Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

And you thought “eco-density” was bad …

with 8 comments

Eco-towns are the greatest try-on in the history of property speculation

Simon Jenkins, the Gaurdian

No, they are not the same idea at all. But this splendid rant on Britain’s latest wheeze to try and deal with a rising population and resistance to redevelopment is well worth reading. Let me give you a couple of samples

Planning is a trashcan for any buzzword doing the rounds.

The truth is that all governments hate cities.

Anyway it is not fair that I just sample it. And I am not saying that I agree with it or not. It is just a really good read – and it should provoke some thought if nothing else.

Alright just one more quote

Britain has plenty of potential eco-towns. They are called London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle, to name a few. They conform to every one of Flint’s declared objectives.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 3, 2008 at 4:51 pm

Posted in Urban Planning

8 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I think the first comment to the article makes a great point – that Jenkins is basically correct but that the sheer size of Britain’s housing shortage makes greenfield development somewhat inevitable. I don’t know that I agree, but I can definitely see that raipidly densifying British cities being a tough sell.

    I mean, look at the opposition that Sam Sullivan has run into with eco-city, trying to densify Vancouver – and now think about what that opposition would look like if you substituted Muswell Hill for Dunbar. Can you imagine – especially given the results of the last round of government planned inner-city residential development*?

    (*I speak as someone with quite a lot of close-up experience of such successes of urban planning as Stonebridge & Chalkhill estates, in the good old Borough of Brent.)


    Mark Allerton

    April 3, 2008 at 6:51 pm

  2. Doh, read “eco-density”, not “eco-city”. But as you might have gathered, no, I didn’t think eco-density was bad. Right idea, wrong Mayor.

    Mark Allerton

    April 3, 2008 at 8:51 pm

  3. But there is no housing shortage in the UK. They have been tearing down houses in failed estates. There is a massive imbalance between London (and the South East) and the rest of the country – which by the way devolution is beginning to settle in Scotland and Wales but that is not available to the English regions.

    And what is needed in the south east is more determined “brown field” development – like Docklands, but developers think greenfields are cheaper and easier.

    At one time I was employed to determine which railway lines into London had capacity for more commuters as that would then show where the new housing should be. No one in local government in the region thought about relocating the employment. Although Whitehall thought it should go to Tyneside. I think they moved the National Savings Office there.

    Stephen Rees

    April 3, 2008 at 9:46 pm

  4. Oh come on Stephen, even a quick google for “UK housing shortage” will show that there very much _is_ a UK housing shortage. Even George Monbiot, no friend of the property developer, believes this (see

    Mark Allerton

    April 4, 2008 at 1:32 pm

  5. Good article. “I had no idea. I simply had no idea.”


    also note

    “It is true that much more could be done to mobilise empty houses(12), help elderly people to move into smaller flats and stamp out Britain’s ugliest inequality: second homes(13). It is disappointing to see how little of this there is in the bill. But even if all such measures were used, they would release perhaps half a million homes. I find myself, to my intense discomfort, supporting the preposterous housing target. There’s a legitimate debate to be had about where and how these homes are built. But – though it hooks in my green guts to admit it – built they must be.”

    And he does not mention that the policy of tearing down “sink estates” has been proceeding rapidly.

    But if George can concede ignorance so can I

    Stephen Rees

    April 4, 2008 at 2:07 pm

  6. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be talking about the demolition of sink estates like it was a bad thing. I don’t think you would find many in the UK who would agree. Even through the rosiest of glasses, many of the council estates of the 60s and 70s were disaster areas and I’d be very surprised if anyone was laying down in front of the bulldozers when they came…

    Mark Allerton

    April 4, 2008 at 3:21 pm

  7. Sink estates were awful places, largely created by the Thatcher policy of allowing council house sales – which quickly sorted out the saleable from the non saleable. But I was really disturbed by seeing images of sound council houses, built to better standards than many modern homes, being demolished because they were in the wrong place.

    Demolition was, of course, claimed to be the last resort. But I have a nasty suspicion that the local officials simply gave up on them. Or maybe did not have adequate resources to resuscitate them. But reading about the housing conditions of some of the people in Mr Monbiot’s article, I wonder if they would agree so readily that these houses had to be pulled down.

    Stephen Rees

    April 4, 2008 at 3:33 pm

  8. Stephen, do you really believe that a story like this – – is something to be complaining about? Because that seems to be what you are doing here. Yes, buildings are being demolished, but they are also being replaced.

    Believe me, I am no fan of Thatcher (shudder) – but I don’t think you can really pin the failure of those estates on her. She might have sped up their decline, but the causes of failure were built in during the Wilson years – these estates were yet another failure of “radiant city” modernism.

    Mark Allerton

    April 4, 2008 at 8:58 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: