9 JULY 1977, Page 18

Positive thinking

Sir: I hope it is not churlish of me to dispute some of Christopher Booker's statements in his kind mention of my book Fight Blight (4 June) but I feel that his negative view of life is becoming obsessive. Many people have now realised how much was lost during the great boom. The point, if you like, has been taken. But with the increasing amount of dereliction, these same people are wondering what to do next. Homelessness is still prevalent, and the living conditions for enormous quantities of people in cities are still horrible. So, whilst the establishment contents itself with endless conferences on inner city decay, I thought it worth while investigating the successful attempts to reverse the trends.

Big things start small, so many of the successful case studies may seem `minuscule' as Booker stated. But their implication is vast. For example, the time may not be far off when those wishing to live in Soho will apply to the Soho Society instead of the local authority, for the society could have become the owner of the greatest number of flats in the area. This is surely excellent. If every local society could also take on responsibility for providing accommodation in its own area the world would be changed indeed.

There is a major underlying philosophical point, which is partly that people must do more for themselves but also a realisation that it is already clear that an enormous amount of social endeavour is being carried out by private organisations simply because the government cannot cope, nationally, regionally or locally. Three examples may suffice the work of the National Trust, of Shelter and of Dr Barnardo's. So it is time to establish this voluntary work as an innate part of how we do things, and reduce the official role to helping people to help themselves. That is what my book is all about and is, I hope, a more positive approach than reiterating endlessly the mistakes of the past few years.

Charles McKean 197 Camberwell Grove, London SE5