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Better buildings and spaces improve quality of life, says the public

Nearly nine out of ten people say that better quality buildings and public spaces improve their quality of life, according to new MORI research published by CABE on its tenth anniversary.

Old Market Square in Nottingham. Copyright Dom Henry

CABE is marking its first decade with an exploration of fresh ideas for the next ten years. As a society, we face three crises – an age of austerity, a short time to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions, and social pessimism. The strongest response to all these can come through changes to our built environment.

The current risk is that public spending cuts to non-statutory council services, like parks management and maintenance, lead to places becoming dirtier and shabbier, with key targets like community safety and obesity being missed as a result.

The new research shows that the quality of the built environment is seen as important by voters across the political spectrum. Only two per cent of people who intend to vote Conservative don’t have any interest in what buildings, streets, parks and public spaces look or feel like to use. This compares with four per cent of people who said they would vote Labour and three per cent who said they would vote for other parties.

Richard Simmons, CABE chief executive, welcomed the research findings. He said:
‘It’s vital that people making critical decisions about public spending appreciate exactly what the public wants and values. The quality of buildings and places affect everyone, every day.’

More than eight out of ten people say they are interested in the look and feel of buildings and public spaces. Only three per cent of the population doesn’t believe the quality of buildings and public space has an impact on their health and wellbeing.

There are key regional differences. More than a quarter of East Midlands residents are not interested in how buildings or public spaces look or feel. By comparison, nearly nine out of ten people in the North West region said they were interested.

Men and women agree equally that better quality buildings and public space improves their quality of life. And ethnic background seems to make little difference to people’s interest in buildings and places. But older people tend to be more interested in how the built environment looks and feels to use than younger people; while those approaching retirement age are more than a fifth more engaged than people aged 16-24.

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