Thesis (Ph.D)

The influence of the quality of the built environment on social cohesion in English neighbourhoods


High quality built environments are promoted in urban planning and design in the UK on the grounds that they support positive social activity and behaviour. There is a severe lack of empirical evidence examining these concepts holistically, and there is little evidence to support such claims made in theory, policy and practice in the UK. Therefore, the aim of this research is to determine the relationship, if any, between the quality of the built environment and social cohesion in English neighbourhoods. As quality seems to be a multi-faceted concept, a further aim is to identify those features of quality of the built environment most likely to support social cohesion in English neighbourhoods. The methodology adopted in this research is primarily quantitative and takes the form of a large-scale multivariate investigation of the influence of quality of the built environment on social cohesion, both of which were operationalized as a series of indicators. The data were collected using a number of different methods including a questionnaire survey and semi-structured interview, and the nature and extent of relationships were investigated through statistical analysis. The findings show that a number of features of quality of the built environment are • significantly associated with dimensions of social cohesion, however the nature and extent of the associations vary from feature to feature. There is consistent evidence to suggest that features of quality of the built environment, on the whole, do positively contribute to residents' sense of community, feelings of trust and reciprocity, feelings of safety, and sense of place attachment. These findings support existing policy to varying degrees and, on the whole, support claims made in the current UK government's 'sustainable communities' plan and associated policies. This research provides tools for further empirical investigation which include a set of indicators which express the abstract concepts of quality and social cohesion in operational terms and a method of neighbourhood delineation which takes into account residents' perceptions of neighbourhood boundaries. It makes a contribution to the extensive body of theoretical, and to a lesser extent, empirical evidence to shed light on the relationship between the physical environment and social activity and behaviour.

Attached files


Dempsey, Nicola


Supervisors: Jenks, Mike; Burton, Elizabeth; Williams, Katie

Oxford Brookes departments

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


Year: 2006

© Dempsey, Nicola
Published by Oxford Brookes University
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