Equity in access to local services : exploring the impact of urban form and the role of preferences
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Debates within the sustainable development agenda increasingly highlight the principle of intra-generational equity in promoting social sustainability. This research draws upon this principle to explore the role of urban forms in promoting social equity in access to local services. In the context of urban form and social sustainability, there has been relatively little research on the social dimension whilst precise meanings and agreement of what social equity is, in terms of how this may relate to urban forms, is unclear. However, whilst some claims support the view that mixed-use, high density compact urban forms provide better access to services and facilities, empirical evidence is lacking. A key objective of this research aims to test these claims by examining the relationship between different types of urban forms and service access issues. Through exploring the frequency of use of local services, the research uses this as an empirical method to confirm whether urban form factors or other factors, such as the role of individual choice and values, which can act to modify this relationship, influence equity in access. Geographical accessibility as well as local neighbourhood aspects is also examined. The research adopts a multi-methods approach, including secondary analysis of survey data and primary fieldwork involving case studies at the neighbourhood level. Findings reveal that aspects of urban form influence frequency of use, although other explanatory factors such as local social conditions, urban design factors, and individual choice can also have a large influence. Thus the role of urban forms in promoting social equity in access is not as simple as is sometimes portrayed, and depends a good deal on the social context.