The Footprint of Development at the Rural Urban Fringe: US - UK Comparison
Sprawl at the rural – urban fringe is commonly referred to in the US as leapfrog or overspill development - housing that has been constructed, usually contrary to local policy intentions and without an overall plan, in the rural area beyond a community’s designated growth centers. Holding development in this rural area to 5-10% of the regions’s total housing supply has been demonstrated in the author’s earlier research to be an attainable benchmark for containment. This research compares the US with the UK in terms of containment as well as the footprint of exurban housing. A surprising result is discovered when containment outcomes in US communities are compared to their counterparts in England. There is actually more decentralization of housing into the English countryside than is found in the US. This contradicts the dominant image of the English countryside as a relatively undeveloped “green and pleasant land”. How is this apparent contradiction possible? It is possible because a high percentage of English housing, unlike its US counterpart, is clustered in towns and villages. The footprint of rural housing is, therefore, a key variable. If, as seems likely, a significant amount of leapfrog development will continue, particularly outside US cities but also in the UK, are there patterns in which this housing would be less objectionable than conventional large lot/low density American style sprawl? Are there opportunities to create more towns and villages in the English mode and to conserve countryside open space? Do communities need to have explicit policies and plans for guiding this rural housing or is it sufficient to simply declare the area outside the urban growth centers “off limits” and hope for the best? What lessons about rural settlement patterns can be gleaned from comparing the US and the UK experience? This research is being published by Springer as a chapter in The Dynamics of Land Use and Ecosystems Services: A Transatlantic, Multidisciplinary and Comparative Approach during 2012.