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Compact city policy

In this article, Dr David Chapman discusses benefits with compact cities.
View along a busy street in France

Higher density or ‘compact cities’ are promoted in Town Planning as they are seen to help deliver sustainable development. The arguments for compact cities are diverse and can be summarised as:

  1. The relationship between urban densities and energy consumption suggests that the more compact a settlement the less energy per person will be consumed
  2. Compaction of urban settlements will prevent the need to develop rural land
  3. By increasing population numbers in the city, quality of urban life will be improved and greater social cohesion will be created.

An overarching theme of compact cities is the environment with the proposition that compact settlements can achieve substantial reductions in energy consumption and emissions, principally through more limited use of private motor transport. The rational being reduced private transport use will reduce vehicle emissions, especially carbon dioxide, and help curb global warming.

Further arguments supporting the compact city include:

  • Higher housing densities in cities will improve people’s quality of life
  • Energy efficient modes of travel such walking & cycling
  • Intensified cities create more social cohesion, cultural activities and facilities
  • Better individual health due to reduced emissions & pollution and physical activity
  • A reduced pressure for development in rural areas
  • The development of derelict, contaminated or vacant land in cities
  • A more attractive urban environment
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