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Andy Burnham and Hazel Blears on South Bank to launch ‘World class places’ policy

Culture secretary Andy Burnham and communities secretary Hazel Blears came to the National Theatre on the South Bank this week to launch the Government's strategy for improving 'quality of place'.

Andy Burnham
Andy Burnham: Regeneration must respect the past
Hazel Blears
Hazel Blears: Design should be intellectually challenging

The 48-page document includes a case study on Coin Street Community Builders, the South Bank social enterprise that has created homes, public spaces and shops.

According to the document, "the development has all the elements that make for a high quality place.

"A mix of homes, some suitable for families, some for older people, many affordable, are served by good public transport and a range of shops and services."

In their foreword to the document Burnham and Blears hail some of the "new icons" in Britain's cities since 1997, including the London Eye and Tate Modern.

"Perhaps their has been a criticism of people like me and Hazel, particularly when we represent former industrial areas that have come through difficult times, that at times we are obsessed with the new and and replacing the old," Andy Burnham told an audience of property developers and journalists at The Deck at the National Theatre.

"I think that's something to pause about. That's not always what the most successful regeneration is about. Successful regeneration has got to respect people's past as well, and what they consider to be important about where they live and where they come from."

Communities secretary Hazel Blears, who plays an important role in determining the future of SE1's skyline as the ultimate decision-maker on tall building proposals such as the Blackfriars Road, Doon Street and York Road skyscrapers, outlined some of her thoughts about good design.

"I think there's sometimes a concept that design is pretty abstract; it's a very refined issue that can only be appreciated by the select few who can understand the intellectual underpinnings of design, and something that's only ever associated with these very large showcase developments or big iconic buildings.

"I think that design can be – and should be – intellectually challenging for all of us.

"It is of course important that the big projects are of the highest standards of design and right across London – I'm just looking at the skyline now – we've got iconic buildings ... all these things are inspiring and challenging and that's as it should be.

"But I also think that good design is about everyday places as well."

• Also on Tuesday the Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre hosted a social enterprise summit with cabinet ministers Lord Mandelson, Hazel Blears and James Purnell.

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