Learning Old Lessons
Ministers who promote greenfield sprawl as a way to help young families buy their own home as soon as possible believe they are on to a vote-winner.
Whether it will actually win any votes in a country where it is increasingly hard to get anyone under 40 to vote is a question they should also be aski...
Posted by Jon Reeds on 07 May 2013
Roads to hell are often paved with good intentions and modern roads to hell tend to be high-capacity, grade-separated, dual-carriageways.
This week the Scottish Government published proposals for updating its na...
Posted by Jon Reeds on 03 May 2013
Back To School, Minister
The news that Greater London will have a shortfall of 118,000 school places by 2016-17 should surprise no-one who has watched the withering and destruction of regional planning.
While the rest of the UK is left to wither and die, the all-important City of London is now King of the British economy an...
Posted by Jon Reeds on 24 April 2013
Lines Of Attack
A lot of ink has been spilled on the legacy left behind by the former British Railways chairman Dr Richard Beeching on the 50th anniversary of his notorious report which heralded the closure of large chunks of our rail passenger services.
Investigators are still examining the full story of how some ...
Posted by Jon Reeds on 11 April 2013
One of the great advantages of a parliamentary democracy is that sometimes ministers are unable to hide behind the barrier of carefully crafted statements and written answers that reveal nothing of what they really think. On the floor of the Commons, however, they sometimes do blurt out some reveali...
Posted by Jon Reeds on 22 March 2013
Stuck In The Past
Sometimes we all fantasize about boarding a time machine and visiting the past. But the past, as they say, is a foreign country and not everything we found there would be wonderful. But it might at least enable us to avoid repeating its mistakes.
That could be a useful lesson for certain UK cities t...
Posted by Jon Reeds on 06 March 2013
A SUSTAINABLE APPROACH
The radical planning philosophy that blends old ways with new
Smart Growth is a sustainable approach to planning that emphasises compact and accessible urban communities and which opposes urban sprawl and car dependency. It seeks traditional ways of planning towns based around local services, ease of walking and cycling and good public transport, especially rail-based. It looks for ways to rebuild our lost sense of community.
WHAT IS SMART GROWTH?
Here in the UK we are rightly proud of our historic towns and cities, our beautiful countryside and a planning system which protects our environment. But, for a whole string of reasons, our small and overcrowded country has spent 100 years building urban sprawl and creating a transport system fatally dependent on the car and the motor lorry. Despite its large areas of moor and mountain, the UK is a very densely populated country and England is now Europe’s most densely populated country.
Parts of it are short of water and there is strong opposition to the urban sprawl which some argue is necessary to house our population. Climate change means we need to use less fossil fuel, yet we have a transport system which accounts for more than a quarter of our emissions, our public transport is expensive and often inadequate and the fabric and economies of many of our towns and cities have decayed.
Smart Growth has its origins in a country where the damage done by sprawl, car dependency and urban deprivation far exceeded our own mistakes – America. Yet extreme challenges often prompt the best solutions and, over the past 20 years, the Smart Growth movement has increasingly tackled these problems. Today, many US inner cities are regenerating economically and socially and being equipped with the rail-based public transport many of our cities desperately need. Cities are being remodelled to allow people to walk or cycle and are challenging America’s fatal car dependency. Meanwhile its sprawling suburbs are feeling the chill wind of higher gas prices, falling house prices and social decline.
Recent years have seen discussions among environmental groups about ways of mirroring these successes here in the UK. A group of environmental NGOs formulated and agreed a set of principles for Smart Growth in the UK for use in planning, transport planning, community development and urban regeneration.
THE SMART GROWTH UK PRINCIPLES
Plan Compact Communities
Smart Growth promotes well-designed, compact, functional communities and rejects land-hungry sprawl and wastage of greenfield land.
Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities
Smart Growth emphasises use of communities’ existing infrastructure and resources and conserves open space and urban fringes.
Provide sustainable transport choices
Smart Growth reduces dependence on road transport and increases opportunities for walking, cycling and public transport. Towns, cities and villages should be pedestrian-friendly and rail-accessible.
Protect the unbuilt environment
Smart Growth believes our countryside and open space is a precious environmental, social and economic resource. It should be protected and husbanded if we are to move towards a more sustainable society. Squandering it will create, not solve, problems for our towns and will do nothing for our national economy.
Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place
Smart Growth encourages communities to develop their own identity and vision, respecting their cultural and architectural heritage. It supports human-scale development and opposes large, monolithic developments, out-of-town retailing and “big box” architecture.
Mix land uses
Smart Growth supports a sensible mix of land uses to suit communities and which meet their daily needs.
Encourage communities to flourish and grow
Smart Growth supports mixed-income, mixed-age, inclusive communities that take responsibility for their own development. Local economies should be developed to make them more self supporting.
Create a range of housing oppurtunties and choice
Smart Growth supports quality living for people of all income groups, ages and needs. We want human-scale development at appropriate densities to support sustainable transportation and local facilities.
Make development decisions fair and economically inclusive
For communities to successfully implement Smart Growth they must ensure all three sectors of the economy – public, private and community - function successfully and sustainably.