smart growth uk


Garden Sheds

As we all know, Ebenezer Howard was a great advocate of garden cities. His followers extended this land-hungry idea to promotion of garden suburbs and, later, garden villages and garden towns. Now the mania for garden sprawl has gone even further. We have garden distribution centres. The Cherwell Di...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 10 October 2016

The Times We Live In

An event which may have escaped your notice took place a couple of weeks back at Kirkleatham Museum near Redcar and should stand as a sign of our times. This was the Festival of Thrift, now in its fourth year. Some 35,000 visitors attended the Festival which aims to inspire and educate visitors abou...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 26 September 2016

Garden Dreams And Nightmares

West Oxfordshire District Council describes its plan for 2,200 homes and a science park on 320ha of prime Oxfordshire farmland as a genuine and timely opportunity to deliver an exemplar development for the 21st century drawing on well-planned, designed and sustainable garden city principles. But, in...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 13 September 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.