Government announces a five-year regeneration timetable in an attempt to stem urban exodus.
The government's urban white paper, published yesterday, has set out a five-year timetable for an urban renaissance in the UK.

A major summit in 2002 will assess progress, to be followed by a full report on the state of towns and cities in 2005. A DETR spokesperson said: "We would expect to see significant improvements already under way in five years."

Key measures include a cabinet committee on urban affairs, to be chaired by local government minister Hilary Armstrong. This will be supported by an urban policy unit within the DETR.

The report signals the start of the delivery phase of the urban renaissance, in which responsibility will be devolved to regional development agencies and local authorities, who are described as "critical agents" of renewal.

They will be expected to form partnerships with community groups and the private sector to bring about rapid change tailored to the needs of their areas. These agencies will also be expected to fund many proposals, including a network of regional centres of excellence, which will serve as a focus for training and debate on the built environment.

The white paper adopts a three-pronged approach to regeneration. It has measures to make towns and cities more attractive to live in, to boost the urban economy and to improve public services. New public service agreements will lay down minimum standards.

Good design is to be placed at the heart of the planning system through a review of PPG1 – the lead planning document containing general policy and the principles for all other planning rules. "With PPG1 we want to signal the importance of urban design in the planning system," said the DETR spokesperson.

The white paper draws on funds promised in the comprehensive spending review this summer and last week's pre-budget statement. This includes more money for public services in towns and cities (£33bn a year by 2003) and a £1bn five-year package of tax incentives to encourage the development of brownfield sites and empty properties.

There are also promises to review section 106 planning gain agreements and compulsory purchase orders in order to make the planning system more effective.

DETR officials claimed the white paper addressed each of the hundred-plus recommendations contained in Lord Rogers' urban taskforce report.

A spokesperson described it as "a very clear response to what Rogers and others have been saying to us".

Key measures

  • New cabinet committee on urban affairs, chaired by local government minister Hilary Armstrong and supported by urban policy unit at DETR
  • Revise lead planning document PPG1 to place high-quality design at the heart of the planning system
  • Establish public-private urban regeneration companies in every region of the country within next two years
  • Relaunch of millennium communities competitions to serve as demonstration projects for sustainable development
  • Establish regional centres of excellence in every region, to facilitate the development of urban regeneration skills and community participation
  • Comprehensive programme to improve all parks and public spaces, including new Green Flag award scheme for excellence