Thesis (Ph.D)

The role of local facilities in fostering social interaction in suburban housing developments in England


Mixed-use development, in the form of local facilities, has been promoted by the UK government in new housing developments as an urban form which provides opportunities for people to interact which in turn is seen as a prerequisite for ‘building new communities’. There is a lack of empirical evidence testing the claimed relationship between the provision of local facilities, their use and social interaction levels at them. Therefore, the aim of this research is to determine whether these claimed relationships exist and to what extent local facilities are used as service providers and to what extent they constitute places of frequent social interaction. In order to investigate the different factors affecting local facility use and social interaction at those facilities, the factors were grouped into those relating to the facilities themselves (including micro-scale, urban design features), the area the facilities are located in and the profile of the users. The methodology adopted in this research is primarily quantitative, using a survey questionnaire and structured observations to collect the data and the nature and extent of relationships were investigated through statistical analysis and behaviour mapping techniques. The findings show that a number of factors positively influence frequent use and frequent social interaction at local facilities. With regard to the role of local facilities as service providers, the findings highlight the importance of providing adequate and accessible local facilities for different groups of residents, but also highlight that perceived homogeneity and social ties between residents in the wider area influence whether local facilities are used. The findings also support the assertions that local facilities can make a contribution towards the building of communities through constituting places of frequent social interaction. However, this only extends to certain facility types and certain residents, questioning the government’s implied assertion that communities can be built as long as any mix of facilities is supplied in any type of neighbourhood. Furthermore, perceived homogeneity in the area the users lived in was found to influence the frequency of social interaction at local facilities. This has wider policy implications regarding the role local facilities can play in reducing social segregation.

Attached files


Dahm, S

Oxford Brookes departments

School of the Built Environment
Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment


Year: 2012

© Dahm, S
Published by Oxford Brookes University
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