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Paved With Gold: The Real Value of Street Design

Streets are the public spaces that we all use, and the way they are designed affects us all. Investing in better quality streets benefits many people, from developers, investors, and businesses to residents, workers, and passers-by. Decisions on the design, management and maintenance of our streets should be based on an understanding of all these benefits.

New research by CABE shows how the value of street design can be assessed more effectively. Paved with gold: the real value of street design researches the market values that could be created by improving the design of 10 London case study high streets. The results show that even modest improvements to street design could result in a 5 per cent increase in the level of rents for shops and a 5 per cent increase in the price of residential properties on the high streets.

But good design doesn’t just benefit landowners; people who use high streets also value better quality design. Paved with gold uses 'willingness-to-pay' surveys commissioned by Transport for London to find out how users value better streets. The results show that most users would be happy to pay for improvements to their high streets. This makes it possible to value the benefit of street improvements for users, helping to ensure their views are taken seriously when funding decisions are made.

The researchers, Colin Buchanan, selected 10 very different London high streets, ranging from Hampstead High Street to the Walworth Road. They used a street design assessment tool - the pedestrian environment review system - to gauge the quality of each street. They looked for many different qualities in the streets, including design features such as dropped kerbs, high-quality materials, crossing points and good lighting; good maintenance, low levels of litter and graffiti, and clean pavements; and quality of place, including public spaces, not too much traffic, and a sense of security.

Then they collected a wide range of data about each street and the area around it. The research showed a direct connection between design quality and market prices: regression analysis techniques allowed the researchers to isolate the proportion of property prices and of shop rents that could be traced directly to design quality.

The Paved with gold findings provide evidence that can be used to guide the design, appraisal and funding of street improvement schemes. They show how it is possible to measure the value of better streets. The findings can be used by businesses, which can reap direct financial rewards by taking a close look at the street they’re on; by developers and investors, who can increase their margins by realising the latent value in streets; and by local authorities and regional development agencies, who can see more clearly what benefits and values they will create by prioritising street design, management and maintenance.

Sarah Gaventa, director of CABE Space, said that we all have an interest in making streets better places because we all use them. Paved with gold shows us for the first time who benefits from high-quality streets, and by how much. This is essential information to help us get the most from our streets, and spreading the benefits as widely as possible.'

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