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Friday, March 17, 2006
Fresh attack on Prescott's demolitions
The controversial and thinly-veiled ODPM plan to basically demolish thousands of terraced houses in the North under the guise of 'Housing Market Renewal' has come in for fresh criticism after new figures from the Office of National Statistics show that growth areas in the North and Midlands will need 20,000 extra homes a year on top of the current rate of build.

For any of you who aren't familiar with this whole caboodle, the idea is that terraced mill-worker houses a la Coronation St aren't suitable for today's housing market and by demolishing them you make the prices of the stuff you keep shoot up, 'adding value'. Whereas there is clearly another argument that asks why demolish lots of perfectly sound, historically interesting, and highly adaptable houses at the same time as you are advocating massive new housebuilding in other areas.

There was, you may remember, that moment a year or two ago when the government was debating moving a lot of its offices up North - that didn't happen, but many of us asked why not, given the pressures on affordability in the South-East and the major need for an economic boost, not to mention probably lower wage bills, in other areas. But the debate hasn't really gone away - the whole idea of the housing renewal pathfinders continues to vex, as does the government's relentless centralisation (despite the talk) and refusal to understand what the regions are all about. The number of times I meet officials from outside London who crack bitter joke after joke about Prescott and how he can't see outside the great metropolis is really pretty depressing.

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