Everyday places: Creating strong locations to support daily life in Britain

This 2021 report from DEMOS introduces a ‘place satisfaction index’, which measures the gap between how important a variety of local provisions are thought to be, and actual provision of these things (e.g. shops, parks, housing etc.) It presents key findings from applying this index across Britain, in addition to offering policy recommendations to ensure more people get what they need from their local places. The provision of good local shops is highlighted as a particularly important theme.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 17 August 2021

With a focus on everyday experiences of local places, in this report DEMOS introduces a 'place satisfaction index’. It measures the gap between the practical everyday provisions, amenities, and services people deem most important to their local area, and actual provision of these things. A questionnaire was administered to around 20,000 people across Britain in December 2020, weighted to the national population. The index comprises 35 items, further grouped into 9 broad categories of everyday provisions within places: Housing; Jobs; Communities; Shopping; Going out; Fresh air; Exercise; Transport; and Internet access.

Participants ranked the items based on how important they personally considered them to be, followed by indicating how well they believed their local place provided them. This process resulted in a final satisfaction index for that place, ranging from -100 (very low place satisfaction) and +100 (very high place satisfaction). Comparisons between geographical areas and demographic groups were drawn. Four focus groups were also conducted in February 2021, to further explore the themes of local shopping and why some people had a particularly negative view of their local place. Below, some of the key findings from the study are summarised.

Some key findings

  • As of December 2020, the average weighted place satisfaction of Great Britain was +26.
  • People in the South East, South West, and Wales are on average less satisfied with provisions in their local places than London, Scotland, and the West Midlands, driven by lower satisfaction with transport, shopping, and housing provision.
  • Place satisfaction levels tend to be higher in city and town centres, than in the suburbs or rural locations, with housing more of an issue in urban places and transport in rural places.
  • Place satisfaction is on average higher in ‘hub and spoke’ towns than in ‘coastal’ and ‘rural’ towns.
  • Good local shops and access to nature and fresh air are Britain’s top priorities for their local places.
  • Britain ranked supermarkets and local independent shops as more important to their local area, than high streets with chain stores and large out-of-town shopping malls.
  • Regular and affordable public transport on average deemed more important than convenient parking and cycling infrastructure.
  • The provision of ‘good local shops’ is highlighted as a particularly important theme driving overall place satisfaction, as they are seen as a source of community pride and a signal of the overall health of a place.
  • Concerns over the perceived demise of the high street were expressed, with strong support for high street regeneration to improve places.
  • A mix of shops and activities was seen important for the future of local high streets.

Based on the above, several policy recommendations are provided (p. 9), as summarised below: 

Key recommendations 

  1. The place satisfaction index could be used by government to inform understandings of the most important priorities across different geographical areas.
  2. A redefinition of the suburbs from places people return home to, towards places where communities live and work is important.
  3. The 15-minute neighbourhood concept could be drawn upon to ensure residential areas are thought of as micro-communities, with easy access to local services and provisions.
  4. Local authorities should have the flexibility to ensure the local retail experience reflects local needs and priorities.
  5. Greater investment in public transport is needed in more rural and remote areas, with job seekers potentially given a free travel pass within a commuting area.

More detailed results from the place satisfaction index can be accessed here: https://places.demos.co.uk, or further DEMOS reports here: https://demos.co.uk.