Practically Realising Prosperity - Katie Williams
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Practically Realising Prosperity - Katie Williams

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Professor Katie Williams - Director of the Centre for Environment and Planning, UWE - delivers a speech to SWO Conference delegates on how through housing planners might help to 'realise prosperity'.

Professor Katie Williams - Director of the Centre for Environment and Planning, UWE - delivers a speech to SWO Conference delegates on how through housing planners might help to 'realise prosperity'.

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  • 1. Sustainable communities in the South West: how can we achieve quantity and quality? Professor Katie Williams Director, Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments , University of the West of England, Bristol
  • 2. Setting the context..
    • There will be large scale housing (urban) growth in the South West: 36%household growth, 40 urban extensions
    • The aim is to accommodate this growth in sustainable (prosperous) communities , not more ‘placeless’ single-use housing developments
    • We have had government guidance and a sustainable-communities focused rhetoric for over 10 years now
    • But we are struggling to deliver sustainable communities in the UK: we are failing in quality and quantity
    • What could we do to deliver better places ?
  • 3. The presentation..
    • What is meant by a sustainable community ?
    • Why do we want them?
    • How are they delivered in the UK?
    • What progress is being made?
    • How could we do things better?
      • A more sophisticated vision of sustainable communities
      • Better evidence base
      • Better delivery processes
      • Some international learning
  • 4. What is a sustainable community?
    • New or regeneration schemes
    • Mixture of physical and non-physical qualities
    • Balanced and integrated social, economic and environmental components
    • Emphasis on housing and other uses and needs of communities (now and in the future)
    • Mixed communities (not just social/private housing)
  • 5. What is a sustainable community?
    • A community that has:
    • a flourishing local economy
    • strong leadership
    • effective engagement and participation (especially in the planning, design and long-term stewardship of the community)
    • active voluntary and community sector
    • diverse, vibrant and creative local culture
    • safe and healthy local environment
    • well-designed public and green space
    • good public transport and other transport infrastructure
    • buildings that can meet different needs over time and that minimise the use of resources
    • well integrated mix of decent homes of different types and tenures
    • good quality local public services
    • sense of place
    • right links with the wider regional, national and international community
    • sufficient size, scale and density and the right layout to support basic amenities in the neighbourhood and minimise use of resources (including land) (summarised from ODPM, 2003, p.5)
  • 6. Source, image below CABE
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  • 11. Why do we want sustainable communities?
    • To avoid past failures
      • Mass social housing
      • Poor design (urban and architectural)
      • Ineffective regeneration
    • To address the sustainability agenda
    • As an acceptable solution to unpopular new development (including eco-towns)
  • 12. How are sustainable communities delivered in the UK?
    • ‘ Shared endeavour’ ( CLG, 2007)
    • Private, public and third sector agencies involved
    • Via spatial planning (national, regional and local levels)
    • A number of delivery partners : e.g. private development firms, local authorities, The Housing Corporation, English Partnerships
    • Key professionals: planners, architects, urban designers, engineers, utility providers
    • Phased over long time periods
    Ingress Park development, image copyright Morag Lindsay
  • 13. What progress is being made?
    • Difficult to assess
    • Still a minority of all new schemes (mainly in the South East): we identified 150 schemes in the UK
    • Performing better than norms in terms of urban design, energy efficiency, travel behaviour and community development
    • Not delivering on community cohesion : many just dormitory settlements (suffer from remoteness)
    • Not delivering joined up housing and service provision
    • Many initial sustainability elements do not get delivered
    • Findings from reports by Williams, 2007; Williams and Lindsay, 2007; Sustainable Development Commission, 2007; Power 2004; CLG, 2006; TCPA, 2004, RICS, 2007
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  • 17. Why is this?
    • ‘ One of the shortcomings of the predominant build-for-sale housing model is that the developer does not retain long-term interest in the site . There is no incentive to produce a design better than the minimum needed to make a sale , and issues such as the design of the public realm and long term maintenance can be sidelined without any impact on profit. ’ (Liz Pearce, Chief Exec, British Property Federation)
  • 18. Why is this?
    • Mismatch between partners (regulators and regulated) aspirations, objectives and timescales
    • Not enough local benefits from development: housing numbers seen as an imposition not a responsibility
    • Problems of complexity, number of agents, mismatched regulatory and funding systems, phasing of infrastructure and amenities etc.
    • Private investment is difficult to secure and maintain
    • Community participation is problematic - difficult to maintain momentum, manage expectations
    • Skills base is poor (within and between professions)
  • 19. What could we do to deliver better quality and quantity?
    • 1. Develop a more sophisticated vision of what we want to achieve:
    • Lose the obsession with finding ‘one model’ of developing sustainable communities: multiple guises, not one size fits all (could include different urban forms, designs, scales, more local solutions)
    • Find solutions focused around agreed principles (of sustainable development: prudent use of resources, equity) but then realise a range of solutions
    • Understand that with multiple visions go wide-ranging actions (some top-down, some bottom-up, large and small scale), and these vary in time and scale
  • 20. What could we do to deliver better quality and quantity?
    • 2.Develop a stronger evidence base around sustainable communities and act on it.
    • Monitor what works and what doesn’t
    • Much good practice is now just ‘accepted wisdom’, and is not based on learning or evidence
    • The are no awards for learning from our mistakes!
  • 21. Example 1. Source: Bramley and Power, 2009
  • 22. Example 2: number of cars owned in ‘sustainable developments’ compared with national averages %
    • But sustainable behaviours increased in high quality environments
    • And when there were groups of features designed to support sustainable lifestyles
  • 23. Example 3: study on the relationship between quality and social cohesion
  • 24. What could we do to deliver better quality and quantity?
    • 3. Develop more sustainable and effective delivery mechanisms:
    • Maximise what we CAN do within the current system (learning from good practice in the UK)
    • Maximise the variety of public-private partnership models that can be used, depending on local circumstances (Studdert, 2009)
    • Ensure committed leadership from individuals or organisations, with medium or long term aspirations (could be from LA, architects, developer, community, land owner)
    • Develop teams with ‘mutual’ interests : often schemes with rental elements do better
    • Ensure highly skilled team members
    • Provide good project management and community engagement : so all stakeholders involved early enough
    • BUT: Many good schemes have ‘non-standard’ funding/land ownership etc. – so models hard to replicate
  • 25. What could we do to deliver better quality and quantity?
    • 4. Learn from places where higher quality and faster housing delivery works, e.g. mainland European models:
    • Local authorities have greater local autonomy and financial independence, and work within more flexible regional planning frameworks : they lead in master planning and engagement
    • Local authorities are often landowners (or have some stake in the land) and can therefore demonstrate leadership; they can also borrow money at cheaper rates from municipal banks to forward-fund
    • A wider range of house-builders is involved self-procurement groups, private and social landlords, etc. Hence a wider choice of types and tenures of housing, and more long term interests.
    • Schemes have local support because of sustained involvement and visible benefits (Studdert, 2009; Falk and Hall, 2009)
  • 26. Vathorst, Amersfoort NL Images copyright freeimages,
  • 27. Conclusions
    • It is possible, but very difficult to deliver truly sustainable communities in the UK
    • We need people involved who are skilled, more pro-active, confident and visionary
    • We need to base our actions on evidence of what works and doesn’t: especially how people want to live!
    • We need to focus on quality: would you like to live there?
    • We need to press for wider changes that move us towards the benefits of the European models
  • 28. Conclusions
    • ‘ The city is rooted in the habits and customs of the people who inhabit it. The consequence is that the city possesses a moral as well as a physical organisation, and these two mutually interact in characteristic ways to mold (sic) and modify one another’
    • (Park, 1915)
  • 29. Publications by Katie Williams and Nicholas Falk
  • 30. References
    • CABE (2009) who Should Build Our Homes?, CABE 2009
    • CLG (2007) Eco-Towns prospectus,
    • CLG, (2007) Homes for the Future,
    • DEFRA (2006) Sustainable Communities: A shared agenda, a share of the action, TSO, Norwich
      • Falk N and Hall P (2009) Why not Here? Town and Country Planning, Jan.
      • Falk N (2008) Beyond Eco-towns: The Economic Issues, URBED
      • Falk N (2008) Making Eco-Towns work: Developing Vathorst, Amersfoort NL
    • Guy S and Marvin S (1999) Understanding Sustainable Cities: Competing Urban futures, European and Regional Studies, Vol.6, No.3, pp. 268-275
    • ODPM (2003) Sustainable Communities Plan,
    • Park, RE (1915) The City: suggestions for the investigation of human behaviour in the city environment, The American Journal of Sociology, vol. 20, No 5, pp.577-612.
    • Williams K (2010) Sustainable Cities, research and practice challenges, International Journal of Urban Sustainable Development, 1(1)
      • Williams and Lindsay (2007) The Extent and Nature of Sustainable Building in England: An Analysis of Progress, Planning theory and Practice, 8(1), pp 27-45
      • Williams K and Dair C (2007) What is Stopping Sustainable Building in England? Barriers Experienced by Stakeholders in Delivering Sustainable Developments