Sustainable Development and Greenspace in Housebuilding: Rules Roles and Responsibilities

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Abigail Gilbert


This thesis considers the impact of Sustainable Development (SD) policy on greenspace in English housing developments over the last decade. SD has on one hand been named the ultimate justification for state intervention, with strong planning transforming consumption on the basis of equity and limits. In this scenario greenspace should play a central role, creating more ecologically conscious citizens and localizing consumption of ecosystem goods use. On the other hand it has been suggested that markets can effectively self-regulate to meet social justice goals through high technology while maintaining growth. In these more market-led approaches, the functional expectations of greenspace in cities remain anthropocentric. In line with this, this thesis considers greenspace design to be a functional expression of alternative cultural political economies of sustainable development and identifies the role of development institutions in working towards stronger sustainable development. An institutional account of the development process is developed in this project, to identify institutional considerations affecting the adoption of responsibility by state and market actors for SD. This views SD institutions as 'fields' affecting decision making, constituted by a range of cultural political and economic variables. This framework was used to frame empirical work and present an analysis which could advise on better practice. First, Corporate Social Responsibility statements from 2007-2014 of fifteen volume housing developers were examined. Subsequently, three case studies were conducted, representing Ecotowns, Sustainable Communities, and Garden Cities policy moments. Each case was characterised by different combinations of policy instrument, and varying arrangements of state authority, from centrally-orchestrated regionalism (2004-2010) to localism via austerity urbanism (2010-2014). The findings of this study suggest that SD has not transformed ideas of nature in development practice. However, rule and resource aspects of development institutions still significantly affect greenspace outcomes. CSR can support innovation in greenspace design but cannot be relied upon to transform greenspace practice in line with strong SD goals. For non-regulatory policy instruments to secure government intentions for greenspace, strong rhetorical support from central government, and expertise resources in local government are needed.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2015