East Lancashire councils contest claims they used regeneration fund for demolitions (From Lancashire Telegraph)
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East Lancashire councils contest claims they used regeneration fund for demolitions
8:00pm Friday 8th March 2013 in News
THREE councils are contesting claims they misused £3million of government cash to knock down houses without legal authority.
The cash comes from a £35.5m fund set up by ministers when they scrapped Labour's £1bn-plus Housing Market Renewal scheme in 2011. Several East Lancashire councils were furious about the decision when they were part-way through their programme of home repairs, demolition, and redevelopment.
The government gave Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn and Pendle Councils cash to ease the scheme’s wind-down. Now Save Britain’s Heritage and the BBC Radio Four’s ‘You and Yours’ programme have accused nine councils of using the cash for demolition unlawfully.
In September, the campaign group won to take the councils and the government’s Department for Communities and Local Government to the High Court for a Judicial Review over demolishing more than 5,000 properties.
The sum in dispute for Pendle is £1.4m to demolish 200 homes. Blackburn with Darwen received around £1m to knock down 250 houses.
Hyndburn got £500,000 to demolish 300 properties. Burnley Council, which received £1.5m and is demolishing 750 houses, is not involved in the current legal dispute.
At the High Court in September, the DCLG accepted it had made mistakes. Nine authorities have continued demolition programmes, say-ing the government’s over-sight was not their fault.
Pendle housing regenerat-ion manager Julie Whittaker said: “We’ve taken a balanced approach with housing market renewal and a mix of complementary activities. We are not in breach of any legisl-ation in the way we have spent the money.”
A Hyndburn Council statement said: “The BBC programme is badly researched and mis-informed.”
Blackburn with Darwen refused to comment but it is understood officials are satisfied their paperwork is watertight.
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