Prescott 'French ghetto' warning
From the BBC news website
Tuesday, 22 November 2005, 10:20 GMT
Lord Rogers says new building plans hold opportunities and risks
John Prescott's housebuilding programme could "fuel social tension" and create French-style ghettos if the expansion is poorly planned, it has been warned.
Architect Lord Rogers said plans for thousands of new homes in South East England were a huge opportunity.
But the Urban Task Force chairman said poor design could blight the scheme and urged quality to be put over quantity.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister welcomed the report as a "valuable contribution" to the housing debate.
As many as 578,000 new homes could be built across the South East of England by 2026 but Mr Prescott is concerned the process is too slow and too expensive.
He has launched a pilot scheme to find homes that could be built for £60,000.
In a new report, Lord Rogers said social integration and good design should be a key priority - and the new homes should be built on previously-used land, not greenfield sites.
Launching the report, Lord Rogers said Mr Prescott's plans could "deliver so much" but he warned "the wrong approach now could saddle generations to come with a legacy of failure. Quantity should not be placed before quality."
He said: "Creating ghettos of poorly designed environments can fuel social tension and exacerbate social conflict as recent events in France have shown.
"Integration is the key to modern urban living. So much has been achieved in the UK. Don't fail England's towns and cities at this crucial time."
Lord Rogers also said more should be done to encourage the middle classes to move into inner city areas.
"There's a lot of single and small families (moving into the inner cities) rather than the middle classes.
"And, of course, if the middle classes move out then you get a polarisation and often an ethnic polarisation," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
The Urban Task Force was first brought together by Mr Prescott in 1998.
Its new report - Towards a Strong Urban Renaissance - warns presses for one organisation to lead the regeneration of every area.
And it says design competitions should be used to ensure the quality of the projects.
Lord Rogers said: "This is a pivotal time for urban regeneration. We must take a long term view."
The "terrifying threat" of climate change added to the need for well-planned, energy efficient development, he said.
Lord Rogers went on: "Plans to build new housing in the south east, demolish abandoned housing in the north and radically reshape east London for the 2012 Olympics Games are monumental opportunities.
A spokesman for Mr Prescott's office said: "As the report itself acknowledges, this government's urban policy has been the most significant and successful for at least a generation."
He said the re-use of brownfield land had been encouraged, and on average 70% of new development was on brownfield land, compared with 56% in 1997.
He added that the government agreed that it had still had further to go to "meet the challenges of continuing the urban renaissance, and incorporating design excellence into our living and working environment".