Written Evidence Submitted by Create Sheets [CBE 074]


Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee Inquiry into children, young people and the built environment

Create Streets submission statement, January 2024

If children are not able to explore the whole of the adult world around them, they cannot become adults. But modern cities are so dangerous that children cannot be allowed to explore them freely. . . This separation between the child’s world and the adult world is unknown among animals and unknown in traditional societies. Christopher Alexander

Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.Jane Jacobs

Children are the indicator species for healthy, happy and prosperous places. If they are free to safely roam their neighbourhood without supervision, then, evidence suggests, those are likely to be happier and healthier places for all of us. Sadly, this is not the case for the majority of our built environment, from rural villages to inner urban streets. While in many ways we all enjoy a lot more liberty than 100 years ago, this is not the case for our children who have experienced a shocking and dramatic curtailment in their personal freedom with significant impacts on their future development and wider society.

Who we are and why we are submitting

Create Streets is a social enterprise with an associated charity, the Create Streets Foundation. We conduct research into the relationship between places with happiness, beauty, prosperity, wellbeing, sustainable lifestyles, biodiversity, and support for new development. We then ‘put this into practice’ by working with neighbourhood groups, councils, landowners, investors and developers.

A common theme we encounter in our work is the how hostile to children many of our streets, public spaces and city or town-wide movement patterns have become.

This is less an issue to be addressed by adding (yet more) unclear and risk-increasing high level planning requirements Into statue. It is rather that there are important and helpful tweaks that could and should be made to the National Planning Policy Framework. This is also a first order issue in the roll out of design codes and street design across the country to ensure that we create new places and steward existing places to be safer, easier and more pleasant to move around for children, young people, adults, and the elderly alike.

The experiences of children and young people of their built environment

The experience of young people in the built environment is a theme that emerges frequently in our research and wider project work. Examples include:

Photo of Fulham, Broadway c.1905 - Francis Frith   A street with cars and buildings

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Fulham Broadway, London in 1905 and 2022. The speed, volumen and danger of modern movemnt patterns has fundmantally reduced pedstrian use of the street over the last 100 years

The planning system

Children’s needs are one consideration among many in the planning system. While we traditionally mandate a few play areas in new developments, children’s needs have tended to be low down the hierarchy or not actively discussed.

Overall, the system has been failing children. We have not been creating or re-engineering a sufficient number of streets in which it is safe for children to play or roam freely. Too often, car centric planning continues to put amenities out of reach of reach of children themselves. More often than not, we continue to design for a ‘backseat generation’ that needs to be driven to be able to play and be active rather than being allowed to do this in their own street. For example, in our experience new schools are often constructed at the edges of new and existing settlements, with poor or non-existent active travel infrastructure and access mainly by car, and many new developments are not within walking distance of existing schools.

Guidance such as ‘Secured by Design’ can discourage the creation of spaces for young people to gather informally as too often the fear of ‘anti-social’ behaviour is used to prevent normal social behaviour.

Best practice and evaluation

There are some positive changes occurring in the UK. There are also good examples abroad. These include:

Cross-government working

We are not aware of any departmental cross departmental work in this area. The work of the two new arm’s length bodies, Active Travel England and the Office for Place we understand are starting to coordinate their work. This could and should have important positive consequences for child-friendly design.

It is possible that the policies and guidance of other departments, such as the Department for Transport, or the Home Office, may be counter to the best interests of children.

Conclusion and policy suggestions

If we wish to create new streets and steward existing streets to be safe and walkable and to connect us to amenities and nature by foot or by bike then we will be creating places that are fundamentally better for children and for young people. To allow this, the following policies and projects should be investigated and encouraged:

Create Streets, January 2024



[1] Woolley, H. E., & Griffin, E. (2015). Decreasing experiences of home range, outdoor spaces, activities and companions: changes across three generations in Sheffield in north England. Children’s Geographies, 13(6).

[2] Karsten, L. (2005). It all used to be better? different generations on continuity and change in urban children’s daily use of space. Children’s Geographies, 3(3).

[3] Shaw, B., Bicket, M., Elliott, B., Fagan-Watson, B., Mocca, E., & Hillman, M. (2015). Children’s Independent Mobility: an international comparison and recommendations for action. Policy Studies Institute.

[4] For example, see the example of east London in Boys Smith (2022), No Free Parking, pp. 273-4.

[5] For a summary see Boys Smith (2015), Heart in the Right Street.

[6] Some of these are set out on the new Office for Place Design Code library: Design Code Library - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

[7] SCC (2022) Healthy Streets for Surrey. Accessed at: https://healthystreets.surreycc.gov.uk/

[8] See TfL (2013), Better Streets Delivered and TfL (2017), Better Streets Delivered 2. Better Streets Delivered: Learning from completed schemes (tfl.gov.uk) and Better Streets delivered 2 (tfl.gov.uk)

[9] https://playingout.net/about/

[10] Lambeth Council (2023) Kerbside Strategy

[11] Mori, N., Armada, F., & Willcox, D. C. (2012). Walking to school in Japan and childhood obesity prevention: new lessons from an old policy. American journal of public health, 102(11), 2068–2073.

[12] See Create Streets (2024 – forthcoming) The Road to Nowhere and this blog: Why should we build more Georgian terraces? – Create Streets

[13] See Milner and Boys Smith (2020) Where will Thomas and Rebecca live? for more on the critical importance of minimising planning risk in delivering good places. https://www.createstreets.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Where-will-Thomas-and-Rebecca-live_v3.pdf