Brown Can Learn a VITAL Lesson from Granby; Gordon Brown Has Seen the Future - Five New "Eco Towns." but a Liverpool Planning Expert Says a Housing Revolution Should Have Started Decades Ago ... in Granby. Paddy Shennan Reports

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Byline: Paddy Shennan

GRANBY New Town ... sounds too good to be true? Sadly, it was.

It wasn't all that long ago when hopes were high among residents that their blighted community could benefit from a new beginning.

But previous governments, it seemed, preferred to build new towns away from our cities, rather than revamp existing communities.

Could a similar thing be happening again?

Prime minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown has spoken of his desire to create new "eco towns" on former industrial sites. A former Ministry of Defence base in Cambridgeshire has already been earmarked and local authorities are being invited to put forward other potential areas.

But Liverpool-based Des McConaqhy. a vastly experienced former government advisor, today said Westminster was simply set to repeat the mistakes of the past, as he recalled the famous, but failed, campaign to build a new town right here, in Granby.

The retired architect and planner was the director of the pioneering SNAP organisation-the Shelter Neighbourhood Action Project - and, after undertaking a three-year study, compiled a report entitled Another Chance For Our Cities.

It provided, he says, a chance for change - in Granby and countless other inner city areas across the country. But it was a chance which was never taken.

"Back in November 1970, more than 400 people attended a meeting in a local church hall to demand a 'Granby New Town'," recalls Mr McConaghy 75, of Allerton.

"Hundreds of residents put up posters in the windows of their houses which asked the question 'Why build new towns in the countryside when we should have a 'new town' here?'"

And he stresses: "It's still a good question in many inner city areas."

Mr McConaghy's report was published in January 1973, and he says now: "Toxteth was alive with ideas at that time that spread throughout the country. But many remained for the most part just that - ideas without the action."

His report proposed the setting up of a new urban programme for the regeneration of inner city areas under a special task force, responsible to the cabinet office.

He explains: "We suggested that central priority funding should be available for priority tasks or problems wherever and whenever they occurred across the country - and in a planned and co-ordinated way, sanctioned annually by parliament and our elected local councils.

"People did feel the Granby New Town would happen and I thought it had to happen, even though I knew it would be a battle."

But it didn't happen.

"What we got instead was nothing - and then riots! Whitehall didn't want to know and then Toxteth went up - it was heartbreaking and infuriating."

Mr McConaghy, who left Shelter to work as an advisor to the Department of the Environment on the Six Cities pilot project, which researched urban renewal in areas including Liverpool, lived in Grove Street, Toxteth during the riots of 1981. …