Tony Burton and Lilli Matson
Urban Footprints:Making Best Use of Urban Land and Resources-A Rural Perspective
Cities place an enormous burden on the countryside. They consume land, demand water and construction aggregates, produce waste and provide a focus for commuters. Unless we understand and tackle the problems which emerge as a result of these pressures we will never get to the root of many of the countryside's problems. A key focus for any rural campaign must be to reduce the 'footprint' that our cities place on the countryside. We also need to look more creatively at the way cities can relieve pressure on the countryside. They are the best form of living in terms of reducing society's impact on the environment and we are not making as good use of them as we might. Cities lie at the heart of the agenda about environmentally sustainable development.
What are we doing to our land?
England is a small and crowded island and land is one of its most important, yet vulnerable, resources. As we know, in the countryside we are not protecting and managing land as well as we might. The same is true in the cities. And things are getting worse:
|• 300 people move out of the cities every day (Fig. 1) |
|• we create almost as much derelict land as we reclaim each year |
|• an area of rural land the size of Bristol is urbanised every year, and at current rates of loss, one fifth of England will be urbanised by 2050 |
|• There are 1,500,000 dwellings unfit for habitation in England and more empty homes in the country than there are houses in East Anglia |
These trends are understandable. People's aspirations and increased mobility make the countryside an increasingly attractive choice. But we cannot all move out! Nor can we give up on the decades of investment in the cities. The distinction