Towards Superbia: A renewed focus on our suburbs

Author ARUP

This visual 2020 report from ARUP focuses on the apparent renewed focus on the suburbs and our local centres, as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. This has been driven by changes in working from home and staying closer to home. The resource covers the changes seen in cities and the knock-on impact on suburbs, four key challenges our suburbs are facing, and recommendations on improving local neighbourhoods.

Date added 26 October 2021
Last updated 26 October 2021

This report focuses on the renewed focus on the suburbs and our local centres, as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. This has been driven by changes in working from home and staying closer to home. The resource begins by detailing some of the key changes the pandemic has brought to our cities and how this has, in turn, changed our experiences within the suburbs, as detailed below:

How are cities changing?

  • A renewed focus on walking and cycling
  • A rising emphasis on the value of community cohesion
  • A growth in working from home and remote working tools
  • An impact on delivery and funding of local programmes
  • Greater demand and need for accessible and safe public spaces
  • The need for flexibility in our places and systems.

The report then proceeds to outline four key challenges to transforming our suburbs and local neighbourhoods for the better, including:

  1. Evolving the suburban high street– hit hard by the pandemic and now needs to be reprioritised as the future engine of walkable communities.
  2. Opening up the dormitory suburb– there is a need to address suburbs that have little local service provision and walkable connections.
  3. Re-imagining the out of town centre- these places need to become more diverse for people living nearby to address changes in consumer behaviour.
  4. Planning a healthy suburban TOD- a re-balancing of locally focused jobs, culture, and social services is required to meet different community priorities.

The report concludes by offering five key recommendations of how to bounce forwards from the Covid-19 crisis into ‘superbia’, as below:

  1. Diversify suburban high streets- create flexible co-working and co-learning spaces, activate community facilities through tactical urbanism interventions, and supporting local businesses through digital skills and networking.
  2. Build and retrofit sustainable healthy homes- encourage community shared use of under-utilised garden spaces, design homes to a high level of environmental performance, and innovate housing types for adaptable living.
  3. Walking and cycling improvements- walking and cycling network improvements around local centres, innovation in tactical urbanism, and investment in tree planting.
  4. Invest in community health, sport and culture- develop community service hubs, invest in and support community sports and theatre, invest in local health services.
  5. Innovate funding and delivery mechanisms- encourage collaboration and partnership working, tactical urbanism and ‘meanwhile’ uses, and innovative housing delivery models.