Aha, a response to my last column about the state of Manchester. Architect, researcher and consultant Wayne Ruga, who has been working with Salford primary care trust on developing a 'human-centred culture', writes to congratulate me on writing the 'unspeakable'.

'Sitting in my "million-pound penthouse", looking out over the city centre and beyond, it's clear to me that building more urban trash, which seems to be most of what is being built, is not in fact making too many local folks healthier, wealthier, or more wise,' he writes.

'Somehow, it all looks and feels too similar to what we already have learned did not work in the 1970s; just taller, curvier and with more glass.'

In my previous column, I highlighted the poverty that still blights Manchester despite all the hype about the city's renaissance. Nice to know I am not the only one and many thanks to Mr Ruga for his comments.

Anyway, I had mentioned I was about to take a trip back to the nation's third city (or second, depending whom you ask) and said I would report back. As it turned out, I did not spend as much time in the city centre as I had hoped, being largely trapped at a conference by a combination of long days and it being too cold to venture far.

However, some of what I saw when I did walk around lifted my spirits. The city centre is looking pretty well scrubbed up when not marred by building work for endless flats (of which more below), but don't get me started on the state of some of the areas just minutes from the centre. Still, the centre Christmas lights are prettier, more tasteful and more environmentally friendly than the tacky baubles hanging in Oxford Street.

But good grief, how many flats can be built in one place? And who actually wants to live in a box perched over a main road thronged with thundering traffic?

And are they really willing to live without any access to green spaces?

What happens if they, say, want to have children, given there are so few primary schools nearby? City centre communities are only sustainable when they reflect all walks of life, not just when they only resemble crash pads for the young, rich and single.