Town halls key to urban renaissance

16 Nov 00
Councils have been placed at the forefront of transforming run-down city centres in the biggest shake-up in British urban regeneration policies for almost 25 years.

17 November 2000

In the government's long-awaited Urban white paper, ministers were due to put the onus on councils to lead local initiatives in making city centres more attractive places and to stem the tide of people moving to the countryside.

Ministers have decided that it is almost impossible for an urban renaissance to take place without the central involvement of councils.

And, hinting at a renewed call for mayors, ministers have demanded strong local leadership for this renaissance.

The paper also gives the green light for councils to use extra business rate funds in the fight against urban deprivation.

Regional development agencies will also be given a beefed-up role in developing urban strategy and, for the first time, all their funds will be placed in one pot.

The government will also set-up a new Cabinet committee for urban affairs and an urban policy unit within the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

About £140bn will be made available. The government said this will include an extra £33bn by 2003/04, which will be drawn from money and tax incentives announced in the Spending Review and the Pre-Budget Report.

The white paper has addressed, if not agreed with, about 70% of what was included in the report published last year by Lord Rogers' urban task force.

John Rouse, secretary of the task force and chief executive at the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, said the paper was helpful but more was needed. 'It's good but it is only a start. We hope to see a second policy paper in about three years' time,' he said.

Other initiatives due to be announced by the government on November 16 included the creation of up to 12 urban regeneration companies. These will draw on the money and resources of private and public sector organisations that try to attract inward investment.

Local architectural centres, an idea imported from the Netherlands, will be set up. These aim to get local people involved in deciding on the style of new buildings.

The planning system will also be overhauled, with a commitment to put urban renaissance at the top of planning decisions.

A centre of excellence will be created in the North West. Esther Knight, assistant director at the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, said this would promote best practice on regeneration services.


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