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Wednesday, 20 March, 2002, 21:41 GMT
Northern cities face 'devastation'
"Row upon row of houses are lying abandoned"
Large areas of cities in northern England are in danger of becoming a devastated no-man's land, MPs have warned.

Whole streets of houses in cities such as Manchester and Liverpool have become empty, a report by the Commons Select Committee for Transport, Local Government and the Regions said.

Many people were left with homes of little value because they were surrounded by vandalised and boarded-up properties.

The committee said the government needed a programme of large-scale demolition and rebuilding costing hundreds of millions of pounds a year to help the areas recover.

Northern cities will consist of a city centre surrounded by a devastated no-man's land

Select committee

The most recent figures - for April 2000 - showed that 844,100 homes were in areas of low demand or at risk of decline, but the situation is believed to have become considerably worse since then, the report said.

One man living in Moss Side, Manchester told the committee the value of his parent's home had fallen to 700 - the price they paid 43 years ago.

Another home had 74,000 in improvements, but went on the market for 5,000.

Private landlords were said to be buying virtually worthless homes and using them to house tenants on benefit.

'Desperate problems'

Committee chairman Andrew Bennett said: "During this inquiry, the committee visited Burnley, Bootle, Liverpool and Manchester and was shocked to see the scale of the problem of empty homes and low demand, with row upon row of terraced houses lying abandoned.

"Many people wrote to tell us about the desperate problems they face living in such areas.

"They cannot sell their houses, they face negative equity and suffer very high crime rates, anti-social neighbours and collapsing local services.

"This is a massive problem and it is getting worse.

Desirable places

"The government will not meet its target to turn around the incidence of low demand by 2010 with its current policies.

"It needs a new approach which creates desirable places to live in our inner urban areas, attracting new residents back from the suburbs."

    The select committee findings:

  • Whole estates might have to be replaced

  • Housing confidence needs boosting

  • Far more "brownfield" homes are needed

  • "Greenfield" sites should be curbed

    The report concludes: "The alternative is that our Northern cities will consist of a city centre surrounded by a devastated no-man's land encompassed in turn by suburbia.

    "In inner urban areas, disadvantaged residents will increasingly see their standards of living diminish even further and the costs to communities, businesses and the public services increase."

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    See also:

    19 Mar 02 | England
    England running out of new homes
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