UWE Bristol expert to advise Government on Future of Cities

Issue date: 14 February 2014


Professor Katie Williams

Professor Katie Williams, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Planning and the Environments (SPE) at UWE Bristol has been appointed to lead one of the strands of the UK Government's new Foresight Review on the Future of Cities. The Foresight review will inform Central Government decisions on where and how to build in the UK for the next 50 years.

Foresight reviews address key challenges to society, and provide policy makers with a better understanding of complex issues.

Professor Williams said, “This is a significant commission as I have been asked to provide evidence on how our villages, towns and cities should develop to 2065. This includes looking at their location, density, size and so on.

“I am highlighting that cities and towns need to be planned to take into account future infrastructure requirements. This means considering the requirements for energy, water, waste, transport and ICT from the beginning of the planning process, and taking a long term view. Cities and towns are facing challenges from population shifts, climate change and an ageing building stock, so we need to think more holistically.

“At the Centre for SPE at UWE Bristol we have been working on a range of projects investigating how cities will have to adapt to future conditions. For example, a project on adapting neighbourhoods for climate change showed how drainage problems are caused when people pave over gardens to make patios and drives. We advised using porous materials because they help the water to seep through, and this can avoid flooding. Also we advised on the dangers of insulating homes in the wrong way. By 2050, for example, Bristol is likely to be as hot as the South of France in summer, so we need to advise people to make sure they can still ventilate and cool their homes.”

Professor Williams has worked on a previous Foresight Review (on Land Use in the UK). She said, “I reported on how much space we have per person in Britain in comparison with the rest of Europe. The findings showed that only about 13% of land is actually built on, but we are one of the most densely populated countries in Europe. We are building very small new homes, in fact only Italy's are smaller. The social impact of small homes is causing hardship for people who have insufficient storage space and not enough room for everyday living. Rising costs of property mean many are stuck when they want to move to bigger homes when they have children.

“The Future of Cities review will help inform the Government where we should build settlements but also how we should coordinate development better. Currently this is done sector by sector with energy, waste and ICT needs organised separately. Carrying on with this approach will leave the UK more vulnerable to 'shocks', such as climate change, migration and economic recession. I would like to see a far more coordinated approach.”

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