smart growth uk

Blogs

Soviet Style

It really is quite alarming how the chorus of self-interested voices advocating the smashing up of the English planning system keeps banging on about Soviet-style controls. It is, of course, a familiar technique in the populist press. Take some casual slander and endlessly repeat it around several n...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 02 July 2020

Making Communities Wilder

A long-standing tradition among national environmental groups is not to challenge one another publicly. That is not to say there are no occasional private disagreements, but generally the tradition has worked well. Right now, however, three national bodies have tossed a stick of dynamite on to the f...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 18 June 2020

Cummings Corporations

Normally, ministers and civil servants consigned to the naughty step like to keep their heads down for a while, but that seems not to be the case with Dominic Cummings and Robert Jenrick. Both got into trouble over lockdown rules and the public gripes with Mr Cummings would fill a book. Indeed, seve...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 09 June 2020

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.