear and help local authorities deliver complex regeneration projects.

Palin said: “If you look at the agency broadly, we’ve got planners, surveyors, economists and more: combined with our various funding programmes, we’ve got all the tools needed by any local authority to deliver housing and regeneration.

“What we’re keen to do as we move into the new strategic plan period is to look for more strategic relationships where our economies of scale can benefit things.

“Examples of this include the memorandum of understanding we have on Forth Yards in Newcastle, with the Combined Authority, city council and Network Rail; the just-announced English Cities Fund agreement in Bradford; and the work we’re doing in Blackpool, instigated by the Secretary of State last year.”

In 2022 Palin, the former chief executive of St Helens Council, told Place of the agency’s keenness to ramp up its placemaking work – a shift in thinking that the body’s chief executive Peter Denton has this week highlighted in HE now being branded as “the housing and regeneration agency”.

Although this is a call to local authorities to make their case, it won’t be a case of “prizes for all”. Palin said: “We’re looking for partners who are willing to be brave in their decision-making and ambition. It’s not a universal offer, we want to see people demonstrate their ability and willingness to work with partners to deliver.

“Although with the number of funding solutions we offer, Homes England are involved to some extent in most areas, this is really about deciding where do we put our efforts into getting the best results.”

The major change from the just-ended strategic plan period, said Palin, is that the underlying situation should mean more opportunity for the North.

As he explained: “In the previous plan, the main concern was housing supply and the affordability challenge, which drove a lot of attention to the South – the new plan represents something of a pivot, back to thinking about housing, regeneration and placemaking together.

“It’s a conscious acknowledgement of the capability of the public sector to make hard-to-deliver regeneration schemes happen.”

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