Firms hold urban double bill

TWO top law firms have played key roles in generating discussion between the public and private sectors on initiatives which would rejuvenate blighted and derelict land.

The City's Denton Hall and national practice Eversheds were behind conferences which examined urban renewal schemes and initiatives for developing contaminated land.

Both the events this month brought together lawyers and local government representatives, together with businessmen and civil servants.

At the Denton Hall event, organised jointly with London's Imperial College, the firm's environmental law partner John Salter, urged the Government to offer protection to financiers who wished to back development on toxic land.

He said the measures should be included in the new Environmental Law Act and warned that if they were not, backers would be reluctant to risk investment.

Keith Mayou, director of environmental services at Dudley Borough Council in the West Midlands, told the conference he was concerned that potential liabilities were "incalculable and becoming more and more difficult to insure".

Professor Richard Macrory, a member of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, said the Government's proposed definition of "contaminated' was too narrow.

"Unless a concerted effort is made to deal with the issue, the pressure for developing greenfield sites remains – causing continuing long-term damage."

At the Eversheds-sponsored annual conference of the British Urban Regeneration Association in Birmingham, shadow planning and regeneration minister Keith Vaz stressed the need for more private involvement in face-lift schemes.

"There can be no effective long-term regeneration of our towns and cities without the full involvement of the private sector as a real partner in the regeneration process," he said.