‘Cities for a small country’ is based on the findings of the Urban Task force, a group set up in 1998 by the UK government to look into the decline of the UK’s inner cities and to make recommendations to set a vision for our cities in the 21st Century.
The main purpose of this book is to highlight the problems facing the United Kingdom with regard to the decline in our inner cities, the increase in suburban sprawl and all the related environmental and social issues arising from this and to suggest ways to reverse this situation.
The key question that the author is addressing is ” what is the future of our cities?”. The book begins and ends with this question. As the population in the UK continues to grow and the world’s resources diminish our cities are going to have to adapt.
The most important information in this book is that the growth of the suburbs has had a direct detrimental effect on life in the cities.
The key secondary sources used are government published statistics such as the Department of Transport, the Department of the Environment, National Office of Statistics and the National Census.
The key primary sources used are the authors’ knowledge of European cities and social issues arising from living in inner cities.
The main conclusions in this book are that every effort should be made to encourage people back into cities. Higher density living will result in less crime, more attractive and more sustainable living as people become less reliant on cars.
The key concept we need to understand is that economic growth and “social inclusion are integrally related to the physical structure of cities”. The authors believe that the suburbs should not be extended and that by revitalising our cities will make them safer, more socially inclusive, and more desirable places to live. Our cities should be vibrant places where we work, play and live.
By these concepts the author means that action can be taken to reverse the decay in our cities. We can look to Europe where there are many good examples of cities that have regenerated. e.g. Barcelona, Bilbao, Copenhagen.
The main assumption underlying the author’s thinking is that with a growing population and with finite resources in the future action must be taken to regenerate our cities.
If we take this line of reasoning seriously, the implications are that tax laws should be changed to encourage builders to renovate rather than new build, recognising the embodied energy in existing homes. More building on brownfield sites to be carried out, increase the density of people living per hectare, improvements in public transport, design our cities for the changing face of families – more small houses etc
If we fail to take the author’s line of reasoning seriously our cities will become places where we work but where those who can afford to will not live in. This leaves those left in the city marginalised, in areas more prone to violence and vandalism. Also our cities will become grid-locked with cars as commuters continue to drive to and from work.
The main points of view presented in this book are to encourage debate about how our cities can be transformed into better places to live. Ensuring sustainability is at the core of all design, increase green space in our cities, higher density living which meets the needs of changing family size, improve city conditions through schools, policing and neighbourhoods by involving local community groups are some of the suggestions to help improve our cities.