smart growth uk


Defining Tod

Transit Oriented Development, or TOD, is a concept which lacks a precise definition and is, within limits, the better for it. So when I get asked to define it, I have to admit it covers a range of concepts though equally we need to be clear there have to be limits. US practitioners who invented the ...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 22 November 2016

Leeds Disunited

Back in the 1960s, Leeds used to advertise itself as the Motorway City and did itself a great deal of damage by road construction. But, as the years went by, wiser counsels prevailed and the city laid plans for much more sustainable ways of getting about. In the 1990s, the city which had once had an...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 08 November 2016

Why Building Preservation Matters

I sometimes sense a degree of unease among UK Smart Growth supporters about the inclusion of protection for historic buildings and townscape in our policies. I think this is a pity, as old buildings are a vital urban resource and have a great deal to offer in many respects. As the US National Trust ...

Posted by Jon Reeds on 04 November 2016


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.