Is suburban town centre diversity analagous with hedgerows?

April 16, 2008

Our working definition of diversity in the context of the suburban town centre is the presence of a large number of different land uses working at different scales and serving a variety of people.

It is interesting then to note that hedgerows tend to have a much greater diversity of plants and animals and tend to be thicker, taller and more continuous as they increase in age (see here for my source for this information) and here for a paper explaining the origins of this information: ‘Hooper’s Hedgerow Hypothesis’.

Following discussions with colleagues at the Bartlett, we have realised that beyond the rather neat association between green suburbs and green edges/hedges, there is an interesting conceptualisation of diversity and age to be made in relation to suburban high streets: the diversity of suburban town centres may be associated with greater age, and/or with the continuity of habitation for the settlement being studied.

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2 Responses to “Is suburban town centre diversity analagous with hedgerows?”

  1. SSTC project blogger Says:

    A recent article in the Sunday Times (http://tinyurl.com/4z7g5u) notes that residential property prices in England’s traditional market towns are rising and are relatively resistant to the current dip. One reason it gives is the diversity such centres can offer on the high street and the kind of sociability this supports. The article lends anecdotal support to the ‘hedgerow theory’ since most English market towns have long histories. However, what this ‘diversity ‘actually means is another question as, according to this article, it seems mainly to cater for an affluent incoming population with metropolitan incomes and tastes. There are many different sorts of market town in England and many will not conform to the chocolate box ideal of those discussed in the article. Nonetheless, it is interesting how a thriving local high street is something people are increasingly willing to pay to be near. In general terms it suggests that the case for successful town centres should not be characterised simply as a regulatory reaction to an alleged lifestyle preference for low density sprawl.

  2. suburbanite Says:

    I agree. Another recent article in The Atlantic Monthly entitled ‘The Next Slum?’ (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200803/subprime) makes the point that the problem with the suburbs of the past 50 years (here referring to the US example) is that they are impossible to retrofit to the growing desire for “walkable urban centers offering a mix of residential and commercial development”. If we do not plan our newer neighbourhoods with enough care and attention to the need for integrated centres, the case is likely to be the same in the UK in the not too distant future. What is increasingly clear from our analysis of the 20 London cases (http://www.sstc.ucl.ac.uk/profiler/), is that there seems to be a relationship between local accessibility – above and beyond railway and underground links – and the persistence of a place through time (our working definition of ‘success’).


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