The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Till we have built Barcelona on England's brown field sites - Updated

by Peter

The prospect of large parts of south east England disappearing under low-cost Prescott houses has not filled me with delight over recent months. It strikes me as short-sighted utilitarianism. Few things will influence our future than where people live, and cost-cutting (generally a good thing) may not be the approach to follow.

Lousise Alexander's recent posts on planning issues are thought-provoking, as are the comments of Lord Rogers in the Observer.

Rogers is not someone I instinctively warm to, but his comments on the low-design standards of much of London's new housing stock are easy to agree with (even before we have the Prescott belt along the Thames. His views on the need to halt/reverse middle-class flight from the cities echo those of Steve Travis. According to Rogers

'The densest city in Europe is Barcelona. If I had to say what was the best city in terms of regeneration, it would be Barcelona.'

I'll take his word for it - it certainly seems a pleasant and attractive city. And I would like to see London come closer to cities like Barcelona or Rome in terms of combining high-quality appartments, built over shops, besides boulevards and surrounding green squares.

And at the low-density end of the market, I should like to see more building land available for individuals, building to their own tastes, standards and requirements, and less in the hands of the big housebuilders who have imposed their soulless uniformity on too much of the UK.

Update: If you are interested in learning how Barcelona came to be so densely populated, Eduardo Mendoza's novel La verdad sobre el caso Savolta is worth reading.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 8:27 am  
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"What is Liberalism?: I should say it means the acknowledgment in practical life of the truth that men are best governed who govern themselves; that the general sense of mankind, if left alone, will make for righteousness; that artificial privileges and restraints upon freedom, so far as they are not required in the interests of the community, are hurtful; and that the laws, while, of course, they cannot equalise conditions, can at least avoid aggravating inequalities, and ought to have for their object the securing to every man the best chance he can have of a good and useful life." C-B.


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