1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: "cpeo@cpeo.org" <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: Fri, 23 Jul 1999 12:40:43 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: UK News: "New Life for England's cities"
BBC News

New life for England's cities 

A task force headed by world-famous architect Lord Rogers of Riverside has
called on the UK Government to revive English cities by reversing urban rot
and stopping suburban sprawl. 

The Urban Task Force, created by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and
chaired by the former Richard Rogers, announced a series of recommendations
on how to improve cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle at a
news conference. 

"Urban renaissance will improve the quality of life for everyone living in
England's towns and cities," said Lord Rogers, the man responsible for the
Lloyds of London buildings and the Millennium Dome. 

The government, which commissioned the task force to come up with ideas on
reversing the spiral of urban decline, hopes to create millions more city
homes for the next century. 

Millions of homes needed

Whitehall bureaucrats say 3.8 million new households will be needed by
2021, and the government wants these to be on existing "brownfield" sites
rather than untouched "greenfield" countryside. 

The task force has spent more than a year looking at practical ways to stem
the population drift from city to countryside. 

In a report, entitled Towards An Urban Renaissance, the task force suggests: 

*  Reducing value added tax (VAT) on brownfield building from 17% to zero
to bring it into line with greenfield sites

*  Persuading the Ministry of Defence, Department of Transport, health
authorities and other government agencies to release hundreds of acres of
unused urban land 

*  Establishing a Renaissance Fund with a 500m war chest to spend on urban

*  Create Home Zones, where pedestrians have the right of way over cars and

Lord Rogers said that, with the exception of some wealthy and well looked
after areas of London, there was need for change in all English cities. 

"Our cities are in a very bad state, we are probably at the bottom of the
European league," Lord Rogers told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. 

"Cities with an industrial heritage have been destroyed, they are full of
gaps left by empty buildings and brown land." 

The report says future regeneration must be based on the principles of
design excellence, social well-being and environmental responsibility. 

Inner-city tax havens? 

It says people should be encouraged to live closer to work, and communities
should be rebuilt with shops, schools and other facilities are within easy

Transport links are a vital part of this strategy, to encourage people to
ditch their cars and make more use of buses, trains, bicycles and even
their own two feet. 

Practical solutions include scaling back the amount of greenfield sites
ear-marked for house building but not already given planning permission -
and making it clear to developers they will not get planning permission for
greenfield sites in the future. 

The report also floated the idea of inner-city areas become "tax havens"
where low rates of council tax might encourage people to move back to the
area from the suburbs.

Lord Rogers also wants more continental-style open public spaces, parks,
and tree-lined avenues. 

Manchester praised 

The report praises cities where such schemes are already being encouraged. 

It cites cases of good practice in Ipswich, Portsmouth, Rochester, Bristol,
London, Birmingham, Nottingham, Leicester, Leeds, Halifax, Harrogate, York,
Tyne and Wear and Stockton-on-Tees. 

Manchester was picked out for specific praise for the regeneration of the
Canal Street area, and Glasgow for its recognition of the importance of
culture and street life. 

But Liverpool was criticised. The city has lost 36% of its population since
1961, and has thousands of empty residential and commercial properties. It
also suffers from high unemployment and high crime. 

'No strategic overview'

The report said the authorities in Liverpool had failed to take a proper
strategic overview of the city's needs in the wake of its decline. 

But the Leader of Liverpool City Council, Councillor Mike Storey, told BBC
News Online: "There is strong evidence that Liverpool's decline has been
reversed - most notably in the city centre where there is currently 1bn
worth of investment." 

He said a new company was being set up on Wednesday to fund the
regeneration of Liverpool. 

Lord Rogers said the UK could learn a lot from urban regeneration schemes
in the Netherlands and Barcelona.

Plans under fire 

But the idea of moving people back to the cities has been criticised in
some quarters. 

Property developers say creating attractive new homes for families on old
industrial sites often means expensive clean-up operations first. 

The Civic Trust has warned of too many incentives to lure people back to

Director Mike Gwilliam said: "It is dangerous to have incentives like that
because it will lead to divisions. 

"Our view is to tread very carefully on this because we don't want to
create a divide between town and country." 

The government will study the 200 proposals before deciding which to accept
and implement. 

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