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UCL project will aim to build sustainable communities

Publication date: May 23, 2006 1:38:55 PM

A consortium led by University College London (UCL) has been awarded £5 million over the next two years to help ensure that new developments in London and the South East of England make use of the latest research to enable them to be formed as sustainable communities. The award, announced on 18 May by Alistair Darling, Trade and Industry Secretary, has been made under the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) providing £52 million for projects aimed at building closer ties between business and higher education institutions and helping to turn ideas into enterprise.

With London and the wider south east region about to embark on the largest programme of new urban development since post-war reconstruction through the Olympics and Thames Gateway developments, the new initiative is designed to bring the latest knowledge and evidence to bear on the process.

“There is a significant gap in knowledge transfer associated with building sustainable communities,” says Professor Alan Penn, Professor of Architectural and Urban Computing at the UCL Bartlett School of Graduate Studies. “This is recognised as a pressing strategic objective by Government, since the price of developing unsustainably is high not only in economic terms, but also in terms of quality of life, health, security, culture and the environment.

“There is a lack of the right knowledge in the right places to inform development. The problem is not a lack of policy, will or knowledge, but a lack of coordination. Considerable research investment has been devoted to the issue in recent years and much is now known about the interactions between the social, economic, environmental and institutional systems involved. It is now possible to make urban planning evidence-based, and to engage communities in decision making. However, both the urban supply network and the knowledge domains in the research base are fragmented along disciplinary and organisational lines, thus thwarting attempts to deliver sustainable communities.”

The partnership consists of: UCL, a research university with expertise in a range of the key disciplines; University of East London, the primary partner, with its excellent regional networks in the Thames Gateway and Olympic development area; and a cohort of other academic institutions with complementary expertise and others from around the UK and internationally. The partnership has engaged a group of over seventy stakeholder/user organisations from the public, voluntary and private sectors spanning the full range of the urban lifecycle, from finance to management in use, including designers, implementers, regulators and umbrella groups. All are committed to a significant contribution of time and effort to this initiative. Following a preparatory phase over the next few months, the programme is expected to launch early in 2007.

Notes for Editors

1. The Department for Trade and Industry announced the awards made under the competitive element of the third round of the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) on 18 May.

2. For further information contact the UCL media relations office on 0207 679 9728.