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Rogers heads brownfield task force to ginger up councils

Lord Rogers has been drafted in to help councils - or give them a 'kick up the backside' - on urban housing, by identifying enough 'recycled' derelict and unused land for 60 per cent of the projected 4.4 million new homes.

Rogers' appointment to the brownfield task force is seen as a last-ditch attempt by Labour to rescue its eco-friendly image. It is also hoped it will take the steam out of an expected 200,000strong demonstration in London by the countryside lobby next week.

John Prescott announced the task force details in the House of Commons this week. He said the target for urban development would rise by 10 per cent to 60 per cent. Regional planning conferences would have more say in meeting local demands, in a move to abandon 'simplistic predict and provide' methods. Experts believe he is holding fire on a greenfield tax.

Construction minister Nick Raynsford told the AJ: 'The task force will look at imaginative ways of identifying and bringing into use brownfield land.

It will be concerned with detailed analysis of all the land, good practices and imaginative housing schemes.'

The announcement came on the same day as a report showing that 1700 people move from towns to countryside each week. 'Urban Exodus', by the Council for the Protection of Rural England, said the drift was more marked from leafy London suburbs than sprawling northern conurbations. The CPRE called for 'financial carrots and sticks to encourage better use of rundown urban sites'.

Neil Sinden, CPRE head of planning, warned that Lord Rogers' task force should not be just a talking shop, but equally should not take responsibility away from the regions. The key to its success would be to replace 'predict and provide' housing projections with comprehensive local studies of urban as well as green belt areas, he said.

Friends of the Earth called for a national target of 75 per cent of new homes on urban land. Housing campaigner Simon Festing said Prescott's statement did little to prove the countryside was safe in Labour's hands.'

'Planning for the Communities of the Future', government command paper 3885, costs £5.65 from the Stationery Office.

Vast areas of central London could be freed up for housing development in central London with the development of a 'ring rail' in the capital, planning expert Peter Hall announced this week.

Speaking at the launch of the Architecture Foundation's roadshow, Hall referred to 'vast railway wastelands where train lines cross one another - cross but hardly ever connect'. The creation of a 'ring rail' in London could, Hall argued, act as the nucleus for new developments. In Hammersmith alone, where the roadshow was launched, there was potential for four new stations, Hall said - at West Brompton/Earls Court, Shepherds Bush/White City, North Pole, and Willesden Junction.

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