Criticisms of Urban Sprawl

What exactly makes a suburb an urban sprawl? It often happens when people decide they don’t like it. Urban sprawl sounds so much more sinister than suburb, doesn’t it? Some criticisms are justified, while others are just complaints for the sake of complaining. So what are the criticisms of urban sprawl?

Lack of social interaction

Whoever came up with this one must have been lucky enough to live in a city area where everyone knew each other. For the most part, cities are anonymous places once you leave the work place. Out of town, people tend to use the same shops and visit the same leisure places, as well as meeting and interacting with each other over the garden fence at weekends and during the evenings. In fact, social interaction often improves when you leave the city.

Loss of green open spaces

It’s a pity if agricultural land is lost to development, but if it’s productive agricultural land, chances are it will not be sold off for development. The cost would be too high for the developers to turn a profit. Often, the reverse is true, and land that has previously been an unproductive eyesore is transformed with housing and landscaping into something pleasing.

Increased use of cars

It’s clear that if you live in the suburbs, you have further to travel to work, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll travel  by car. There are public transport options, and public transport is getting relatively cheaper. Of course, you may have to travel for shopping and services, but some people are prepared to do that in order to have increased living space.

Health impacts

Critics of urban sprawl claim, among other things, that it contributes to obesity, because walking and cycling is not appropriate in the suburbs, where everything is at a distance. This seems to be grasping at straws, as people who are used to regular exercise will find a way to maintain their level of activity. Recreational facilities such as gyms, parks and swimming pools are often built into these developments, offering plenty of opportunities to exercise to those who want to keep fit and active.

Low density housing harms the environment

The argument is that detached houses are taking up space which could be green land, and that the need for transport by car is adding to pollution. While these facts are true, there is a counter argument in favour of low density housing. The trees and shrubs in the gardens of these houses will absorb dust and chemicals from the air, thus reducing the amount of overall pollution. In addition, gardens attract and support wildlife, where previously there may have been none.

People are basically divided into two distinct types – those who want to live and work in the city, and those who prefer suburban life and commuting to work. Neither of these groups is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in their choices, and urban sprawl is not the destroyer of environment and communities its critics make it out to be.