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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 March 2005, 16:51 GMT
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Tourists do not come to the UK to see ghastly executive egg-box housing or soulless office blocks
Laura King, UK
We all know the results of badly thought-out, large housing estates, especially those in outlying areas with poor services and although the Housing Corporation says lessons "have been learned" every indication is that we are moving back once again to outlying estates which only those without choices will live on. Housing Associations are controlled in every conceivable way, including careful design controls on properties. These controls are being relaxed for the volume housebuilders, presumably for fear they would not otherwise be interested!(As if.... when hundreds of millions of pounds of government is available.)
Mike Hanks,Chief Executive, Islington and Shoreditch HA, UK

I was appalled with the thought from yesterday's File on 4 that we seem to be reverting back to the ill-conceived architectural vandalism of the 1960s & '70s, where up to 50% of most English towns were knocked down (regardless of communities or character) to be carved up by ringroads, office blocks and "estates in the sky" - all in the excuse of "slum clearance." Have we learned nothing since then that pathfinders can so quickly turn into "path-hackers"? "Regeneration" seems to mean nothing but an excuse for wholesale destruction & redevelopment these days (i.e. fat profits for developers, whatever happens to the people who live and work in the area.) But are any of the replacement buildings of the same quality (let alone aesthetic appeal) as those they are replacing? I think not. Most modern buildings have a shelf-life of only 40 years, yet cost no less to construct than proper buildings. Not only a scandal in my view, but utterly pathetic compared to the Victorians' record with their more primitive building methods! Why are we the only European country to care so dismally for our heritage? You seldom see this kind of vandalism in France or Germany. They actually value their past. Tourists do not come to the UK to see ghastly executive egg-box housing or soulless office blocks. Nor is it a pleasant environment for the majority to live in who would rather hang onto their beautiful and solid period property that often only needs a few thousand pounds to repair. It is about time we demanded the government change their new-build policy so that it is new builds who have to pay VAT and not old buildings.
Laura King, UK

Congratulations on an excellent programme by Gerry Northam on Northern Pathfinder problems. Might you be interested in a related issue? The underpinning problem is that the lion's share of taxpayers' development money is actually going to the already congested south-east, instead of those parts of the north and west of our country which are generally much less affluent and where there is much greater relative deprivation. By 2460, the centre of mass of the UK population will be at Brighton Pier!- says the country's foremost expert, Professor Danny Dorling, unless we do something to stop the drift to the south-east and reduce the growing disparity between north and south.
Ian Dexter, UK

There is a simple logical inconsistency between fulfilling the needs of communities whose estates have been neglected for 20 years, and achieving optimum profits for most private developers
Dr Simon Abram, Sheffield University
I congratulate you on the disclosure of some devious and some criminal stories. I wonder why the content of these broadcasts isn't given a wider audience? The dangerous road surface story was horrific with possible repercussions beyond comprehension. The regeneration story this week, forgive me if I'm wrong, smacked of deceit. The lady who spoke for the developers couldn't answer the questions put to her and her laughter when refusing to give a definite answer was unbelievable. Carry on the good work in bringing these issues to the public but please don't let them fall into obscurity once aired. Thank you.
Mrs D Davies, England

Well done! I think your programme is the best on Radio 4! And there are many other great programmes on R4. Please keep up the good work. What you do makes me proud to be British in that there are still high quality journalists here. Radio still beats TV easily!
Fred Pickwick, Worcester, UK

I listened with interest to your programme on housing renewal, as I am currently engaged in research on Urban Regeneration. In fact, I am currently making a film about the regeneration of the Norfolk Park housing estate in Sheffield. Your reporter interviewed an academic who suggested that there was insufficient experience of consultation and neighbourhood regeneration to support the current round of renewal. But there has been at least 10 years of experience of similar programmes (or perhaps 20 years, from City Challenge to SRB and Objective One programmes.) What we aim to show in our film is that the partnership model of housing renewal does not allow for full community involvement, despite the rhetoric of participation adopted by this and previous governments. Staff capacity is only a minor issue - if there is still incapacity, it is because lessons have been suppressed, not because lessons are not there to be learned. There is a simple logical inconsistency between fulfilling the needs of communities whose estates have been neglected for 20 years, and achieving optimum profits for most private developers. Although for developers like Urban Splash or the Environment Trust, or similar private, trust or charity based organisations, there is the scope to listen to residents, for most large developers, their overriding concern is to their shareholders whose interests (profit maximisation) are opposite to those of local residents (community focus, low energy-cost housing, etc.). Your point on VAT anomalies is well made, but disguises a larger structural problem of private investment in council housing renewal. With partnership organisations in charge, there is no real accountability for decisions or investments.
Dr Simon Abram
Department of Town and Regional Planning
University of Sheffield

As usual, F-on-4 (Gerry Northam in particular) is beautifully sharp, focused and balanced. You cannot evict people from sound houses, owned by themselves in good faith, for the sake of the "project." It isn't, or shouldn't be, the Prescott way.

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File on 4: Urban regeneration: BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday 8 March, 2005 at 2000 GMT.

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