Compact, car-free cities will save our countryside

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By Alice Roberts
22nd September 2021

For anyone scratching their heads about the connection between rural England and ‘healthy streets’, read on…

What connects rural England and ‘healthy streets’ in London!? On car-free day 22 October 2021, it’s time to explain why we work in coalition with public transport, walking, cycling and road safety campaigners to publish the London Boroughs Healthy Streets Scorecard each year in July (the last scorecard was published in July 2021 and set out data for all London boroughs on key healthy streets indicators).

A key aim for CPRE London and the CPRE family is to stop urban sprawl which results in loss of countryside, destruction of agricultural land & wildlife habitat and increased traffic & congestion. We argue instead for ‘compact, efficient cities’.

Quarter of a million new homes planned on greenfield land, report warns. Image from link.

Urban sprawl is: low-density development, outside city boundaries, unable to support local buses, jobs, shops and services. It relies on cars. It is high carbon: it correlates with increased energy use, pollution & traffic congestion. It increases transport costs & social isolation.

Compact, efficient cities, on the other hand, enable people to live close to jobs and amenities and travel more sustainably. They protect parks and green spaces for health, recreation, sport and nature.

We create compact cities by using land efficiently, recycling and regenerating wasted space. They are built around public transport, walking and cycling, not cars, which are very inefficient of space, not just for parking, but roads too, where they compete for space with buses.

The Mayor’s Transport Strategy contains a target to reduce the proportion of trips made by car in London from 40% to 20% by 2041 (by increasing trips made by public transport, walking and cycling). It is this target that the Healthy Streets Scorecard is centrally concerned with, recognising London boroughs have a key role to play.

CPRE London is part of the Healthy Streets Scorecard coalition because delivering the target will help save our countryside. We also see it will make London happier and healthier, reducing pollution, congestion, noise, carbon emissions and road casualties, and boosting active lifestyles.

Promoting sustainable transport is vital for saving our countryside. But it will also have an enormous impact on the health of those who live or work in London. And deliver a much greener city.