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By Jennifer Taylor...
By Jennifer Taylor

No conference would be complete without a debate on 'what are we really talking about'?

The Sustainable Communities Summit in Manchester brought together some of the subject's leading thinkers to discuss, 'What does a successful sustainable community look like?'

There was broad agreement that sustainable communities are places people want to live and work, where they have access to services and feel safe.

Sir Peter Hall, professor of planning at University College London, said development 100 years ago was sustainable, and this could be repeated if the right infrastructure was provided. But he said: 'My great fear is we'll do it in a rush and we'll do it badly. We have a dreadful record in this country of producing really tacky, low-grade developments on a large scale, on the cheap.'

Local Government Association chair Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart (Con) said councils were 'setting out very clear visions for their cities and their towns' but 'the single biggest part is how to get the funding for the necessary infrastructure'.

He added that vibrant towns need a centre that is accessible, with quality housing, retail, leisure and public space.

John Norquist, president and chief executive officer of the Congress for New Urbanism, and former mayor of Milwaukee, agreed with mixed use of space. 'A sustainable city is a complex city,' he said.

Gloria Laycock, director of UCL's Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science, warned designers and planners they should consider the potential for crime at the design stage.

She said: 'The greatest threat to sustainable communities is crime and disorder. A real danger is we will assume that threat can be dealt with through policing. It can't.'

Sir Sandy said a common factor in deprived wards was 'absolutely no sense of community or belonging'.

He said: 'Through design you can build in a sense of belonging and pride in the neighbourhood. With that comes responsibility, which has an impact on crime.'

Soundbites - sustainable communities


'The government is taking a joined-up approach. Economic policy is very important to get in place for economic regeneration as a whole. But you can't ignore the need to create communities where people have a voice.'

Bernie Topham

Policy director, Poole BC

'In general, the policy is working for us. [But] we can't ignore private investment in regeneration. If we relied solely on public investment we'd never achieve our ends.'

Paul Bowker

Development projects manager, Newham LBC


'[One weakness is] whether at government level we're really joined up enough to deliver it in a mainstream fashion.'

Rick Hayton

Group manager for network management, Lancashire CC

'Policies are tailored for urban communities and urban environments. Rural sustainable communities issues are often an afterthought. It is becoming process driven, rather than outcomes driven.'

Martin Elliot

Senior policy officer, North Yorkshire CC

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