david cameron
David Cameron promised to turn around sink estates Reuters

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to tear down "brutal high-rise towers" and "bleak housing" on around 100 sink estates as part of a blitz on poverty. The £140m ($203m) redevelopment programme is to be overseen by Lord Heseltine, who helped to transform the Liverpool and London docks in the 1980s.

"Decades of neglect have led to gangs and anti-social behaviour," Cameron said in a column in The Sunday Times. "Poverty has become entrenched, because those who could afford to move have understandably done so."

He added that the mission was "nothing short of social turnaround, and with massive estate regeneration, tenants protected, and land unlocked for new housing all over Britain, I believe we can tear down anything that stands in our way".

Details of the scheme will be set out in a keynote speech he will deliver on 11 January in which he is also due to outline plans to double government funding for relationship counselling for troubled families and relaunch a coalition proposal to issue vouchers for parenting classes.

"Within these so-called sink estates, behind front doors, families build warm and welcoming homes," he wrote. "But step outside in the worst estates and you're confronted by concrete slabs dropped from on high, brutal high-rise towers and dark alleyways that are a gift to criminals and drug dealers."

Under the new plans, tenants and homeowners will be given "binding guarantees" that their right to a home is protected, he said, adding three out of four rioters during the 2011 riots in England came from sink estates. "The riots of 2011 didn't emerge from within terraced streets or low-rise apartment buildings. The rioters came overwhelmingly from these post-war estates. That's not a coincidence," he wrote.

Among the estates reportedly being targeted are Broadwater Farm in Tottenham, north London, and the Lower Falinge estate in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

But Labour's shadow cabinet minister for housing, John Healey, was sceptical about the announcement, saying that in reality, the government is not doing enough to solve the housing crisis. "Another week, another housing announcement," he said. "If press statements built new homes, the government would have the housing crisis sorted."

Calling the scheme "small-scale", he said people would not see "much difference to the housing problems in their area".