The UN predicts that, 'India will become the largest country in population size by around 2022, while Nigeria could surpass the United States by 2050'. In the UK, Government forecasters expect the population to increase to almost 80 million by 2051, and possibly over 90 million by 2081, as a result of rising birth rate and longer living. So15 to 25+ million people in addition to those already affected by the housing shortage will have to be accommodated somewhere. It is essential to plan on a long timescale and to look 35 to 65 years ahead.
Wherever these people reside has to enable them to enjoy sustainable lifestyles which minimise carbon emissions. The UN states, 'The climate change debate and action often focuses on energy and industrial activity as the key sectors contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. However, the transport sector, which is already responsible for one quarter of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, with its emissions increasing at a faster rate than any other sectors, must be included in any effective policy response to climate change.
Sustainable transport must be viewed and integrated as an essential ingredient in sustainable development strategies. The impacts of settlement patterns and transport infrastructure last for decades, which means that the decisions which local and national governments make today will have long lasting impacts on urban development and form, as well as climate.' The UK Government Committee on Climate Change reports, 'Transport greenhouse gas emissions continue to be the largest emitting sector, (and) emissions are rising.'
The first of the many sustainability criteria for new homes and workplaces must be permanent way (rail) public transport. The occupants of even the most efficient buildings will consume unacceptable amounts of energy and greatly increase traffic congestion if they have to use private cars for everyday journeys. Their housing and workplaces must be in locations connected by excellent and attractive rail services.
New infrastructure costs billions and takes years to build, so it is essential to make full use of the existing network to provide the spines to serve the necessary growth, and to concentrate large-scale development within walking distance of rail stations - either existing or new.
The ConnectedCities methodology puts public transport at the heart of both greenfield and brownfield new development. It promotes the idea of groups of towns coming together to plan where to accommodate their share of the predicted growth. The vision is for compact, high quality, walkable developments focused around existing and new railway stations. Groups of settlements - some existing, some new - are linked using existing rail corridors and clustered around a 'hub town'. Together they would form a Connected City.
This vision is very different to the development patterns we have become used to, especially outside of our existing cities, which still rely heavily on the private motor car. Yet the challenge of mitigating climate disruption clearly needs large scale behavioural change, of the sort pioneered by the early garden city movement. It is fitting, therefore, that on June 19th there will be a conference on the subject in Letchworth, organised jointly by ConnectedCities and the New Garden Cities Alliance: hosted by the Letchworth Heritage Foundation.
If you are intrigued by how we can create more sustainable settlement patterns, come along.
Tickets are free, but booking is essential. BOOK HERE
How Alison Kwan FRSA, winner of RSA Catalyst Seed Grant, is using the Grant to create an innovative, sustainable way to empower Women in Central Vietnam to be independent farmers.