Sustainable development, sustainability or environmental stewardship are all terms that refer to the relationship between environmental protection and the economic development associated with industrial society. Just as the early public health legislation of the nineteenth century was a reaction against disease associated with slum housing, so in the 1990s the introduction of Sustainable development is a reaction to the environmental degradation of the latter half of the twentieth century, which is associated with pollution, depletion of non-renewable resources (fossil fuels, minerals, aggregates), erosion of the ozone layer, pollution and the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere because of the production of carbon dioxide (global warming).
Sustainable development is difficult to define and can mean different things to different people. As a subject area it deals with the relationship between economic growth and environmental protection. In some ways it represents a marriage between these two issues, seeking to ensure that future economic growth and development is achieved without longer-term environmental degradation. As Blowers (1993:5) suggests:
Sustainable development requires that we have regard to the Earth’s regenerative capacity, the ability of its systems to recuperate and maintain productivity. Thus, the conservation of resources is a strong component of sustainable development.
The following definition, provided by the United Nations World Commission, commonly referred to as the Brundtland Commission after its Chairperson, Mrs Gro Harlem Brundtland, is the most quoted, and has been adopted by many national governments in their own policies on the matter:
Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. (World Commission 1987)
A strategy of sustainable development will therefore deliver economic growth and development without resulting in long-term damage to environmental resources. How does town planning and property development fit into this equation?
In Britain the town planning system has, since 1947, been concerned with deci