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Tom Bloxham and Urban Splash's anaemic fantasy

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No children, no families, no old people, no underor unemployed: welcome to the new and much lauded urban communities marketed by Urban Splash, where a 'mix of values' (from £50,000 up to £250,000 in cities such as Liverpool and Manchester) certainly does not mean social mix, and 'mixed use' does not embrace any of the prosaic day-to-day amenities that help communities to become self-sustaining and self-generating over time. These regenerated, mainly industrial sites, seem to represent a world of artifice, set apart from normal social and family networks, obligations and responsibilities - a fantasy of student life extended into the world of adulthood, jobs, disposable income and consumer goods.

To be sure, Tom Bloxham MBE and his architect colleagues Jonathan and Miles Falkingham have done a good job of turning round a whole series of desperate, derelict urban sites in the country's northern cities, and marketing them as manifestly viable property propositions. Their formula is simple: live, work and play, or mixed use injected into regenerated redundant buildings, using contemporary design as the branding device. This has resulted in the creation of 600 new homes and 3,000 new jobs over seven years by a company which at its inception had no outside investors and is now responsible for more than £100 million worth of commercial and residential developments.

Iftoday these principles of urban development have entered the mainstream, Urban Splash can justly claim a substantial portion of responsibility.

As Bloxham notes, his first venture with the Falkinghams, Baa Bar in Liverpool, won an award before it got planning permission, and was photographed by English Heritage early on as an exemplar of building reuse. Subsequent developments not only established the concept of the 'loft apartment' in the public imagination and helped to launch the careers of architects such as Ian Simpson and Stephenson Bell, but also had a dramatic impact on changing the public perception and use of certain urban areas, and their financial value.

One of the significant selling-points of an Urban Splash development, apart from the ubiquitous 'good design', is the reduction of car parking in favour of communal space, but generally ecological and social issues seem absent from the agenda. Surely, after such success, this is the point to take them on board? Bloxham cites Le Corbusier as a 'great hero', and the Unite d'Habitation as a model, but the underlying principles of that model - a wide range of apartments to suit people's needs at all points of their life-cycle, and provision of basic amenities such as supermarket, day nursery, and launderette - are missing from the Urban Splash portfolio. Above all, it is neither healthy nor wise for families, which make such intense use of, and investment in, the social fabric of an area, and contribute so fundamentally to its vitality, to be excluded from urban life.

Tom Bloxham of Urban Splash was speaking to the Urban Design Group at the Gallery, near London's Smithfield vital statistics Stolen plant machinery costs the construction industry between £600 million and £1 billion a year, according to Home Office estimates. Only seven per cent of thefts are recovered, compared with a rate of around 55 per cent for cars.

By 2004, brownfield land will be reclaimed at the rate of 1,100ha a year, with the result that 17 per cent of brownfield land will be reclaimed by 2010, predictions by the government suggest. The number of households living in social housing which falls beneath standards of decency will be cut by a third. Current estimates are that 29 per cent of social housing falls below this level.

The three new stadia currently planned for London - Wembley, Picketts Lock and Arsenal FC's Ashburton Grove - are together valued at £671 million - less than the cost of the Millennium Dome.

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