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New English Partnerships will focus on four main tasks

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The new-look English Partnerships was launched last week as a merger between the old ep and the Commission for the New Towns. It will have a budget of around £500 million in the first year, and will build on existing projects, including Millennium villages and coalfield regeneration.

The new group will have the same statutory powers that it had before but will work closely with the recently-formed Regional Development Agencies. It will focus on four main areas: finding new sources of funding, improving the environment, creating partnerships and developing assets. Accountant Paula Hay-Plumb, a chair of the Coalfields Task Force, will be its executive director. Sir Alan Cockshaw, former chairman of amec, will be chairman.

Lord Rogers, who chairs the advisory committee on Millennium community competitions, said that although London compared with Tokyo and New York, 'second-tier' uk cities lagged way behind their European counterparts such as Milan, Frankfurt and Lyon. 'We have slipped seriously behind and lost much of our urban skills,' he warned. 'Today's it-based society is changing the face of community and is more important than steam power and the printing press.'

With this knowledge-based development, people need to meet, and are being driven back into the cities and towns.'

Baroness Blackstone and Lord David Puttnam last week officially opened the Art, Media and Design centre on the Shoreditch campus of Hackney Community College's Shoreditch campus by Perkins Ogden Architects and Hampshire County Architects. Part of a £30 million redevelopment of the East London campus - the largest further-education project in the country - the centre will enable students to move through beginners' courses in art, design and the media, through graduate and post-graduate work to setting up and running their own businesses. The practices won the Civic Trust's 1998 Education and Cultural Building of the Year, a riba regional award and the 1997 Supreme Brick Building of the Year for other work at the college. Currently they are working on Phase II, the sports and performing arts facilities, due for completion next summer.

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