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Diversity and the Decision-Making Process

Sustainability Issue 2
Potential Users: Urban Design Professionals

When to use: Stage One, Exploration and Stage Two of Urban Design Decision-Making Process

Related Tools: Bibliographic Review;
Case Studies: Generation of Land Use Diversity; Generating Economic and Social Diversity Guidance, Land and Economic Use Survey and Impact Tools; Space Syntax Analysis: The Relationship Between Street Layout and Residential Property Value; Space Syntax Analysis: The Value and Formation of Urban Centres; Spatial Data Analysis, Understanding Business and Resident Values
For more information, contact Graeme Evans

Diversity and sustainable mixed-use is promoted in terms of the combinations and mix of activity and land/building uses in a given area. This is in contrast to mono-use areas where single uses dominate in zones of residential, office, retail or leisure. Large commercial, so-called mixed-use blocks also lack diversity in terms of economic and retail/ground floor uses and single uses above ground floor (offices or 1 or 2 bedroom apartments). Mixed use local economies and land uses - large & small and clusters of business types and services - as well as a range of amenities producing vitality in street life and temporal use (day/evening) generates the most sustainable mix. Conditions for success and maintaining a balance in a dynamic market and social context, include environmental and property management and a certain degree of spatial separation of uses (e.g. residential, commercial) as well as attention to design quality of both built and street environments. These are essential in order to minimise conflicts of uses and to prevent the dominance of particular uses and building types (and rents) crowding out diversity. Transparent local governance and performance evaluation systems are also essential with governance being recognised as the crucial ‘fourth pillar of sustainability’.

The Decision-Making Process has developed an iterative set of stages and tasks surrounding an urban development project. Diversity (Sustainability Issue Two) - in its mixed-use, compact city and higher density guises - is not confined to a single development or urban design area (masterplan) scale. Since it incorporates economic/employment, transport /accessibility, amenity and related infrastructure planning, it also addresses the design of cities as a whole as well as in component parts, with scale being a prime consideration in applying mixed-use in both urban design and building design processes.

The planning stages and scales at which this operates can be mapped onto the urban design decision-making process model, as follows. The detailed tools which can be used to support each stage are outlined in [pdf] (contact Graeme Evans).

Urban Design Decision-Making and the Planning Process


Planning Process
Decision-Making Stage
Scale Aspect
Land Use Planning
Need / Opportunity Identification
Borough / District; Region / Subregion eg. Growth area. Zoning, Local Development Framework, City / Regional Plan (Regional Spatial Strategy), Transport (Local Transport Plan)
Local Area Planning
Exploration Local area (Quarter, ward, neighbourhood)
Mix of uses, impact analysis, design vs crime.
Development Site
Design and Development
Block, street
Mixed use, height, floorspace, design.
Single building / dwelling / change of use.
Detailed design
Development control.
Design guidance, building control / regulations, local impacts
Performance and Monitoring
Site / Building and Neighbourhood.
Quality of Life and Best Value (Local Area Agreement) Performance Indicators, Sustainable Community Strategy

For further explanation of mixed-use and urban design interventions see CABE Mixed Use and for National Indicators for Local Authorities: Handbook of Definitions, go to:

Contact Graeme Evans for more details and information.


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