Inevitably, continuing urban growth will be accompanied by ever increasing demand for energy and water, not to mention building materials, so how we plan and build the towns and cities of the twenty first centuries is inextricably linked to resolving wider issues of climate change and sustainability.

Your Royal Highness, Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so grateful to you all if I may so having given up some of your valuable time to attend this gathering, especially those of you who have travelled a very long way to be here today, and I am delighted to see so many familiar faces and to hear so many familiar voices asking questions and many of whom, amongst all the familiar faces here, I know are working hard to take forward the work of my Foundation around the world. 

The nature of our global economy and its impact on local peoples, culture and ecology, particularly in these challenging times, is of enormous importance to me and I am so pleased that my Foundation has brought together such a distinguished and interesting, knowledgeable group to debate the issue. I have been greatly heartened by the talks we have just heard, even though they were very curtailed. There is so much I wanted to hear about what they are all up to. I was enormously proud, I must admit of the work that has been done by those here and I am particularly proud of Rosetown. Funnily enough that was a result of an official visit nine years ago when I walked around that particular slum area. So we’ve been struggling with it for the last nine years to see if we can try and help regenerate that particular slum. It is a long and exhausting process but I was so pleased to hear, when I was there last year, that now much of the violence was dissipating even before we managed to build anything, just the process of sitting down with local people has made a big difference. Again I am hugely proud of what the Turquoise Mountain Foundation have been doing. A remarkable process again and without virtually any public money at all. Although there has been some public money coming from the Canadian and United States Government. I believe what has been done is truly remarkable and will leave again very important legacy. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’ve also been greatly heartened by the subsequent discussion, which have demonstrated the many different ways in which it is possible to renew the fabric of communities and offer them a sustainable future, whereby a global economy has room in it for diverse approaches and adaptations. My chief regret is that I was unable to be present when Jockin Arputham spoke for, from what I have subsequently heard, it sounds as though it must have been a most inspiring address. 

While each story is different and reflects the circumstances of particular places, the speakers have all shown the efficacy of local solutions and the importance of a ‘bottom up’ approach, which should be complementary to, and enhance the work of, governments and international agencies. As in so many ways, we all have much to learn from each other. 

It is, I think, particularly timely that we are discussing these issues today because in my view, the fragility of the interrelated global economy has been brought into sharp focus by today’s financial and climatic crises. One might well argue that a relentless quest for near-term growth has failed to recognize all the hidden assets and values which are vital to longer term sustainability. In the memorable words of Robert Kennedy, over forty years ago, ‘the Gross National Product measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile’. Never a truer word I think. In a similar vein, I feel that simple faith in the efficacy of markets and technology has led many to believe that homogenous globalization or westernization is the only way forward for our planet, without giving proper thought to the wider implications of a ‘one size fits all’ approach or the fundamental point that it is simply not possible for everyone to be a winner from this process. While it is, of course, important to recognize that advances in technology have, in some respects, made the world one place and enabled many to establish an immediate, international reach, which would have been unimaginable fifty years ago, it is equally important to recognize that, for many, these developments have little relevance and, at this stage, are of minimal benefit. Globalization has clearly had winners but perhaps we need to reflect more on the losers as well. 

In any event, ladies and gentlemen, do we really want a universal and monolithic form of society, culture and business, which erases differences between places? Have we ever actually been consulted on this issue in the first place? And even if we did want such a form of society, should we not give some real consideration to the longer term cultural and environmental consequences of such an approach? Or can we realize that in a truly global economy it is the unique nature of each place that matters most and that preserving local food, agriculture, crafts, languages and building patterns can actually enhance the economic attractiveness of that place? 

Moreover, as we face the dual challenges of today’s financial and climatic crises, I strongly believe that the West has much to learn from societies and places which, while sometimes poorer in material terms are, in many senses, infinitely richer in the ways in which they live and organize themselves as communities. This in turn reflects a more profound understanding of the complexity of our universe and the finite nature of its resources. It may be the case that in a few years’ time such communities will be perceived as best equipped to face the challenges that confront us because they have built-in resilience and genuinely durable ways of living. The tragedy, in my observation, would be if we only discovered this too late, which looks rather likely, which is why what we’re doing matters. 

If the truth were known, I believe firmly and always have done so in the possibility of an approach to globalization that sees local adaptation, diversity and specialization as a key to competing globally and successfully, and, in addition, contributing to a more sustainable and resilient world. One conclusion we can perhaps draw is the great opportunity to be realized in embarking on a process of co-operation that sets out to protect local distinctiveness globally. 

You may well be thinking by now what on earth all this has to do with my Foundation for the Built Environment! The answer is I believe that well-made places are fundamental to the ability to establish locally-inspired solutions to local issues and, indeed, local solutions to global ones. For cities, towns and villages are rooted in communities’ traditions, culture, environment and climate and have evolved over the centuries, and for these reasons people identify with them, in turn establishing and reinforcing a sense of community. This sense of community and place equips people better, both to meet many of the challenges we face today, such as climate change and food security, and to create opportunities. Economic advantages will arise from celebrating local assets and capitalizing upon diversity. But at the moment this still seems like heresy to suggest such a thing! As if somehow, because we have entered the twenty-first century and we have been told that a single, monoculture of globalization is good for us, we have therefore outgrown our own humanity and spirituality – indeed, that we have in some strange way transcended the very relevance of history? 

There are, of course, ever more urgent reasons why well made places are so important as, for the first time in human history, more than half the world's population lives in urban areas. This shift from a rural to an urban existence, which has been going on for over two hundred years, continues so that by 2050 around 70 per cent of mankind is likely to live in towns and cities, In what kind of conditions will they be living in? Actually much of this growth occurring in developing countries. 

Inevitably, continuing urban growth will be accompanied by ever increasing demand for energy and water, not to mention building materials, so how we plan and build the towns and cities of the twenty first centuries is inextricably linked to resolving wider issues of climate change and sustainability. By building settlements which are sustainable - socially, economically and environmentally - we can create communities which will both succeed in themselves, while husbanding the world’s resources and limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps paradoxically, the density of traditional urbanism, with its walkable neighbourhoods, hierarchy of streets and judicious use of materials, offers a practical solution to these interlocking issues, which will help us resolve them. 

Equally, if we fail to develop sustainable urban settlements, we will be unable to confront successfully the wider social, economic and environmental challenges we face, with serious consequences for all of us - another reason why the issues we are discussing today are so important not only to myself but also to those, most importantly, who come after us. 

Settlements – be they villages, towns or cities are complex places as you know better than I; a series of interrelated and interdependent parts. A well-made place is one in balance, and therefore healthy, which reflects the timeless patterns of Nature in order to produce harmony. Indeed, whenever I have visited informal settlements such as, for example, Dharavi in Mumbai in 2003, I find an underlying, intuitive “grammar of design” – that subconsciously produces somewhere that is walkable, mixed-use and adapted to local climate and materials, which is totally absent from the faceless slab blocks that are still being built around the world to “warehouse” the poor, despite their failure here in Britain and, indeed, in other highly developed economies in past decades. So can we actually build in a way that reflects the timeless quality and resilience of vernacular settlements, yet improves living standards and accommodates the anticipated flood of migrants to urban areas this century? I believe we can, and that the benefits of taking such an approach could deliver more durable gains than those delivered through the present brutal and insensitive process of globalization that is shaping so many aspects of how we now live. 

By having disregarded these patterns we find ourselves facing the ‘climate crunch’. Equally by having deliberately and arrogantly disregarded the rules and patterns of place-making, we have lost the links which bind communities and, in their place, we have fostered dislocation and rootlessness, not to mention unmitigated ugliness. Indeed, poor planning and place-making have been a major contributory factor to the degradation of the natural environment. Moreover, a bland sameness and homogeneity can lead to apathy, soullessness and, at worst, a spiral of decline into violent, soul-destroying ghettoes. 

Now as some of you may know, my Foundation has pioneered the use of the Enquiry by Design process, which seeks to place people at the heart of any design or plan, rather than merely the car. At the very outset, it brings together a cross-section of the community in order to draw up long term plans based firmly on consensus and sound local knowledge. This is in contrast to the conventional planning route which, I believe, tends to pitch competing interests and narrow specialisms against each other, all too frequently resulting in incoherent, piecemeal growth. I do believe that early engagement with the community and other stakeholders leads to greater certainty in the planning process which, in turn, both accelerates individual projects and ensures more sympathetic and organic developments. 

To ensure that developments are sympathetic and contextual, my Foundation places great store on understanding and analyzing the essential “D.N.A.” of a place to help inform a new development in terms of urban layout, massing, materials and local vernacular building patterns. My Foundation has demonstrated this principle through the use of Pattern Books, which are founded upon rigorous analysis of existing qualities. The use of local materials in new development not only reduces embodied energy, which is important in itself, but also strengthens local identity while generating employment and investment. 

What we have lost sight of in many cities around the world is the concept that how we build affects how we live, how we go about our daily business, how we interact with our fellow human beings. One unfortunate trend of the last hundred years is that there has been a much greater emphasis on individual buildings, without proper consideration for their context or their interaction with the community. Without wishing to over-simplify or caricature the issues, it is possible to argue that whereas traditional urbanism is focused upon neighbourhoods, Modernism has chosen to concentrate on single buildings, with damaging consequences for the community as a whole. 

For what it is worth, my own interpretation of the “neighbourhood” formula is simple – a network of legible, interconnected streets that accommodate the car while celebrating the pedestrian. The principle of encompassing work, play, shopping and living in a harmonious way within walkable distances, and the “pepper-potting” of affordable housing amongst those on the open market. All the while attempting to restore a sense of harmony, proportion and, above all, beauty into our everyday lives. And do you notice how no-one dares talk about beauty nowadays? As if it was some kind of taboo subject or a incommunicable disease? Is this because, along with so much else, it has become subsumed under the stifling blanket of moral relativism? And yet, surely, when you think about it carefully, beauty is actually at the heart of genuine sustainability? 

I really am delighted that my Foundation has now led Enquiries by Design in China, Jamaica and Saudi Arabia. While, clearly, their nature and circumstances varied significantly, each in its own way gave individual communities the opportunity to express their views and identify those issues which were of the greatest concern to them. I believe that by fostering debate and encouraging communities to express their concerns, we will be much better placed to create settlements which are suited to local requirements, with a much greater chance of longer term success and sustainability. Taking this approach would help create a re-skilled workforce and build durable economic strength. 

I must say, I was fascinated to read recently something about community action which has created the essential pre–conditions for sustainable development and which, in many ways, reflects some of the themes we heard earlier today. Much of this work is simple and inexpensive for example, by encouraging local people to map their own areas, the outcomes are much more likely to be usable and accurately reflect individual communities’ concerns and circumstances. In fact the other day I visited an area in Bradford where my Foundation has been working for the last several years and I met a lot of young adolescent teenagers who had been working on a project which involved going around taking photos of all the buildings they liked and what they didn’t like and they showed me the results. Virtually all the buildings they liked were the old buildings like the old Town Hall and those they hated were the ghastly, modern, 1960s buildings. 

On the outskirts of Karachi a remarkable organization, called Orangi, has completely transformed the provision of water and sanitation. Since 1980, some 100,000 families have financed and built latrines and sewerage pipes over 7,000 once fouled lanes. By harnessing local skills, communal will and, literally, the lay of the land, and by working in partnership with municipal government, Orangi has sparked real change through an approach which is, perhaps, best summed up by the phrase ‘You don’t need the money. You need better designs’. These are exactly the answers and conclusions which my Foundation’s Enquiries by Design seek to discover. 

In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope that I have conveyed some sense of why the work of my Foundation for the Built Environment is so important to me and why I believe it has a vital and distinct role to play in addressing the central issues of the twenty first century. Its approach, I believe, can reassert the important role of what I can only call the ‘grammar of harmony’, without which there is cacophony and dissonance. As I mentioned earlier, by losing sight of our relationship with Nature, and its interdependent and holistic characteristics, we have engendered a profoundly dangerous alienation. To restore balance, we must reintegrate in a contemporary way the best parts of this abandoned and ancient understanding, with the best of modern technology and science, not least by developing innovative and more benign forms of technology that work with the grain of Nature rather than against it. These thoughts strike me as a perfect metaphor for what my Foundation is seeking to achieve in the field of urbanism, both in the United Kingdom and internationally. And they also remind me how much we can learn from other cultures and societies which have not quite yet lost sight of these universal truths, but are in severe danger of doing so.