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Smart Growth alternative to status quo urged


A wide range of bodies has issued a statement urging national and local government to adopt a new Smart Growth approach to development that rejects sprawl and concentrates on compact settlements, including brownfield-first.

The statement, Meeting the Growth Challenge, attacks current policies promoting low-density, car-dependent sprawl and concentrating it in south-east England and criticises lack of action on brownfield.

It urges a new approach based on six principles:-

  • compact urban areas with appropriate densities and layouts that prioritize walking, cycling and public transport;
  • less dependency on cars and improvements to public transport, rail-based where possible;
  • protection of countryside, farmland, natural beauty, open space, soil and biodiversity, avoiding urban sprawl and out-of-town development.
  • promoting local distinctiveness, character and heritage;
  • prioritizing regeneration in urban areas and regions where it is needed, emphasising brownfield-first and promoting town centres;
  • civic involvement and local economic activity.

The coalition has won support from a wide range of organisations and individuals and cross-party support from politicians.

"Land, that precious scarce resource, will be at a further premium as the world struggles with rising food prices and scarcity," said former environment secretary Lord Deben.

"Let's concentrate on recycling already-used land. There are more than sufficient sites for the housing we need. It only requires imagination, energy, and Government drive to unlock them. Building on green fields is the lazy way to sacrifice our future."

Stoke-on-Trent MP Tristram Hunt said ministers need to focus on keeping cities alive and preserving the countryside through Smart Growth.

"Good quality, high-density housing schemes on brownfield sites should be the priority," he said.

Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood said Smart Growth principles offer an alternative to over-development in areas under pressure.

"We need an alternative vision which promotes the recovery of derelict land and buildings, urban regeneration, genuinely sustainable communities and the protection of treasured and important green spaces," he said.

A wide range of organisations supported the statement, including:-

  • All Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group;
  • Association of Small Historic Towns and Villages of the United Kingdom;
  • Campaign for Better Transport; Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales;
  • Campaign to Protect Rural England;
  • Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management;
  • Civic Trust for Wales;
  • Civic Voice;
  • Igloo Regeneration Fund;
  • Light Rail UK;
  • North of England Civic Trust;
  • Scottish Civic Trust;
  • Ulster Society for Protection of the Countryside.

CPRE chief executive Shaun Spiers said more homes are needed but should take up as little land as possible and avoid reliance on cars.

The Campaign listed some brownfield sites which will require Government support if they are to be taken forward.

CBT campaigns director Richard Hebditch said rising car ownership and sprawling low-density suburban development have waste land, caused towns to decline and caused over-dependency on cars.

"The need for Smart Growth is particularly urgent as the Government prepares to publish its major housing proposals and developers are pushing plans to build 250,000 new homes in sprawling greenfield developments along the M11 and A14," he said.

"These would force people to travel by car and be the very opposite of Smart Growth."

Igloo chief executive Chris Brown said the best towns and cities constantly renew themselves organically for the benefit of their citizens and common sense dictates making best use of existing infrastructure.

"This is what Smart Growth delivers," he said.

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