One of the UK’s most influential housing executives visited Byker recently and has praised the work that housing provider, Byker Community Trust (BCT) has achieved since it was established.

Steve Stride, the chief executive of Poplar HARCA (Housing and Regeneration Community Association) in Poplar, East London visited Newcastle earlier this month to see first hand the transformation that is being undertaken on the Byker estate.

Steve, who has just recently stepped down after serving a year as president of the Chartered Institute of Housing, was keen to see the improvements that are being delivered by the Byker Community Trust (BCT) on the estate.

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Steve Stride, Poplar HARCA’s Chief Executive, surveys the transformation with BCT’s Michelle Bell.

Both Byker and Poplar have undergone significant change in recent years and were created following successful stock transfers.  The BCT owns and manages 1,800 homes on the Byker Estate and was created in 2012 while Poplar HARCA currently owns and manages 9,000 homes, which have been transferred from the London Borough of Tower Hamlets since 1998.

Initially, seven estates (approximately 4,500 homes) transferred in 1998 with other estates in Poplar joining the group between 2005 and 2007.  Poplar HARCA has refurbished all of its existing housing stock and brought it up to standard.

The organisation is currently leading on a £2 billion reshaping plan – working with their local authority Tower Hamlets Council to transform the area of east London.  The plan is to update, improve and replace its housing stock, develop hundreds of new homes, alongside creating parks, health and education facilities and they have obtained joint planning permission with Willmott Dixon for the redevelopment of the Aberfeldy Estate, which will include 1,100 new homes and improved amenities to be provided over 12 years.

Poplar HARCA, who won the Landlord of the Year award at the National Housing awards earlier this year, continues to have a transformational impact on Poplar in Tower Hamlets.

Despite being nearly 300 miles apart, the most significant similarity between both organisations is the improvements that are being made to their respective Grade II listed buildings.  Steve was interested to see the improvements that the BCT has delivered since it was created and in particular, the work that is currently being undertaken on the iconic Byker Wall, which forms the centrepiece of the estate.

Work commenced on the £9.5 million refurbishment last April and includes the installation of new windows and doors to each home, improvements to communal stairwells and entrances, a new digital aerial system and upgrading of the door entry and CCTV systems.

Improvement work has already passed the half way stage with windows and doors fitted to over 250 properties on the Byker Wall.  Work is also underway to replace the district heating system which provides heating and hot water to all properties on the estate.

The BCT has also recently refurbished Chirton House and transformed it into a stunning new apartment complex, whilst Avondale House, which provides high quality accommodation for veterans has also been successfully refurbished.

Steve commented:

“It was fantastic to see the local regeneration being achieved by the Byker Community Trust and their vision for their area.  It is testament to the skills of locally focussed organisations in knowing what their communities need and their determination to deliver it.  A lot can be learnt from this approach.”

Jill Haley, Chief Executive of the BCT will said:

“Steve was really interested to find out more about the Byker Estate and the work that the BCT has delivered since it was created.  We have come a long way since the BCT was established and have managed to deliver everything we set out to deliver – and more.  He was particularly impressed with work we have delivered at Chirton House and Avondale House and how far we have come in such a short space of time.

We have not been able to deliver these improvements on our own and will continue to deliver our promises by working with our tenants and key partners who have played a fundamental role in our progress.”

Jill visited Tower Hamlets last week to see what improvements Poplar HARCA have achieved and understand some of the lessons they learnt along the way.