According To Farrer ... Quality landscaping holds key to rural housing problem

The housing we are planning and delivering today is storing up a disaster of such proportions that we will regret it, much like we have regretted the scars caused by modernist ideology imposed on our cities in the 1960s.

The difference here is that dismantling the seemingly harmless low-density boxes that we are approving to be scattered across our countryside will be impossible.

These anaemic "Marlboroughs", "Windsors" and "Blenheims" will be with us for much longer. The high-rise, high-density housing of the 1960s remained largely in public ownership, but these new homes are not. Once sold, gone is the opportunity to return these areas to countryside.

Housing cannot be treated in isolation. In the high street, shops and amenities are struggling. Local authority service provision is under relentless pressure and health services are stretched. Where we put our housing is one component of this larger political and landscape planning jigsaw.

Private sector viability demands new homes for sale in countryside. But let's be clear, this does not resolve the desperate need for social affordable housing mostly felt in our towns and cities.

For local public services to be effective, for ever-more important distribution networks to be efficient, for public transport to have the critical mass it needs to thrive and for waste services to be sustainable, we need people to live in our town centres where they can spend in the shops and take advantage of more effective local services.

While our towns struggle and services are cut back, the vital lifeblood of investment and people is being poured into our countryside. Hundreds of square miles including green belt now have or are gaining planning for housing.

Landscape professionals hold the key to not only better addressing new housing locations but all aspects of place making. It is place making that promotes healthy living and happier people. Through the delivery of attractive and safe places we increase the desirability of our urban areas for people to live and work. This is the basis of a sustainable economic future.

Landscape planning can reduce public sector costs, lower dependence on cars, improve the viability of public transport systems and deliver better, more appropriate uses for our countryside. Landscape solutions are cross-cutting, benefitting all areas from homes to health. The Government needs to recognise this and do more to promote it.

Noel Farrer is a founding partner of Farrer huxley associates


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