Urban regeneration – unfinished business

A powerful coalition of civic, environmental, transport and brownfield bodies have submitted a response to the Lyons Housing Review calling for any potential future Labour Government to consider a ‘Smart Growth’ approach to development.

The Smart Growth UK coalition is disappointed by the Review’s assumption that new towns and garden cities are the solution to the housing challenge. The coalition’s response to the Review urges future Governments to focus on keeping our cities alive, rediscover the importance of urban regeneration and preserve our countryside through Smart Growth.

Freddie Gick, Chair of Civic Voice said:

‘The Smart Growth principles offer an alternative to constant overdevelopment of areas already under pressure. We want to see priority given to the development of brownfield sites in urban areas and regions where it is most needed, which will reduce urban sprawl and the need for out-of-town expansion.’

The Smart Growth UK coalition believes any major new urban development would need to satisfy the following criteria to meet the principles of sustainability:

  • Protecting and promoting local distinctiveness and character and our heritage, respecting and making best use of historic buildings, street forms and settlement patterns;
  • Prioritizing regeneration in urban areas and regions where it is needed, emphasising brownfield-first and promoting town centres with a healthy mix of facilities;
  • Enhancing civic involvement and local economic activity which improve the health of communities
  • Urban areas work best when they are compact, with appropriate densities, avoiding very low and very high. Layout and design should prioritise walking, cycling and public transport so they become the norm.
  • Reducing our dependence on high-carbon transport like cars by improving public transport, rail-based where possible, and concentrating development in urban areas and
  • Protecting the countryside, farmland, natural beauty, open space, soil and biodiversity, avoiding urban sprawl and out-of-town development.

Fiona Howie, Head of Planning at CPRE, said:

‘As the Review’s Call for Evidence states, England needs to build more homes, especially affordable housing. But issues of housing need, demand and aspiration are complex and the Review needs to look beyond simply finding ways of increasing the number of homes built each year. The emphasis should be on increasing the delivery of high quality housing to meet identified needs in sustainable locations’.

Stephen Joseph, CEO of the Campaign for Better Transport, said:

‘Previous new towns and greenfield development have left inhabitants very car dependent, adding to cost of living and social exclusion. Future Governments need to focus on reducing car dependence; priority should be given to building good quality, high density housing on brownfield sites, based around good public transport, high quality cycle networks and good local services’.