Introduction to the Towards Successful Suburban Town Centres Project at UCL


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This presentation opened the workshop organised by the SSTC project team the London Buildings centre on April 23rd, 2009

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Introduction to the Towards Successful Suburban Town Centres Project at UCL

  1. 1. Sustainability as adaptability Towards Successful Suburban Town Centres Presented by Dr Laura Vaughan
  2. 2. 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
  3. 3. London’s centres and spatial accessibility Camden Town Angel Archway Hampstead Crouch End Muswell Hill Stratford Greenwich Brixton Plumstead New Cross Leyton East Ham
  4. 4. 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>
  5. 5. Key discovery #1 Spatial accessibility shapes movement Research shows that 60-80% of movement flows are due to the structure of the network, measured by spatial accessibility. More accessible places get more movement This does not mean that space determines individual movement. It means that human movement follows predictable patterns. Space Syntax © 2008 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 y = .784x + 2.147, R-squared: .589 Spatial accessibility Pedestrian movement Spatial accessibility -1 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 y = 1.235x + 1.048, R-squared: .702 Vehicle movement
  6. 6. Key discovery #2 Spatial accessibility shapes land use As cities evolve, land uses exploit spatial accessibility . Movement-sensitive land uses locate on movement-rich streets. Less movement-sensitive uses locate around the corner . In this way, historic cities organise themselves, mixing land uses in a natural way that people understand intuitively. They also adapt themselves to social and economic change through time. Space Syntax © 2008
  7. 7. 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>
  8. 8. 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
  9. 9. 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>
  10. 10. Continuity in road-network structures: Bexleyheath c.1800
  11. 11. Continuity in road-network structures: Bexleyheath c.1890
  12. 12. Continuity in road-network structures: Bexleyheath c.1950
  13. 13. Continuity in road-network structures: Bexleyheath c.2000 © Google Earth 2009
  14. 14. <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
  15. 15. Theme 3: Not just retail: the high street as a generator of socio-economic diversity
  16. 16. 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>
  17. 17. 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>
  18. 18. <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
  19. 19. 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>
  20. 20. <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
  21. 21. 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>
  22. 22. 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.
  23. 23. <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
  24. 24. 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?
  25. 25. 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>