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Developing communities for long term sustainability

Developing communities for long term sustainability

The UK has faced many challenges in recent years – including a continuing housing crisis, covid recovery and the energy crisis. Each has had a significant impact on the sustainability and development of our communities.

The pandemic exposed the UK’s housing inequalities, vast differences in experiences of lockdown further highlighted this. The population being confined to their homes showcased the importance of a 15 minute neighbourhood, having access to facilities within a walking distance of one’s home.

In August of this year, Ofgem announced the Price Cap level for winter 2023. From October 1st, the typical household now pays £1,923. National Energy Action estimates that this will leave 6.3 million UK households in fuel poverty.

This sparks the conversation on what needs to happen to ensure longevity within our communities.

This was a theme for discussion at our first workshop in The Phoenix Future Programme. The programme is a series of workshops, centred in the local community of Lincolnshire, Huntingdonshire, Peterborough, and Cambridgeshire, that seeks to spark conversation and solutions by bringing together representatives from multiple sectors in our region.

Sustainable Transformation

In the first panel discussion, Max Farrell, Founder and CEO of LDN Collective, highlighted the success of the North West Bicester Eco-town. The town prioritises a minimum of 40% green space, 30% affordable housing, and highly sustainable homes.

Despite this success, Max addressed the fact that there is a lack of understanding when it comes to social sustainability.

“The concept of a “15-minute community,” where everything is within a 15-minute walk or bike ride, is crucial. Homes should cater to different life stages and income levels, and new settlements should be designed in collaboration with local authorities and developers.”

Jas Bhalla, of Jas Bhalla Architects emphasised the importance of compact development typologies, retrofitting existing heritage assets for new community uses, and creating biodiversity highways to ensure new places encourage walkability and active travel.

Luke Butcher, co-founder, and Director of Butcher Bayley Architects, outlined key points for improvement to ensure sustainable transformation:

Firstly, he explained that the current planning and delivery process takes too long, resulting in houses designed with outdated principles. He said that to future-proof our homes, we need a system that aligns with society’s pace of change, so that quality and value can be preserved.

He continued by indicating that building developers must prioritise sustainability in communities by fostering relationships with existing communities. This should extend to working with local businesses, from design through to construction.

His final point focused on how proximity matters, and how there needs to be a cultural shift in transportation and technology so that we can create communities where everything is within reach.

Enhancing Biodiversity

In the second panel discussion, Matt Jackson of BCN Wildlife Trusts, discussed the case of Camborne, in Cambridgeshire, where biodiversity enhancements had been planned from the start, leading to significant increases in wildlife. But the town’s planning for its community had fallen short of its potential.

Daniel Johns, from Water Resources East, emphasised the need for better housing design that minimises water displacement and maximises water capture for reuse. Healthy water is crucial for ecological wellbeing, and sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) play a role in achieving this.

Creating Healthy and Sustainable Solutions

In the final panel discussion of this workshop, Natasha Reid from Matter-Space-Soul advocated an “inside out” approach to placemaking, recognising the importance of considering how places impact people.

She is the author of the Place Quality Framework, an innovative design and planning approach, method and tool which creates a requirement for developments to demonstrate the benefits to people’s health, wellbeing, and quality of life through the planning process.

This article is adapted from our report on the outcomes of our first Phoenix Future Programme workshop. You can download the full report here.


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