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Page last updated at 16:13 GMT, Thursday, 25 November 2010
Helmand province description divides Stoke-on-Trent
Demolition in Stoke-on-trent
Parts of the city are undergoing demolition for regeneration

A row has blown up in Stoke-on-Trent over a description by a leading Potteries businessman comparing the city to the Helmand province war-zone in Afghanistan.

Matthew Rice, chief designer at the Emma Bridgewater Pottery, was attacking policies which have led to the loss of heritage areas in the city.

Politicians and local activists in the city have taken sides in the debate.

MP Rob Flello was angered by the views, which he called "pointless sniping".

Newspaper interview

Mathew Rice was talking to the Telegraph Newspaper about the book he has just written, The Lost City of Stoke-on-Trent.

The book celebrates the heritage of the city, but bemoans the loss of significant historic buildings.

Sangin
Sangin, in Helmand, is one of the most dangerous places in the world

In the newspaper interview, he is quoted as saying: "Lose the factories, the civic buildings, the churches and the brick terraces that make up our built environment - and we jeopardise the survival of the city itself.

"If you go around Stoke these days there is lots of bare land where things have been demolished. I've no idea what it looks like in Helmand Province but I get a feeling it would look a little like here."

Conference

At a special conference to launch the book, members of the National Trust, English Heritage, local historians and special guest, the author A.N. Wilson - the son of a Wedgwood managing director - gathered to express concerns about the loss of heritage in the city.

Following the conference, the Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Tristram Hunt said: "After years of neglect, demolition and denial of our history as The Potteries, the city is now celebrating its architecture and urban environment.

"There is a great deal of anger in the community about the widespread demolition that's taken place and, as the regeneration agenda changes, local communities will be able to influence local policy - so perhaps we can now bring the loss of our historic environment to a halt."

However, the comments and views of Mr Rice have caused widespread debate in the city.

Responses

Mervin Smith, Stoke-on-Trent City Council spokesman for city development, said he was unhappy with what Mr Rice had said:

"The city council has worked closely with local ceramics businesses, including Emma Bridgewater Ltd, and is disappointed at the attitude expressed by Matthew Rice. He is perfectly entitled to his opinion, which we respect but cannot agree with."

In addition, Stoke-on-Trent South MP Rob Flello commented on his Twitter feed, saying Matthew Rice's comments in the Telegraph were "pointless sniping".

However, his fellow city MP Tristram Hunt once again repeated his opinion that the city had to be more careful about policies that were leading to loss of heritage.

BBC Radio Stoke , which opened up its lines to comments from the public, found the majority of its callers felt that the city had major issues.

Many said that regeneration of the city had left Stoke-on-Trent with a number of blighted areas where demolition had occurred, and that new build had either not replaced it yet, or left areas worse-off.

Blogs and web-messageboards in the city were also accepting comments on the story.

Mr Rice has been on holiday and unavailable for comment since the launch conference, which took place on Thursday, 18 November.




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