smart growth uk

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Beautiful Dreamers

Like all prime ministers, Theresa May is worrying about her legacy and one positive item she has been quick to cite is the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission which recently published its interim report. The PM had asked the Commission to develop proposals for embedding beautiful, sustain...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 14 July 2019

Being Really Truthful

ICYMI, acronyms are a growing feature of the way we converse. Long a staple of the armed forces, they now pervade every aspect of our communication. Happily there are now websites devoted to explaining every new acronym the moment it joins the information superhighway. And talking of highways, one w...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 04 July 2019

What We Can Learn From History

I have been reading the letters of the Younger Pliny. If that sounds pretentious, it is rather. But there is a reason for it. We recently returned from a week-long holiday in southern Italy, in my case travelling with a twinge of -apos-flygskam-apos-, or flight shame, though clearly not enough. The ...

Posted by Nigel Pearce on 15 June 2019

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.