14 NOVEMBER 1970, Page 19

Life in Withenshaw

Sir: I must take exception to one statement in the brilliant summary of what life in England was like in the 'thirties in Charles Harris's article 'A Lifetime of Paris'. 'Good conceptions, the Becontrees and Withenshaws, were executed with hideous and puritan meanness.' I don't know about Becontree, but I know something about Withenshaw. Far from being meanly planned, the houses were dignified, well-spaced and such as many middle-class people would have been glad to live in. The trouble was that they cost too much, so that the rents, in spite of subsidy, had to be too high. That, added to the far from in- considerable fares to where most of the people went to work, made them a prison rather than a para• disc for a number of their work- ing-class occupants.

Housing is, today, perhaps the greatest of England's social prob- lems. It was not to be solved, be- tween the wars, by ignoring economic realities, nor is it today. T. C. Owtram Villa Belvedere, Grag,nano (Lucca)