smart growth uk


A Funny Sort Of Crisis

The blog by Nigel Pearce suggesting we rethink the language of planning set me thinking about the way we do indeed use, and misuse, language. Nigel was particularly scathing about misuse of words like growth and sustainable and he is right. I must admit the phrase that currently sets my teeth on edg...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 16 March 2018

Rethinking The Language Of Planning

In many spheres of human activity, the vocabulary used by insiders and then taken up by those looking in from the outside, tends to drift over time into a kind of linguistic fuzziness. It then needs renewal to restore rigour to the underlying concepts and to ensure accountability if the concepts bec...

Posted by Nigel Pearce on 14 March 2018

Inter-varsity Mismatch

The rivalry between the ancient universities of Oxford and Cambridge has given us many spectacles like the Boat Race and varsity cricket or rugby matches, but the two have more in common than their rivalry would suggest. That may one day include a belt of low-density petrolhead suburbia, stretching ...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 01 March 2018


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.