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City myths fog urban regeneration debate

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Two random points on the urban regeneration/sprawl-merchants issue (AJ 13.7.00):

The issue of self-adjusting populations is always used by anti-urbanists as an excuse to avoid the duties incumbent on any civilised society to improve life for those who do not have the dubious luxury of moving themselves and their family to a Brookside idyll. In the '70s it was even suggested by some that attempting to take any measures to save Venice was pointless since the population was falling: in fact, what was being witnessed was simply the last city in Europe freeing itself from medieval densities. Far from proving the facile argument that Venice is no more than a tourist trap, it demonstrated how many people actually continued to live there.And, as you say, populations can just as easily rise. We recently came across a planning application from the early 1950s for a change of use from residential to office use for a newly de-requisitioned property adjacent to Spitalfields market: it was approved on the grounds that virtually no-one would want to live in that area. I dread to think of the value of that property in its current (reconverted) residential status.

The argument that it is cheaper to build on greenfield sites ignores not only all the infrastructure costs to the taxpayer, but the fact that the supporting services - schools, shops, mature landscaping, health facilities, cinema multiplexes etc - almost always take years to arrive, thereby blighting the lives of the first generation condemned to live there.

Best of luck in the campaign.

Jeff Kahane, Jeff Kahane and Associates, London EC1

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