City centres should be focus of investment and development

3 Nov 15

City councils should focus development efforts in central areas to ensure local economies benefit from the boom in urban living among young people, a report has concluded today.

The research by the Centre for Cities think-tank found the number of residents aged 20-29 in large-city centres had nearly tripled between 2001 and 2011, up from 35,663 in 2001 to 102,342 in 2011.

A poll of 2,080 city centre residents revealed that over one-third said the availability of nearby restaurants, leisure and cultural facilities is a primary attraction of living in urban areas, while more than a quarter (27%) stated that proximity to their workplace is one of the main appeals of living in the centre of a city.

Today’s Urban Demographics report said this trend created opportunities for cities to boost their economies if they were able to respond to these changing preferences.

Among the recommendations is a call for city authorities to create a better business environment by prioritising central areas in their efforts to attract firms and jobs. Enterprise zones, for example, could be located in city centres, rather than in the outskirts of towns.

Strategic planning of housing and transport was also needed to ensure that both were built in the right place, while regeneration projects should include a focus on business growth as well as physical and cultural improvements.

This would address one of the main concerns of residents raised by the research, namely cost. Nearly one-third (31%) of respondents named the cost of housing as one of the main drawbacks about their neighbourhood.

Centre for Cities chief executive Alexandra Jones said the face of UK cities had changed dramatically over the last 15 years, with central areas having been transformed into places where young professionals across the country increasingly want to live and work.

“While the report highlights the potential downsides of urban living, such as high housing costs or the lack of open space, it’s clear that for many young people these drawbacks are outweighed by the appeal of access to highly skilled jobs, amenities, restaurants and shops, which are making city centres magnets for young talent,” she said.

“But local leaders shouldn’t take this growth in people and jobs for granted, and need to consider how they can sustain and capitalise on these trends. That means taking steps to make city centres better places to live and do business in – for example, by building more housing in urban areas to meets the needs of young professionals, and by investing in infrastructure, to attract more jobs and firms to central areas.”

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