urban planning

Image: Constanza López

King’s Cross

The regeneration project at King’s Cross in London provides an example of how getting children involved in redevelopment is beneficial for its success. The 67- acre site in North London is being developed from an underused industrial wasteland into a sustainable community where young people can participate in the development. Their engagement with local schools allows young children to participate in a range of activities and allows older children to develop skills that they can use in the future, for example by providing a participation scheme that allows them to gain accredited qualifications to put on their CVs.

of 18 by 2030. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 80 per cent of the world’s adolescent population is insufficiently physically active as a result of urbanisation. It expects the number of overweight children under five to rise to 70 million by 2025, compared to 41 million in 2016, with this rate of increase more significant in developing countries. “With children projected to make up the majority of the world’s urban population by 2030, the quality of life experienced in our cities will in many ways determine our global future,” the report explains.

challenges for urban childhoods Health and safety is at the heart of the issues that influence child-friendly city planning. According to a study by the Policy Studies Institute, “children’s independent mobility leads to higher levels of physical activity, sociability and improved mental wellbeing,” however from 1971 to 1990, the number of UK children walking to school unsupervised dropped from 80 per cent to nine per cent. High-rise living and urban sprawl encourages car-dependency, which in turn leads to insufficient or unsafe access to the city and potentially causes health problems because of pollution and lack of physical activity. It also generates isolation among residents, which inhibits their abilities to interact with others and foster trust within the community. A 2017 study conducted by Playing Out highlighted that more recreational spaces in the community helped people to build trust and social contact with their neighbours helping to develop more sense of belonging in the neighbourhood. Lack of access to recreational spaces

can also lead to more crime, with the report citing an example in Merseyside, which saw a 90 per cent decrease in anti- social behaviour following the creation of a play space. Without such spaces, the report argues, people are less likely to go out and experience the community which can only have a negative impact.

benefits of a child-friendly city The advantages of gearing city planning toward the needs of children are numerous. Access to child-friendly spaces not only improves physical well being, but also mental health. It also encourages

intergenerational activities, so adults can benefit too since social interaction is key to good mental well being and in turn creates stronger communities. The findings from Arup’s case studies advocate more urban green spaces to improve both physical and mental health. One 2010 study conducted by Design Council Cabe, UK found that “age and health-related inequalities have been found to decrease with proximity to green areas,” while a study from Global Street Design Guide shows how “urban trees and vegetation help decrease stress and aggressive behaviour in cities, and have been linked to crime reduction.” In addition, creating these spaces

benefits the local economy, since attracting and retaining a skilled workforce - and their families - is critical to a city’s social and economic success, with the benefits for families and local businesses being mutual. With this in mind Roger Madelin,

Barcelona ‘Superblocks’

The Catalan capital is piloting a network of ‘superblocks’ which are self-contained residences that will restrict traffic to main roads around consolidated 400m-by-400m city blocks. The roads are transformed into free public space where cars are not allowed to go. What shaped the project was an assessment of health impacts on local residents and the implementation of superblocks is expected to help to reduce pollution, improve safety and encourage activity and social cohesion, while at the same time “winning the street back” for cyclists and pedestrians. Several studies suggested that around 3,000 deaths were ‘linked’ to air pollution in the city, as well as affecting local ecosystems, and noise pollution from cars was also cited as a major concern. 15

Image: BY-SA 2.0

Image: BY-NC 2.0 Phil Rogers

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