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Don't fear transport

technical & practice - feedback

Terence Bendixson makes some interesting points in his article, 'A British tug of war' (AJ 30.1.03), but seems flawed in his belief that the 'social standing' of the chattering classes will be the key to the urban renaissance.

As a matter of fact, driving up prices, which has been the result of the invasion of celebrities into previously working class residential areas, has worked to the detriment of local people unable to afford the cost of accommodation. With the urban poor landing a windfall from inflated house values and prospective home owners being unable to afford a foot on the urban ladder, it is no wonder there is a move out to the suburbs.

But isn't this description typical of the historic flux of cities? The wealthy move outwards for better services, space and cleaner air; then, as the poorer residents sell up and follow, city-centre living becomes more attractive and the rich move back in. There is nothing magical about this.Nor is it an 'urban renaissance'. It is the organic ring (or donut) progress typical of most developing cities.

What is different, I suppose, is the column inches given over to worrying about it.

To suggest, as the Independent Transport Commission's report, The Land Use Effects of the Ten-Year Plan does, that investing in railways is a problem because it might encourage outward movement from cities is a) tenuous, b) paranoid, and c) makes me realise that maybe we should redefine what it is we are celebrating about renaissance ideals if we are afraid of increased mobility.

Perhaps the chattering classes are afraid of allowing the oiks the opportunity of following them out to the country this time.

Gregor Bentley Planning consultant Richmond-upon-Thames

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