It’s an occupational hazard, running a media outlet such as Place Design Scotland: there is never any shortage of ideas, including potential campaigns and projects. We have decided to let the readers decide which one we should seriously consider pursuing, and will be launching a poll of members in due course. Our third candidate is… drum roll, please… Creating a new town, like Vauban
THIS is a biggie, but there is every good reason for Scotland to investigate the creation of a sixth New Town (after East Kilbride 1947, Glenrothes 1948, Cumbernauld 1956, Livingston 1962 and Irvine 1966).
Of course, there are compelling arguments why Scotland should not, not least the existence of land estimated to be twice the size of Dundee that is vacant or derelict (source: Scottish Land Commission, here).
However, given the country’s propensity for allowing housing developments on relatively pristine plots of land, there is a logic to pooling all these individual developments into a single place that meets, head-on, all our aspirations for well-designed and insulated homes, ’20-minute neighbourhoods’, beautiful places to live and tackling the climate challenge.
In other words, a New Town inspired by car-free Vauban, arguably the ‘greenest’ district of arguably the ‘greenest’ city in Germany, Freiburg.
A car-free town of, say, 20,000 isn’t going to make that much of a dent on the car journey numbers in Scotland during any given year. But it would still be a dent.
It sounds all so easy: pooling housing developments into one. But, of course, that’s going to be a huge job of work, convincing the various private house-builders to buy into the concept – especially if they would be also required to comply with pretty strict design codes (which would require compiling).
Then there is the challenge of harnessing all the urban and other design expertise out there, to come up with a townscape that ‘works’, including its biodiversity, community cohesion and accessibility.
If that wasn’t enough – and this was a challenge faced by the New Towns of the past – it would be necessary to install ‘community assets’ – both physical (dentists, pubs, primary schools, etc) and social (youth clubs, sports clubs, etc) – plus match-make employers and their workers so that the latter need only walk to work.
It’s huge, really huge; but, as they say, someone has to do it. But just who?
Mike Wilson is a member of the Place Design Scotland team
Pictured: Human-scale and intimate: Victoria Street, on a rainy day in Kirkwall, Orkney, Picture credit: Place Design Scotland