The UK government’s £1bn Future High Streets Fund aims to transform and regenerate high Streets across England. It is intended to help revitalise local high streets and boost economic buoyancy in town centres where people live, shop, use services, and spend their leisure time.
Space Syntax worked with the City of Sheffield, supporting its successful initial bid to secure funding for improvements to Sheffield’s historic High Street and Fargate, its famous shopping street. We subsequently assisted in the second stage of the bid, providing public realm design advice and modelling the pedestrian movement impacts of future development scenarios. Our recent input is the latest phase of a longstanding relationship with the City. Working across several different phases of the Heart of the City masterplan, Space Syntax is aiding in the transformation of the City Centre as a vibrant, mixed-use district that attracts more jobs, investment and visitors.
Analysis of the pedestrian movement data that we collected from a survey in 2019 showed that a number of streets in the city centre are underperforming due to the quality of their public realm and lack of ground floor activation. This was particularly apparent on streets just one step away from the city’s main shopping thoroughfares, where movement levels dropped significantly, for example some of the lanes feeding into Fargate and High Street.
We built a Pedestrian Movement Model to identify the relative influence of different urban form characteristics on pedestrian flows. The insights provided by the model highlighted, and quantified, the importance of a) Spatial Layout Attraction – the connectedness of the pedestrian network – and b) Ground Floor Activation – the presence of shops, galleries, studios and other street-facing assets. In other words, poor permeability and blank frontages deter pedestrian activity in a way that is predictable and measurable.
By using the Pedestrian Movement Model in forecast mode, we tested the likely impact of different regeneration scenarios. This work demonstrated how the proposed diversification of street-facing land uses – including a public services hub and exhibition/events space – as well as a increase in city centre co-working and residential floorspace, to generate additional footfall and dwell time throughout the day.
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