So, why not a Scots version of Vauban?

IN these pressing times of climate change and responses such as the ’20-minute neighbourhoods’ (to reduce the reliance on cars to access life’s essentials), perhaps it is time to consider creating a Scots version of arguably the ‘greenest’ district in what is widely recognised as the ‘greenest’ city in Germany.

A Scots version of Vauban would deliver many of the country’s ambitions – as stated by the Scottish Government – and the tantalising prospect is a conurbation that makes a significant dent in Scotland’s carbon emissions, plus being a breathtakingly beautiful place to live – where residents are given genuine agency to design, build and manage their own housing.

The history of Vauban is of a former army barracks that was occupied – during the 1970s – by squatters.

When the political battles were eventually won, the result was a local authority embracing a ‘green’ and radical agenda, its headline ambition being to create a neighbourhood that was as near as damn it 100 per cent car-free, where the housing was so energy-efficient that some even had the ability to pump energy back into the power grid.

Vauban currently has a population of around 5,500, living in circa 2,500 homes. So, about twice the size of Melrose, in the Scottish Borders.

Were the practicalities to allow, it might be that a ‘Scots Vauban’ could be built on the swathes of vacant and derelict land, estimated (here) to total some 11,000 hectares (twice the size of Dundee). By contrast, Vauban occupies a site of 41 hectares (as noted, here).

But, were it to be, instead, a greenfield site, it would represent a relative ‘drop in the ocean’ compared to the number of greenfield sites built upon annually in Scotland, commonly on the edges of our towns and cities and often very car-dependent.

A ‘Scots Vauban’ would chime with Scottish Government targets on several fronts: about carbon neutrality and emissions, car use and community empowerment.

One of the most high-profile of these targets is the design of ’20-minute neighbourhoods’, where life’s everyday essentials (such as shops, education, work, health services and recreation) are within an easy walk or cycle ride away. As a concept, the ’20-minute neighbourhood’ even worked its way into the 2020-21 Scottish Government’s ‘Programme for Government’ (here).

A ‘Scots Vauban’ promises a design masterplan that would deliver.

As a melting pot for Scotland’s infinite reserves of place design expertise, a ‘Scots Vauban’ it reflects the ambitions of this website: to harness good ideas to make our places better.

Let’s go, do it.

Mike Wilson is a member of the Place Design Scotland team

Pictured: Vauban, 2013, Picture credit: Steven Tolson

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