Monthly Archives: February 2013

What is Sustainable Development?

At the heart of the government’s National Planning Policy Framework is the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’.  But what exactly do they mean?  There really should be no argument about this.  The official definition runs as follows:

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Developing this further, a sustainable development has to meet three requirements which boil down to:

  1. it must not damage the environment for future generations
  2. it must meet present social needs (be politically possible)
  3. it must be practicable (in other words it does not need money, technology or  resources that don’t exist or can’t be found)

The Reigate & Banstead Borough Council “Core Strategy: Further Amendments Dec 2012” starts section 7.1 with this opening statement:

“The Council is committed to ensuring that development will create places and spaces that are well designed and meet the needs of today and tomorrow, but not at the expense of the future.”

This is fine but the document continues as follows:

“7.1 Sustainable development

7.1.1 Underpinning this Core Strategy is a commitment by the Council to ensure that future development in the borough is achieved in a sustainable way – that it delivers prosperous and self-reliant communities whilst ensuring that the borough remains attractive, accessible and well-maintained.”

This well meaning but rather wooly statement is very different, with no mention of the environment or future generations at all.  Is this a deliberate watering down, or just careless wording?  I suggest this is something that needs to be addressed at the enquiry into the Core Strategy.

Perhaps the real problem for anyone writing a document based on sustainable development is that, in the real world, sustainable development is simply not possible.  The three requirements for sustainable development will often conflict.  You are then forced to compromise between the three requirements: environmental, social, economic.  The clearest example I can think of is the continued burning of fossil fuels.  Requirement 1 would require us to stop burning immediately, as the greenhouse gas concentration is already too high.  This is certainly practicable (meets requirement 3), but as it would rapidly kill most of the world’s population, it’s out of the question (fails requirement 2).

So in practice we have to accept that in many cases ‘sustainable’ actually means ‘as sustainable as possible’.  Green minded people have to address and overcome requirements 2 and 3 and not just concentrate on 1.  Decision makers have to take more notice of requirement 1 and not just think of the needs of the present.

Derek Smith


Building on the Green Belt in Reigate & Banstead

Along with many other people I submitted an objection to the council’s amended Core Strategy that includes the possibility of building on two areas of Green Belt in the borough.  One of the criticisms I made was that the strategy says nothing about the housing density of any new houses, leaving it open for developers to build yet more ‘executive-style’ housing.  Left to themselves, developers will always choose to do as it’s more profitable for them, but they are clearly less sustainable as they take more land and use more energy and resources than high density housing.  And it’s cheaper, smaller housing that most people actually want.

I’ve since come across this in the Council’s ‘Core Strategy and Green Belt February 2013’ document, which you can find on the council’s website.

“The Council also wants to make sure that unpopular high density ‘town cramming’ is avoided. It is important that new development in towns and villages is properly integrated into existing communities and respects local character and quality of life. This approach means that later on, providing some sites for lower density development in the Green Belt may be necessary.”

So I was wrong to think that the Council says nothing about housing density: it actually prefers low density!  The term ‘town cramming’ is new to me, and so presumably to most other people too.  So how does the Council know it’s unpopular?  Who have they asked?  It may be unpopular with existing residents of low density, leafy areas who want their ‘local character and quality of life’ undisturbed, but what about the people who would benefit from an affordable home in an existing urban area?  In any case, building anywhere in an overcrowded country like ours is always going to be a ‘least worse’ option.

If we rule out building high density housing in existing low housing density areas (which is what I assume town cramming is), then as they say building on the Green Belt may be necessary.  What is the least worse option?  I know my answer.

Derek Smith


February News – Food, locally sourced food

Playing with your foodThis month’s Transition Redhill get together is on the subject of food.

Sourcing food that is local and sustainable is becoming important to many, even in these tough economic times.  We will be discussing this topic with an aim of identifying practical ways to change the sources of our food. Please let us know of any existing food groups, coops or producers that could help.

Afterwards, we will be having a drink or two, and chatting about anything that takes our, or your, fancy. As per usual.

Please come and join us.

When: Tuesday, 19 February 2013 @ 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Where: The Garland, 5 Brighton Road, Redhill,Surrey RH1 6PP (Map) Continue reading