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The impact of minority ethnic businesses on the spatial character of London’s high streets

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Research shows that a variety of building types, sizes and street morphologies can support a diversified mix of uses and thus contribute to the vitality of town centres. Other studies have highlighted the special role of minority ethnic businesses in this context. This study set out to examine the relationship between spatial accessibility, commercial diversity (as a measure of land-use mixing) and minority ethnic business (MEB) diversity in ten of London’s high streets. We found that streets with a significant MEB presence were more likely to benefit from commercial diversity and that the sampled MEB units were measurably smaller in size. We also found the location of larger clusters of MEB businesses to be more accessible, both locally and across the city. The study also found three distinct types of MEB centres: ranging from high streets with a small MEB presence, others with a high rate of MEB mixing, and a third type: the ‘ethnic marketplace’, with a singular ethnic character. We conclude that greater attention should be given to designing street accessibility, lot configuration, mixed building sizes, and land-use mixing, in order to serve the long-term economic and social vitalities of local town centres.
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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
The impact of minority ethnic businesses on the spatial character
of London’s high streets
Laura Vaughan
1
Sadaf S. Khan
1
Lusine Tarkhanyan
1
Ashley Dhanani
1
Published online: 27 February 2018
Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018
Abstract Research shows that a variety of building types,
sizes and street morphologies can support a diversified mix
of uses and thus contribute to the vitality of town centres.
Other studies have highlighted the special role of minority
ethnic businesses in this context. This study set out to
examine the relationship between spatial accessibility,
commercial diversity (as a measure of land-use mixing)
and minority ethnic business (MEB) diversity in ten of
London’s high streets. We found that streets with a sig-
nificant MEB presence were more likely to benefit from
commercial diversity and that the sampled MEB units were
measurably smaller in size. We also found the location of
larger clusters of MEB businesses to be more accessible,
both locally and across the city. The study also found three
distinct types of MEB centres: ranging from high streets
with a small MEB presence, others with a high rate of
MEB mixing, and a third type: the ‘ethnic marketplace’,
with a singular ethnic character. We conclude that greater
attention should be given to designing street accessibility,
lot configuration, mixed building sizes, and land-use mix-
ing, in order to serve the long-term economic and social
vitalities of local town centres.
Keywords Space syntax Land-use diversity Minority
ethnic businesses London Built form
Introduction
The local high street (the ‘high street’ is the primary
commercial street in the UK parlance, broadly equivalent
to ‘main street’ in north America) is a multi-facetted and
complex entity. It has to overcome the potential conflict of
it serving both as a link to other places as well as place in
which to remain (Jones et al. 2007). When designed well,
local high streets can provide a wide range of goods and
services for large numbers of people arriving on foot or by
public transport. The importance of such places is not only
economic: they can provide a local centre of interaction for
the surrounding area in the form of a range of use types,
from shops, banks and offices, through to schools and
community functions (Griffiths et al. 2008). London’s high
streets typically have a historical physical fabric, are a
place of social, cultural, and political exchange as well as
economic activity, functioning both as a movement corri-
dor and means of communication through the city. They
are likely to have multiple uses and ownership (Scott and
UCL Bartlett School of Planning 2010). Older high streets
constitute a distinctive and complex built form structure
that supports socio-economic adaptability by virtue of their
ability to support a variety of populations using a diverse
mix of land-use functions. This land-use diversity stems
from built form diversity, namely a mix of small and large
buildings, ideally with a mix of tenures (Vaughan 2015a;
To
¨rma
¨et al. 2017). Successful high streets in the UK will
typically have a combination of national chains alongside
independent, entrepreneurial activity. Smaller businesses
will hold measurable value for local communities in
&Laura Vaughan
l.vaughan@ucl.ac.uk
Sadaf S. Khan
sadaf.khan.11@ucl.ac.uk
Lusine Tarkhanyan
lusine.tarkhanyan@ucl.ac.uk
Ashley Dhanani
ashley.dhanani@ucl.ac.uk
1
Space Syntax Laboratory, Bartlett School of Architecture,
University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK
Urban Des Int (2018) 23:249–263
https://doi.org/10.1057/s41289-018-0060-5
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... (Hillier, 2016: 200). Accordingly, mirroring the shift in heritage on process rather than form, recent space syntax research has turned to examine processes of urban change in history, and how this relates to social phenomena in time and space -and vice versa (Dhanani, 2016;Griffiths and Vaughan, 2020;Rokem and Vaughan, 2018;Törma et al., 2017;Vaughan et al., 2018). The ideas and thinking behind these methods and approaches, specifically historico-geographical (Conzenian), and process typological (Muratorian), are highly relevant to this thesis for the following reasons. ...
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