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What connects rural England and ‘healthy streets’ in London?

Alice Roberts
By Alice Roberts
23rd February 2022

What connects rural England and ‘healthy streets’ in London?

CPRE London works 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). We were a founding member of the London Healthy Streets coalition, have coordinated the project since its launch in 2019 and have been the key voice in a call to Transform Parking. But why are ‘healthy streets’ so important to us? This article is adapted from our July 2021 tweet though we’ve been promoting compact cities for many years.

A key concern for CPRE London is the amount of space taken up by cars and parking. Cars are hugely inefficient of space: car-dominance leads to loss of, and lack of, parks and play spaces within cities, with huge amounts of space given to roads and parking.

Because private cars are so ‘space hungry’, it is impossible to use land efficiently in a city based on car-use and so car-dominance also leads to urban sprawl which means loss of countryside on the edge of cities. Urban sprawl is environmentally damaging in itself, but car dependency within cities also has many other damaging consequences including air pollution, carbon emissions, road danger and noise. These impact on all Londoners despite half of London households not having a car.

A key aim for CPRE London and the CPRE family is to halt 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’ – with enough green space for all.

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 37% 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, boosting active lifestyles and freeing up space for parks, recreation and play.

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

CPRE also works with Transport for New Homes to emphasise the links between city planning and saving our countryside.

Alice has written several blogs related to delivering the shift to sustainable transport as a key component of a ‘compact city’ for our Healthy Streets Scorecard project:

You can find more information about action on walking, cycling and improving buses from London Living Streets, London Cycling Campaign and London TravelWatch.