Town planning should create communities which dignify our legacy

I see from the train that wheat is being harvested in the fields, evidence that Sussex is still overwhelmingly rural.

Monday, 10th August 2020, 10:20 am
The Prime Minister has announced what are described as 'once in a generation' planning reforms in a bid to accelerate the construction of new homes

But as its population edges slowly towards 2 million, we must hold to account those who plan for the future of our towns and villages, across East and West in this ancient county.

The drive to build new houses is something we should welcome, but not at any price.

We need good new neighbourhoods, not just lots of new houses. That means providing new, local shops, schools, places to meet, and recreation space.

We need houses and neighbourhoods that will contribute to the reduction of damage in our carbon footprint.

Norwich City Council recently won a national architectural award for a neighbourhood of new housing that was outstandingly designed, and environmentally ahead of its time. In Sussex, the challenge is also how to provide a quality of public transport that will help to reverse the disaster of road and traffic expansion.

We need neighbourhoods that can develop their own character of diversity because that has been an aspiration of the design and architecture. The reluctant inclusion of social housing in the unattractive end of an estate is not an acceptable provision.

We need architecture that makes a statement about dignity and human achievement.

Some of the most handsome buildings in Leicester, where I used to work, were 19th century factories that were a statement of civic pride. Schools and churches from this era also had a dignity to them.

This historical reference reminds us that what we build today will be the legacy by which we are judged by our children’s grandchildren.

Will they recognise that as the 21st century unfolded, we met the challenge of global warming with intelligence and wise planning? Will they respect us for the quality of the neighbourhoods we are now building?

At the end of the Bible there is an amazing description of a city that represents heaven, and it is unbelievably beautiful. The tears of grief, poverty and injustice have been dried. Music, performed by all humanity, is a dominant theme of its life. And there are beautiful trees on a riverbank – an environmental space that makes you feel better.

I make no apology for wanting this description to set a standard and challenge for the town planning that is now to be done in our name, and for which we will be judged.

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