As deputy prime minister John Prescott pledged a £431m package for growth areas in the South-east, CABE warned of the dangers of creating "soulless estates".
This week saw the government announce what has been hailed the "biggest housebuilding programme for 50-years". On Wednesday, in the first update to the Sustainable Communities Plan, deputy prime minister John Prescott announced details of where £431m of public funds will be spent to pump-prime the development of new communities by encouraging the construction of over 200,000 homes in the South-east by 2016. More funding will be allocated later in the year for projects awaiting approval.

However, there is some doubt over whether the government's expectations are realistic. For the plan to succeed the development would need to "lever in" up to £2bn of private investment. Some industry bodies, including the British Property Federation and the House Builders Federation expressed doubts over whether the government's ambitions for the Thames Gateway could be achieved without additional public investment in transport and social and economic infrastructure.

Concerns have also been raised about the quality of the planned developments. Architecture watchdog CABE warned Prescott to avoid the creation of developer led "soulless housing estates" by promoting design-led projects such as Crest Nicholson's Ingress Park scheme in Greenhithe, Kent.

Where the government will be spending its money:

  • Thames Gateway: Here Prescott has earmarked £330m for projects "to accelerate development" in the rundown east London corridor with initiatives such as brownfield reclamation and affordable housing. Over 120,000 homes could be delivered in five strategic locations, all with planned improvements to their transport links. These are: Stratford and the Lower Lea (the site for the Olympic stadiums), Greenwich Peninsula to Woolwich; Barking Reach; Thurrock; and Ebbsfleet (a staging post on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link).

  • Milton Keynes/South Midlands: Together these areas will receive £63m for improvements to transport links and regenerating brownfield sites to accommodate some of the 133,000 homes by 2016. Delivery bodies will be set up to focus on growth in six areas: West Northamptonshire, North Northamptonshire, Milton Keynes; Aylesbury; Bedford; and Luton and Dunstable.

  • Cambridge and Harlow: Cambridge will get £20m to improve transport links to recycle old industrial land at Oakington & Longstanton. While Harlow received £10m to help deliver the Gateway Project for 450 homes and leisure and community facilities close to the town centre.

  • Ashford: Prescott calls the town the "Gateway to Europe". It will receive £8m to help kickstart regeneration of the town centre and build 250 homes. The long-term plan for the town on the Channel Tunnel rail line is for 31,000 homes to be built in the town by 2031.