The Shadow Secretary of State for Housing and Planning, Rt. Hon. John Healey MP, visited Tyneside this morning to cut the ribbon to unveil a new housing association office in Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne.

The Shadow Minister was joined by directors and staff from the Byker Community Trust (BCT), local politicians and residents to officially open a newly refurbished head office based at Raby Cross in the heart of the iconic Byker Estate.

Also attending the official opening was the school choir from nearby Byker Primary School who helped to count down to the cutting of the ribbon and sang to mark the occasion.

The BCT owns over 1,800 homes on the Byker Estate and tenants will now have access to a wide range of tenancy and estate services from the new office, which includes a new reception area, interview rooms, a waiting room and a new board room.

The unveiling of a new office is part of a wider service improvement strategy called the ‘Byker approach’, which the BCT will be delivering on the Estate.  In November last year, the BCT announced plans to bring housing management services in-house and is entering into a cost sharing partnership with Isos Housing to deliver repairs and maintenance and grounds maintenance services.

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Jill Haley, Chief Executive of the BCT, said:

“I am delighted to welcome John Healey to Byker and officially unveil our newly refurbished housing office but also to see at first-hand the improvements that have been delivered on the Estate since the BCT was established in 2012.  John played a fundamental role in agreeing to the original housing stock transfer.

We have already committed over £22 million on the Estate with further improvements to follow under the new ‘Byker approach’, which will help us to deliver our vision and transform our services bringing them closer to tenants.

This new state-of-the-art office will become a central hub for many people living on the Estate and I hope they will benefit from the new services that will be delivered here.  This is another key milestone for the BCT and its lovely that the school children and the local community have joined us for this special occasion.”

John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing and Planning, said:

“I was very pleased to have the opportunity to see the work that BCT is doing to improve housing for local people. It is important that the needs of tenants are at the heart of regeneration efforts, and BCT’s investment programme makes clear that they see this as a priority.

“Housing works best when it is provided in close consultation with tenants, and with communities having a strong voice over what happens in their area. With five tenants on its board, it is clear that BCT recognises this.

“The improvements being made by the BCT on the Byker Estate are impressive and I was very pleased to be able to support them today.”

During his visit to Byker, the Shadow Minister also received a tour of the iconic Grade II* listed Byker Wall, which has just received a £9.7 million refurbishment.  He also visited Avondale House – a project that provides high quality accommodation for veterans.

The house, which is owned by the BCT and run by the charity, Armed Forces’ & Veterans’ Launchpad, provides a safe environment for residents making a responsible transition from military to civilian live and addresses the issues that can sometimes lead to homelessness and unemployment.