In the Summer 2022 issue of Urban Design, the journal of the Urban Design Group, Hugh Petter writes about Delivering Popular and Sustainable Urbanism. He advocates an approach to development based on a long vision and collaboration.
In the UK today, the sad truth is that development is generally not popular because too often those who will be affected by the development are not properly engaged with and listened to during the evolution of a design. What is promised at the planning stage is not delivered on site; the quality of what is delivered, especially commercial housing, is frankly lamentable; and those affected by the development do not reap any tangible benefit from it.
It is a vicious circle: because development is not popular, regulation becomes ever more complex and onerous to try and force better outcomes. But this approach of ‘stick and not carrot' only raises the cost of planning applications and squeezes smaller developers out of the market. It leaves the plc type of housebuilders, whose formulaic business model rarely includes the delivery of non-residential uses and is focussed upon repetition, high profits and short-term financial horizons, dominating the market. The system is well and truly broken.
The challenge therefore is to establish new approaches to improve the quality of new development, to tailor it better to meet local needs, to ensure that those affected feel the economic and social benefits, to deliver non-residential uses to enable lower carbon lifestyles, and by doing all of these things, make development popular. This article sets out some thoughts as to how that can be achieved.