Beyond the compact city: a London case study

At what point should we reconsider the ‘compact city’ ideal in planning? A new paper by Duncan Bowie, using London as a case study, argues that development options beyond the city core should be given more consideration.

Many urbanists argue that the compact city approach to development of megacities is preferable to urban growth based on spatial expansion at low densities, which is generally given the negative connotation of ‘urban sprawl’.

The argument is often pursued on economic grounds, supported by theories of agglomeration economics and on environmental grounds, on assumptions as to efficient land use, countryside preservation and reduction in transport costs, congestion and emissions.

This new paper in the ‘Reflections’ series, by Duncan Bowie, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Planning and Transport at the University of Westminster, critiques the continuing focus on higher density and hyper-density residential development in London.

It considers the compact city assumptions incorporated in strategic planning in London from the first London Plan of 2004, and examines how the both the plan and its implementation have failed to deliver the housing needed by Londoners and has led to the displacement of lower income households and an increase in spatial social polarisation.

It reviews the alternative development options and argues that the social implications of alternative forms of growth and the role of planning in delivering spatial social justice need to be given much fuller consideration, in both planning policy and the delivery of development, if growth is to be sustainable in social terms and further spatial polarisation is to be avoided.

Download the paper (PDF)

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