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Monday, 2 October, 2000, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Living for the city

As Labour prepares to launch its Urban White Paper, the Tories have come up with their own plans for helping Britain's inner cities. But what have been the major steps in urban regeneration?

Launching what has been called his most important conference so far, Conservative leader William Hague zeroed in on traditional Labour territory - the inner cities.

The Tory leader set out a radical plan aimed at pumping new life into Britain's troubled urban areas.

Tower block and Prince Charles
Giant ambitions: The Tories want to demolish tower blocks
His raft of initiatives included tearing down 1960s' tower blocks, putting police helpdesks in shops and getting retired GPs back into surgeries.

Whether it will be enough to win over sceptical voters remains to be seen. After all, the political urge to lift rundown inner city areas is nothing new.

Government first took up the cause of urban regeneration in the mid-1970s, under Labour's then environment secretary, Peter Shore.

The effects of rising unemployment, poor housing and immigration presented Britain with its gravest "economic, social and physical crisis", said Mr Shore in 1976.

By the early 1980s, a wave of rioting in areas such as Brixton, in south London, and Liverpool's Toxteth forced the Conservative government to take action.

But almost 20 years later, the job is far from done. After a downward trend in crime figures, robberies are rising again in some urban districts.

Loft apartment
Lofty ambitions: Some dwellers seek out an inner city abode
Poverty, bad schools, a shortage of police officers, pollution and polarisation of communities have all contributed to an exodus from the inner cities.

What has been done so far to renew our urban landscape?

Urban Development Corporations

Set up in the early 1980s under Margaret Thatcher's environment secretary, Michael Heseltine, UDCs targeted deprived areas such as central Manchester, the Black Country and London's Docklands.

Now defunct, UDCs spent billions of pounds stimulating property developments such as Castlefield in Manchester and Newcastle's Quayside.

But critics said they focussed too heavily on physical change while disregarding social regeneration. As a result, the scheme often failed to tackle localised unemployment.

Canada Tower
Towering above the rest: Canary Wharf is the best-known urban renewal project
Armed with the power to compulsorily purchase land and headed by unelected boards, UDCs often found their authority resented by local councils.

Faith in the City

In 1985, the Church of England severely rebuked the Conservative government for its failure to address the problems of Britain's declining urban districts.

The report, called Faith in the City, was dismissed by one cabinet member for promoting "Marxist theology". Ten years later the Church returned to the theme, saying the gap between rich and poor had "grown much wider".

City Challenge

Launched by John Major in 1991, City Challenge invited councils to bid for funds to renew rundown areas. Those that were successful received 37.5m to spend over five years.

The scheme was set up to deal with depravation in more depth, says Gerald Cary Elwes, of the British Urban Regeneration Association. It realised physical and social regeneration were dependant on each other, he says.

Single Regeneration Budget

Michael Heseltine
Victory, but urban regeneration is far from complete
Another Major initiative, the SRB was a re-packaging of government grants. The aim was to make it easier for local authorities to apply for funds.

Widely acclaimed as a successful move, SRB has just gone through a sixth round of funding.

Urban Taskforce

Set up two years ago by John Prescott and chaired by the acclaimed architect Lord Rogers, Urban Taskforce was an attempt by Labour for a more cohesive approach to urban renewal.

Last year, the taskforce made 100 recommendations aimed at raising the quality of urban life in England, and urged the government to be "bold in its thinking".

A key theme was to use public finance and incentives to steer the market towards "opportunities for lasting regeneration".

Among the taskforce's key recommendations were cutting VAT on home conversions to 5% - the same level as new-build homes; subsidising insurance premiums for homes and cars; and creating safe routes to schools.

The government's Urban White Paper, due out this autumn, is expected to draw heavily on the work of the taskforce.

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02 Oct 00 | Conservatives
Hague promises inner-city revival
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