The Bartlett School of Planning


An Anatomy of Sprawl

30 March 2011

Nicholas A. Phelps (2011),  Routledge

This book, by Nicholas Phelps, examines the causes and consequences of urban sprawl in Britain through original research as part of a British Academy funded project looking at planning and politics in South Hampshire since the 1960s.  The research involved 70 face-to-face interviews with planners, politicians, representatives of civic, conservation and business groups and is a unique and valuable resource.

Urban sprawl has become an important focal point of debate within the disciplines of planning, urban geography and urban studies.  Despite the avowed desire on the part of planners, politicians, the public and interest groups to avoid the nightmare vision of a single 'Solent city' urban sprawl, it has happened piece by piece.  It stands as one of a number of instances of a peculiarly British instance of urban sprawl - muted, and slow to emerge - yet produced paradoxically by very strong interests promoting conservation and restraint.  Yet, out of this story of a collective failure of vision and a failure of vision for collective needs, the reputation of a strategic role for planning stands to be resurrected.

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