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«CSAAR (7: 2010: Amman) Sustainable Architecture and Urban Development \ Edited by Steffen Lehmann, Husam Al Waer, Jamal AI-Qawasmi. Amman: The Center ...»

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The year 2007 marked the first time more people on earth are living in urban than rural areas. Coincident to this shift to the urban, changes in lifestyle, (especially mobility) and a knowledge based economy have dramatically altered the definition of a region, a city, an area, and a 'community'. The expansion of Jeff Risom & Maria Sistemas the urban space regularly used by urban residents is reducing the importance of proximity in everyday life, blurring the limits and the physical and social ditferences between town and country (Ascher, 2003). In London, our analysis i1lustrates that typical planning designations of 'urban' and 'suburban', 'inner' and 'outer' appear less and less useful. Yet, despite amendments and modifications, the basic structure of land use planning in Britain has remained fundamentally unchanged in terms ofboth its central aims and mechanisms since 1947 (Chesire, 2005; Hall, 2006); the role of the planning system in the UK political system and the lack of meaningful interface between social, economic, and cultural disciplines remains the same.

The Urban Renaissance may have signalIed a paradigm shift and a romantic reference to 'traditional' city reminiscent of the Garden City model put forth lOO years earlier and largely influenced by Continental urban influences in general and Barcelona in particular. But in the words of Franc;ois Ascher "it is highly improbable, in a society which has such efficient means for transport and communication, that people will restriet themselves to those urban forms that were once the only ways of construction a city, creating proximity and providing choice" (2003).

Following are recommendations for achieving the goals ofthe 'compact city' and Urban Renaissance policy in the 21'1 century context that are all potentially applicable to a wide range of urban and suburban conditions. These address the generic structural relationships between regional/city and local objectives. The second and third sets identifY spatial policy recommendations based on the Ealing case but again applicable in several urban and suburban areas.

Regional relations -- Realign power relations and planning 1.

responsibilities to allow for more meaningful local influence on local policy.

Consider multiple definitions of 'Iocal' to guide the development of such strategies;

(a) Define regeneration objectives locally, (b) Consider alternative definitions of local, (c) Develop area specific strategies at "people" scale.

2. Reduce the footprint - Reduce energy consumption and promote less carbon intensive transport by improving conditions for pedestrians and cyclists.

Promote price mechanisms to address externalities not captured today in the price ofperipheralland.

(a) Create a 'finer grain' street form, (b) Introduce new pedestrian routes, (c) Local suburban Policy;

(c.i.) Re-use I retrofit existing buildings, (c.ii) Introduce pricing to capture the cost offringe infrastructure, (c.iii.) Include price signals to address externalities Sustainable Architecture and Urban Development 401

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Figure 5: Block size and commuting patterns: without suggesting a causal relation, it is interesting to analyse average block size together with the non­ motorized (walking and cycling) modal share of cities. Sources: Urban Age, www.idescat.cat, ONS neighbourhood statistics, www.kk.dk

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(a) Re-imagine density: (a.i) Intensify horizontally as weil as vertically, (a.ii) Expand definitions oftarget density, (a.iii) Intensify beyond the existing high street (b) Promote 'smaller' development: (b.i) Restrict new development plot size, (b.ii) Develop modem co-operative land assembly legislation

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Suggested approach to densltv- 'ftU In the gaps' - horizontal

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3.2 Facing a different social spectrum (socially) Despite nostalgie claims of a better past, the population spectrum in Ealing is very different from what it was back in 1900. Since 200 I, the number of migrants has increased by 50%. If 'urbanity' was to be measured by the diversity of its population, Ealing would be one of the most urban sites in the UK.

Additionally, the borough is increasingly polarised. While average income in Ealing Broadway is f.40,000 per annum, the Southall Green and Southall Broadway wards have an average income lower than f.27,500 per annum. In fact, they are the 6th and 7th poorest of the 633 wards in London when considering household sizes.

Sustainable Architecture and Urban Development 403 One of the biggest problems in Ealing is the affordability of its housing stock. There is a large demand for social housing, exacerbated by high land values, site availability and a too slow rhythm of construction. Due to 'Right-to­ Buy' programmes, the Council looses around 50 properties per year, out of a stock of 13 400 tenanted units. Some claim increases in density lead to a congested urban environment that undermines the quality of life of residents.

Interestingly, however, in Ealing, an already low median density of 55 residents/Ha gives place to a congested urban atmosphere. Population surveys undertaken by the Council conclude that traffk congestion is the major concern amongst Ealing residents (State of Ealing, 2009).

That GlenkeITin was willing to pay for the expensive operation of bridging the railway tracks, probably indicates that land values were high. This suggests that, so far, the implementation of the London Plan in Ealing has been successful in terms of stimulating the market but the market alone fails to deal with the social and economic problems of the bourough. The following list enumerates the baITiers to development and physicaJ interventions that could respond to such


- barriers to housing: it is a priority to build social housing units or to reintroduce into the market vacant properties to match an increasing demand and deal with overcrowding. More importantly, new units must be built at the appropriate typologies.

- aesthetic prejudices: it would be more respectful with the character of the area to build with a complete different language rather than trying to imitate what was built at another time, with another technology. It is crucial to have a strong sense of the local history to appropriately shape the masses and volumes of new buildings, but covering a massive 12-storey residential building with local bricks and copper won 't make it less harmful for the context.

- overcoming the obsession with density: Iocal oppositions to density are an understandable reaction to the takeover of an ideal by the marke!. However, there is scope for densifying: with an ageing population, largest under-occupied properties could be horizontally divided by means of specific legal settings.

- infill strategy: instead of concentrating residential growth in large sites, urban strategies should seek to replace the most downgraded or incomplete fragments of sites with intermediate housing units, and when possible, using ground floors to locate retait or local shopping facilities. A functional regrouping of houses in packages that contain a balance of mixed uses would easily make the area more comfortable to local residents. As a lesson to be learnt from Hampstead, plots placed at the corner of two streets could be occupied by pubs or cafes.

- a more durable buHt environment: targer plots at Uxbridge Road could be used for bigger interventions. Working on the section of the artery, opening its ground tloors to commercial activities and promoting exemptary demolitions of buildings that cannot be reused due to state of disrepair 404 Jeff Risom & Maria Sisternas

- boundaries of open spaces: The perimeters of the parks should be equipped with small activities that promote the flow of people from the road system into the network of open spaces. Privileging the circular connections between wards instead of the radial dependencies on the eentre would reduee the isolation of pockets of deprivation.

- lack of services and amenities: Loeal residents are more likely to aeeept developments if they are invited to actively partieipate in the design and use of new amenities. It would be highly unrealistie to try to eompete with the shopping centres of Brent Cross or White City. Instead, the setting of a special area for a food market at a former industrial building or warehouse, with possibilities to expand through informal outdoor stalls, would strengthen the loeal eeonomie aetivity.

Loeal authorities shouldn't rely on the eonstruetion of alandmark to regenerate suburbs. Rather, they should seek to empower those who are deprived from publie life participation through the analysis of a broader informational basis that reflect increasingly polarised social realities.

-Figure 7: Major Open Areas and Green Corridors I Residential areas, Town Centres and Employment Locations I Plan of proposed strategy: span the strict boundaries of the Town Centre and consider the main arteries of residential areas 4 Conclusion This paper has analysed London's spatial strategy to accommodate growth. The strategy based on the 'eompaet city' poliey, seeks to create planning certainty through the designation of Metropolitan Centres and Town Centres to attraet private investment. This regional poliey aspires to create a more polyeentrie London, but is often outmoded and ineapable of adapting to speeific locations.

The London Plan, based on the 'notion of strategie partnerships' is intended to Sustainable Architecture and Urban Development 405 inform but not replace local policy, acting as mediator between the market and local authorities to balance the need for area specific investment with the demands of local residents. In the absence of sufficient local policy in the suburban context, however, the balance tips toward the demands of private investment, resulting in to economic distortions, social conflicts, and environmental 'green wash'.

While the Urban Renaissance has strengthened the appeal of vibrant urban areas, the prospect of a spacious horne and fresh air continue to attract people to London's less densely populated areas. The geography of the city and the perception of centres of economic, retail, and leisure activity vary depending on factors such as level of qualification and ethnic background, which in turn seem to affect other indicators such as income and indices of deprivation. Mayor Johnson has recognized such deficiencies in the current treatment of Town Centres by ealling for a more differentiated approach that Is not a 'one size fits all'. Using the case study of the Areadia site in the suburban outer borough of Ealing, it has been asserted that in the absence of a local planning framework at 'people' seale, the London Plan alone fails to provide sufficient guidanee to respond to the unique needs of existing local residents thus neglecting rootedness and failing to promote site speeifieity in design. The reJationship between poliey and the market established in the London Plan suceeeds in terms of enforeing the greenbelt poliey and maximising land use to promote densities that ean support publie transport. These strengths are most apparent in dense urban settings with more homogenous urban morphology, but beeome eontroversial in suburban loeations where notions of heritage and sense of plaee are more varied and contested. lt has also been shown that ifthe maximization ofthe potential of one specitie site is replaeed by a retrofitting strategy, there is scope in the suburbs to densify.

While several poliey ehanges are needed to ensure the soeial, eeonomic and environmental vitality of all of London some of whieh may be included in these pages - it will be diffieult to move beyond the tendency for planning poliey to be diseonnected from eeonomic, soeial and eultural realities. Revising poliey and retrofitting our physical surroundings will result in only so mueh change. Not until the talents of arehitects and planners together with soeiologists and urban economists become fully focused on these realities, rather than faIling prey to utopian aspirations, ean we begin to holistieally create urban and suburban environments for the 21st century.


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