Creating more liveable cities

Submitting Institution

London School of Economics & Political Science

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Built Environment and Design: Urban and Regional Planning
Studies In Human Society: Human Geography

Download original


Summary of the impact

Key insights from LSE Cities' interdisciplinary research on the `compact and well-connected' city have been incorporated by central government in national planning policy and by the Mayor of London in the London Plan. This has led to urban land being developed more intensively, ensuring more sustainable and efficient use of space in English towns and cities. Research on green city policies has been adopted by the United Nations Environment Programme (2011) and is determining policy formulation in Stockholm, Copenhagen and Portland. Urban Age conferences and research have created an international network of urban policy-makers and scholars, and LSE Cities staff have had impact on the design of the Olympic Park in London and development plans for cities outside the UK.

Underpinning research

Research Insights and Outputs:

Research by Burdett led to the development of an integrated approach to urban design and planning which culminated in the Urban Task Force report for the UK government (1999). The research resulted in the formulation of a design methodology founded on `the compact and well-connected city'. This establishes a `framework of design principles for creating more liveable places'. It sets out the criteria for assessing quality in urban proposals and establishes the argument that planning approval should be dependent on minimum levels of density according to levels of public transport accessibility (Reference 1).

The Burdett et al study of Density and Urban Neighbourhoods in London provided objective evidence of urban residents' responses to living in higher density in five wards in London (2). The study was based on in-depth interviews with local actors; analysis of the urban layout and public transport accessibility levels; a quantitative survey of 1,917 residents; and a literature review. The findings indicate that most residents have ambivalent opinions about density; higher levels of satisfaction are determined by access to public transport, open spaces, shops and social facilities; there is greater dissatisfaction in relatively densely populated wards where high levels of deprivation coincide with concentrations of ethnic minorities, large social housing estates or crowded living conditions.

Burdett and Rode have coordinated successive Urban Age conferences and associated research initiatives on the social and spatial dynamics of global cities. Research includes quantitative and qualitative data on urban governance, planning, transport, urban form, social exclusion, health and well-being focusing on formal and informal processes of urban change in 17 global cities in rapidly urbanising regions (3).

Rode's work examines the risk-adjusted costs and benefits of green policy frameworks on the sustainable economic growth of cities in geographies at different trajectories of development (4). The findings of the research provide evidence that the physical form and infrastructure of cities are key determinants of their energy consumption footprint and pattern of CO2 emissions. In addition, it gives new insights on the effectiveness of urban policies and governance structures in managing the transition to the green economy over a 20-year period in the cities of Stockholm, Copenhagen and Portland (5).

Colantonio, Burdett, and Rode's research investigated how the cities of Barcelona, Turin, Munich, and Seoul responded to the economic downturns of the 1980s (6). Based on semi structured interviews with key stakeholders and a review of policy interventions and economic performance, the study demonstrates how aligned and proactive regional and metropolitan governance, integrated spatial planning and economic regeneration, and collaboration between local industries, universities and foundations have a strong impact on fostering more resilient urban economies and job creation.

Key Researchers:
LSE Cities is an interdisciplinary centre that carries out research linking the physical and social dimensions of cities (Prof Ricky Burdett, Centre Director), sustainable cities and the green economy (Philipp Rode, Senior Research Fellow and Graham Floater, Principal Research Fellow), resilient urban economies (Dr Andrea Colantonio, Research Fellow), economic and urban sociology (Dr Fran Tonkiss, Reader in Sociology) and urban ethnography (Dr Suzanne Hall, Lecturer in Sociology/Research Fellow). All at LSE through the period described.

References to the research

1 Urban Task Force Report [Chair: Lord Rogers] (1999). Chapter 2: `Designing the Urban Environment and Defining Success: Key Principles of Urban Design' in Towards an Urban Renaissance, pp. 49-85, London: DETR. (Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions).

2 Burdett, R., Rode, P., Travers, T., et. al. (2005). Density and Urban Neighbourhoods in London. London: Enterprise LSE Cities.

3 Burdett, R., Sudjic, D. (2011). Living in the Endless City. London: Phaidon Press.

4 Rode, P., Burdett, R., et. al. (2011). Technical study: Cities and the Green Economy. LSE Cities working paper. Available on request.

5 Floater, G., Rode, P. et al (2013) Stockholm: a Green Economy Leader Report. Economics of Green Cities Programme at the London School of Economics and Political Science in partnership with the City of Stockholm.

6 Colantonio, A., Burdett, R., Rode, P. (2013). Transforming Urban Economies: Policy Lessons from European and Asian Cities. London: Routledge.

Evidence of quality: 2, 3 and 6 submitted to RAE 2008 or REF 2014. Since its inception in 1995, LSE Cities has received around £13.6m from a range of public and private sector sources, including £9,668,544 from the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft.

Details of the impact

Burdett's work for the UK Government's Urban Task Force and later the London Olympic Delivery Authority (see below) is part of a more sustained engagement with better urban living, brownfield sites re-development, and green city economies that has been carried out by LSE Cities:

A. Brownfield Sites and More Liveable Places: The `framework of design principles for creating more liveable places', and criteria for the evaluation of urban proposals developed by Burdett for the UK government's Urban Task Force (of which Burdett was a member), formed the basis of recommendations to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) to `revise planning and funding guidance to: discourage `density' and `overdevelopment' as reasons for refusing planning permission' (Urban Task Force, p 85). The findings of Density and Urban Neighbourhoods in London were presented to DETR and Cabinet Office officials in the period leading to the formulation of new policies on urban development. As a result, policy recommendations on `designing for quality' and `making the best use of land' were included in Planning Policy Guidance 3: Housing (PPG3) issued by the DETR in 2000 and subsequent revisions Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (PPS3) in 2006 and 2011 (Source A).

These policies signalled a shift in favour of intensification of brownfield sites across English cities, with measurable impacts on urban policy, including the London Plan (the Mayor's strategic development framework). Burdett's research and role as Adviser on Architecture and Urbanism to the Mayor of London (2000-2006) contributed to the GLA policy document Housing for a Compact City (2003, pp. 19 & 21). This forms the basis of the Density Matrix which recommends minimum density levels of new development in sites in relation to their public transport accessibility levels (pg. 26), and has been adopted by the 2004 London Plan (Table 4B.1, pg. 177) and its replacement (Table 3.2, pg. 85, London Plan (2011), (Source B) as well as the London Housing Design Guide (GLA, 2010, pg. 29) and Housing Supplementary Planning Guidance (GLA, 2012, pg. 32).

The direct effect of these policies was to shape local government urban policy in favour of higher density developments in areas with good public transport accessibility. Key examples include revised planning frameworks by the London boroughs of Hackney (Core Strategy: Hackney's strategic planning policies for 2010-2015, 2010, pp. 114-115, 158) and Tower Hamlets (Core Strategy and Development Control Plan, 2007, pp. 291-292). This strategy was adopted in major publically-funded regeneration projects like the 2012 Olympics in East London, endorsed by the Mayor of London in the Olympic Legacy Strategic Planning Guidance (OLSPG, 2012).

B. The London Olympics: Burdett played an instrumental role in creating the design brief for the Olympics and legacy masterplan as Chief Adviser on Architecture and Urbanism to the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) from 2006 to 2010 (Source C). In this capacity he applied the principles of the `compact and well-connected city model' to the wider Olympic site in East London. He further advised on the design of individual venues, the Athletes' Village and public spaces. The impact has been the delivery of an integrated urban plan that connects the Olympic Park to surrounding areas and existing communities, creating a dense and diverse `piece of city' rather than a gated community, "making sure that the buildings at the Olympic Park [met] high standard quality of design", thereby influencing professional standards in architectural practice in the UK (Source D). This approach has been adopted by the London Legacy Development Corporation which oversees development of the Olympic site for the next decades, and is recognised by the London Plan (2011).

The positive impact of this methodology led to a series of key policy appointments in the UK and abroad. Burdett was commissioned to lead the development of the city plan for the municipality of Genova (where he was Chief Adviser to the Mayor, 2008-11, (Source E). He carried out a similar role as Scientific Coordinator for the city plan of Parma (2008-2011) and was on the Steering Committee for the Milan Expo from 2008 to 2011. In 2012 he became a member of the UK Airports Commission in recognition of his expertise on global cities and their development (Source F).

C. Cities and the Green Economy: Rode's research on cities and the green economy has been adopted by the United Nations Environment Programme in its influential Green Economy Report which is designed to motivate policymakers at a global level to create the enabling conditions for increased investments in a transition to a green economy (Source G). A survey by LSE Cities on the way 90 global cities are managing transition to the green economy has stimulated policy debate within ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) while detailed studies on green policies in EU and US cities are being adopted by municipal authorities. Commenting on a study by LSE Cities, the Mayor of Stockholm noted "The report from the LSE will be a valuable tool in shaping the future Stockholm and in planning for meeting our challenges." (Source H).

D. Urban Age and Wider Reach: Through conferences, research and outreach activities, the Urban Age (Burdett and Rode) has established a distinctive research agenda and an international network of urban policy-makers and scholars, demonstrating unique reach in the fields of urban planning, sustainable development and governance. 4,600 experts have taken part in 13 major conferences since 2005 (six conferences with 3,000 participants during 2008-13). Over 40 academic and research institutions, alongside city authorities of Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Istanbul, London, New York and Chicago have collaborated in research and data compilation, enabling improved public understanding of urban issues. Further dissemination has been achieved through exhibitions (400,000 visitors), two major books (30,000 copies), and a website which since 2010 has received over 1 million hits. Collectively, the work of LSE Cities has "had an influence out of all proportion to its size .... and the centre is internationally significant" (Prof Nigel Thrift, Vice-Chancellor, University of Warwick (Source I). Rahm Emanuel, the Mayor of Chicago, stated that his economic policy was inspired by ideas generated at the Chicago Global Metro Summit in 2010. "If we did have a serious discussion, it could at least include debating the record and lessons of a December, 2010 "Global Metro Summit" convened in Chicago by the London School of Economics, Washington's Brookings Institution and Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank." (Source J).

Sources to corroborate the impact

All Sources listed below can also be seen at:

A. Department for Communities and Local Government (2011). Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (PPS3). London: Crown Copyright. ents/planningandbuilding/pdf/planningpolicystatement3.pdf

B. Mayor of London (2011). The London Plan: Spatial Development Strategy for Greater London. London: Greater London Authority. See Policy 1.1 Delivering the Strategic Vision and Objectives for London; Policy 2.3 Growth Areas and Co-ordinated Corridors; Policy 2.4 The 2012 Games and Their Legacy.

C Letter by UK Government's Secretary of State of State for Culture, Media and Sports and Minister for the Olympics (2005-2007), 14 May 2013. Source files:

D Hartman, H. (2012). London 2012 Sustainable Design: Delivering a Games Legacy. London: John Wiley & Sons, pg. 46. Available from LSE on request.

E Citta di Genova (2011). Piano Urbano Comunale. Genova: Citta di Genova.

F Announcement by Department of Transport, UK Government, 2 November 2012, available at

G United Nations Environment Programme (2011) Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication, pp. 452 - 493, UNEP. Available from LSE on request.

H Letter by Mayor of Stockholm, 27 June 2013. Source files:

I Vice-Chancellor, University of Warwick, report on LSE Cities to the LSE Research Committee, June 2013. Source files:

J Warren, J. (1 March 2012). The City That Works (Even Better!): Emanuel's Strategy for Chicago Growth in The Atlantic. Available at