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Heseltine backs design contests to boost regeneration

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Michael Heseltine has urged the government to give architects a key role in stimulating regional economies in the UK

The former Conservative minister said design competitions were the best way to renew derelict housing and boost cities such as Liverpool.

Heseltine and former Tesco chief executive Terry Leahy published a government-commissioned report on reviving Liverpool’s economy last week.

Rebalancing Britain: Policy or Slogan? identified surplus housing as a major barrier to the city’s growth, and called for innovative solutions such as design contests to reinvigorate existing buildings.

Heseltine said: ‘My view is that we should be aiming to make cities exciting to live in.

‘I believe architects are very capable of drawing other skills into bidding proposals. It is the best way of getting innovative proposals, because you open up the opportunity to a wide range of potential partners.’

He insisted it was for the coalition to ensure that councils got behind the findings of the report, saying: ‘It is for the government to lead the way.’

The report offers a way forward from the abandoned Pathfinder programme run by the former Labour government. Under the contentious Housing Market Renewal Initiative, rows of houses were acquired ready for demolition as part of plans to attract developers.

Will Palin, secretary of campaign group Save Britain’s Heritage, said: ‘It was very gratifying to see the report recognise the demolition derby approach to terraces left serious problems in its wake.’

Mark Doohan, director of Liverpool-based practice Falconer Chester Hall, backed the report and said architects were vital in unlocking parts of the city.

He said: ‘Architects can bring the innovative, affordable design solutions required to convert housing stock into properties the housing market demands.’

Jonathan Brown, senior consultant at Manchester-based practice Urbed, said architects could make terraced housing as desirable to live in as converted warehouses and mills.

‘This is an approach we have been talking about for some time, and it is heartening for people with the clout of Lord Heseltine and Sir Terry Leahy to be calling for it,’ he said.

The Rebalancing Britain report said that without intervention, the housing market in Liverpool would continue to hinder the city’s economic growth.

It said: ‘One solution could be to engage architects in a competition to support good-quality and innovative design. This would help refurbishment, which is more cost-effective in comparison to wholesale knock-down and rebuild.’

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the report would feed into minister Greg Clark’s work on decentralising eight key cities.




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