smart growth uk


Combatting Climate Change

The sign on the wall proclaimed Our Commitment to Combatting Climate Change. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Except that the building in question was a motorway service area. Just metres away from the notice was the petrol station where, every day, many tonnes of fossil fuel are distributed to b...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 19 April 2016


Northern Ireland environment minister Mark H Durkan was probably taking a bit of a risk when he approved the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan without taking it to the Executive Committee of the Northern Ireland Executive for approval. So it was perhaps inevitable that its opponents, who included the t...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 15 March 2016

In The Eye Of The Beholder

Back in the 19th century, there was a body called the Kyrle Society whose objective was to bring beauty to the poor. It provided books and open spaces to the disadvantaged and influenced the decoration and design of hospitals, schools and clubs. It was enormously successful at first and had branches...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 08 March 2016


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.


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 creating urban sprawl and 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. Some parts are short of water and our shrinking farmland cannot meet all our food needs and so there is strong opposition to the urban sprawl which some claim 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 is a holistic concept which treats a range of spatial, transport and community planning and regeneration challenges in the round. Its origins lie in a country where the damage done by sprawl, car dependency and urban deprivation far exceeded our own – 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 help people to walk or cycle, high quality public transport is being provided and America’s fatal car dependency is being addressed. Meanwhile its sprawling suburbs are feeling the chill wind of higher fuel prices, falling house prices and social decline.

Recent years have pointed the need for UK planning, transport and community policies to take a new path. Smart Growth UK, an informal coalition of organisations and individuals interested in promoting the Smart Growth concept in this country, formulated an initial set of principles in 2007 and in 2013 a range of organisations gave their support to a policy statement Meeting the Growth Challenge which sets out the challenges we face and proposes principles for a sustainable response.