HS2 – urban connectivity is key to maximising economic impact

This morning’s announcement by the UK government about the preferred route of the proposed ‘High Speed 2’ rail line north of Birmingham raises, quite rightly, the issue of economic impact and its geographic spread. Will the line draw commerce north, or make it even easier to pull southwards towards London’s greater critical mass?

One way in to the problem is to ask: who will take these trains, or rather: where will they have come from when they get on and where will they be going once they get off? In other words, to consider the total passenger journey.

History tells us through the footprint of human settlement worldwide that economic production is greatest in urban centres. The planet’s continued growth towards cities, despite all recent developments in mobile and online communications, suggests the trend is here to stay. HS2 should bear this urban imperative in mind. Continue reading HS2 – urban connectivity is key to maximising economic impact

Are streets the answer – yes, but…

Yesterday’s launch by think tank Policy Exchange of a report calling for the removal of inner-city high rise estates and their replacement with streets is a welcome contribution to discussions about the design of future cities. The report, authored by Create Streets, concludes that high rise estates are unsafe, antisocial and economically substandard. By proposing to replace estates with streets, the authors claim they are responding to residents’ concerns. They also say that well designed streets can provide just as much housing as sprawling estates.

The argument for street-based living appears to be straightforward: people like streets and they deliver economically. Yet it isn’t as simple as this and the report quite rightly references research by Savills, Space Syntax and the Brookings Institute that shows the importance of street layout. There are better, well-connected, well used streets and less good, disconnected, poorly used streets. Continue reading Are streets the answer – yes, but…