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Monday, 4 November, 2002, 10:33 GMT
Can Britain's cities be made more attractive?
The UK's first ever summit on urban regeneration is being held in Birmingham.
The summit will debate the progress of the government's plans to redevelop Britain's most rundown cities and improve transport links.
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott will use the summit to set out new planning measures forcing developers to provide more houses on smaller sites.
The plans are designed to solve the growing crisis in affordable homes for key public service workers such as teachers, nurses and firefighters.
But the proposals come amid claims by the Liberal Democrats that many regeneration schemes were failing to spend money allocated to them.
Can Britain's cities be made more attractive places to live? Has your city changed for the better? What lessons can be learned from other cities around the world?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Lindsay, Hoxton, London
One simple action. Select the 20 most run-down and deprived areas and make then corporation tax-free zones. Regeneration isn't a job for government, but creating the conditions in which private individuals and enterprise will do the regeneration for them is.
Remove excessive paperwork and regulation, and make it easier for small businesses to succeed, and British cities will regenerate themselves, just as cities in the US, like Pittsburgh, that were previously complete dumps until small business took over. If you want small entrepreneurs to work at smartening places up, planning is the problem, not the solution.
I applaud the Government for recognising the stark link between clean and safe communities and a good quality of life. I just hope that they do rationalise the legislative powers already in place and not invent even more regulatory burdens on us.
Fran Beaton, UK
Many large British cities need a really good clean. In this aspect Britain lags behind our continental cousins like Germany and the like, who manage to maintain surprisingly good hygiene in their multi-million cities.
Rubbish bins, and some lessons on how to place items of litter in them would be a good start!
It is too late for this government. These words are widely seen as no more than the latest empty spin attempt from a government bereft of ideas and at a loss of how to implement any which it manages to come up with.
One obvious first step - do something about all the people that accost you when walking down any city street. Not just beggars, but people handing out advertising flyers (which are inevitably dropped immediately, adding to the litter problem), soliciting money for charities, or just acting as advertising hoardings for local shops. Surely the laws preventing "Obstruction of the highway" could be enforced a bit more vigorously?
Throughout the UK, our street furniture is designed with only function and cost in mind, aesthetics are rarely even a consideration. Mind you that is hardly surprising when so many people around the UK care so little with mindless vandalism, graffiti and threatening behaviour. Until we as a society can show that such behaviour will not be tolerated, things will not get better.
I will soon be joining the record population exodus from London, not because I dislike city life (the opposite in fact), but because I simply can no longer tolerate the problems. You have to expect a few problems in any big city, but London, in just the last 4-5 years has become increasingly filthy, congested, crime ridden and unpleasant. A quiet village in rural Oxfordshire beckons for me next year. Yes, it's pressure on the countryside, but why should I have to live in constant fear of crime and the wanton destruction of my property?
We could start by displaying some civic pride and citizenship - for once we should look back to the "good old days". We don't need to knock down all the developments from the 50s and 60s.. just look after them better, light them well and instil some civic spirit in the residents. Many small changes make a big impact.
David Jones, UK
Who has rattled Prescott's cage then. He will do the same for the UK inner cities as he did for Transport. NOTHING.
Our cities are suffering from the lack of funding over the last two or three decades. JK Galbraith came up with the expression "private wealth, public squalor" and it certainly applies in many areas, even in London, one of the richest cities in the world. The problem is that nobody wants to pay for improvements, whether it is transport, street cleaning or police. We expect to get it on the cheap and then blame politicians when it doesn't work.
One of the main problems with lack of housing in London is the fact that people insist of having 3 bed semis with garage and gardens. Builders should be thinking of developing more flats. In other big cities living in flats is pretty much the norm.
Get rid of the "concrete jungle" effect which looks dirty, dull, and depressing. Build more parks and open spaces. Plant more trees and gardens. Provide more waste bins. Renovate and reuse old and disused buildings and land. Pedestrianise city centres. Then perhaps our cities can be nice places to live. At the moment our cities are so grim there is no way I would live in any of them.
Changed for the better? Increasing crime, increasing congestion problems, increasing political blunders, I doubt it! What Britain desperately needs is a revolution! Maybe then someone will stop and listen.
Two words, litter and grafitti. It's very simple, combine the jobs of traffic wardens and litter pickers and suddenly we'd be in a much more attractive environment!
I think that the British people should have a lot more pride in themselves and the country for a start. And then we should knock down almost all 1950s and 60s buildings as I have yet to see one that is nice.
European cities have proved that we actually need less "pedestrianisation" (and I speak as someone who walks to work). We desperately need vibrant town centres, not glorified shopping precincts which become deserted and unsafe after 6pm.
Building on "brown field" sites should be more actively encouraged; tax breaks given to people and firms who redevelop buildings that have stood idle for years; and tower blocks should be destroyed and replaced by communities of houses. Also each one of us should take responsibility for improving the environment wherever we are i.e. no littering, cleaning up outside our homes, offices etc. We can't rely on Government to do everything for us.
There are too many 'concrete blocks' in the city centres. We need more colour, more trees. We shouldn't be building more houses on smaller amounts of land, unless we want concrete-country, which I am sure will discourage tourists and make England look worse than it already is!
The thing that would most improve the City of Bristol is nothing to do with the buildings; it's the reduction in drugs and street crime. I work in central Bristol and am regularly approached by aggressive beggars and sworn at by prostitutes. My car has suffered over £4000 of vandalism in the last 3 years. The gutters are full of dirt, litter and discarded hypodermic needles. The Centre is now almost intolerable in the evening due to marauding gangs of youths. Addressing those problems would do far more to improve the atmosphere of the city than anything else.
Chris B, England
Of course Britain's cities can be made more attractive. They could hardly get any worse.
Even places like York are a complete mess. The city centre has been transformed into a tourist-tat shopping arcade and theme park, whilst all the major shops relocate to the out-of-town parks.
The UK, England in particular, is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and will continue to be due to demographics, including increased net migration forecast over the next decade. Yet England's 'green & pleasant land' is at a premium. These are the stark facts; we have a duty to reinvigorate our inner cities to prevent urban sprawl. Future generations will not forgive us for getting the policy wrong.
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