Within the next 20 years, most housing growth in England and Wales is predicted to occur in suburban settlements. This development is expected to be sustainable economically and environmentally, which means that the suburb is required to provide local economic activities in order to minimise travel and to support cohesive and vibrant communities. The Towards Successful Suburban Town Centres (SSTC) research project at University College London is investigating the strategic contribution of Greater London’s smaller and district centres to the sustainability of the metropolitan region. We interpret ‘sustainability’ as referring to those conditions that are favourable to local concentrations of socioeconomic and cultural activity that persist over time. The research has found that the widespread perception of suburbia as synonymous with social and architectural homogeneity belies its spatial, social, ethnic and economic diversity. With pressure to build large numbers of new homes increasing, there is a real danger that such perceptions become self-fulfilling. The project has developed space syntax methodology in a geographical information system to enable land use data to be mapped and analysed in relation to space syntax measures of network accessibility. This has enabled a novel understanding of the relationship between urban form and patterns of land use activity to arise. Initial findings suggest that the success of local centres is dependent on the ability of their built environments to adapt to social and economic change by facilitating pedestrian movement around an extended central area and accessibility to vehicular and public transport at larger scales of movement. We believe that adaptability is important as it can help small centres support a wider and more robust range of locally generated activity than is the case in a retail monoculture. Adaptability is key to economic sustainability and it is this potential in the suburban built environment that needs to be more widely understood. We have found that where the town centre supports a diverse range of activities it benefits from increased by-product movement, where people do more than the things they came deliberately to do during their visit to the centre. This is not purely an economic benefit. More time spent locally leads to a more vibrant mix of people on the streets and helps enliven the town centre throughout the day. We suggest that this street network potential is a critical element for sustaining the vitality of suburban and small town centres. The extensive and varied activity in areas with such characteristics enables periodic daily and weekly movement as it furthers the engagement of individuals with their locality.
Introduction to the Towards Successful Suburban Town Centres Project at UCL
Sustainability as adaptability Towards Successful Suburban Town Centres Presented by Dr Laura Vaughan
Aims of today’s workshop <ul><li>to present the project’s findings to people with an interest and expertise in London’s suburbs </li></ul><ul><li>to hear reflections back regarding the challenges of reconciling design and planning with strategic policy making and integrating local suburbs in the wider network </li></ul>Aims of today’s workshop
London’s centres and spatial accessibility Camden Town Angel Archway Hampstead Crouch End Muswell Hill Stratford Greenwich Brixton Plumstead New Cross Leyton East Ham
Project propositions <ul><li>Successful suburbs stem from a dynamic relationship between spatial form, patterns of movement and land use </li></ul><ul><li>Suburban centres can generate movement at different scales </li></ul><ul><li>The diversity of activity this generates is key to their potential for sustainability </li></ul>
Theme 1: Sustainability as Adaptability <ul><li>The ‘typical’ suburban house is a highly adaptable design. </li></ul><ul><li>Can the same thing be said of the ‘typical’ suburban town centre? </li></ul><ul><li>Picture copyright: London suburbs. Introduction by Andrew Saint. London : Merrell Holberton in association with English Heritage 1999. </li></ul>
Adaptable suburbs? <ul><li>The ability of suburbs to adapt to change is associated with street layouts that generate street activity and with buildings whose use can be easily changed. </li></ul><ul><li>Suburbs that adapt to social, economic and environmental change are most likely to succeed long-term. </li></ul>Orpington, showing adaptation that works with the grain
Theme 2: Suburban Transformations <ul><li>Some settlements have persisted over long stretches of time. </li></ul><ul><li>An understanding of how morphological structure continues or changes through time helps us understand suburban adaptation and transformation. </li></ul>
Continuity in road-network structures: Bexleyheath c.1800
Continuity in road-network structures: Bexleyheath c.1890
Continuity in road-network structures: Bexleyheath c.1950
<ul><li>Historical analysis demonstrates that contemporary areas of socio-economic and cultural activity often coincide with street patterns inherited from the past. </li></ul><ul><li>We frequently find that some long-standing streets draw in movement from a wide surrounding area. </li></ul><ul><li>The ability of suburbs to adapt to change is associated with street layouts that generate street activity and with buildings whose use can be easily changed. </li></ul>Suburban Transformations
Theme 3: Not just retail: the high street as a generator of socio-economic diversity
Approaching the suburban high street as a complex socio-spatial environment <ul><li>Current policy recommendations have placed town centre high streets as the central focus for suburban regeneration – with the emphasis placed on retail activity. </li></ul><ul><li>Our analysis shows that smaller town centres host a wide variety of land uses including light industry and manufacturing. This genuinely mixed-use picture creates the potential for sustainability - </li></ul>
Untapped potential – the’ backlands’ of the high street <ul><ul><li>Economic sustainability ; local businesses employing local people (low skilled who cannot afford to travel further, highly skilled who due to family situation need to work close to home). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Former forge, now printworks, Chipping Barnet </li></ul></ul>
<ul><ul><li>Environmental sustainability ; fewer trips, exploiting in many cases former industrial activity in the suburbs. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Stables, Forge Mews, 14-16 Church Street, Rickmansworth. </li></ul></ul>Untapped potential – the’ backlands’ of the high street
Untapped potential <ul><ul><li>Social sustainability ; community places </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Borehamwood village hall (currently undergoing major refurbishment) </li></ul></ul>
<ul><li>Suburban centres which provide plenty of different activities encourage the presence of a diverse mix of people, coming from a variety of distances, all with different reasons for using the centre. </li></ul><ul><li>Social sustainability and vibrancy arise in urban and building layouts that can support a wide range of activities throughout the day and the week. </li></ul>The high street and socio-economic diversity
Theme 4: Scales of Movement and Diversity of Land Use <ul><li>Space Syntax analysis of retail across London highlights its essentially linear distribution. At this regional scale larger centres are easily represented as highly integrated ‘attractors’. </li></ul>
To think about suburban form and function you need to consider the whole city Space syntax analysis computes all the roads in a street network according to how they interconnect at different geographical scales. These accessibility measures are then used to describe how far particular streets and areas are integrated or segregated in relation to their surroundings. The extent of segregation and integration is scale sensitive . A given street or area may be locally integrated at a local scale but relatively segregated at a larger scale. Streets or areas which are integrated at many different scales are likely to be foci of activity such as high streets and town centres.
<ul><li>To think about the suburb you need to consider the whole city </li></ul><ul><li>Across different scales, smaller centres are every bit as complex as place as larger centres. </li></ul><ul><li>Patterns of activities evident at the larger scale are not always repeated locally </li></ul><ul><li>Exploration of spatial distribution of land-use activities shows how different parts of the town centre are located on streets that are prominent at different scales of connectivity. </li></ul>Suburbs: network of centres and sub-centres
Shopping as by-product of other activities <ul><li>The majority of town centre inhabitants and visitors don’t shop. Those that do, have a wide variety of other activities. </li></ul><ul><li>What else do shoppers+ do? </li></ul>Where do shoppers+ go?
Agenda for rest of the workshop <ul><li>Reflections on this presentation </li></ul><ul><li>Break </li></ul><ul><li>Presentations on the detailed case studies: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Chipping Barnet </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>South Norwood </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Surbiton </li></ul></ul><ul><li>General discussion and reflections from the suburbs </li></ul><ul><li>Close, drinks and chat </li></ul>