Stephen Hill

C02 Future Planners


Stephen Hill is a Chartered Planning and Development Surveyor, active within the profession to promote a wider understanding of spatial planning and sustainable development in the delivery of regeneration and growth area projects. He is Director of C2O futureplanners, land economists and spatial planners and co-founder of the futureplanners network of independent practitioners.

He has been working in housing development and neighbourhood scale regeneration in public and private sectors since the early 1970’s. He has been working on the development of Community Land Trusts since 1989, and has been a champion for many other forms of citizen led action in urban change.

He is a CABE Enabler, and a member of CABE’s Sustainable Cities Advisory Group, BRE’s Sustainability Board, and RICS’ Sustainability and Planning & Development Professional Group Boards, EU Sustainable Property Investment and Management Advisory Group, and Homes and Communities Agency Liaison Panel.


Stephen Hill

Listen to Stephen’s Futures Fair 09 presentation.


Stephen Hill's Presentation

View Stephen’s Presentation


Is “Green Infrastructure” a luxury for a restored economy, or the only plausible investment framework for the future survival of cities?

Are technocratic approaches relevant without a fundamental rethink of the relationship between the state and its citizens?

Take, for example, the Black Hole that is the Green Belt “debate”, along with NIMBYs, CPRE, Government ministers and the rest. The debate is a relic of the moribund land use planning system that ended five years ago, but which continues to shape the delivery of obsolete infrastructure, settlement masterplans and buildings that we don’t need. Crude land use designations…greenfield, brownfield, urban extensions, or eco-towns… are for students of planning history.

The overriding purpose of the “new” spatial planning system is to promote sustainable development, but we have not yet started to adopt the rigour of sustainability appraisal needed to make the hard choices about what kind of development should go where. Instead, a self-serving consultancy industry has developed a service package of indigestible information that adds much cost but little value, and obscures our understanding of how different sustainable development is from anything we have done before with a mass of data but no insight, creativity or innovation.

The idea of a Green Belt, for example, simply as a policy to stop development of the countryside or restrict towns from merging together should have died in 2004. Repeated attempts to give it the kiss of life limit our ability to think more courageously about the future of our urban settlements. We don’t need sterilising and strangulating Green Belts; indeed, we may need to merge and grow towns and cities to have sufficient critical mass to afford the kind of infrastructure and patterns of settlement needed to develop and manage climate change adaptation and resilience strategies.

Green infrastructure needs to be rescued from sounding like a posh word for parks, a minority professional interest. It must be recognized for what it is…the means for urban survival in an ecological age. We need functional, lively and highly managed sustainable infrastructures in and around our towns and cities to provide urban cooling effects, to grow food and fuel, to provide land for localised energy generation and distribution, to support biodiversity, to recycle water and organic wastes on and through, and to provide employment and recreation that we can walk and cycle to. Public bodies, especially local authorities need to begin programmes of asset re-accumulation, reversing three decades of selling ‘the family silver’ They will need new powers and resources to build a sufficient network of ownerships and interests in essential land and property assets to ensure that the necessary changes in patterns of urban settlement and land management can be put into effect.

National; and particularly local politicians will need to learn new leadership skills, and develop a new political vocabulary to undertake the task that lies ahead of them. If they and the professions are not already thinking about how to turn urban areas into places that can actively sequester carbon, we are not doing anything remotely relevant to our future existence. Eco-towns and zero carbon homes are diversionary activity for ministers and designers, and wasting valuable political and professional capital on ideas that are already out of date. We need a Green Infrastructure capable of achieving Carbon Capture Cities for the future of humanity. Nothing less will do.


2030 Vision: write up


Futures Fair 09