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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May, 2005, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
'No bulldozer policy' for homes
A derelict home
Derelict homes are a problem in some areas
There is no "bulldozer policy" for demolishing hundreds of thousands of homes in northern England and the Midlands, a minister has claimed.

David Miliband said houses in some areas had to be knocked down because nobody wanted to live there.

But in nine key regeneration areas, 20,000 properties would be refurbished and 10,000 demolished by March 2006.

A regional group which works with government says clearing 167,000 homes in the next decade would not be enough.

1960s mistakes revisited?

Ex-Beatle Ringo Starr is worried his former home, a Victorian terrace in Toxteth, Liverpool, is due to be knocked down - he says such houses should be refurbished.

Conservative local government spokesman Caroline Spelman said the government's demolition plans "demonstrates that none of the lessons have been learnt from the past, when our Victorian heritage was demolished in the 1960s, concrete tower blocks were put up and new towns created".

The Conservatives say up to 400,000 homes could be demolished under government plans to renew run-down areas - a claim hotly disputed by Mr Miliband.

The 400,000 figure stems from a report from the Northern Way group, which is led by three regional development agencies and collaborates with the government.

In a report last September, the group said the Centre for Urban Studies had argued 400,000 homes should be replaced but it stressed other experts believed the figure was lower.

It added: "Based on current rates, over the next 10 years some 167,000 homes will be cleared. This is well below the rate required."

'Completely wrong'

A spokesman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said Northern Way's demolition call was not government policy.

The government would respond to the group's idea when it produced its detailed business plan, he said.

Mr Miliband told BBC News: "We have a programme where, in nine areas of the country where frankly no one wants to live, we are refurbishing 20,000 houses and knocking down 10,000.

"There is twice as much refurbishment going on in these critical areas, where it is very hard to get people either to rent or buy.

"That's a very responsible response to the crisis in the housing market in particular parts of the country. Any notion that this is just a bulldozer policy is completely wrong."

Prince intervention?

An opinion poll in Liverpool had suggested 72% of affected residents approved of the redevelopment plans, added Mr Miliband.

Meanwhile claims that Prince Charles criticised the demolition plans have been denied by Clarence House.

Prince Charles told the Institute of Chartered Accountants: "Old, historic, characterful buildings are knocked down, even though in the longer term it would cost far less in financial, social and environmental terms to refurbish and convert them to other uses, such as residential and mixed use."

A spokesman said the comments were part of the prince's well-publicised broader philosophy on buildings and did not refer to knocking down old homes or one policy area.

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