smart growth uk

Blogs

The Outer M25

I suppose one should be grateful for the candour of the National Infrastructure Commission when it admitted the purpose of its proposed Oxford-Cambridge Expressway is to facilitate car-dependent urban sprawl. In its proposal for the gherkin-shaped sprawl corridor last November, it said decisions on ...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 21 May 2018

A Matter Of Principle

About a hundred years overdue, we could finally be seeing a serious national debate over whether garden cities are a good thing. This is an issue the planning profession has treated with kid gloves ever since its inception, thanks to the role garden city enthusiasts played in its foundation and the ...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 05 May 2018

Election Fever

You may not have noticed it, but this is local election time in large parts of England. Election fever, however, has been hard to spot. I visited my own local authority website a couple of days ago to find out who the candidates are in my ward. The council had not even bothered to upload them. It to...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 01 May 2018

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 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.