Headlines: January 13th, 2006

Most British city centres cannot be made family friendly places to live and planners and developers should turn their attention to areas of deprivation in inner-city suburbs, according to new research from the Institute for Public Policy Research’s Centre for Cities. The research examined the growth of city centre living outside London.It found city centre residents are predominantly young and single, with those living in the centre of places such as Manchester, Liverpool and Dundee being twice as likely to be single as the average Briton. Around two thirds are aged between 18 and 34 and, for example, half the people of working age living in Liverpool city centre are students. More than a third of working residents in the centres of Manchester and Liverpool walk to work, compared to a national average figure of around one in ten. The report refers to a ‘conveyor belt effect’ in city centres, with most people staying only a few years and a third of residents moving in or out each year. That is about three times higher than the national average.

Given these facts, the report urges planners and developers to turn their attention to what it describes as ‘doughnuts of deprivation’ in inner suburbs close to city centres. These areas, it says, are the priorities for regeneration, and could better accommodate the kind of facilities people want when they start families, such as schools, healthcare, parks and shops.

The IPPR study found that city centre living grew significantly in the last past 15 years. City centre housing markets have also seen large scale growth although a slowdown is likely in the short term. Focus groups organised as part of the study named shops, bars, cafes, being able to walk to work and the city centre ‘buzz’ as the main attractions. Retail, leisure and nightlife facilities were far more important than art galleries and concert halls.

Max Nathan, Senior Researcher at the Centre for Cities and author of the report said young, single people had led the return to the city and Britain’s distinctive, young-adult driven model of city centre living had enduring appeal, at least for the time being. There was a great opportunity, he said, for planners and developers to improve deprived areas near the centre, rather than passing on the cost of family infrastructure in city cores.