Lord Mawson: I shall speak to Amendment No. 23A, which is in my name and is part of the group. It is a probing amendment, which recognises that the creation of the Homes and Communities Agency presents us with a real opportunity to move away from public housing monocultures of the past and to invest in the creation of new towns and areas that have both a physical and a social identity.
Having spent many years working at the centre of a large housing estate, I know how damaging these monocultures can be to local communities and how important it is that the new agency is empowered to respond to the social, economic and cultural contexts in which it invests and to encourage real diversity across the country. The public sector and housing associations are not the only ones guilty of creating monocultures. Private developers also have quite a track record in this regard, and have on many occasions missed the opportunity to create truly sustainable developments that have a real sense of identity.
Over the past decade or so, we have talked a great deal about joined-
My experience suggests that place-
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bodies created by the Government. Something else has to happen, and it has everything to do with people and relationships on the ground. Two years ago I was asked by the then chief executive of Tower Hamlets council to take a look at St Paul’s Way, a group of rundown estates some 500 yards from Canary Wharf. Again, I must declare an interest. Violent clashes had been taking place outside the school and the lead officer wanted a clearer picture of what was happening on the ground. I discovered that there were two large housing estates divided by a main road. On one side of the road were the homes of members of the Bengali community, and on the other housing for traditional white East End families. I was assured that a helpful social reality had developed over many years as loyal local authority officers followed public sector rules and processes which sought to create more equitable and integrated communities, yet the unintended consequences of their actions had not been foreseen. One local resident described the road as the Berlin Wall. Although the public sector structures had been set up to encourage neighbourhood renewal, in reality it was not happening on the ground.