The business case for better streets and places

Electronic walking man on screen

One of many fantastic presentations at Walk 21, was from Living Streets London Manager, Tom Platt. He spoke about the business case for investing in better streets and places to deliver improved financial return for the high street (also known in other countries as the main street, downtown or shopping streets).

In the last decade, 16 per cent of high street shops in Britain have become vacant. During this time people have continued to move from short frequent shopping trips, to longer, less frequent car trips, with two thirds of shopping trips made by car.

The UK based study entitled the Pedestrian Pound, was commissioned by Living Streets and supports investing in the public realm as a means to increasing retail spending, reducing retail vacancies and creating an environment where people will walk for shopping trips. (This also contributes to other established co-benefits related to health, social inclusion and the environment).

The study findings include that:

  • Well planned improvements to public spaces can boost footfall and trading by up to 40%.
  • Investing in better streets and spaces for walking can provide a competitive return compared to other transport projects, with walking and cycling projects increasing retail sales by up to 30%.
  • Many car journeys are short and as the volume of goods is small, these trips could be made on foot.

The report is also supported by interesting case studies from the UK, including:

  • Sheffield, Heart of the City
  • Oxford Circus, diagonal crossing – where improvements to the pedestrian environment were found to result in an increased turnover of 25% for one of the major retailers facing this intersection.
  • Reinvigorate York, providing pedestrian improvements for the 7 million visitors that visit York annually.

To find out more about this study click here.

State of Australian Cities 2013

State of Australian Cities cover

The fourth State of Australian Cities report was released this week and includes interactive web-based maps and the second tranche of  Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2011 Census population and housing data.

The report’s main focus is how the change in Australia’s industrial structure (described in the 2012 report) is affecting its major cities and what this may mean for productivity and equity.

Interesting facts include:

  • Australia has one of the highest population growth rates in the OECD.
  • Aside from city states like Singapore and Monaco, Australia is the most urbanised nation on earth.
  • An increasing number of people are living further away from city centres in major cities while higher-skill, higher-paying jobs, are becoming concentrated in central areas.
  • Australian cities tend to have higher private car use than public transport use when compared with overseas cities.
  • Since 2008, residential energy use has accounted for 12 per cent of Australia’s total energy consumption.
  • Energy demand for space heating and cooling is projected to increase in the coming decades. Factors influencing increased demand include houses with the largest average floor areas in the world, the decreasing occupancy rate of dwellings and the increased use of whole-house heating and cooling systems.

  • Nearly 40 per cent of total national energy use is expended in moving people and freight. The transport sector uses 73 per cent of Australia’s total liquid fuel, with over half of that being used by road transport.

  • The transport sector also contributes the largest proportion of average household carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at almost 42 per cent. Light passenger vehicle use alone accounts for 35 per cent of Australia’s average household emissions, by far the largest overall component of the transport sector’s emissions.

  •  Rates of walking and cycling fell throughout the 1990s before recovering in the first decade of the century. The proportion of journeys to work made by bicycle is now the highest it has been in 40 years.

To read more about the State of Australian Cities click here.



What sort of planner are you?

Person deciding which direction to go
jscreationzs /

Urban planning is a diverse field. How do you choose the role best suited to your personality type? Here are some job titles and the character types best suited to these roles.

Development Assessment/Development Control Planner

You like to tell people “no” in the politest possible way. Being anal retentive is considered a strength in this job. Clashing with developers is a favourite past-time, while local residents who complain about neighbouring developments are the bane of your life. Why can’t people just read the plan you moan. Why? Because if they did, you might be out of a job!

Policy/Strategic Planner

You enjoy looking at the big picture and have limited interest in detail. You must be patient and always have the long view in mind. Special interests include: community consultation, drafting legislative instruments, word-smith and negotiator extraordinaire. However don’t be too disappointed when your good intentions are strangled by bureaucracy, self-important politicians and well-meaning community members!

Project Manager

You are a control freak and want to be in charge of everything. Unfortunately this means you never get a chance to get into the technical detail because you spend most of your time overseeing others, dealing with contracts, Gantt charts and meetings, meetings and more meetings!

Urban Designer

Ideally you have a long winded name that sounds both impressive and creative. You prefer to walk around with your head in the clouds dreaming of fantastical utopian cities. Occasionally you are brought down to earth with a rude shock when your ideas are questioned or fail to reach actualisation….but at least you can dream!

Environmental Planner

Your primary concern is the natural environment, the words flora and fauna are music to your ears. From your perspective, the less buildings damaging the habitat of endangered species the better!

Planning Consultant

You enjoy last minute dashes to the tender box, all-nighters and schmoozing. Armed with wads of business cards, CVs and detailed submissions – you must be smarter than the rest, because by gosh you work harder!