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Friday, 29 November, 2002, 07:50 GMT
'Gated' community warning
Newcastle Quayside
Is the risk greater in northern cities?
The growth of US-style "gated" communities threatens to divide Britain's cities into rich and poor ghettos, a report has warned.


The number of gated communities in the UK is very small compared to America

Julian Kenyon, property developer
Well-off city dwellers are increasingly shutting themselves away in high-security compounds, with surveillance cameras, electronic gates and even private security guards, according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The trend is being driven by fear of crime.

But if it is allowed to develop unchecked, it will breed hostility and threaten the social cohesion of the UK's cities, the surveyors warn.

Ghettos

In its Urban White Paper, the government says it wants balanced, socially-mixed communities.

But RICS says not enough is being done to prevent urban "polarisation".

Without tough government action to make developers include more social housing in their schemes, there is a danger ghettos will spring up, as in many US cities.

According to the RICS report up to 12% of Americans live in "gated communities", often with their own shops and leisure facilities.

At the same time, around 15% of the population is trapped in poor ghettos.

RICS claims the government seems unaware of the same trend developing in the UK and unwilling to use the planning system to nip it in the bud.

The problem was already fuelling the growth of property "hot spots" and "cold spots" in some areas of the country, its report Building Balanced Communities: The US and UK Compared claims.

'Catalyst'

RICS chief executive Louis Armstrong said the danger is particularly acute in cities such as Newcastle, where luxury riverside apartments selling for 1m are next door to "unsellable" properties in deprived areas.

Mr Armstrong told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the gap between rich and poor in the UK's cities was "probably worse now than at any time since the Second World War".

He conceded there were "some very good examples in the UK where bringing middle income or well-off people into run down city centres has been a catalyst" for regeneration.

But, he added, there was a danger that better-off people would start to "exclude" themselves from the wider community, by having "their own shops, their own refuse disposal, their own security police".

Restricted access

RICS says that although residents feel safer in gated communities, it is more of a perception than a reality.

Research in the US suggests that gating may not deter criminals and initial studies in the UK suggest the same.

Infact there is evidence that such developments may actually encourage crime by pin-pointing rich enclaves, the origanisation adds.

Gates may also restrict police access and fences can provide criminals with cover.

'Demand'

But Julian Kenyon, of Bellway Homes, the company behind one of the UK's few large-scale gated communities, said the issue "was not as serious as RICS is making out".

He said: "The number of gated communities in the UK is very small compared to America."

Such communities were "appropriate in some circumstances, where the demand exists".

And tighter home security was a "feature people are asking for because they are concerned about their personal possessions."

Football

He said Bellway had some "excellent examples" of gated communities in places such as Manchester, where run-down areas had been "regenerated".

Bellway is also the principle developer at Wynyard Woods, a gated community built on nine square miles of land at Lord Londonderry's former estate, on Teesside.

The development, which has its own pub, restaurant and even cricket pitch, was begun in 1994, on Teesside, on land belonging to Sir John Hall.

The main gates close at 7pm each night.

Players from Newcastle United and Sunderland football clubs have homes there.

See also:

26 Nov 02 | Business
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