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'Nice' high streets are paved with gold - to everyone's benefit

It seems quite instinctive and intuitive that there should be a relationship between how attractive a high street is and how well regarded the residential streets nearby are. By which I mean of course, how expensive the houses are. In areas where there aren't many houses to buy, then the price of flats on the high street, will reflect the attractiveness of the shopping. Most of us can't afford a pad within walking distance of Fortnum's or Harrod's! The benefits accrue as well to shop landlords because rents will go up, and to shopkeepers, who will enjoy wealthy residents as customers.

Indeed this link is so intuitive it's tempting to move on the next question, the chicken and egg conundrum, do well heeled residents move in to enjoy the shopping/environment  already in place, or do entrepreneurial shopkeepers pitch up to sell to the wee-to-do residents? Perhaps its a virtuous(?) upward spiral.

As an untutored - in built environment terms - sort of a chap, I'd probably be happy to leave the analysis there, but the clever architect types at CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) have gone considerably further. They've produced a paper called Paved with Gold which  pares down the idea of "attractive" in a high street to a smallish number of key factors and provides a way of measuring, on a scale from -3 to +3, just how attractive a street scene is. By simply looking at the street furniture, the quality of the pavements, ease of crossing the road etcetera, they eliminate largely subjective factors, such as which shops we might prefer, and concentrate on things that town planners can manage. The paper then goes further than this again and by use of cunning statistical analysis techniques they eliminate any doubt about chickens and eggs and come up with mathematical formulae for the added value of zebra crossings, etcetera.

A paragraph in the introduction to the article reads:

Paved with gold shows how we can calculate the extra financial value that good street design contributes, over average or poor design. It shows how clear financial nefits can be calculated from investing in better quality street design. It also shows how, by using stated preference surveys, public values can be measured alongside private values, so that they can be properly included in the decision-making process.

Some of the conclusions they reach are really quite remarkably precise. For instance there is a formula to calculate the price of a flat on a high street which reads:

High street flat price in £ = £129k + (0.28 x terraced house prices in surroundings) + (£13,600 x street design quality score)

           this is also in tune with what your intuition would tell you - £129,000 is a number to start with, as wherever you are you will have to pay something for your flat. Add on about a quarter of the cost of a nearby house to reflect that the two sets of property values will be very closely linked. And finally add in the value of how "attractive" the high street is. Improve the attractiveness by one point on the -3 - +3 scale and add about £13,600 to the flat value, or about 5%. The implication is that property owners (and estate agents!) in an area have a vested interest in an attractive high street.

Another formula that is offered relates rents on shops to various factors:

Zone A rent of shops in £/sq. m.  =  (-£4600 x V)+ (0.26 x E) + (£5000 x C) + (£25 x street design quality score)
V = Proportion of units vacant, charity shops or betting shops/ amusements

E = Total weekly expenditure in 800m buffer per km2 (£000)
C = CACI core catchment market potential (measure of competition)

         again tying in nicely with intuition - vacant units drag the area down, rich people nearby pull it up, competition to be tenants is upward again and finally a factor for attractiveness. So landlords too have a vested interest in street design.

Tags: street design

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