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KATHERINE SHONFIELD

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It seems that a distinctly sinister unholy alliance between the 4.4 million homes 'needed' by the year whatever and brownfield brownie points has been forged under our noses by the major housebuilders.

Qualms have been raised recently in the national press over the housebuilders' gung-ho import of us-style gated estates - no through road, and 24 security gates - as popularised by Belfast town centre. A spokesman for the National Housebuilders Federation (should that be apologist?) has indicated on national radio that the housebuilders are 'being forced' to construct these bastions to fulfil their '4.4' quota on brownfield sites. According to the federation, these brownfield sites they are now building on are sited in such 'undesirable' areas that gating the new developments is the sole means to ensure their commercial viability.

A recent entirely subjective snoop around current sites being developed in Clerkenwell, to the west of the City of London, reveals a number of interesting twists to this plaintive assertion.

One. For 'brownfield' read bloody big desirable inner-city sites.

Two. For 'undesirable' area read virtually no crimes against the person committed, great nightlife, good schools and lively mixed population.

Three. For 'gated estate' read the castration of numerous interconnected through routes and networks of access providing self-confident possession of the whole area by its inhabitants. For 'gated estate' also read putting the kybosh on a sense of enhanced security and peace of mind in the community at large, not just the ghetto-dwellers.

Four. For 'opportunist so-and-sos taking the rest of the population for a ride' read major housebuilders.

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