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Urban White Paper must lead to action, says Bishop of Barking

The Church of England welcomes the Government's Urban White Paper, the first in 20 years, but only in the expectation that it will lead to action in the shape of new measures and new laws, says the Rt Revd Roger Sainsbury, Bishop of Barking in East London and chairman of the bishops' urban panel.

'The White Paper acknowledges the importance of faith communities in regeneration and challenging social exclusion,' says Bishop Roger, who points out that the Church Urban Fund has invested more than £37m in urban priority areas in the last decade. 'Yet, for churches to be effective partners in creating a Britain where the benefits of social justice reach everyone, other agencies need to share the Church of England's vision for the future."

The vision includes:

- community-led urban renewal - there is ample evidence of the danger of architect-led grandiose and arrogant design which becomes nothing other than a purpose-built urban jungle.

- the hope for many communities of better use of existing properties and brown field sites - communities and local authorities need to be resourced to ensure this happens quickly.

- urban renewal must include not just inner city areas but also the outer estates in sustainable strategies - there must be collaboration in design, management and environmental improvements.

- any proposals must be integrated with issues of social exclusion - active citizenship needs to be encouraged and inclusion must be addressed directly if the anticipated urban renaissance is to benefit everyone.

- the renewal and re-population of our urban areas must not be to the detriment of existing urban communities.

'The Urban White Paper represents a major opportunity for the renewal of our urban areas,' adds the Revd Dr Andrew Davey, of the Church of England's Board for Social Responsibility, 'and the Church will hold up its vision for our towns and cities to HMG during the consultation process.'

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Note: The Church of England spans both urban and rural communities, serving both through its network of 13,000 parishes covering every inch of English soil, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, the Isles of Scilly and a small part of Wales. Not counting the 6,000 Active Retired priests, the Church licenses some 22,000 active clergy and Readers, all of whom are deeply involved in the well-being of their communities.