Creating better cities by
improving the value of the public realm


How do you grow and make robust a village, town or city?

nb edgesred

Town centre planning and design is about understanding the local dynamics that drive the performance of a centre. Robustness has to do with energy (the type, volume, capacity and behaviour of movement systems and their catchment dynamics), land use distribution and built form.

The drawing indicates a coding method we routinely use to determine why the range of edge conditions in a town centre behave the way they do and consequently what you can do to change them.


In some cases it will be that the movement network is an issue by over-prioritising cars, or that network blockers are in place (such as one way streets) or perhaps there is not enough friction in the network to facilitate pedestrian amenity (congestion in centre streets - unlike regional road networks, has an economic benefit). In some it will be the presence of blank walls or car parking. In some it will be the inappropriate presence of open space or poor built form. The coding method helps us to understand the dynamics of a centre and what can be done to change it.

You will need to look at the range of "energy" levels in the street network. You need a wide range of "energy" or street edge conditions. We use a technique that determines inter alia the "A", "B" and "C" edges of a town or village. Ideally you want a range of street edge conditions for the town to have a wide variety of business settings. In most cases these edges should transition logically from high activity edge conditions to low active edge, but it becomes apparent why these transitions may not work in particular centres. This enables planners to understand how to better "switch on" underperforming parts of centres. In cities however the response may be different as you may have a series of pulse points and you may want to emphasise as separate from each other within the city's wider context.

You will need to determine how the movement network influences a centre's dynamics and what opportunities are available to you in terms of sites and role and function. Assuming appropriate catchment and access conditions working for you, the most important feature is the quality of the built form, the spatial dynamics (what relationship exists between buildings, the hierarchy of activities and their use of space) and public realm amenity. You may have inherited good built form (if an older centre) or you may need to create it through regulation.

The coding method is often used in association with a walkability audit and an overall built form audit that assesses the level to which the town is car or pedestrian focused.

In addition to edge coding we also undertake a walkability audit that shows the level to which a town or village is walkable based on the built edge condition. An extension of this audit is also a walking audit based on a range of other factors that make walking efficient and safe. This extended audit is most useful for public transport agencies as its shows how the journey can be improved and the likely ridership and financial benefits of these improvements.