One of the government’s senior race relations advisers has criticised communities in some parts of the country for being “unhealthily all white”.
Professor Ted Cantle, who wrote the report on the 2001 riots in Bradford and Oldham, suggested people from ethnic minorities in some parts of the Midlands might not feel “safe and secure” living near predominantly white communities.
Cantle, who has chaired a panel advising ministers on implementing the recommendations of his report, made the remarks in an interview about multiculturalism with a local newspaper last week.
In an apparent reference to Heanor, a predominantly white town in the Amber Valley area of Derbyshire, Cantle said he was concerned about the strength of support for the far-right British National party in some parts of the East Midlands.
He said: “If I was working in Nottingham, I’d be talking to black and ethnic minority communities about how free they feel to exercise choice over where they live, in particular where they feel safe and secure.
“Some of the neighbouring areas of Notts and Derbyshire do seem to be unhealthily all-white. There is some evidence to show they are hostile to black and ethnic minorities.”
In February the BNP came second in a council by-election in Heanor. A few days later Channel Five dubbed it the “skinhead capital of Britain”.
In his 2001 report on the riots in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham, Cantle identified communities living “parallel lives” and highlighted the polarisation of communities with different schools, estates and social lives. He said schools should change their catchment areas to attract a broader mix.
At the time one in four primary schools in Bradford were more than 70% Asian while half were totally white. Cantle opposed single-faith and “monocultural” schools, but ministers ignored his advice.
Last year Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, warned that unless steps were taken to promote deeper integration, segregation could reach the levels witnessed in New Orleans. He warned that Britain might be “sleepwalking to segregation”.
Cantle’s remarks go further by describing parts of the country as “unhealthily” white, a phrase that critics said this weekend appeared to place the blame for ethnic tensions on the white community.
Local people agree Heanor is predominantly white. But they deny they pose a threat to non-white communities. Brian Lucas, a Labour councillor for the nearby area of Cotmanhay, said: “I’m a big believer in people choosing where they live and not being pushed, guided or forced into an area.”