Report Details Vision for Urban Renaissance
Curtis, Martin White Pinsent, The Birmingham Post (England)
If the countryside is to be protected, development has to be focused on urban areas in general, and brownfield land in particular.
This was the rationale when Mr John Prescott set up the UrbanTask Force in April 1998 and asked it to find out what had caused urban decline and "to recommend practical solutions to turn our cities, towns and urban neighbourhoods into places where people actively want to live, work and play."
The task force report Towards an Urban Renaissance was published this summer.
Its wide-ranging analysis showed among other things that unless there is some change in the planning system and the way development is carried out in this country, the Government's target of locating 60 per cent of new dwellings on brownfield (as opposed to greenfield) land will not be achieved.
How does it propose to overcome that problem?
As its vision for the future, the report states: "We believe that cities should be well designed, be more compact and connected, and support a range of diverse uses - allowing people to live, work and enjoy themselves at close quarters - within a sustainable urban environment which is well integrated with public transport and adaptable to change."
How is this to be achieved?
In the first place, the report has a considerable amount to say about urban design and focuses very much on the need to produce better, more adaptable buildings, but also more attractive and well integrated open areas within towns (whether these be formal open space, streets, or transport corridors).
It also sees a need to make towns far more compact (abolishing restrictions on high density housing and the requirements for excessive car parking provision).
It also wants to see mixed use and mixed income neighbourhoods.
Good design, however, has to be linked with the principles of creating economic strength, accepting environmental responsibilities (susceptibility), prioritising social well being, and investing in local government.
Turning to transport policy, the report goes even further than last year's White Paper.
It wishes to see an extension of the proposed tax on work place parking to all forms of private non-residential car parking.
It proposes a maximum standard of one car parking space per dwelling in all new urban residential areas.
Sixty-five per cent of transport public expenditure, it says, should be committed to programmes and projects which prioritise walking, cycling and public transport over the next 10 years.
"Home Zones" should be introduced in urban areas where pedestrians have absolute priority and cars travel at little more than walking pace. …