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Tories blast at urban 'hot air'

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The Conservative Party delivered a two-pronged attack on the Urban Task Force (UTF) last week when senior politicians warned that the UTF's proposals could end up as 'hot air' and face rejection by both public and planners.

The attack came as government officials stepped up their work on a new policy on cities, which is due to incorporate many of the UTF's views and will be published in early autumn. Tory heavyweight John Redwood told the task force's chairman, Lord Rogers, that the public will reject proposals for higher density urban living because of the perceived damage done by planners and architects in building high rise, high density developments in the 1960s.

'Do you understand the damage that architects and planners did in the sixties when they tried a high density approach?' he said. 'In my constituency [Wokingham] people just don't want to live in this kind of development. They want to feel like they are living in green space.'

Meanwhile former environment minister John Selwyn Gummer warned of local authority opposition: 'Local authorities will sign up to the urban task force happily. But when it comes to particular planning permissions it will be impossible. There's always some reason why a scheme is different from every other case. Until we change willingness [to adopt the UTF principles] in individual cases then this will go on being so much hot air.'

Both men were speaking at a meeting of the parliamentary group for architecture and planning at the House of Commons where Rogers presented the work of the UTF to MPs and peers.

Rogers also warned that hopes for an urban renaissance could be dashed unless the government provides adequate funding and policy measures to back up the UTF's proposals.

'There is tremendous willingness to support this but how much hard edge will there be?' Rogers said. 'It's hard to tell with the Treasury.' Rogers, a Labour life peer, also appears to be growing frustrated over slow progress on urban policy and said: 'The government needs to move further and faster to make a reality of the renaissance.'

Last month the UTF demanded £660

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