Despite the sterling work in Wales by Munday, though, the big news for the market came from the keynote address given by my good friend and all round seven-brains, Mr Brian Field. He told the conference that billions of pounds of European funds are still available for urban regeneration projects struggling to cope with UK government cuts. Actually, this isn't really big news (as Chris has proved): it has been "out there" for years, but it remains such a trade secret because of the fact that the programmes are complex and not readily understood. They are monopolised by consultants who demand huge fees as the entry price. And, of course, they have daft names.
But our Brian, who is the urban planning and development adviser at the European Investment Bank, is trying to dismantle the barriers. He told our delegates that many councils and regeneration bodies are unaware of the funding streams available from Europe and said that the European funds, mainly in the form of loans, were now a much more attractive proposition for local authorities owing to the rise in costs for other forms of lending. He said: "We tend to lend money in large denominations - it was €9bn-€10bn last year. You can get a lot of money from us if you have decent urban projects. In the past, we have not been an attractive lending product because the Public Works Loan Board has been able to undercut us. However, the board's lending rates have gone up recently, so now we are competitive."