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The BBC's Rory Maclean
"If people cannot be persuaded to stay in towns the cost to the countryside will be high"
 real 56k

Chairman of the urban task force, Lord Rogers
"It's a much better step than I had expected"
 real 28k

Thursday, 16 November, 2000, 09:48 GMT
Urban regeneration boost unveiled
Derelict flats
The government wants to clear up urban decay
Plans to turn the tide of people leaving towns and cities in England to set up home in the country are being unveiled, reports BBC local government correspondent Rory Maclean.

Well over 1,000 people a week are leaving English towns and cities to get away from urban life.

More and more people will be living on their own in the future, according to forecasts, which have predicted a need for nearly four million new homes in the next 20 years.

It is cheaper for developers to build new homes on greenfield sites because they do not have to pay VAT on them, while they do have to pay VAT on converting and re-using old buildings.

This means there is increasing pressure on the countryside as people try to get a slice of the rural idyll.

Graffiti in deprived urban area
Graffiti: A common inner city sight
Thursday's Urban White Paper is part of the government's response to the report last year from the Urban Taskforce, which was led by the architect Lord Rogers of Riverside.

The White Paper runs alongside a series of tax breaks that were promised in Chancellor Gordon Brown's pre-budget statement last week.

These include cutting, although not abolishing, the VAT on the conversion and repair of old buildings, and cutting stamp duty on homes in certain areas in towns and cities.

Stamp duty is a tax paid on homes worth 60,000 or more.

It is understood the White Paper will include a number of other measures designed to promote urban living.

New cabinet committee

The amount the government has allocated to this fund is thought to be considerably less than the 500m the Urban Taskforce wanted.

The mission statement of the whole planning system will be re-written to promote the urban renaissance the government wants, and architects and planners will see the promotion of centres of excellence to circulate ideas that work.

The whole effort, which will also attempt to co-ordinate policy on health, education and economic regeneration, will be overseen by a new urban cabinet committee.

There is a suggestion that there will be an urban summit in two years time to check on progress.

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See also:

08 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Breathing life into dead spaces
30 Jun 00 | UK
Rogers: Put cities first
10 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Boost for inner cities
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