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Better late than never

I AM HAPPY to hear that the wheels are in motion for the demolition of the three tower blocks in Marsham Street that were once home to the Department of the Environment.

When I was secretary of state I always found it ironic that we used to pass judgment on the aesthetic merits of planning applications while sitting in one of the capital's worst eyesores.

That is why I made the final arrangements for demolition and replacement some months before the 1997 general election.

Quite why it is taking so long for this government to act on plans that were already complete is a mystery.

Still, it will be better late than never if only it comes soon.

It is worth remarking, however, that keeping the building unoccupied has been costing the taxpayer £640,000 a year to maintain, so the delay has wasted £2 million on that alone.

Then there's the loss of revenue from the sale or redevelopment of the site.

Worst is the long postponement of the construction opportunities that demolition work releases.

This area of Westminster could be buzzing with life.

It is close to some of the most famous sites in the world and could provide eagerly sought homes, shops and jobs.

It is delays such as this, which recur throughout the state system, that are the despair of a construction industry that needs the work and can rise to the challenge.