Suburbs and sustainability

December 14, 2006

Appendix 3 of the City of Villages report (URBED , 2002 ) ‘Environmental Sustainability’ concludes with the following passage regarding which settlement pattern is the most sustainable.

“There is remarkable agreement about what such a pattern would look like. The Urban Task Force, the TCPA, the Urban Village Forum [Prince Charles’ organisation – no link] and the American New Urbanists [link to] all agree on the idea of a polycentric model consisting of a network of high-accessibility, walkable, dense centres served by good public transport and providing a full range of local facilities. This pattern can be seen in many North European cities. Because of its dense public transport network and heritage of ‘engulfed villages’ London is better placed than most cities.” [p.100]

I highlight this passage to show how the polycentric perspective has gained wide acceptance amongst opinion formers and also to suggest how ‘environmental sustainability’ and ‘sustainability over time’ might be said to share some common ground here – since higher densities are more energy-sustainable in terms of car use and public transport while a variegated network of interrelated suburban centres is likely to be more adaptable to socio-economic change overall than a centre-periphery model.


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