Right of Reply: Hilary Armstrong

The Housing Minister replies to our article calling for the demolition of bad housing estates
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THIS GOVERNMENT is committed to healing the divisions in our country. Our report Bringing Britain Together, launched last week, sets out a co-ordinated strategy to transform the lives of those trapped in areas of deprivation.

Many of these, but by no means all, are council estates. They are far from being all tower blocks. Some of them have been pockets of poverty for many years. Turning these neighbourhoods round, making them work for the people who live there, will take enormous effort from both central and local government, and from local communities.

As your leader reminded us, bold social experiments can become expensive flops. The key to reviving these neighbourhoods is putting people, not places, at the heart of the regeneration strategy. Our proposals are designed to help local people to take control over their own future.

In most cases, the communities can be turned round through renovation, or reduction to a human scale, rather than demolition - but if the right long-term solution is to demolish bad, unhealthy or unwanted housing, we will support that action. It is too pessimistic, however, to believe that this is the only solution. It is often the community that residents want rebuilt, not the housing.

A good example of this is Holly Street, where the report was launched, where tower blocks have been made places where people want to live.

There is no quick fix to these problems and no single answer. But, by mobilising resources at national, local and community levels, setting targets to improve the record of these poorest neighbourhoods on jobs, schools, housing and crime within five years, we can start to close the gap that has pushed too many to the margins of society.