The Chair and Chief Executive of Byker Community Trust (BCT) Housing Association welcomed a delegation of housing and regeneration experts from London School of Economics (LSE) to the Byker Estate this week (Wednesday, November 2).

They were interested in finding out more about the work that BCT has been doing on the Estate since they took over the ownership from Newcastle City Council in July 2012 and about the new housing management service delivery model that was launched on the Estate last month.

The delegation was led by Professor Anne Power MBE of the LSE Housing and Communities who has always had a keen interest in Byker and the North East ever since her involvement in the Priority Estates Project (PEP) in the early 1980’s.

The PEP focused on 20 hard-to-let social housing estates across the country by introducing localised management as a rescue measure to reverse the decline in these areas. By using an intensive and integrated approach, reinforcing a small-scale service and the involvement of tenants, the PEP model proved that introducing local management was a vital ingredient.

The Grade II* listed Byker Wall Estate was designed and built between 1969 and 1983 to a master plan by the architect Ralph Erskine. Professor Anne Power said: “Back in the early 80’s, the masterplan by many local authorities was demolition.  Byker didn’t need demolition, it just needed some TLC.  The Estate secured listed status in 2007 to prevent demolition from happening.

“Fast forward 37 years and the launch of a new Byker Approach – the transformation is remarkable. A lot has changed since the BCT took over ownership and especially in the two years since I last visited Byker.  This is a very unique estate which is a huge asset to the City and is a place where people still aspire to live and work.  You can feel it within the community – there is a sense ownership and pride.

“The new Byker Approach, which delivers high quality services and better value for money is definitely the right way forward not only for BCT and the Estate but for the diverse range of people who live in Byker. I 100% believe in what the BCT is doing here and would love Byker to be involved in our Housing Plus Academy, which helps Housing Associations to remain viable social businesses by supporting the communities where they work.”

Last year, the National Communities Resource Centre and the LSE launched the Housing Plus Academy, which is a partnership between 15 leading social housing providers, the National Housing Federation, the Chartered Institute of Housing and the National Communities Resource Centre at Trafford Hall and is supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and LSE Housing and Communities.

Housing Plus was developed to promote knowledge exchange and participative learning among frontline staff and tenants of social landlords. The Academy tackles burning problems affecting both housing associations and local authority landlords today, particularly welfare reform, financial pressure, energy saving, work and skills, community enterprise, and resilience.

Jill Haley, Chief Executive of BCT said: “It was very kind of Anne to take time out of her busy schedule and specifically ask to visit us. I have outlined to her and her colleagues from London the journey which BCT has taken since it was created in July 2012 to improve the area and the lives of the people who live here – the next part of that journey towards our vision for 2020 will be the most exciting part.

“It’s been only one month since we brought all management services in-house to implement the new Byker Approach and we are already seeing significant improvements. The new approach allows the organisation to have a much closer working relationship with our customers which is exactly what they asked us to do.  Every tenant living on the Estate has a named neighbourhood housing officer and they will receive an annual customer care visit which allows us to listen to each person’s views on the services they receive and the neighbouhoods they live in.

“Anne and the other representatives from LSE and Igloo Regeneration were very impressed with the improvements that we have delivered thus far and I am keen to explore further how BCT and LSE Housing can work together in future.”

Professor Anne Power and representatives from LSE visited the North East to attend a committee annual dinner and site visit held at The Malings in the Ouseburn Valley, which was recently awarded Supreme Winner in the Housing Design Awards 2016.