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Planning and regeneration should be used together in a more creative way to revitalise cities and prepare for the m...
Planning and regeneration should be used together in a more creative way to revitalise cities and prepare for the millennium, housing minister David Curry today told delegates at the National Housing and Town Planning Council's conference in Brighton.

Setting out his vision for a new age of the city, Mr Curry said he wanted to see imagination and daring become an integral part of the planning process.

Mr Curry said: 'People want to live in cities which have a clear sense of purpose, which are built and maintained to raise standards of living for inhabitants and visitors alike. Cities have to make a comeback; the 4.4 million more households expected by the year 2016 have to live somewhere, and planners hold a key role in preparing for this.

We too often see a mixed bag of planning and regeneration with no focus or clear aim. Governance of a city must include all these elements and more - a fixed idea of what the city's image is, and how it can be improved.

'Selling a city needs a mix of imagination and daring; encouraging mixed use development, bringing in private finance, creating communities by getting tenants involved in decision making, promoting city centre life by improving the environment, widening pavements for street cafes and pedestrianisation, and making the city safe with the use of CCTV and other measures. Milan, Barcelona and Philadelphia should be held as examples of how to get the best out of a city.

'A city can turn around its image with imaginative and strategic planning. Improving our cities can bring new opportunities for jobs and tourism, and the International Maritime Initiative's proposals for the regeneration of Falmouth, for example, combine the two with foresight and sensitivity. In Leeds, the Leeds Development Corporation took steps to persuade the Royal Armouries to move from London to a new £42 million museum, boosting employment and the local economy, and regenerating the adjacent river and canal area.

'Planning means taking the holistic view of what the city needs and preparing a strategic plan of how to get it. Funding opportunities such as Millennium funding, the Single Regeneration Budget, and Estates Renewal should be approached with a solid sense of purpose, not as a lucky dip or a lottery. Flexibility in planning is vital, as local plans are often the cornerstone of a city's image.'

Mr Curry challenged local authorities to look beyond public investment and seek other avenues of investment.

'It's far too easy to fall into the 'municipal mind set' approach to city management. The opportunities opened up by the transfer of property from local authorities to other social landlords has already shown us what can be achieved with a more ambitious outlook. Every local authority should look seriously at transfer as another means of improving run down estates. Facing the future means enabling the city to get on with its life, by getting beyond what public resources can do and bringing in private initiative and investment.'

Mr Curry said that housing the 4.4 million more households should be viewed as an opportunity to create communities, whether in the city centre or outside it.

'We have set ourselves a target, and the tools are within our reach. Planning for the future provides an exciting opportunity to work together in a creative and vigourous way - building communities, creating jobs, tackling crime and safeguarding our heritage along the way. People want to live in our cities, and we should act on these opportunities with enthusiasm.'

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