Mike Jenks, Katie Williams and Elizabeth Burton
The title of this book, The Compact City: A Sustainable Urban Form?, was posed as a question. It would be reasonable to ask, having started with a question, if a positive answer has now been given. The preceding chapters have presented a wide ranging debate based on new thought, research and experience. As is the characteristic of almost all knowledge, when some questions are answered, a host of others are raised; this book is no exception. What has been established is that the compact city concept is complex, and the issues multi-layered. On the face of it there is nothing new in that, however, there are some clear and important indications from which a consensus might emerge, and from which future directions can be drawn.
That there is a need for Sustainable development is not in doubt. The ecological imperative, which addresses global warming, the consequences of profligate energy consumption and the use of non-renewable resources has long been established, and is endorsed by governments worldwide. What is now emerging is a strong desire to act, and to act specifically in relation to cities; for it is cities which are seen as the main contributors to unsustainability, and thus are the locus within which significant solutions can be found. Yet the arguments remain largely theoretical, and the impacts of any action to achieve compact city goals seem, at best, uncertain. Here the solutions remain partially unresolved, but the debate has certainly moved on. There are some discernible common threads, and the balance of discourse is beginning to move away from theory and into the realm of practical policies, and of urban forms that could contribute to achieving a more sustainable future.
Strong arguments have been presented for two extremes, centralisation and containment, and dispersal and low density development, both of which assert a link between urban form and sustainability. But there is no consensus. Concentration in city centres is claimed to reduce journeys and improve the