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2021 Spring Forum : Gentle Radicalism

Monday 19 April 2021

New approaches to growing vibrant and viable communities in the countryside

With the countryside making up 85% of the UK land area but only 18% of the population living there, the housing crisis in the UK is placing huge pressure to build in rural areas, but with solutions that largely concentrate on urban centres and new developments along roads. Meanwhile many rural settlements see growth constrained and are struggling to survive with loss of community facilities, an increasingly aging population, car dependency and a lack of housing diversity.

In this talk speakers working in rural areas discuss the issues of growth in the countryside and how against the backdrop of climate emergency and a COVID pandemic we can evolve long-term approaches to creating viable, sustainable rural communities and provide appropriate housing that positively challenges the way in which planning and development in the countryside has traditionally been approached.


Ben Rawlence, Black Mountains College (BMC) – Ben is an award winning writer and activist and Director of BMC, a new university dedicated to addressing the unfolding climate and ecological crisis. Located in the Brecon Beacons National Park, BMC’s rural location is key for students to learn directly from nature combining agro-ecology with the arts and neuroscience and in doing so help regenerate the local rural economy.

Petra Marko, VeloCity - propose reinvigorating clusters of rural villages by connecting them with a fine grain network of cycle and walking routes and by building more compact, light-footed homes within the heart of villages, to create healthier and more socially cohesive communities.

Rob Hopkins, Transition Towns – a movement of communities stepping up to address the big challenges they face by starting local. Storytelling is an integral part of bringing communities together to reimagine and rebuild our world.

Robbie Kerr, ADAM Architecture - environmental stewardship, understanding of local vernacular planning, architecture and materials, and economics are key drivers to the practice's approach to building in the countryside. Working with a number of large landowners the practice delivers genuine alternatives to the way in which they build in rural communities.


Prof. Flora Samuel, University of Reading - expert on the social value of architecture. Formerly Head at the University of Sheffield School of Architecture and first RIBA Vice President for Research.