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The Urban Environment

Background to the new study

Urban issues are becoming of critical importance around the world and urbanisation is expected to continue, with close to half of the world's population already living in urban areas and some cities now reaching unprecedented sizes.

In the UK, a high standard of local urban environmental quality is characterised by clean, safe attractive streets, and parks and open spaces where people feel at ease. Policy for the urban environment is formulated by central and devolved governments but it falls to local authorities to deliver local urban environmental quality to its communities.

The presence of litter, graffiti, fly-tipping, abandoned cars, dog fouling and loss of play areas or footpaths, noise (from transport, industry and nuisance neighbours), and air, water, light and odour pollution, all detract from local urban environmental quality and consequently reduce the quality of life for those who live there. Housing and transport impinge on biodiversity and landscape.

The study will consider UK policies and the situations they address. This work has identified 4 priority themes: sustainable urban transport; sustainable urban management (Local Agenda 21, EMAS, indicators); sustainable urban construction (resource and energy efficiency, demolition waste, design issues); and sustainable urban design (land use-regeneration, brown field sites, urban sprawl, land use densities). The overall goal of the European Strategy is to improve environmental efficiency of urban areas and the quality of life of urban citizens.

Scoping the Study

The announcement of the study explained the background, indicated the broad topics that the Commission proposed to consider, and invited views. The letter inviting the submission of information for the scoping phase of the study was sent to over one hundred organisations in October 2003. Details of the study were also publicised in a news release.

Some forty responses were received and these inputs helped the Commission in drawing up its programme for a seminar, at which the issues could be explored in more detail.

The Urban Environment seminar

The urban environment seminar took place in Belfast on Wednesday 31 March 2004 at the Europa hotel, where issues relevant to deciding the scope of the Urban Environment where discussed. Speakers from a variety of backgrounds addressed such topics as: social environment and health; people, places and health; the impact of neighbourhood nuisances on community well being; urban Environments, well-being and health; business in the community, its positive impact on society; and, environmental justice and the city.

Following the seminars all the attendees took part in a workshop to scope the possible areas the report could cover, the lively discussion gave valuable guidance to the Commission, and pointed to a study organised on a few inter-connected lines:

  • identifying key scientific considerations and approaches
  • developing effective regulatory and management practices
  • having institutional arrangements which genuinely involve the relevant parties, recognise their aspirations and ensure that the environment is safeguarded.

The report of the seminar is available in pdf format.

Invitation to submit evidence

The central aim of the Urban Environment study was to seek a coherent framework within which regulation of activities and development in urban areas can be consistent with other initiatives to improve well being and quality of life whilst reducing the environmental impact of these areas and populations. In addition, the study made recommendations to protect and enhance biodiversity within the urban environment. The Commission wrote to relevant organisations at the end of May 2005 with an invitation to submit written evidence, which provides further information about the questions that the Commission will examine in detail.

Studies commissioned for report

Five short literature reviews were commissioned during 2004 to provide information on various aspects of the urban environment.

The two main detailed reports commissioned during the study were:

Publication timetable
The report was published on 6th March 2007.

 

 

Page last modified: 18 May, 2007
Page created: 25 May, 2004
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