[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2006, 02:07 GMT
Many council estates 'improving'
Council housing estate
Research was based on 20 estates in the UK
A series of council estates dating back to the 1980s have "turned the tide" of deprivation, according to a report.

London School of Economics researchers, on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), found a reduction in unemployment and empty housing.

But they warned significant gaps still exist between the estates they analysed in England and national norms.

Changes on 20 estates were monitored in London, the Midlands, the North East and the North West over 25 years.

The report refers to improved environmental and education standards, as well as an end to neglected, litter-strewn areas and - in most cases - speedier housing repair services.

Most of the estates have turned from a vicious circle of deprivation and stigma to a virtuous circle of improved popularity and easier management
Rebecca Tunstall
Report author

Most computers will open this document automatically, but you may need Adobe Reader

But researchers have warned that fully closing the gap with national norms will take long-term funding and commitment and is likely to take more than 10 to 20 years.

They found that on 16 of the 20 sites, housing managers and residents felt there were improvements between 1980 and 1995, which had continued to last year.

But progress in the remaining four had halted or reversed, with two of the estates facing major redevelopment.

Researchers found that the concentration of unemployed residents and lone-parent families increased sharply between 1981 and 1991.

But the report states that, since 1991, unemployment has dropped from 34% to 13% in 2001, while concentrations of lone-parent households and children also decreased.

'Economically inactive'

And GCSE performance at estate-linked secondary schools improved between 1994 and 2004 - which is a faster rate than national or local authority averages.

Even problematic estates can be improved and become popular, which suggests caution in criticising council housing and recommending demolition
JRF director Lord Richard Best

But the report also highlighted a number of failings.

It found the health of residents remained poorer than those in other forms of housing.

Furthermore, the proportion who were "economically inactive" - neither working nor looking for a job - had also increased.

And, although concerns over crime appeared to have dropped, worries about anti-social behaviour were increasing.

Improvements were the result of regeneration funding, intensive local management and the involvement of resident groups.

'Virtuous circle'

The research suggested the progress was influenced by national trends of rising employment, falling crime, increasing house prices, and rising educational achievement.

Rebecca Tunstall, the report's author, said: "Most of the estates have turned from a vicious circle of deprivation and stigma to a virtuous circle of improved popularity and easier management."

We will continue to deliver further improvements
Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly

But she added: "A quarter of a century of progress must not be threatened by complacency or a shift of attention from these estates and others like them."

JRF director Lord Richard Best said the report "shows that even problematic estates can be improved and become popular, which suggests caution in criticising council housing and recommending demolition".

'Long-term challenges'

Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly said the report showed "a major turnaround" where council estates were concerned, although she also warned against complacency.

She said building on improvements would provide "complex long-term challenges".

"Through sustained investment in schools, housing, Sure Start, the local environment, measures to reduce anti-social behaviour and government's unshakeable commitment, we will continue to deliver further improvements," Ms Kelly added.

The JRF said the names of the 20 estates examined would not be disclosed for reasons of confidentiality.


Is your council estate improving? Or is it beyond repair? Do you have any pictures of your estate? If so, you can send them to yourpics@bbc.co.uk




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The report author on Britain's 'improving' estates



SEE ALSO
Q&A: Housing supply review
17 Mar 04 |  Business

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific