smart growth uk


Time To Revise The National Planning Policy Framework

From the Department for Communities and Local Government comes a Planning Update. It goes on a bit about how the Department intends to make sense of the Treasury-apos-s Fixing the Foundations plan, issued last summer, though one can-apos-t help feeling that if they really wanted councils to prepare ...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 02 October 2015

Just Too Big

I suppose most Londoners have asked themselves at some time or another whether London is too big. I had similar thoughts myself yesterday evening when travelling into London from the suburbs to attend an early evening meeting. The eight-mile journey took me almost an hour and three-quarters. There w...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 16 September 2015

Scotland Reconsiders

Dear Nicola Sturgeon, I was interested to see the Scottish Government is planning a root-and-branch review of the planning system. What an opportunity. Wisely perhaps, you refrained from saying much about the outcomes you hope for, beyond saying you want to increase delivery of high quality housing ...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 08 September 2015


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.