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Ken warns of housing disaster

The property and development community descended on Cannes last week for the annual MIPIM conference. Sean Barry reports

A CABINET committee chaired by Prime Minister Tony Blair will meet in two months to flesh out building plans for 200,000 new homes across south-east England.

Government aides announced last week that the recently formed steering group, which will oversee the regeneration of the Thames Gateway, will focus on drumming up investment for the infrastructure costs and developing a timetable when it meets in May.

David Lunts, director of the urban policy unit in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minster, said the regeneration of the Thames Gateway hinged on building the right infrastructure and transport links such as CrossRail.

Speaking at a London Development Agency conference, he said: 'Unless we get the infrastructure right then these plans will simply fritter away. There is a lot for the Government to chew on and key cabinet members such as the Transport Minister need to be involved.'

Sir Stuart Lipton, founder of developer Stanhope, echoed the view that transport links were crucial for the scheme to succeed and called on London Mayor Ken Livingstone to continue to lobby the Government hard for CrossRail.

He also launched a stinging attack on house builders for failing to be innovative in design and creating sustainable communities.

He said: 'They are not putting the science into quality of design, talking to communities and end users or building products fit for purpose at the end.'

Mr Livingstone said developers must start to design higher density buildings around open spaces. He added: 'There is much more imagination required by developers otherwise this could be a disaster.'

The comments follow Government proposals unveiled last month to plough £22 billion into new housing across the south-east. The Government is putting up money to fund site assembly, remediation of brownfield land, affordable housing and infrastructure.

The Thames Gateway will receive the largest chunk at £446 million, with Ashford, the London-Cambridge corridor and the Milton Keynes sub-region sharing the remaining £164 million.