The government’s Thames Gateway policy comes under the lash as Rogers’ urban taskforce lists alleged failures and urges Prescott to attach more importance to good design and sustainable communities

The government’s regeneration policy has been dismissed as “thoughtless”, “number-driven” and “cheap”, in two reports written by leading experts.

The urban taskforce, chaired by Richard Rogers, has denounced deputy prime minister John Prescott’s plans for growth areas, as predicted by Building on 16 September. The taskforce said there had been some progress since 1999 but not on the scale required to deliver the right sort of sustainable communities.

The second report, commissioned by consultant Stan Hornagold, has warned that the government was unlikely to be able to hit its target of 200,000 extra houses in the South-east by 2016.

The taskforce told the government that it must bring in minimum density levels for regeneration schemes and attacked development activity as “delivery” rather than “design” focused

.The report, Towards a Strong Urban Renaissance, said: “Too many housing projects are thoughtlessly laid out groups of cheaply built housing … the need for short-term ‘numbers’ is overtaking the need for long-term vision.”

It warned the government not to focus on the four growth areas but instead to concentrate on the renewal of towns and cities.

Too much is thoughtlessly laid out cheaply built housing

Extract from taskforce report

Taskforce member Anne Power denounced some of the schemes to demolish terraced housing in the north as part of the renewal pathfinders. She said the plans were “clumsy” and “wasteful”.

On the Thames Gateway the taskforce said the regeneration area was suffering from a “piecemeal” approach. It said: “It’s one of the great regeneration opportunities in the world and we’re failing to live up to the opportunity.”

The taskforce urged the government to:

  • Turn all social housing estates into mixed tenure communities by 2012
  • Create stronger incentives to encourage affordable housing development on infill sites covering less than two acres
  • Increase the proportion of new housing on brownfield sites to 75% by 2010
  • Develop brownfield sites first in growth areas
  • Raise the minimum standard for residential development to 40 dwellings a hectare and make other schemes subject to a recall
  • Extend the Code for Sustainable Buildings to all new housing by the end of 2006
  • Give regional development agencies a stronger remit to prioritise urban regeneration and good design
  • Have one delivery body for every regeneration area to eliminate overlap
  • Cut VAT on all repairs and renovations
  • Make developers compete on design and not just financial grounds when bidding for sites

Taskforce member Sir Peter Hall confirmed that a recommendation that the growth areas should be scrapped had been dropped from the report.

The taskforce attacked plans to demolish northern terraces and develop only the Gateway’s growth areas
The taskforce attacked plans to demolish northern terraces and develop only the Gateway’s growth areas