UK will the localism bill prepare the ground for smart cities? by Michael Lownds

22/11/2010 Guardian Will the localism bill prepare the ground for smart cities?As the government prepares to unveil its localism bill, it should look closely at Sweden’s progress on creating smart city neighbourhoods, says Michael Lowndes  Stockholm is integrating green infrastructure into its urban fabric.  Smart cities should evolve from
traditional forms of urban development and growth. Urbanisation has been seen as
a bad thing, depopulating the countryside, creating slums, causing poverty,
overloading services and betraying our deep-rooted sensibilities about the rural
Anyone who has seen Tamara Drewe now knows that the countryside is both dull and
dangerous at the same time. It’s safer in the city. Better still, we can now
have our rus in urbs…
We are an urban nation and an urbanising world, and this a good thing. Cities
are greener, more sustainable to live in than the countryside, and benefit from
profoundly greater internal and external connectivity.
Properly run cities and far-sighted national policies should offer greater
opportunities for access to employment, services, knowledge and a genuine escape
from poverty.
These opportunities are greatest in well organised cities where investment in
key infrastructure facilitates smart behaviour. In these cities channels for
information, energy, recycling and transport are integrated into the
architecture of the public realm.
I have seen this future and it is being built in Sweden. In the new districts of
Stockholm the public realm is being equipped with the infrastructure required to
promote and sustain smart behaviour. There is a clear vision of a greener,
smarter future and an all-agency approach to delivery.
Integrated networks of district heating and cooling, power, communication and
data, vacuum recycling and public transport all flow along and beneath city
streets serving attractive, diverse communities and places which are genuinely
accessible in every meaning of the word.
Inevitably, this investment is not cheap. But it is essential if cities or parts
of cities are to gain competitive advantage. Even in current circumstances, it
is counterproductive to throttle investment.
The coalition’s localism agenda is noticeably light on the role played by
connected neighbourhoods in generating thriving local and national economies.
Perhaps they simply fail to understand the concept.
Community-wide provision of smart infrastructure presents a powerful opportunity
for developers and investors (or “placemakers” as we now call them) to build
local consensus around the benefits of development.
Stockholm is a hot city at the moment, but even as the last thriller is filmed
it will remain as a leading edge model for aspiring smart places to follow.
Stieg Larsson wrote about the importance of information. Smart cities will just
make access to it a little easier…
• Michael Lowndes is urban and regeneration director at Turley Associates
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