30 July 2019

After eight years of work in the West Midlands, find out how Pioneer Housing Group are helping Castle Vale residents to thrive.

Project timeline

Following the completion of an eight year transformational regeneration programme, Castle Vale was transformed from an estate that nobody wanted to live in with a reputation of one West Midlands’ ‘no-go’ areas to a neighbourhood people wanted to live in and thrive – a great place!

The Castle Vale Housing Action Trust, responsible for managing the regeneration, placed significant resource in designing long-term sustainability to ensure the impact of the regeneration would enable families and visitors to benefit from this for more than one generation.

It is now 25 years since the regeneration programme started and in many ways walking about Castle Vale the estate looks like it did when the HAT handed over to a bespoke Housing Association – Castle Vale Community Housing Association - in 2005. The real story isn’t just how Castle Vale was transformed into a vibrant and thriving neighbourhood but how this has been sustained for fifteen years afterwards. The pathway for our sustainability has taken place over two phases:

  • from the handover to 2015 with stewardship for regeneration lying with Castle Vale Community Housing association
  • from 2015 onwards with stewardship for regeneration lying with the Pioneer Group.

The project

Castle Vale today is a well-designed estate enveloped from two major roads and the M6 by a green bund featuring Wagtail Walk - a pedestrian, cycle way and partial bridleway with only three pints of access / egress. To the south of the estate Farnborough Fields provides a green lung between the main residential area and the motorway with one of the best wild meadows’ in the West Midlands, a football stadium that has benefited from a £1m revamp, allotments and paddocks.

Standing next to this a new secondary school and sixth form – the Greenwood Academy – partly brought about by the voices of tenants demanding a better offer. Other green amenities include the green Centre Park and the green bund and cycle path to the east of Castle Vale. The local swimming pool was saved from closure 3 years ago alongside the community library and both are now running sustainably in community ownership through one of our local charities – Spitfire Support.

Next to the retail park, built in the last phase of the regeneration, Compass Support, a subsidiary of the Pioneer Group, operate out of a community hub delivering a local youth service, family support and employment support –and have done this since the handover in 2005. In the high street, the Pioneer Group operate a housing service on the doorstep of tenants and commission Spitfire Services to provide independent advice.

All of this adds up to a holistic offer to residents from the services they can access and the amenities they benefit from on a daily basis.

Challenges

The challenges we have faced in the two phases of our programme relate to the increasing difficulty of sustaining partnership work at the scale envisaged in the early periods, especially the impact that austerity budgeting has had on public sector partners and having capacity to work at a neighbourhood level. We have addressed this issue by streamlining our partnership to work around activities that matter to the partners and within their core professional remit.

We now have three themed partnership working groups based around education with all schools – one nursery, four primaries and secondary working together despite the different academies they belong to. Work is progressing on school transitions, attendance, family poverty and mental health as a consequence of this. Other partnership activity includes community safety - building on traditional tasking models but in a leaner and more agile format.

Another challenge faced has been the need to explore new formats for resident leadership and engagement from our board and partnership structures - we did this by bringing in new residents and stakeholders to exercise the future resident leadership roles and the tradition of ensuring that this forms part of the culture of how services are provided. We are working on new engagement models and using our youth work resource to generate future leaders from our schools.

Outcomes

The outcomes we see are that Castle Vale benefits from a localised housing operation delivered via Pioneer acting as a landlord but also as a steward for the regeneration. The housing association is committed through a commitment to ‘housing plus’ to deliver great housing services supported by youth, wellbeing and employment offers and stimulating the third sector and public sector agencies to continue to sit around the partnership table and collaborate on delivering better outcomes for residents.

If you did this again, what would you change?

We are planning to keep our sustainable model of protecting the asset – both residential and community assets over the next ten years through our new community plan. Moving forward we will need to do that with less red tape and reliance on traditional meeting formats looking at new ways of engagement and communication.

What can others learn from this example?

  • the stewardship role that agencies such as housing associations can and must play on top of their landlord and development remit
  • the role of modern partnership working and community planning
  • designing and refreshing this sustainability in housing regeneration
  • building in resident leadership on succession plans.

Further information

For more information email Ifor.jones@pioneergroup.org

Castle Vale Model of Sustainable Regeneration