The Compact City: A Sustainable Urban Form?

By Mike Jenks; Elizabeth Burton et al. | Go to book overview
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Martin Crookston, Patrick Clarke and Joanna Averley

The Compact City and the Quality of Life

Urban regeneration and the compact city are right in line with the policy of most Western governments. They are, however, a long way adrift from the record and reality of the postwar West. If idea and reality are to be reconciled, it is vital that our towns and cities can offer a quality of life-a 'vision' of the liveable city-which can compete with the rural dream in many people's minds. This vision is not an ideal form. It is made up of practical elements which need money, attention and time, to produce better-managed and cared-for urban places.

Policies and trends

The compact city concept has much to commend it in terms of sustainable development. The benefits of concentrating new development within existing urban areas are widely recognised, notably in the European Communities' Green Paper on the Urban Environment (Commission of the European Communities, 1990). In summary, these benefits include: assisting the process of urban regeneration; capitalising on existing investment in infrastructure and community facilities; bringing back into productive use derelict and contaminated land; and improving the range and quality of facilities available to local residents. For the environment, benefits would be in terms of promoting the use of public transport; reducing the need to travel, and journey lengths, particularly by private car; and reducing pressure on the countryside.

The concept fits well, too, with the principles set out in Sustainable Development: The UK Strategy (UK Government, 1994), and in emerging planning policies. The UK Strategy advocates making the most efficient use of existing urban areas, making them more attractive as places to live and work and bringing derelict and contaminated land back into productive use. Government planning advice in PPG13 recommends 'allocating the maximum amount of housing to existing larger urban areas' (Department of the Environment and Department of Transport, 1994, para 3.2) while the recent White Paper, Our Future Homes, sets a target of accommodating at least half of future housing within existing


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