Britain’s spiralling population is likely to necessitate a major rethink of planning policy in the near future, experts from Kingston’s Centre for Suburban Studies have warned. Research fellow Dr Nick Hubble said it was becoming increasingly apparent that new ways needed to be found to meet the demands of people who aspired to set up home in a house with a garden rather than in a built-up inner city area. “Although 86 per cent of us live in them, the suburbs have been largely neglected in favour of urban regeneration in recent years,” Dr Hubble said. “However, the time has come for more serious consideration to be given to accommodate a rapidly changing population in ways that are economically, socially and environmentally viable.”
Policy-makers, planners and architects added their voices to the debate at a one-day conference staged by the Centre in September. Proponents of a radical reappraisal of current attitudes included writer and academic James Heartfield, who supported the expansion of the suburbs into Green Belt zones. “Suburbs are places full of go-ahead people who visit the city but don’t actually want to live there. We should see them as frontiers rather than something sub-standard,” he said.
The conference was timed to coincide with the launch of a major study completed by Dr Hubble. Entitled Suburban Futures, it outlines alternative visions for suburban expansion which include developing greenfield sites into integrated regions; preserving existing hedgerows as part of cross-regional wildlife corridors and dividing regions into three types of land use. The report also explores the possibility of establishing design codes to allow different types of housing and increased land availability which, in turn, could reduce prices, increasing opportunities for home ownership. “The findings demonstrate that a planned expansion of suburbia, properly understood, offers an important opportunity for fostering widespread individual empowerment, democratic maturity and a sense of environmental responsibility,” Dr Hubble said.