Integrated action – the world needs it

When Smart Growth UK was set up, a key objective of the organisations that created it was to get integrated action across a range of planning, transport and regeneration issues. And that’s what we set out to do.

Today, 17 years later, the need to integrate policy across these – and wider – policy areas is stronger than ever. Environmental bodies are doing their best to integrate policy across a range of issues and often have to settle for proposing integrated action across a couple of separated areas.

All this reflects the lack of interest in Whitehall and the media, a weakness reflected in the current election campaigns where most of the major parties seem determined to ignore the environment altogether.

But the world’s lack of action on the environment – and the growth of other challenges like food and water supplies and military security – means we really need to get our act together. Literally.

For instance, it’s little use introducing agroecology to produce food without destroying nature if the land you want to farm is going to be built on.

There’s little point ensuring major new housing developments have a public transport link if they’re miles from the nearest major employers or the land faces inundation from sea-level rise.

Replacing productive food-producing land with solar farms won’t benefit us if it means many people are no longer able to afford basic foods.

Although politicians pay lip-service to things like climate and food and water security, there are few signs of the radical action we need.

It used to be said that the wars of the late 20th century were about oil, but the wars of the early 21st century would be about water. Well, the world is still fighting over oil and gas, though water is certainly becoming a major issue in many parts of the world.

But wars over food could soon be an issue too. It’s no accident that Russian missiles are targeting the port of Odessa, through which much of the grain that feeds the world’s poorer countries flows. It’s another reason why Ukraine’s war is a vital concern for our security in all sorts of ways.

So the time is coming when we will desperately need a wider and stronger planning system that integrates action across many of these areas.

Would politicians please note, and start ignoring the campaign to smash up the planning system to enable developers to, er, get richer.

Jon Reeds