Unsaleable: pounds 2m estate plagued by crime

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THOUSANDS OF people are moving out of inner city areas, leaving behind abandoned neighbourhoods and undermining urban revival, according to a new report.

The study, published today by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, shows that the demand for housing has collapsed in some areas and even newly built or modernised houses have had to be boarded up or demolished, though many have never been occupied.

The research, based on an assessment of unpopular neighbourhoods in Manchester and Newcastle, has shown that there are whole streets where most of the houses are empty. This has led to a rise in anti-social behaviour and a fear of crime among remaining residents. Both cities have lost a fifth of their population in less than 40 years.

Dr Henry Russell Court in the West End of Newcastle was built three years ago but was demolished last month.

The 50-home development, which cost upwards of pounds 2m, was supposed to provide first-class accommodation for elderly and disabled people. But the area is plagued by crime and high unemployment.

"I've spoken to elderly people who don't want to live there because of the lack of community facilities and a sense of isolation," said Rob Higgins, a local councillor.

The last tenant to leave was Shirley Chapman, 58. "When I moved here in 1996 it was lovely and there were around 15 or 16 people here and it was fantastic with no crime. But then I was told I had to go. I suppose they had trouble finding people who would live here."

Professor Anne Power, of the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics, who has written the study said: "The speed with which streets or blocks are shifting from being relatively well-occupied to nearly half-empty is alarming.

"This creates instability and reduced the level of informal social control, leaving a vacuum which eventually tips a highly localised low-demand area into rapid abandonment."

Abandoned property in Manchester and Newcastle is regularly demolished and for many areas the future of the neighbourhood is uncertain, which has a destabilising effect on the blighted community, the re-searchers said.

"An atmosphere of uncertainty about the future of the area sends a signal of zero value and zero demand, deterring even more people from wanting to move in," said Professor Power.