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KATHERINE SHONFIELD

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The debate about greenfield versus brownfield may have been won but, as with Gummer's move against out-of-town shopping centres a few years back, not so as you'd notice. Of late there has been a flowering of 'Gated Developments'. These are not New Labour's final solution to care in the community, but an intriguing mini-French chateau/Queen Anne/Haddonstone neo-Classical new-build country mansions. Gated together in clumps in 'parkland settings', the inhabitants of these curiosities can presumably gain solace from the fact that they are well protected from the perils of the open terrain of Surrey, Bucks, Hertfordshire and the like.

At the height of post-oil crisis anti-Arab feeling in the mid 1970s, the denizens of Kensington used to rush into the town hall to count the sanitary fittings on proposed lay-outs, before letting loose impressively primitive racist invective. The number of bathrooms in these schemes is a sure sign that they are not aimed at British citizens but at our fresher foreign cousins. Foreigners won't have been put off Home Counties idylls by compulsive viewing of Neighbours at War, and won't question whether they are being gated in or out.

But what are lofts with gym, sauna, 24-hour porterage and halls for hire other than the gated communities of brownfield sites? Context for such apartments is the generalised view across cityscape, just as surely as their Surrey counterparts survey landscape. These developments both turn their back on their surroundings; they deprive the place they ignore just as effectively of the social and economic interaction that are the only true marks of civilised living.

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