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Summit style

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The big names were out in force at last week's Urban Summit, graced unexpectedly by chancellor Gordon Brown, who made a significant rather under-reported speech, dealing with a host of issues from stamp duty to the 'third way' for regional assistance programmes. Politically, it was Labour minus Blair, no doubt what Gordon had in mind.

Conservationists were immediately up in arms over Gordon's announcement that Business Planning Zones would indeed come into being - provided the relevant local authority wanted one in its area. Given that he had attacked the Tory enterprise zone idea earlier in his speech, this all sounded a shade hypocritical. BPZs are, philosophically, pretty much the same idea; the fact they are voluntary is only really saying that the most important wave of areas have already been dealt with. One question which did not get asked at the conference concerns the Thames Gateway, where one million homes are planned. Here is the question: Isn't this area in a flood plain? Won't it require massive infrastructure work to bring it to acceptable levels (unless the homes are built on stilts)? Why can't we build the homes within a real urban area rather than as an outpost of Dagenham, which, as the old joke has it, is two stops short of Barking?

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