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Plans to merge the Housing Corporation with the regeneration body English Partnerships and some functions of the Communities department would see “a major shake-up” in the way the Government supports the development of “mixed sustainable communities in England,” communities secretary Ruth Kelly said.

“With the expectation of over £4 billion of public spending at its disposal, Communities England will pioneer innovative and more efficient ways of working with our key partners in the public, private and voluntary sector to get better outcomes from public investment in places.

“Central to meeting its challenge the agency will not only ensure greater value for money but also guarantee the very highest standards of quality, design, energy efficiency and sustainability.”

England’s not-for-profit housing associations, represented by the National Housing Federation, welcomed the proposed changes but said the new body did not have a strong enough environmental focus:

“For years we’ve been telling the Government that it should be building communities, not just houses. By bringing together housing and regeneration into a single agency, the Government has shown it has come around to our way of thinking and can now plan strategically about how to create successful neighbourhoods,” said David Orr, the Housing Federation’s chief executive.

But he said it was “disappointing” that Communities England was not planned with a stronger environmental focus.

“The Government’s timetable for change in this area is too slow and its recent Code for Sustainable Homes lacks teeth.

“Housing associations already build to higher standards than other developers but the government did not choose to extend this requirement to the rest of the building sector. If we can do it, why can’t they?,” he asked.

Goska Romanowicz

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