29 NOVEMBER 1968, Page 29

Ronan Point

Sir : When eventually all the facts are revealed concerning this sorry affair and the recrimina- tions are over, what ought, I believe, to stand indicted should not be Mr Greenwood for his complacency nor the National Building Agency for their clumsy attempt to silence criticism, while lives were in danger, but rather major parts of our postwar housing and urban renewal programme.

May I list a few criteria which ought to be remembered when considering housing?

(1) That any home or environment built to- day must be valid structurally, socially and aesthetically for at least sixty years—the economic life of the building.

(2) Rising living standards are likely to de- mand more space in and around the home.

(3) That the City's need for a large pool of unskilled labour is likely to decline, as to use Professor Peter Hall's expression 'the industry of the city changes from the processing of material to the processing of information.'

(4) That large areas of socially segregated housing is undesirable.

If the above assumptions are correct, as I believe they are, then Ronan Point will be dwarfed into insignificance when measured against our massive misuse of resources, which we have deployed in a largely obsolete fashion since the war. The examples of Glasgow and Tower Hamlets are probably the most obvious.

The ever increasing cost, and therefore the ever increasing subsidies from central govern- ment for council building in cities, especially in London, might well be a contributory factor to our national economic ills.

Lord Robens might well be correct in his assertion that 'If industry in London had to bear the real cost for housing its labour, we might see a stampede from London to the develop- ment areas.' Certainly industry would seem to have little incentive to modernise so long as it can draw on artificially cheap labour.

I would therefore make a plea that govern- ments in the field of housing take a longer term view 'than what will happen in the next five years,' ane consider the planning problems associated with the city in the twentieth and twenty-first century. and then perhaps the tragedy of Ronan Point could become a turn- ing point in town planning.

54 Gibson Square, London NI John Melvin