Mixed use property development and its place in UK urban policy

Robbins, Glyn (2013) Mixed use property development and its place in UK urban policy. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


During the last 20 years, as part of a putative Urban Renaissance, Mixed Use property development has assumed a prominent place in UK urban policy, producing significant morphological and spatial change based on a distinctive vernacular deemed appropriate for the 21st century city, but which critics argue takes for granted multiple positive outcomes for cities and their citizens. Inspired by the work of Jane Jacobs, theorists have proposed the value of mixing types of buildings, streetscapes and activities in urban space, arguing that such diversity is the key to urban vitality. This argument has been widely accepted and absorbed into the mainstream of strategies to promote a specific urban form capable of addressing a host of policy concerns. This thesis offers a critical engagement with these theoretical and policy contentions. In his ‘Arcades Project' Walter Benjamin extrapolates from a particular example of the built environment to draw wider social conclusions and this thesis argues that exploring the theoretical, policy and physical character of Mixed Use can produce similar insights. However, first it explores a typology for identifying the scale, context and qualities that reflect the variety and multiple forms of Mixed Use places. Secondly, four key discourses are discussed that have contributed to the concept's evolution and locate it in a longer history of urbanism and a wider theoretical framework that explores the relationship between city space, citizens and contested notions of •community'. Thirdly, attention is paid to the detailed interweaving of policy that has guided the practical application of Mixed Use at local, national and international levels and fourthly. this policy rationale is related to the character and role of the planning system as the delivery vehicle for 'sustainable urbanism' against a background of increasing urban complexity. These overlapping issues are then explored through interviews with local authority planners responsible for implementing Mixed Use policy and finally, borrowing from Benjamin's approach and using Mixed Methods Research (MMR), a combination of archival study, interviews with key participants in the urban development process and observations of the use of public space are applied to six detailed case studies that interrogate the physical and social outcomes of planning for Mixed Use. It is argued that the variable results reveal conflicts and contradictions within current UK urban policy and that the concept of 'Mixed Use' represents a metaphor for deeper cleavages and tensions in the 21st century western city.

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