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Why aren't we building more sustainable residential neighbourhoods in the UK?

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Tim Townshend


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If official rhetoric is to be believed, the UK has been quick to respond to growing global demands for greater sustainability in the way we create the built environment. At the national level there has been a plethora of planning and related guidance stressing the importance of sustainable development, and the need for more sustainable housing has been a key tenet of these texts. The Building Research Establishment has had guidelines and a rating system for more sustainable 'eco-home' developments since the 1990s. The majority of housing development in the UK, however, outwardly and in plan form, at least, seems little different to that built 25 years ago. So why should this be so? Why, when national government policy seems so driven by the sustainability agenda and there are easily adopted national standards, should so little credence appear to be afforded them? This article begins to explore these tensions from the supply side of the equation and in particular in relation to the North East of England. It outlines the development of planning policy in the context of a growing sustainability agenda, the debates surrounding sustainable neighbourhoods and the pressure for new homes in the UK. The article then reviews an empirical research project which explores issues surrounding sustainable neighbourhood development with two types of housing provider. A group of volume house builders, used to providing the type of standardised products in developments that have faced much criticism in recent years and also bespoke providers, who are explicitly striving for more sustainable goals in their work, give their views. The research study covered a wide range of themes covering planning, construction and detailed design; this article focuses on the more 'macro' issues.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Townshend T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Sustainable Development and Planning

Year: 2007

Volume: 2

Issue: 2

Pages: 222-238

ISSN (print): 1743-7601

ISSN (electronic): 1743-761X

Publisher: WIT Press


DOI: 10.2495/SDP-V2-N2-222-238


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