Liveable - 25 'vital and viable' priorities

Research from the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University has identified the Top 25 priorities that can influence high street vitality and viability. This resource introduces the 'Liveable' priority - why it matters, and what you can do about it.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 17 August 2021

What are the 25 vital and viable priorities?

Research from the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University has identified the Top 25 priorities that can influence high street vitality and viability.

The framework was created by experts from a range of disciplines and other stakeholders to foster cross-disciplinary knowledge and broadening real-world understanding of the changing nature of the high street.

The 25 priorities are practically orientated and, given their ability to be controlled or influenced at a town level, are fairly internally focussed. For each of the priorities you will find an introduction to evidence that describes the priority, suggests what it covers, discusses how it might be implemented and the level of control associated with it.

Additionally, you will find suggestions of what the priority could mean for implementation during the COVID-19 recovery stage.


Factors included in Liveable

Multi/mono-functional; liveability; personal services; mixed use







19th out of 25

3.68 out of 5



17th out of 25

3.27 out of 4

Potentially controllable

25 Priorities

22th out of 25


High priority



Liveable refers to the resident population or potential for residence in the centre. Having town centre residents supports many businesses, particularly food shops, cafes, restaurants; that is, retail and non-retail offer that can improve the vitality and viability of a centre. A liveable place is concerned with quality of life and community wellbeing. Liveable centres are translated into employment opportunities, improved public health, more compact and connected centres where people use active forms of transports, creating positive experiences and strong community feelings, where residents are proud of their place and claim ownership in its maintenance and development.



Why does it matter? (Influence)

Evidence suggests that successful places are those that fine-tune their trajectories, urban policies and investment priorities in order to maintain and expand their assets, be they physical, social, cultural or of any other nature. In downtown areas, this involves historic preservation, truly convivial public spaces, good walkability, public transportation, properly managed parking, affordable housing opportunities, and an urban environment that is attuned to the needs of its users (Balsas, 2014). Liveability, and more specifically urban liveability, is the general term encompassing diverse actions and processes that aim to improve quality of life and community wellbeing. In this sense, liveability can be better understood as a societal need (de Haan et al., 2014), and as an anthropocentric concept (Veenhoven, 1996) that encompasses “elements of home, neighbourhood, and metropolitan area that contribute to safety, economic opportunities and welfare, health, convenience, mobility and recreation” (Vuchic, 1999: 7). Furthermore, a liveable place is seen as socially inclusive, affordable, accessible, healthy, safe and environmentally resilient, thus bringing in the forefront not only the societal needs of a community but also elements that determine people’s health in all stages of their lives (Badland et al., 2014).

What can you do about it? (Control)

The liveability of a centre - which is crucial to its ‘health check’- is impacted by a wide range of policy areas, including education; crime/safety; employment; entertainment, leisure, and recreation; food and shopping; healthcare and social services; housing; public space; natural environment; community engagement; and transport (Lowe et al., 2015). Yet, no standard way of measuring liveability exists (Balsas, 2004). It is, however, advisable that a phased approach is adopted to improving the liveability of a centre. It is important to start with a collectively agreed set of core indicators that can be built upon year after year. KPIs enable planners to monitor progress in achieving a liveable city centre.

Broadly, town centre strategies can involve the repositioning of centres as places to live, by adapting a centre’s offer based on town centre activity, connectivity, social health, demographic change, among other parameters (Millington and Ntounis, 2017). These strategies vary from large-scale housing and retail developments to collective, progressive approaches (slowness, organic and local food, local business ownership and alternative currencies) that create community liveability and social well-being (Mayer and Knox, 2010). Local initiatives and events that aim to improve walkability, accessibility and street activity can also influence the liveability of a town centre. These can range from the creation of different types of markets (farmers, artisans) that boost local economy, introducing non-car days to improve walkability, providing more space for local businesses and the community, and support for initiatives that encourage non-retail uses in the town centre (culture, arts, sports, health), for example.

Liveable and COVID-19

Working with businesses and other partners against your delivery plan, map the new demands that are created from structural changes that occur in town centres – increasing numbers of home workers, reducing office floorspace or changing shopping patterns – and develop ways to service the need. Mixed uses might include micro-office hubs, new daytime hospitality businesses in residential areas, outdoor exercising spaces or bike/scooter share. A balance between local residents, retailers, leisure and culture operators, office/service workers, institutions, local governance and civic groups is struck in which each has ties with all the others. This creates a strong economy and a cohesive community.

See also

Crime/safety; Non-retail offer; Walking, Accessibility, Experience


Badland, H., Whitzman, C., Lowe, M., Davern, M., Aye, L., Butterworth, I., ... & Giles-Corti, B. (2014). Urban liveability: emerging lessons from Australia for exploring the potential for indicators to measure the social determinants of health. Social science & medicine, 111, pp. 64-73.

Balsas, C. J. L. (2004). Measuring the livability of an urban centre: an exploratory study of key performance indicators. Planning Practice & Research, 19(1), pp. 101–110.

de Haan, F. J., Ferguson, B. C., Adamowicz, R. C., Johnstone, P., Brown, R. R., & Wong, T. H. (2014). The needs of society: A new understanding of transitions, sustainability and liveability. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 85, pp. 121-132.

Lowe, M., Whitzman, C., Badland, H., Davern, M., Aye, L., Hes, D., ... & Giles-Corti, B. (2015). Planning healthy, liveable and sustainable cities: How can indicators inform policy?. Urban Policy and Research, 33(2), pp. 131-144.

Mayer, H., & Knox, P. (2010). Small-town sustainability: Prospects in the second modernity. European Planning Studies, 18(10), 1545-1565.

Millington, S., & Ntounis, N. (2017). Repositioning the high street: evidence and reflection from the UK. Journal of Place Management and Development, 10(4), pp. 364 - 379.

Veenhoven, R. (1996). ‘The study of life-satisfaction’ in Saris, W.E., Veenhoven, R., Scherpenzeel, A.C. & Bunting B. (eds) A comparative study of satisfaction with life in Europe. Eötvös University Press, pp. 11-48

Vuchic, V. (1999). Transportation for Livable Cities (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Center for Urban Policy Research).