Taskforce calls for evidence to help revive Britain’s suburbs

The Houses of Parliament’s cross-party Suburban Taskforce has opened a public consultation to help it chart a ‘renaissance’ of Britain’s suburbs.

The Suburban Taskforce, co-chaired by MPs Dr Rupa Huq and David Simmons, aims to identify potential policy solutions to support the long-term sustainability of suburban areas. It will review evidence of the state of Britain’s suburbs, seeking to identify national trends while focusing on the outer suburbs of London in its first phase.

It will then make recommendations to the government on policy initiatives to enhance the country’s suburbs, paying attention to social, economic and environmental circumstances, as well as available policy tools such as taxation, investment and the planning system.

The Taskforce will be supported by UCL’s Bartlett School of Planning, the All Party Parliamentary Group for London’s Planning and Built Environment, and an expert Advisory Board.

Dr Rupa Huq, co-chair of the Suburban Taskforce, said that suburbs are at risk of being overlooked and neglected, despite being the home of most of Britain’s population.

Dr Huq said: “The traditional vision of the suburbs as an ideal balance between town and country is being challenged conceptually, visually and operationally. Suburbs have been considered unproblematic and left by themselves under the pressures of austerity and are now facing the problems of inequality and underfunding whilst still being under pressure to expand or intensify.”

“This Taskforce draws those from all political backgrounds to focus on the suburbs, seeking to understand what ‘suburban’ really means in modern Britain. Now, as we emerge from a pandemic which may well redefine our relationship to the places in which we live, work and play is the right time for that.”

The Taskforce’s emergence was announced in March this year after the former Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry confirmed the government would consider its recommendations.

The Taskforce’s expert Advisory Board comprises professionals from a multi-disciplinary background including communications, architecture and planning.

The Board will be chaired by Jonathan Manns of Rockwell and University College London. The Board’s other members include experts from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, the Royal Town Planning Institute and New London Architecture.

Manns added: “The recent pandemic has reminded us of the importance of our suburbs and the Taskforce is a key step towards giving these areas the attention they deserve to ensure they are sustained and enhanced in the future.

“I wish to encourage those from all backgrounds, whether individuals or organisations, whatever their experiences or expertise, to actively support this important work and respond to this ‘call for evidence’. The more data and perspectives received, the more effective the Taskforce can be in considering the issues and opportunities facing these crucial parts of our towns and cities.”

The Taskforce’s academic advisor. UCL’s Dr Lucy Natarajan, commented: “The purpose of this consultation is to hear from suburban areas about the challenges and opportunities facing them. This is vitally important to the Taskforce, in order to work towards a shared understanding of the unique situations facing suburbs in the UK today and what this means for achieving aspirations of equality.”

The Taskforce is welcoming submissions for its first phase until 2 October 2020. It will then review all submissions ahead of publishing its initial findings next summer.

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