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BBC's Robert Hall
Reports from the Benwell Community Centre in Tyneside
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The BBC's Richard Wells
"Irreversible neighbourhood decline is a problem that won't go away"
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Professor Ian Cole
"Radical rethinking is required"
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Wednesday, 5 January, 2000, 16:52 GMT
Northern estates 'beyond hope'

Newcastle housing estate A derelict housing estate in Newcastle

The best thing to do with some housing estates in the north is to knock them down, a report has said.

The study, for the government-funded Housing Corporation, says regeneration of some areas of the north-east and north-west is pointless and a waste of money.

There is no point in going back to the times when they were there to service coalmines, shipyards and other large industries
Professor Cole
The communities that the estates once served - coal miners and shipyard workers - have disappeared for good and the areas needed to be totally remodelled, the report concludes.

It studied 18 housing estates in cities in Northern England where in some cases millions of pounds have been spent trying to give them a new lease of life.

But report author Professor Ian Cole of the Sheffield-based Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, said some housing estates were "beyond redemption" and should be demolished.

North Benwell: Houses for 50 pence
But his position was attacked by Tory spokesman on the regions John Redwood who said: "Such a policy would be a disaster.

"If you create areas with no hope, all life and vitality drain out of them.

"People become prisoners in a place where things can never get better. There must be no such areas in Britain."

Houses for 50 pence

In the North Benwell area of Newcastle, the local housing association earlier this year offered the public the chance to buy a terraced house for 50 pence, with the promise of extra grants for refurbishment.

But countless properties are still empty and in rapid decline.

Report said some houses were beyond repair
Prof Cole told the BBC: "For some neighbourhoods now, there is no prospect for complete regeneration. Some fairly radical rethinking is required to remodel the estates and in some cases to demolish properties."

He said that 15 years of economic decline in older manufacturing cities, particularly in the coalfields, meant there was little demand for many properties.

He said some should be demolished and area planners needed to be rethink how local communities should be managed.

They should think about the neighbourhood as a whole, not just the housing scheme, he said.

"It's about remodelling the area. It's about demolishing certain types of property that no longer serve the function they once did, and to rethink who will live in some areas.

"There is no point in going back to the times when they were there to service coalmines, shipyards and other large industries, because they've gone forever."

Professor Cole said the problem had been made worse by pointless investment by housing associations.

"In the past many housing associations have carried on creating new properties and there has not been the demand for them," he said.

"Housing investment might be better targeted in other parts of those regions."

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See also:
08 Dec 99 |  Talking Point
Are the poor really getting poorer?
05 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Blair: North-South divide 'a myth'
15 Sep 98 |  UK
800m lifeline for 'no-go' estates
15 Sep 98 |  UK
The long battle against social exclusion
08 Jul 99 |  UK
Buy a flat for 50 pence

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