High density, well planned urban villages hold answer to many inner city problems

Happy commuters, fresher air, cleaner streets and a thriving local economy are all possible by following the principles in a planning ‘toolkit’ published by RICS today (14 June).

The urban renaissance is not some futuristic fantasy but achievable under existing legislation and business practices. It is simply a matter of co-ordinating the interested parties: planners, developers, the local community, transport planners, operators and providers.

The basic premise is to build densely in the immediate vicinity of existing transport interchanges.

Following the principles of Transport Development Areas (TDAs), local authorities would offer incentives for developers to build intensively in certain areas and in certain ways. The result will be the development of excellent higher density, mixed use areas around good public transport access, reducing reliance on the car and easing pollution. Essentially the kind of places people want to live and work.

RICS has identified and investigated 20 case studies including Newcastle, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Reading and four London sites. All are existing transport interchanges that would benefit from the TDA approach. In some instances this is already under way. The recent announcement of a new city to be built on the Greenwich peninsula also provides a golden opportunity to get it right.

RICS chief executive Louis Armstrong said:

‘High density may conjure up dystopian, Bladerunner-like images for some, but high density does not automatically mean high rise. Paris has on average four times the living density of London but buildings rarely exceed seven stories and the urban environment is by and large better. Integrated planning has also produced enviable results in cities such as Copenhagen, Stockholm and Lyon.

‘We have to get away from the idea that it is necessary for people to haul themselves across cities to their jobs every morning. It is bad for quality of life and bad for the economy. People should be given a realistic option to live near their work.

‘TDAs would put an end to much haphazard planning, which has led to many of the problems we face today. If you look at London tube stations for example, you will often find that they are one storey buildings occupying prime space that could also be shops, flats and offices, providing a healthy heart for a successful urban community.’

(source: RICS)

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