1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: "cpeo@cpeo.org" <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: Fri, 23 Jul 1999 12:42:30 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: UK News: "Desolate and deserted cities"
BBC News

Desolate and deserted cities 

The Langworthy estate in the city of Salford is beginning to wear what are
seen as the scars of a national trend. 

Increasing numbers of residents are packing up and moving away - and nobody
is moving into the homes they leave behind. 

A number of factors including unemployment and escalating crime have
resulted in the estate, and the value of its properties, plummeting in

Local authority tenants simply do not want to be housed there - and some
owner occupiers are cutting their losses and abandoning homes that are now
worth just a fraction of their purchase price. Almost by the week, another
household ups and leaves. 

It's the same story in other areas of Salford. Streets of boarded-up, empty
terraces are not uncommon. 

In these parts of the city, the normal rules of property sale have gone out
of the window. One estate agent told BBC researchers the only way he could
sell houses on one estate was to offer two for 9,000 - and throw in a
third for free. 

Others said they had heard of property transactions taking place between
individuals in pubs, and being paid for in cash. 

Salford city officials are not unaware or inactive about the problems -
indeed, the city council's deputy chief executive Tony Struthers is on the
Urban Task Force, and was chairman of the Town Planning Institute last year. 

Tuesday's report from the task force - headed by Labour peer Richard Rogers
- pinpoints a number of measures to encourage people to return to
inner-city areas. 

The report was sparked by the country's projected need for a further 4.2m
households over the next few years. 

Wide-ranging recommendations from the architect include improving the
design of buildings, cutting back on traffic congestion and providing tax
incentives for those who invest in city areas. 

Taking notes from European success stories, his vision is for urban
dwellers to enjoy safety and quality of life, without encroaching on the
countryside surrounding them. 

The wholesale abandonment of estates in Salford - and other pockets of
northern England - is as tied up in issues of social housing surpluses as
it is in any great crush to leave the city. But Langworthy still has a bid
in for 25m government regeneration funds. 

Head of Sheffield Hallam University's Urban and Regional Studies centre,
Steve Cocker, explains that because there were too many local authority
homes in some areas, situations like the one in Salford are able to occur. 

People who are able to buy a home and leave socially excluded areas do so,
and because there is a decrease in demand for the housing stock, it stays
empty and a downward spiral starts as more people seek to leave an
increasingly troubled area. 

But, he said, there is a real need to regenerate inner cities, especially
in the north of England, where traditional industries have left gaping
holes in local economies. 

"Most of our investment has been in cities, and the health of our economy
is inextricably tied up with the health of our cities," he said. 

"And if people are leaving the cities, the people that are left behind are
going to be subjected to even greater social exclusion. Those are the three
key reasons why we need to address the problems faced by many of our cities." 

Bottom line is providing work 

He said that while he applauded many of the "common sense" measures
outlined in Lord Rogers' report, especially tax incentives for inner city
developers, the bottom line was providing work for urban dwellers. 

He said: "All the cities that have been highlighted as achieving good
things in this report have booming economies. 

"No amount of pleasant architecture is going to create communities that
people want to live in if they have no work. 

"What makes people move is their job. If people had jobs to move to in the
cities then they would move back into them." 

And he said that while gentrification of certain urban areas was once seen
as a bad thing, it was now essential to pull as many people, and their
earning and spending potential, into the
cities as possible. 

The report's glaring omission, he said, was a call for training of urban
regenerators. "We need a whole new class of professional," he said, "To
address what is going to be one of the biggest issues of the next century." 

Alan Middleton, co-director of the centre for Public Policy and Urban
Change at the University of Central England, said it would be crucial to
the future of urban environments to ensure that city dwellers have access
to work. 

He praised the report, saying it was probably the best on urban
regeneration seen in recent years. 

But he added: "There's an ever increasing concentration of poverty in inner
cities. People living in most deprived areas have the least access to the
labour force - ethnic minorities, single parents, the elderly. 

"It is important that we look not just at how many of these new households
we need to put into cities - but who we are going to put where." 

Back in Salford, many of the reports recommendations are already in practice. 

The plan to get regeneration cash for Langworthy has involved what is
thought to be the biggest consultation exercise carried out with owner

Council leader Bill Hinds said: "We know from experience that creating
attractive houses makes no difference to local people's lives unless you
also look at education, jobs, health and all the other social issues which
create a vibrant community. 

"It takes a lot of determination from all partners and the support of the
community is vital." 

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