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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/I001212/1
Title: Adaptable Suburbs: a study of the relationship between networks of human activity and the changing form of urban and suburban centres through time
Principal Investigator: Vaughan, Professor LS
Other Investigators:
Buchli, Dr VA Haklay, Professor M( Griffiths, Dr S
Ellul, Dr C
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
CABE Greater London Authority (GLA) Savills Plc
Shared Intelligence
Department: Bartlett Sch of Graduate Studies
Organisation: UCL
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 November 2010 Ends: 31 October 2014 Value (£): 728,177
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Building Ops & Management Construction Ops & Management
Transport Ops & Management Urban & Land Management
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Construction Technical Consultancy
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
07 Jul 2010 Process, Environment and Sustainability Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
This project is a study of how small-scale centres of social and economic activity are shaped by the way in which physical and social networks change their form through time. Due to their frequently being below the policy radar, there is a clear gap in knowledge about how smaller centres form part of the large-scale spatial/social network. This subject area requires an interdisciplinary approach; both to provide the tools to handle large data sets on street-level activity within and around town centres, as well as by providing the knowledge and understanding to interpret the spatially related social/economic data in a meaningful way. Due to our collective expertise, we are in a position to test a novel proposition about how centres of socio-economic activity emerge through time, for which existing theoretical models of centre-periphery or fringe-belt do not seem adequate. We will address the question of how local self-organisation, design interventions and functional changes have an impact on large-scale network of connections. The need for a specific policy on suburbs to realise their untapped potential is essential to improve the quality of cities today. Our research will provide the evidence for targeted funding in the UK suburbs that Kochan and others have maintained are required for preventative action to halt further decline in the suburbs and to avoid the need for major expenditure in the future . It is clear that the city as a whole is inextricably linked and no centre can succeed in isolation from the others (as outlined in the London Mayor's report on 'Planning for a Better London', July 2008). At a time of great social and economic flux characterised by new communications technologies and radically changing patterns of work, living and consumption (such as flexible working and the current economic downturn), suburban centres are critical to an urgently needed re-evaluation of how to plan for the future growth of our older cities.These theoretical gaps are mirrored in the design and policy worlds, which find it hard to apply general principles to particular cases; taking one example, a policy demand for 'densification' implemented nationally comes up against an inability to understand its implications in particular, local contexts. It is vital to understand the spatial configuration and social/economic significance of smaller centres at the peri-urban edge. An informed understanding of how to shape these smaller centres is necessary to prevent current solutions creating their own problems in the future. This proposal comes at a critical juncture in policy and place-making. We have been told by policy-makers that there is an urgent need to address the future sustainability of urban and sub-urban environments by tapping into their potential for densification, reuse and adaptation. An understanding of how smaller centres work within their immediate and regional networks of larger centres is critical to the future economic, social and environmental sustainability of complex mega-cities such as London. One of the major problems with current conceptualisations of these three domains is that they are not viewed in an integrated and holistic way. Preliminary evidence suggests that diversity of activity helps create the vitality in local centres that provides the customers, employees and employers of the local economy; the economic and social aspects are dependent in turn on environmental sustainability: we need to understand the potential of an aging infrastructure to reduce resource consumption.
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