What to do with British towns?

If I was a town or a small town – I would want the government to stay a million miles away from me. I would take their money – but I would want to develop local schemes by local people.

What I have witnessed in the name of sustainable housing provision in London and proposed housing in London is a travesty of all the warm words that cascade so easily from Labour’s lips.

At the pan-London level – the Thames Gateway will deliver the Government’s housing targets at a stroke as a city the size of Leeds is plonked down but the level of planning or vision is appalling. More than that – it is absent.

There is no vision – let alone a sustainable vision – of the type of jobs, transport, development that would make this turn into the exemplar project it could be.

There is no master plan – this is no Milton Keynes. Just boroughs with a combined UDP that parcels up land for development piecemeal, with nightmares of traffic generation as the hundreds of thousands of residents make their traffic laden way into town for employment.

In my constituency, Hornsey & Wood Green, we deal with the warm words but crap reality of Mayor Livingstone’s London plan – where we are meant to support 19,000 new homes in the next 15 years.

And as for sustainable – what I see on the ground are the poorest standards of design, making high rise prisons, using the poorest quality materials and with no proper infrastructure to support the developments.

It’s like the Emperor who had no clothes. The Mayor doesn’t see, or more likely care to see, what is being done to those who are poorest and worst off.

So if I had one message – it would be about quality of design, quality of concept and quality of materials. The built environment is vital in terms of spirit and aspiration – and those most in need of being able to lift their eyes above the daily miseries are those who are worst treated.

I don’t think it matters whether it is a small town or a large metropolis – in the end it’s about human beings who are just trying to make their way home.