Cities must be renewed before NHS or money will be 'partly wasted', says former chairman of urban taskforce.
Lord Rogers has attacked the emphasis on health in last week's Budget as "short-sighted", saying the money should have been spent on rebuilding the UK's infrastructure through urban regeneration.

Rogers told Building: "You can't do any project as costly as education or healthcare unless the infrastructure is there. The infrastructure is the city, and it's run down. Otherwise all the money you're going to spend will be partly wasted."

The former urban taskforce chairman added: "The Budget should be repeated in everything, including education and regeneration, because we've lost the skills [in those areas] and we're now a pale shadow of our European competitors."

Rogers chaired the urban taskforce set up by John Prescott in 1998 to recommend ways to revitalise inner cities. He said: "In terms of research the government has done a lot, but in terms of delivery there's a long way to go."

Rogers' comments on urban regeneration were echoed by Jon Rouse, chief executive of architecture watchdog CABE.

He said: "So far, the government has been tentative and piecemeal. There's no real sense of an integrated package, of conviction."

However, he added that the appointment of David Lunts, a former member of the urban taskforce, as director of urban policy at the DTLR should push Rogers' recommendations.

You cannot do any project as costly as health care unless the infrastructure is there

Lord Rogers

Commenting on Rogers' argument, John Voyez, a tax partner at chartered accountant Smith & Williamson, said: "There is some justification in what he said. If you stop someone in the street and ask what they want more money spent on, many would say health or education. But the facts are we do need urban regeneration."

Voyez added that the government was using a tax strategy to assist urban regeneration. He said: "There has been growth in conversion of brownfield sites. In some cases tax breaks can make the difference to whether a project is viable or not."

Rogers' criticism came as industry figures criticised tax breaks aimed at encouraging urban renewal announced in the Budget.

Neil Toner, a property partner at solicitor Lewis Silkin, attacked the way stamp duty on commercial property sales had been changed.

He said abolishing the duty on the basis of geography was not an effective way of targeting aid. He cited the example of Camden Passage, an upmarket retail area in north London, which will now escape stamp duty because it is in a disadvantaged electoral ward.

  • Rogers told Building he was backing London's bid for the 2012 Olympic games in his role as urban regeneration adviser to London mayor Ken Livingstone, but claimed the government had reservations.