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Inspirational design gives housing clue

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Dennis Crompton, speaking at the recent Archigram symposium in Manchester, reminded the audience that the group's approach to housing and urban regeneration/ intensification was to add rather than replace, hence clip-on design; if only that approach had been adopted. Equally inspirational is a new model of how we might address housing provision in urban areas, in the form of the Hunt Thompson/Ralph Erskine proposals which have won the Millennium Village competition. One encouraging thing about this exercise has been the way that the housebuilders have responded to a serious challenge from the government and English Partnerships, monitored and encouraged by a lively jury. A second good thing is that a clearly thoughtthrough scheme has emerged as the winner of the competition, and a clear winner at that.

This scheme gives the lie to those who argue that it is impossible to find enough land, or to persuade builders to build, on difficult urban sites. It is intellectually lazy of the 'we must put it all in the country' brigade to argue that we can only pursue a new-town tradition to accommodate however many extra homes we may need (incidentally, the number does not mean too much - it is the proportion which goes to town and country which matters). The planning establishment has for too long argued that cities cannot accommodate required new housing, assuming that current prohibitions on residential development are fixed in stone.

As this magazine has previously argued, housing development will certainly take place in the countryside, and should of course be well planned.

But the cities should take the bulk of it, and Lord Rogers' committee will need to view provision of potential sites in the widest terms. It is not just sites, but underused land and buildings of all description which need to be brought into play. The Millennium Village shows us what can be done in the most unpromising of circumstances.

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