My Twitter ‘drag-net’ continues to throw up interesting nuggets that wouldn’t have come my way otherwise. This piece by Jamie Shorten in Town and Country Planning magazine, from 2007, addresses some themes which I touched on briefly all the way back in November last year, namely the question of rural sustainability.
Simply put, given rural communities relience on the private car for getting about, isn’t a rural lifestyle inherently unsustainable? Surely the planning system is right to place a massive emphasis on larger scale quasi- or at least peri-urban development for the supply of the new homes and work- space we need over the coming decade. Isn’t an interest in the rural condition a little quaint, perhaps even pernicious? Jamie’s article makes two really important points:
1) It’s wrong to think urban or rural; town and countryside ar part of the same system. We need to care about and nurture both. 2.2m rural-dwellers travel daily from the country to towns and cities to work – that’s half of all the employees who are resident in rural areas, and 12% of those employed in towns and cities. The reverse-commute is not insubstantial: 1.3m (7%) of all urban-dwelling employees travel out into the country to work (that’s 36% of all those who work in the country)
2) Rural sustainability and urban sustainability are different. Without some massive re-engineering of peoples live-work patterns, rural areas remain massively dependant on private motor vehicles; walking, cycling and public transport are not realistic options for most rural dwellers. But rural areas ought perhaps to be self-sufficient in terms of food water and even energy, which would be much harder to achieve in urban areas. It is as hard for most urban dwellers to generate their own electricity and grow their own food as it is for most rural dwellers to get rid of their car.
Locally-sourced, organic food for thought.
PS: I drafted this post just before I went on vacation, and before the manure really hit the wall on the Government’s new National Planning Policy Framework. The whole argument between the goverenment on one side and serried ranks of countryside campaigners on the other (CPRE, National Trust et al), seems to be hinging on an over-arching ‘presumtion in favour of sustainable development’ set out in the NPPF. More on this soon.