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British planners share garden city expertise with China

Words: Sara Gaines
China garden cities delegation

Planners and architects travelled to China to share their expertise in low carbon development, and showcase the world’s first garden city in Letchworth as an exemplar of sustainable design, on a government-funded mission last week.

Delegates from Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), Wolfson Prize winners Urbed and other British companies joined Chinese business people, academics and politicians at a conference in Chengdu on Modern Green Cities.

Janet Askew, president-elect of the RTPI said: “To be invited to join this delegation of British consultants to Chengdu is a great privilege. Drawing lessons from history, we presented the ideas behind garden cities and showed that the principles are still relevant for planning in China today.”

Garden cities were designed to integrate the best of town and country and key principles include master planning, balancing green space with industry, integrating transport to minimise traffic congestion and including zones of housing away from heavy industry to protect residents from pollution.

Chengdu, in Sichuan province, has been asked by the Chinese Government to test urban-rural integration strategies to overcome emerging problems with urban sprawl, congestion and smog. Local leaders are looking to garden cities for inspiration, among other global ideas on sustainable design, and a satellite city for two million people has been developed on garden city lines.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office arranged the mission as part of their work promoting low carbon development internationally and invited town planner David Ames, head of heritage and strategic planning for the Heritage Foundation trust, which runs Letchworth Garden City.

He said: “There is a resurgence of interest in garden cities in the UK and globally as a model for sustainable development. Garden cities have been developed on every continent and this global influence inspired our plans to launch an International Garden Cities Institute in January 2015, based in Letchworth. It aims to facilitate a greater understanding of modern interpretations, and help advocate a new phase of their development across the world.”