Data-driven approach to urban planning and design

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The urban environment has a significant impact on people’s physical and mental health. It also affects how necessary services can be provided to and reached by individuals who need them. An ageing society means that the particular requirements of the older population need to be considered in the design of the urban environment, in order to encourage them to live healthy, active and social lives, and to enable efficient service deliveries to support them.

The various components of the urban environment affect our lives in many different ways. In particular, the combination of mobility networks, land use distributions and density impacts on individuals’ choice of lifestyle, modes of transport, the amount of time spent travelling, how easy it is to socialise with others, etc. This has significant implications for various issues that cities face. These include health and wellbeing of the population, economic growth, town centre vitality, carbon emissions, social equity and community cohesion.

This presentation introduces a set of tools that demonstrate how these elements of the urban environment, together, affect the potential for active travel and access to various services. It enables an objective assessment of spatial plans or master plans based on outcomes that relate to health, equity and various other values that matter to people. The tools were used to analyse the potential active travel and access to services, and spatial disparity of such potential in different UK cities. The analysis highlights place-specific issues that can be addressed by certain urban planning and design interventions, or by providing targeted services to compensate for spatial disadvantage. By overlaying with demographic data, these outputs can be used to develop intervention ideas to support healthy, active and social lifestyles amongst the older population and to ensure necessary services are delivered to those who need them. Such analyses also facilitate collaborations between experts in different domains, including planning, transport and health.