Letter: Urban development: a success story

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Labour MP who asked some Parliamentary questions on Urban Development Corporations clearly did not understand the answers, judging by your article 'Inner-city developers spend pounds 207m on fees' (3 May) on UDCs and consultancy expertise.

The UDCs are involved in major construction projects; in reclaiming derelict land, building roads, servicing sites, often in difficult circumstances, and of course they need to make use of sound professional and technical advice from architects, surveyors, lawyers and other specialists.

It is a complete nonsense to suggest that UDCs have lost pounds 82m on land transactions. This calculation confuses a technical write-down in the accounts with a real loss. Most of the notional loss arises from the public accounting convention of recording land at the lower of cost or net realisable value. Thus land, for example, which has been used for a road or a park, which is not technically resaleable, is entered into the balance sheet at nil value. In reality the Urban Development Corporations have raised considerable sums from property transactions, money which they have been able to reinvest into urban regeneration.

Our latest figures show that they have reclaimed almost 2,500 hectares of derelict or underused land; built more than 27,500 homes; provided 5.4 million square metres of commercial or industrial floorspace; built 374km of roads; and created more than 162,000 gross jobs in new development. They have succeeded in attracting more than pounds 4 of private money for every pounds 1 of public money, more than pounds 13.1bn of private investment against government grants of less than pounds 3.1bn. A very real success has been achieved very cost-effectively for the benefit of the country as a whole and to the local communities of our inner cities.

Yours sincerely,

TONY BALDRY

Under Secretary of State

Department of the Environment

London, SW1

3 May

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