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Walkability Report

Journal 14 December 2020

New report reveals ‘walkability and mixed-use’ could create more valuable and healthier communities

How “walkable” is your neighbourhood? Can residents walk to work, their children’s school, and to the nearest shops and amenities? What does that mean for their quality of life and the time they spend in the car or exercising in the outdoors?

The Prince’s Foundation, with partners Space Syntax, Knight Frank and Smart Growth Associates, has today (Monday 14 December) launched a report on the positive impact on communities by places that are planned to incorporate a mix of uses — residential, commercial, and community space — and that are, as a result, more “walkable”.

The findings clearly suggest that greater quality of life, improved mental and physical health, and higher property values generally correlate with a higher level of “walkability” and more mixed-use in a range of areas throughout the UK.

Ben Bolgar, Senior Director at the Prince’s Foundation and Design Director of the development company Stockbridge Land, said: “When we set about this research project we wanted to test whether there might be a correlation between the walkability of settlement areas and their success as sustainable and popular places to live. With new development there is a lot of talk around ‘being sustainable’ and promising a range of amenities at planning stage but the evidence seems to suggest that most homes we are building now are part of car-dependent monocultural housing estates, with very few non-residential uses.”

Architect and urban planner Tim Stonor, Managing Director of Space Syntax, said: “The location of everyday land uses - shops, offices, schools and healthcare facilities – has important effects on our movement choices: whether we reach them by walking or cycling, catching a bus or going by car. Sometimes there is no choice: low density, monofunctional housing estates create car dependence. This is not only harmful for the environment but damaging to our mental and physical health. Car-dependency influences obesity and loneliness. In contrast, walkable places are healthy and sociable places.”

Charlie Dugdale, Proprietary Partner at Knight Frank who authored the research for the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission, said: “This research is a stark illustration of the societal value of the walkable urban village typology. It shows us that there are historic and modern examples of successful urban villages which should give the development industry confidence that greater ambition will be rewarded. The success of these places was already an emerging trend, but Covid-19 has accelerated the trend and we now need a business model that focuses on building walkable mixed-use neighbourhoods.”

Gail Mayhew, principal at Smart Growth Associates, a placemaking consultancy advising developers and local authorities, said: “Since publishing its Urban Villages manifesto in 1992, The Prince’s Foundation has argued for the delivery of fully-fledged neighbourhoods in place of single use housing estates, to create more sustainable, healthy and popular residential environments. At the heart of the proposition was observational research on the land-use of historic British towns and cities, which – at least in their inner ring of Georgian and Victorian suburbs – absorbed village centres as the footprint of the city grew, becoming the core of relatively self-contained urban village neighbourhoods supplying daily needs and often a degree of local employment. The research uses technology to move from observation to measurement to highlight the land use characteristics of walkability to support urban design and planning decision making”.

Transport is the single largest contributor to the UK’s carbon emissions. At the end of 2030 the UK is set to ban the sale of all new fossil fuel vehicles, and the latest National Travel Survey from the Department for Transport shows a continuation in the decline of trips taken and miles travelled. Increasing emphasis on walking, cycling, public transport has been reinforced by Covid measures to make the public realm more walking and cycling friendly – this report uncovers the need in parallel to turn attention to the urban footprint to regenerate and build neighbourhoods to be more self contained through delivering mixed uses on a walkable urban footprint. This would underpin improved health, more sustainable movement choices, reduce household costs through reduced commuting and increase lifestyle choice for households and home-based workers.

The report can be found here : link