A North East regeneration partnership is laying the foundations that will help economically at risk communities to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Responsible for breathing new life into Durham for almost 20 years – through the provision of housing, jobs and training – the Durham Villages Regeneration Company (DVRC), is a partnership between Durham County Council and housebuilder Keepmoat Homes.
Safe working – in line with Public Health England and the Construction Leadership Council guidelines – has restarted on all four sites in the county, including Woodland Meadow in Peterlee, one of UK towns considered at most economic risk – post COVID 19.
Research by the Centre for Towns and the University of Southampton lists a number of coastal and ex industrial towns which are deemed to be most vulnerable to economic shock as a result of the pandemic. Most (10) are in Wales but Peterlee – the only one in the North East to be listed – is placed 20th.
The study examined a wide range of factors including the proportion of people working in businesses which have been shut down, the proportion of older residents, and social and economic well-being before the pandemic. It also looked at whether the area has suffered from industrial change in the last 30 years.
Cllr. Carl Marshall, Chair of DVRC, said: “We are aware of the devastating impacts that a vast number of communities, business and residents have faced as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, which is why we have a continued commitment to investing in Durham’s most vulnerable communities. We are fully backing the county’s economic recovery from coronavirus by investing in new homes, providing training opportunities and ultimately securing more jobs for local people.”
Ian Prescott, Land and Partnerships Director at Keepmoat Homes, added: “The economic impact of coronavirus could be felt for many years to come, particularly in areas already facing economic change and challenge.
“For the past 19 years DVRC has been committed to changing the fortunes of many Durham villages facing such challenges – helping generations of families get onto the property ladder, providing training and job opportunities for local people and helping improve community facilities. It is great to be back building in a number of settlements across Durham County, safeguarding jobs and attracting investment whilst adhering to government guidelines on social distancing.”
In addition to Woodland Mews, DVRC is also working again at The Fell, Chester-le-Street, Coppice Heights at Dipton and Byron Mews at Seaham. Since formation in 2001 the partnership has invested over £200 million, creating 2,000 homes on 32 sites – 448 for affordable rent through local housing associations.
And with those sold attracting an average price of around £105,000, DVRC has consistently delivered homes within the reach of local, young people. Over 80% of them so far sold have been bought by those living within 10 miles of the development and around 60% were first time buyers.