Measuring Neighbourhood Liveability

CPRE London and Commonplace examine how to tap into public ideas for enhancing neighbourhoods

Measuring neighbourhood liveability

At a special event on 29 April, during Green Sky Thinking Week 2014, CPRE London shared some early research findings, looking into the question of neighbourhood liveability, as part of our Liveable Cities research project.

Rosalie Callway, Senior Research and Policy Officer from CPRE London referred to a CPRE report ‘Compact Sustainable Communities’ produced in 2006, which highlights how relatively high density communities can be designed in more sustainable ways, without having to compromise on green spaces and design quality. She noted that London is predicted to face significant population growth, reaching over 10million people by 2036 and therefore increasing housing challenges. The Liveable Cities project is trying to identify how London can become a truly liveable city. It is examining how to deliver good quality of life for all Londoners not just those who can afford it. This will include ensuring new and regenerated housing developments better knit with existing neighbourhoods.

Coming out of a year-long research phase, the main aim of the Campaign for Liveable London will be to raise awareness of the alternative options for meeting London’s housing and community needs and to help neighbourhood groups better participate in and even lead future housing developments.

Project officer, Alma Clavin presented the early findings of the research project, which explored what we mean by liveability, who is involved, who should be, and how London’s housing might be improved in the future. CPRE London consulted with built environment practitioners and community actors, and reviewed twelve housing developments of three broad types across London – Developer-led large scale masterplans (e.g. Woodbury Down, Kidbrook Village); high street developments and infill (e.g. Packington Estate, Waddon); and established estates (e.g. Golden Lane Estate, Clapham Park).

Alma highlighted eight neighbourhood liveability criteria that were applied to each case study site, including issues like the design of homes, affordability, accessibility to amenities and green spaces, walkability etc. We also applied an online crowdsourcing tool (Commonplace) at three of the sites to map out and assess user experiences and seek ideas for enhancing housing and place. The Commonplace tool was partly used as a pilot to better understand the potential of online tools to support community engagement in planning and development processes. It is clear from the pilot that such tools must be applied as part of a package of engagement practices and will not replace the importance of establishing clear community buy-in to get involved in the first place.

Mike Saunders, Director and Founder of the Commonplace platform, then explained the workings of the Commonplace tool in more detail. The concept for Commonplace is to try and disrupt a top-down and often opaque planning system. Their idea is to try and make planning more transparent and help encourage people to become a part of the conversation. Commonplace also seeks to mitigate some of the current risks in planning and development processes by better articulating user needs, creating a visual online map where parties can openly comment, encouraging groups to work together more collaboratively to improve an area.

Mike presented a series of examples that are currently using Commonplace. This includes West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum, who are using the tool to seeks local views on their future neighbourhood plan. Previous consultations had largely reached people in their 60s, whereas the tool indicated a greater response from people in their 20 to 40s – an age group that often doesn’t engage in planning.

Commonplace has also been used by the Transport Catapult to inform and enhance transport decision-making, analysing user comments within social media about their experience of key transport modes and routes. Mike noted that the tool doesn’t replace the need for face-to-face consultation processes but it can definitely compliment the process, and help deliver wider outreach to a more diverse demographic, as well as clarify different user needs. At its heart is the idea that it will help produce a better outcome for more people as a result.

Both CPRE London and Commonplace are clear in their view that new housing developments and regeneration projects need to bring into play enhanced resources to support neighbourhood planning and community-ownership. By involving local people more effectively as partners the outcomes will be better for more people and for the longer term.

The presentations from the event can be downloaded below and CPRE London will be releasing the full findings of their research in June 201

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