All photography is by Simon Punter, and print quality images are available on request
The case for suburbia
23 September 2006
Superbia was a day-school, organised by the Centre for Suburban Studies in association with audacity, sponsored by the Modern Masonry Alliance, and hosted by the CSS at Kingston University. The aim was to recognise that most of us already live in suburbia - and why.
Although we all live in less than 10% of the total area of Britain, there is a contest over how to accommodate a rapidly changing population in ways that are economically, socially and environmentally viable. Two main policy options are identifiable.
On the one hand there is a renewed attempt at containing British suburbanisation following the Urban Task Force Report of 1999, Towards an Urban Renaissance. With the subsequent Government White Paper, titled Our Towns and Cities: The Future - Delivering the Urban Renaissance, a consensus around suburban containment and intensification has been established as planning orthodoxy. One that reduced the companion Our Countryside: The Future - A fair deal for rural England to the poor relation. This has amounted to the policy rejection of suburbia as "unsustainable sprawl", often associated with concerns about household and population growth.
On the other hand there is the opportunity to build Superbia. The pressing alternative demands to be heard. We could retire subsidised and un-productive agricultural land as part of a major programme of suburban and exurban expansion at every development density. Many more of us could be living in a far more spacious Britain.
As Kate Barker deliberated at the Bank of England on the planning system and the housing market, this day school brought together a number of experts in the field. It was an opportunity to consider the alternative to urban and suburban compaction, and whether the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act and its successors should be superseded or reformed. The day school considered how more of Britain might be developed and landscaped as Superbia.Programme
Nick Hubble, Centre for Suburban Studies
10.15 Suburban Pasts - Suburban Futures
Presentation on the CSS Suburban Futures Report, on how earlier periods of suburban development have shaped the cultural and social values of the twentieth century. This session outlined the main choices we face today concerning the future of suburbia, projecting their consequences onto Britain in the year 2050.
Nick Hubble and Rebecca Preston, Centre for Suburban Studies
11.45 Who really wants an affordable home?
Is the pursuit of happiness dependent on property speculation in an increasingly unaffordable housing market? If so, is that a problem?
This was a keynote presentation, reply, and panel discussion about the typologies and tenures of housing, what is achievable today in terms of design and construction, and the supply of, demand for, and regulation around affordable housing.
Miffa Salter, Urbancanda
Jon Rouse, Chief Executive of the Housing Corporation opened the panel session with a keynote presentation titled Housing Worcester Woman and Essex Man - why Suburbs remain the Answer
Alan Hudson Director, Leadership Programmes for China, Oxford University Department for Continuing Education, Fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford, and co-author of Basildon - The mood of the Nation
Panel and audience discussion
14.15 The Freedom to Build
Why can't we be free to enjoy more living space as the population grows and households decrease in size? Aren't rising aspirations a good thing?
This was a panel presentation and discussion on the economics, ethics and environmental issues that arise from retiring redundant farmland, increasing greenfield housing development, and changing planning law.
Ellis Woodman, Building Design
Rynd Smith, Head of Policy and Practice at the Royal Town Planning Institute
Shelagh Grant, Chief Executive, the Housing Forum
James O'Shaughnessy, Head of Research, Policy Exchange
Michael Owens, Head of Service, Regeneration Divison, London Borough of Merton
James Heartfield, Director of audacity, and author of Let's Build! - Why we need five million new homes in the next 10 years
16.45 Closing comments and book launch
audacity launched James Heartfield's Let's Build!, sponsored by the Modern Masonry Alliance. With not enough time in the morning session to present Let go Mr and Mrs Balls, because here comes Superbia, Ian Abley handed out the open letter he had sent to Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper:
17.00 Wine reception
Why we need five million
new homes in the next
With a foreword by Robert Bruegmann
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