'Super-gentrifiers' ruin integration

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Indy Politics

The Government's policy of social mixing is doomed to failure because a new breed of wealthy middle-class professionals refuse to meet their neighbours, according to research.

A study of Tony Blair's former neighbourhood in Islington, north London, found that a new group of very wealthy professionals has "super-gentrified" an already gentrified area.

New Labour envisaged middle-class values rubbing off on poorer families when the two groups mixed in the same neighbourhood. A study by Dr Loretta Lees and Professor Tim Butler of King's College London examined Barnsbury, where Mr Blair lived before coming to power. The area of leafy Georgian squares came to prominence in 1993 when the Blairs bought their house in Richmond Crescent for £375,000. They sold it for £615,000 when they moved to Downing Street in 1997.

Dr Lees said that Barnsbury was the first example of the new phenomenon of "super-gentrification" in Britain which had previously only been observed in Brooklyn Heights in New York. "There was previously an idea that once an area became gentrified the process reached maturity and that was the endof the process. Here is evidence that the process can kick off again." But whereas traditional gentrification was carried out by people who had a strong sense of community identity and wanted to mix with their less well-off neighbours, the new "super-gentrifiers" did not tend to associate with people who were different to them.

Barnsbury was now being populated by Oxbridge graduates who work in large firms of solicitors, the Inns of Court or City investment banks. The survey of residents found that one in four had a household income of more than £150,000 a year with 18 per cent earning between £100,000 and £150,000.

They were different to the traditional banking and stockbroking élites - who tend to live in Chelsea, St John's Wood and more recently Notting Hill - and the super-wealthy who live in Mayfair, Park Lane and Kensington, the study found. The Barnsbury super-gentrifiers were found to have "more suburban values"than other groups. Most women had given up high-flying careers to have children.

This contrasted with nearly every other gentrified area of London where both partners tended to work. However, this was thought to be due to the long hours demanded by these jobs with the women concluding that both parents could not be absent for such long periods.