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New report questions the credentials of Urban Villages

Schemes that call themselves Urban Villages but fail to live up to the title have been attacked in a new report. The report - carried out for the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) by Cardiff University's Department of City and Regional Planning - found that the majority of the 55 Urban Villages surveyed failed to achieve increased sustainability, community support or good design. It says that the term 'Urban Village' is often used by developers simply as a way of ensuring planning permission and as a marketing tool for selling houses.

The ESRC also hit out at many claimed environmental credentials. 'The idea that urban villages create more sustainable environments remains more imagined than real, ' it stated.

The original concept, coined by Prince Charles, is backed by the Urban Villages Forum, which aims to see the development of small, communitybacked, sustainable developments used to regenerate an urban area.

The report assessed in depth three regeneration developments - Bordesley in Birmingham, masterplanned by Roger Tym and Partners; Garston in Liverpool, by Mills Beaumont Leavey Channon; and West Silverton in east London, by Tibbalds Munro.

Of the three, only West Silverton was judged good enough to justifiably call itself an Urban Village.

The Prince's Foundation - a major supporter of Urban Villages - admitted there is a problem with labelling but maintained there is nothing wrong with the original concept. 'If a development fails to live up to initial expectations this is often the result ofpoor design implementation and delivery rather than a failure of the principles of the original Urban Village concept, ' a spokesman said.

The British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) agreed that the term is overused. BURA director Professor Peter Roberts said: 'I have seen some developments that are nothing special, using the label when they bear very little resemblance to the concept.' However, he claimed that the Garston project in Liverpool 'is successfully improving the social and economic conditions of the local area'.

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