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The article by Camilla Cavendish on megacities (Opinion, May 16) had me reaching for Lewis Mumford’s work “The Culture of Cities”. In this he refers to the rise and fall of megalopolis, which in his view was created by the coalescence of several cities although it has become a term applied to any large sprawling city. Mumford was a town planner/philosopher/historian who thought cities went through stages of growth and decay. The sixth and final stage being “ nekropolis” ie death.

Hopefully our cities in Britain are some distance away from nekropolis, but the forces driving the city’s decline, when added to the infection factor, will temper enthusiasm for city life.

In fact the decentralising trends were becoming apparent before coronavirus. In particular the availability of broadband, when coupled with good rail or road links has led to a revival in country towns and larger villages. Many of these settlements have the basic services, and the increasing use of home deliveries has made the need for good local retailing far less of an issue. It should also be remembered that expansion in towns outside cities removes pressure on the cities to provide for expected growth in housing etc.

There will always be a place for a well planned city (Stockholm is a good example), but the defects of modern cities need to be addressed with some urgency if nekropolis is to be averted.

It would be ironic that if by the time HS2 has been finally constructed, all that had been achieved was a reduction in journey time of 20 minutes between two cities in their death throes. I suspect that the money set aside for HS2 would be better spent on making London and Birmingham freer of the problems which are leading to the exodus in the first place.

Hugh Wrigley
Easingwold, Yorks, UK

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