Urban Update 26 January 2024

  • Urban agriculture - several articles ... carbon footprint, role of urban foraging 
  • Planning Law - when is a non-material amendment a material amendment?
  • Vast majority of women face abuse when cycling
  • What will make people cycle more?  What discourages them?
  • Quantifying the cost of sea level rises in Europe  


Built Environment 

Housing and gardening: Developing a health equity-focused research agenda - Landscape and Urban Planning

  • Reviewing available literature, this paper theorises the effects of inequality and environment particularly in terms of housing on people’s ability to access to both public and private gardening. It proposes this link should be researched further.
  • The paper first stresses food gardens as a potential solution to improve food security, self-sufficiency, and resilience in terms of social inclusion and health and well-being.
  •  For private gardening, the paper notes numerous potential influences depending on housing and socioeconomic status: available space and leisure time, security of tenure, and disposable income.
  • For public gardening proximity to public gardens is considered a key issue, since they were found in a study in Canada to be more likely available in advantaged suburbs. This is seen to be especially pertinent given the benefits community gardening might offer to those unable to garden at home.

When is a non-material amendment a material amendment? London council estate resident wins judicial review over changes to Aylesbury estate planning permission - The Guardian 
Full High Court Judgement British and Irish Legal Information Institute
Town and Country Planning Act 1990 S96A "(1) A local planning authority … may make a change to any planning permission, or any permission in principle (granted following an application to the authority), relating to land in their area if they are satisfied that the change is not material.

More on the Aylesbury Estate  - The Guardian article published 2016
Cities for the People – A Pakistan Perspective - >>>>
Australia: Reimagining malls into urban lifestyle destinations: Strategy for long-term success >>>>

  • Have a comprehensive urban design strategy to enable collaboration between different professions and stakeholders
  • Integrate green spaces, play areas and public art
  • Focus on current and future customer need to create a vibrant ambiance

Subject will be explored at a conference in March 2024
How Autonomous vehicles may change urban planning >>>>

Humans, Health, Society

Nine in 10 women cycling in London face abuse – according to new report  “What Stops Women Cycling in London?” - London Cycling Campaign

  • This is a report on the basis of a survey of 1043 women and non-binary people.
  • Key among findings was a concern both for physical safety on roads but also social safety
    • nine out of ten of the respondents claimed to have received verbal abuse from other road users.
    • one in five women reported they had given up cycling permanently after these incidents and especially those involving threatening use of a vehicle.

"If you want more groups to cycle, you can't just build more cycle paths": Researcher behind study into attitudes towards cycling suggests "range of needs and preferences" must be considered - road.cc
This is a summary of Zahra Hamidi’s work 'Examining Inequalities in Cycling Motility: A Pathway Towards Cycling Justice'.

  • Apart from bicycle access, this also looked at the influence of people’s “ability and knowledge of cycling, if their self-image fits cycling, and whether their social group has a positive image of cycling.”
  • The study stresses that it must be acknowledged that there is a range of needs and preferences among cyclists.

Children suffering due to lack of outdoor play, UK charities warn - The Guardian
Children and young people are facing significant harm to their health and wellbeing due to a lack of priority given by policymakers to outdoor play.   Countries such as Germany, Norway, and Sweden, as well as cities like Barcelona and Paris, have implemented national policies or initiatives to create more child-friendly urban environments.  The root causes of restricted outdoor play, include traffic-dominated neighbourhoods, low-quality housing, and inadequate facilities. Economic deprivation and racial inequality exacerbate the problem, with girls potentially facing additional barriers.


Politics, Philosophy, Economics

Where the wild things are: How urban foraging and food forests can contribute to sustainable cities in the Global North - Urban Forestry and Urban Greening

  • Responding to need to increase the share of foods produced within urban spaces, this literature review “explores socio-environmental benefits of foods from (peri)urban woodland areas” in the Global North.
  • This paper highlights the potential benefits of combining urban forestry and foraging as a “multifunctional woodland-based food system”.
  • These include:
    • Contribution to carbon capture, biodiversity, and emission savings, in the latter case by potentially reducing the need of cities to import food combined with composting for nutrient circulation in cities.
    • Provision of reliable if small food sources the year round
      • The paper notes that the scale of forest needed to feed a city is found to be unfeasible - to provide protein for a city like Birmingham a food forest would need to cover nine times the surface area of the city.
      • Nevertheless, it argues on the basis of several studies that there is potential for such forestry to make not an insignificant contribution to local food production, as is the case with foraging in Eastern Europe. It is mentioned that “in Europe, the total value of non-wood forest products has been estimated as representing €23.3 billion per year”. This would be especially impactful if it also encouraged people to change their diets to reflect locally produced foods.
    • Personal effects
      • In the paper’s words, urban foraging “permits mutually beneficial interactions between the urban population and nature in support of health and wellbeing, [allowing] humans and nature to (re)connect in the form of “bio-cultural habitats” and a “bioculturally diverse and rooted cosmopolitan nature practice”.
      • It is said that this is “important for the adoption of positive attitudes towards biodiversity conservation”.
      • It can also impact cultural identity and “place-belonging.”
    • Social effects
      • The paper notes that “even when practiced as a solitary endeavour, foraging remains an inherently social activity, foraging is an inherently social activity”, requiring at the very least knowledge sharing.
  • The paper finally recommends that more research must be done on how to upscale and solidify such efforts and combine these with other forms of sustainable technology.

UK roads being built without ministerial oversight, say environment campaigners - The Guardian

Separately, at an event yesterday a speaker from National Highways asserted that Predict and Provide had made way to Vision led planning.
Further reading
Dft Policy Paper Circular 01/2022 ….. Strategic road network and the delivery of sustainable development
Connecting the country – Planning for the Long term
Transport Analysis Guidance
Transport analysis guidance has been criticised for biasing public investment towards major road schemes.  Unfortunately few people use, understand or are even aware of the guidance, and so debate and scrutiny are lacking.  One of the flaws is that the social and health costs of road investment leading to increased car dependency or only assessed qualitatively, and not quantitatively.



National Travel Attitudes Study (NTAS) Wave 9: Cycling - GOV.UK

  • Notable findings include:
    • 7 out of 10 people never cycle
    • Factors discouraging cycling
      • Safety concerns cited as main reason discouraging cyclists (48%),
      • Poor weather (36%)
      • living too far away from where they need to get to (33%)
    • Factors that would encourage cycling
      • Safer roads (61% of respondents)
      • Segregated cycle paths (52%)
      • well-maintained road surfaces (51%) 
      • More direct routes (41%)
    • Around a third of people between the ages of 16 and 59 feel either not very or not at all confident riding a bike.

Cars are getting 1 cm wider every two years - Transport and Environment


Energy and Climate Change

How urban design and planning can mitigate flooding >>>>
Land-use practices, especially rapid urbanization, contribute significantly to increased flood risks by removing natural flood barriers and creating impermeable surfaces.

Better design options include:

  • sustainable drainage systems capable of capturing, storing, and gradually releasing rainwater.
  • Incorporating flood-resistant design elements such as elevated buildings, floodwalls, and levees fortifies urban areas against flooding.
  • Adoption of green infrastructure, like parks and wetlands, aids in absorbing excess water, boosting urban resilience.

Comparing the carbon footprints of urban and conventional agriculture - nature cities

  • Looking at 73 sites in France, Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States, this study finds that on average the carbon footprint of food even from low tech Urban Agriculture is six times greater than conventional agriculture. However, it notes that there are important exceptions such as tomatoes which do not follow this trend.
  • The study finds that urban farms and urban individual gardens tend to have a lower carbon footprint than collective gardens, and especially concerning crops transported by air freight.
  • The paper therefore offers three recommendations to increase sustainability:
    • Urban agriculture sites should preserve infrastructure (raised beds, compost, structures) as long as possible.
      • This is the largest driver of carbon emissions at low tech urban agriculture sites, and the study notes that especially in cities with development pressure some projects are designed for temporary use. As evidence the study provides the example of New York City in the 1990s, where “land developers [allied] with city officials to displace community gardens”.
      • As a result, the paper recommends policies that promote stable land tenure for UA sites.
    • They should use urban waste streams as inputs.
      • The paper notes that “Climate-friendly sites in our sample cut their emissions by more than 52% by upcycling refuse from the urban environment for raised beds, structures and other infrastructure”.
      • This also applies to compost, though the paper warns that issues arising from mismanagement and inefficiency diminishes the impact of this.
    • They should invest in social benefits (the study considers “social production” an important aspect of UA).

Distribution of economic damage due to climate-driven sea-level rise across European regions and sectors - Scientific Reports

  • This study looks at the economic damages for all sectors involved in a worst-case scenario of sea level rise where no further coastal public adaptation is implemented after 2015, assuming a base line 2% annual GDP growth in all regions.
  • For the UK, at the national level, by 2100 the study finds a 1.26% cumulative loss in GDP (871.8 billion) compared to the baseline. Other European nations especially affected include Latvia at 7.69%, Italy, Denmark, and the Republic of Ireland.
  • Meanwhile, in the UK at a regional level, while most inland areas see some growth, most coastal areas face a cumulative loss of between 2% and 5% annual GDP with East Yorkshire worst affected.
  • The study notes that targeted recovery of critical sectors, as opposed to a market-based allocation of investments, substantially reduces GDP losses in certain regions. However, the study warns that the uneven distribution of impact will likely increase already existing regional and social disparities.
  • The paper finally recommends further research into what will be the most effective strategies for mitigation, examining protection versus retreat policies.