|Commuter at Waterloo
For many people the daily pilgrimage to work is an unwitting yet rational response to decades of poor urban planning. Escaping to the countryside to exercise what Nick Boles describes as ‘a right to a home with a little bit of ground around it to bring your family up in’ is perfectly reasonable given some of the shocking housing built across the country in recent decades. After all, if your home is little more than a shoebox, having a garden for your children to play in is very sensible!
Yet ripping up the green belt to build garden cities simply compounds the cost and misery of commuting. Instead we need higher-quality housing in London and our other urban areas that entices people into living closer to where they work, and to challenge what the ONS describes as ‘inertia’ towards our rigid commuting patterns. Historically Britain’s inner city areas were much more densely populated than the leafy outer suburbs: today the reverse is true.
Fortunately there is hope. New homes are being built at sites like Battersea Power Station to higher design standards, and there is a renewed interest in promoting walking and cycling to work. And adopting new guidelines like ‘Building for Life 12′ means that for the first time in decades we are taking significant steps to avoid blighting lives at the planning stage with the expense and wasted hours of traffic updates and platform announcements – with which the inhabitants of our existing garden cities are only too familiar.
First published by Platform 10 on February 19th, 2014