OFFICIALS at the North of Tyne Combined Authority have faced questions over the delivery of housing on brownfield sites.

Brownfield refers to land that is abandoned or underutilized due to pollution from industrial use. The NTCA was awarded £31.8m in Government funding to “unlock” sites for at least 2,100 new homes across the North of Tyne region.

The money was provided from the £400 million Brownfield Housing Fund announced in the 2020 budget, with an extension announced as part of the Levelling Up bill in 2022.

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A further £17.4m was secured as part of the North East Devolution Deal to expand the programme into the rest of the LA7 south of the Tyne. It brings the total funding to £49.2 million and a target of 3,200 homes.

The combined authority worked with local authorities to create a pipeline of new homes, with schemes including Newbiggin Hall in Newcastle, Bellingham Mart in Northumberland and the Esplanade in North Tyneside. At Tuesday’s meeting (March 19) of the NTCA’s scrutiny committee, the plan was hailed by the authority’s cabinet member for housing Dame Norma Redfearn.

Speaking at the meeting, the North Tyneside mayor said: “This is something that has been needed for so long.

“Many of our brownfield sites have laid empty for years and it is nice to see something being done and these eyesores disappearing. Hopefully, there is much more to come.”

Teams were said to have had a “busy year” despite challenges faced, including inflation in the construction industry that put some of the projects’ viability into doubt.

So far, a total of 2,420 homes have either been built or have received planning permission, totalling £34m in funding. However, questions were raised by councillors about the number of homes delivered up to this point.

Liberal Democrat councillor Greg Stone, who represents the Manor Park ward on Newcastle City Council, said: “I’m going to be a little bit blunt. I regret that the mayor isn’t here because I would have liked to direct some of the questions to him.

“I get all the warm words and about being busy, but we have got a brownfield housing fund – are we satisfied with the level of delivery we’ve got so far? Do we think we’re on track?

“What can we do differently? I get there’s viability issues and costs on the builders are increasing – but what can we do?

“My personal feeling on this is, given the importance of brownfield housing, there’s a lot of work we could be doing and we need to keep our foot on the gas."

Dame Redfearn replied: “I think we’ve done remarkably well with all the challenges. What we have been doing has taught us a great deal.”

Chief executive Henry Kippin added: “The climate that we’re working in means many major projects outside of housing are taking longer than they should have. If you look at our record it stands up well.”