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'Noddy box' housing would be banned in Wayne's world

The former owner of high street chain Red Or Dead, who will speak at The Future Scotland Debate on Housing in Glasgow tonight, is determined there will never be another repeat of the housing �disaster� at Leith Docks.

If fashion designer Wayne Hemingway has his way, Scotland's Noddy box'' housing would become a thing of the past.

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The former owner of high street chain Red Or Dead, who will speak at The Future Scotland Debate on Housing in Glasgow tonight, is determined there will never be another repeat of the housing "disaster" at Leith Docks, or what he describes as the mistakes at the Glasgow Harbour luxury development on Clydeside.

"Leith in Edinburgh was a timebomb waiting to happen," says the 48-year-old, who graduated with a degree in town planning before going on to establish a worldwide fashion design business.

"The development created mono-cultural flats, not a mixed community, and now the mistakes have come home to roost. They are talking about having to replan Leith, yet it's only been built a few years.

"And while Glasgow's waterfront development isn't quite as bad as Leith's, it could have been done better. Again, the major reason why so many of our city developments don't succeed is because we make them liveable for only a narrow sector of the population."

Blackburn-born Hemingway is one of the country's most outspoken critics of what he regards as insubstantial housing.

"As you get older, you realise there are bigger problems to solve than designing frocks and blouses," he says.

"Housing is very important in people's lives. But it's got to be built properly and housebuilders don't often employ designers."

Tonight's free debate at The Lighthouse in Mitchell Lane, Glasgow, aims to address the type of housing needed in the 21st century, and asks how to ensure the right quality and quantity of homes are built - and how to create truly sustainable communities.

Hemingway says: "The concept of building for 50 years, as they have done on Glasgow's waterfront, is crackers. But it is not just about how these flats are built.

It's a fact that a lot of those expensive apartments at Leith and Glasgow Harbour are aimed at the investor market.

"In some of them, you might get only 20% owner-occupied and 80% bought as investment and leased, or - even worse - sitting empty.

"This is about opportunism, but it's backfired. You had the banks offering 125% mortgages, which developed the buy-to-let business.

"Meanwhile, the media, and Channel 4 in particular, were telling everybody to get on the property ladder and they'd be made for life, but it's never been like that.

The only way you make money is by buying an old property and doing it up and being thrifty.

"We shouldn't have massive sites of 700-1000 homes going to one developer. It shouldn't be about bidding for land because the cost of upfront money makes the cost of borrowing so high that the money goes to the banks who lend at huge rates.

"That takes the chance for good design out of the equation and the developers end up building Noddy boxes.'' After criticising the Wimpeyfication'' of Britain by volume housebuilders, Hemingway joined forces with Wimpey in Gateshead to prove that a housing development could be affordable, attractive and sustainable, even in an area of intense social deprivation.

The result is the award- winning Staiths South Bank development - colourful, practical housing of varied styles that's become immensely popular and family-friendly.

Now he's working on a similar project in Calderwood, West Lothian. "It will be much bigger and much better," he says of the 2800-homes project. "It will go to a new level.

Stirling Developments, who we are working with, want to make money but they want to leave a legacy they can be proud of." The Future Scotland Debate on Housing, sponsored by Raploch Urban Regeneration Company, is at 6pm tonight. Free tickets must in advance by e-mailing bookmyplace@thelighthouse.co.uk

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