Sustainability and design quality

Sustainability, the idea that we can minimise our impact on future generations, has been a key concern for our society for many years now and its importance has not diminished. Arguably nowhere is this more important than in rural environments where innovative thinking is required to address concerns over renewable energy, food production, transport, imbalanced demographics and environmental degradation.

“planning in particular has a major and positive contribution to make in …

  • Promoting the highest standards of resource and energy efficiency …;
  • Requiring land-use patterns that reduce the need and the propensity to travel by car;
  • Vigorously promoting small- and large-scale renewable energy projects;
  • Reformatting or restricting development which would otherwise have a major negative impact on CO2 emissions; and
  • Adapting to the harmful impacts of climate change.”

Town and Country Planning Association, Sustainable design and construction: Guidance for planners on preparing development plan policies at the regional and local levels

True sustainability also requires a major culture change in order for people to have the opportunity to adapt their behaviour. Artists can contribute to community planning processes by engaging people in the creation of public space and the results of their work create opportunities for raising the profile of particular issues. Some ways that art projects can contribute include:

  • Design of public spaces and places in villages and towns: for instance accessible landscaping and planting, recycled materials for street furniture, low impact lighting schemes, creating new social areas
  • Enhancing public transport terminals and infrastructure, cycle ways and paths
  • Creating public spaces that are welcoming for both young and old together, or that encourage outdoor activity and exercise
  • Commissioning artists to work on community plans

Theme case studies

Rural Roads Protocol

Road for the Future


Sustrans A sustainable transport charity dedicated to creating a national cycle network – uses artists in many of its projects

Design Council / Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment A large archive of material on the design of public places and spaces, including sustainability issues

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