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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/D06595X/1
Title: Towards Successful Suburban Town Centres: a study of the relationship between morphology, sociability, economics and accessibility
Principal Investigator: Vaughan, Professor LS
Other Investigators:
Haklay, Professor M(
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Bartlett Sch of Graduate Studies
Organisation: UCL
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 October 2006 Ends: 31 December 2009 Value (£): 565,916
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Building Ops & Management Design Engineering
Urban & Land Management
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
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Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
Within the next 20 years, most of the growth in housing development in England and Wales is predicted to occur in suburban settlements. At the same time, this development is expected to be sustainable economically and environmentally, which means that the suburb is required to provide local economic activities (and therefore to minimise travel) and to support cohesive and vibrant communities. One of the main problems that urban planners face when they try to materialise this vision is the lack of knowledge on the factors that make the suburban town centre and its surroundings successful and vibrant. In this research we aim to address this issue and to develop tools and techniques that will assist urban planners when they deal with new development plans for suburban areas. The research will utilise methods for spatial analysis of social and economic activities at the street block level. One of the strengths of the methodology is that it allows the visualisation and analysis of the urban form (the structure of the streets and the layout of the buildings) with information about the people who are living in these buildings. In most research projects, the two are not analysed within a unified framework - so urban designers focus on the street layout, while social-scientists focus on the social and economic aspects of town centre planning. In addition, our methods provide a level of detail and accuracy which can contribute to precise design decisionsWe will first study ten suburban areas in England and Wales to get a picture of the range of suburban types and then we will focus on four suburban settlements. The selection of settlements will be based on computerised geographical analysis of existing governmental datasets, literature review and a mapping study. The four cases will include both successful and declining suburbs. Each of the four cases will be analysed in detail. We will use historical maps (which have been recently released for academic research) to understand the development of the urban form over the last 100 years. We will then conduct an in-depth analysis of change over the last 10 years, based on census data, recent maps and governmental datasets on employment and other economic activities. We will assess the success of the centres through measures of economic performance, physical accessibility, walkability and mix of activities. We will also run local workshops to contribute to this assessment and to get information on future priorities from the perspective of local stakeholders. Finally, the data will be integrated and we will create a toolkit for the systematic analysis and future planning of suburban town centres. Within this research we will develop new techniques for the analysis of the suburban town centre and its surroundings. The main tools that we will use are Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Spatial Analysis and Space Syntax Methodology (SSM). In GIS, we will develop a method that will allow the adjustment of historical maps to the latest detailed digital data by the Ordnance Survey. We will use the GIS to integrate the information about the suburbs and to conduct spatial analysis on the socio-economic development. SSM will be used to understand the way in which the space is being utilised by people, and to integrate the social and economic data with information about the urban form. In summary, this research will contribute to the policy debate on the future of suburbs, develop methods that will assist urban planners in their development decisions and will innovate in the use of historical maps and the integration of socio-economic data with information about the layout of urban areas. This research will also benefit the public by creating a robust toolkit for the design of successful suburbs.
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Project URL: http://www.sstc.ucl.ac.uk/sstc_index.html
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