Martin Pawley distorts and misinforms when he writes of the Urban Task Force's 'dream of cramming Britain' (aj 30.3.00). The expression 'city cramming' normally implies an intention to build on an existing public open space. This is no part of the proposals of either the Urban Task Force or ppg3. On the contrary, ppg3 states that 'the government attaches particular importance to the 'greening' of residential environments'. High residential densities and an abundance of green space are not incompatible objectives as the citizens of Bath, Edinburgh and Glasgow can testify.
He writes of the prospect of local authorities compulsorily purchasing brownfield sites as a horrible threat. For the 80 per cent of Britain's population who are urban dwellers, this is a most welcome power. There is nothing more degrading to urban cohesion and community spirit than vacant neglected lots. An approximate assessment of the area of derelict urban land by the Council for the Preservation of Rural England in 1998 put it at roughly twice the area of Bristol.
The next most destructive force is the noise, pollution, severance and danger of heavy traffic. This can only be reduced by denser living which shortens journeys and makes public transport and other public services viable and accessible. The guidance in ppg3 which Pawley complains of will allow local planning authorities to consent to housing at the sort of densities already existing in Islington and South Kensington, where there is little difficulty in finding willing house purchasers. This is still way below the densities of such cities as Paris or Barcelona. Density also helps with crime control. As Alice Coleman noted in her famous report, there is no better deterrent to crime than having well-populated streets, with normal citizens looking out for each other.
What is Martin Pawley's own preferred vision for the future? Is he willing to share it with us? Could it be the Reyner Banham ideal (or nightmare) of Los Angeles in the Home Counties?
Kate Macintosh, Finch Macintosh Architects, Winchester