[Excerpt from speech]
It is no accident that Chicago has become the headquarters of the New Urbanist movement – because Chicago in many ways sums up much of what the New Urbanism is about, as reflected in its Charter:
And, of course, sustainability.
Sustainability, in my view, requires a strong degree of intervention – as well as a greater range of skills – in order to:
Make effective use of natural resources
Enhance the environment
Promote social cohesion and inclusion
And strengthen economic prosperity.
New Urbanism is pragmatic and flexible in its implementation, allowing different solutions to urban development.
Despite the differences between our nations, there are still vitally important lessons that we can learn from each other – just as the English pioneer of Garden Cities, Ebenezer Howard, learnt from his experience of living in Chicago in the 19th Century.
Ebenezer Howard created Letchworth Garden City, a major step forward in the creation of sustainable communities. It’s still a highly attractive place to live, with open spaces and quality housing. And people in the United States and the UK are still learning from each other.
Steven Marshall from the Bartlett School of Planning in University College London rightly says:
“American New Urbanist ideas have closely – perhaps organically – developed and intertwined with European Urbanism, shaping a variety of new developments being built in a diversity of locations, as New Urbanism is adapted to different contexts.”
Compared to American New Urbanism, our approach in Britain is more influenced by environmental considerations, social justice, economic progress, and a more interventionist style of Government.
You could call it New Urbanism with a British accent – we speak the same language but sometimes we do mean different things!
Sustainable communities aren’t new. Indeed 2000 years ago, the Romans were creating cities like my home town of Chester, and York, and Bath, which have stood the test of time.
But somehow we lost our way.
In the 20th Century, cities became less and less liveable, with public services, especially education, in decline. More and more people bought cars, and they moved out of the big cities for a more comfortable life in the sprawling suburbs. We in Britain experienced exactly these pressures, and we needed to implement fundamental change.