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What makes somewhere a great place to live?

Perhaps it’s a home with access to green open spaces, cafes and shops, or cycling and walking routes which allow you to leave your car at home. A place with a great sense of community, a workplace that’s close by, where you can raise your family in a healthy and safe environment.

Is it possible though, to achieve all of these?

New legacy developments such as the Duchy of Cornwall’s Poundbury in Dorset, aim to show that this vision can become a reality – sustainable, walkable communities that offer a place for people of all ages to live, work, shop and play.

It’s a concept at the heart of the Tudeley Village masterplan, which includes four key areas of mixed-use development, offering shops, cafes, workplaces, offices and nursery provision – all within walking distance. The objective is to ensure that residents’ day-to-day needs can be met within the village, so they have less need to travel outside Tudeley at peak times.

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales has spoken publicly on many occasions about his long-held passion and commitment to creating communities that deliver this.

Now, the Prince’s Foundation has commissioned a new report which examines evidence relating to the physiological and psychological benefits of walking, as well as the advantages of designing walkable living and working spaces.

The findings presented in Walkability, Accessibility and Health, are based upon more than 600 studies from across the world.

In his opening letter, Prince Charles says: “There is perhaps no greater area for a lack of joined up thinking than in the way we plan and build houses and the impacts that has on people’s health and wellbeing.

“If places are designed with all of the shops, schools, work places and parks sensibly distributed in amongst the homes then people can enjoy significant health benefits just by going about their daily lives without having to make a concerted effort to exercise. This also, in turn, reduces vehicle pollution and carbon emissions and takes traffic off the streets, which makes them safer for people, and particularly children.

“I can only hope that this compelling report helps the growing number of Building a Legacy landowners and their teams make the case for why their projects can deliver places of lasting benefit for people.”

This latest report from the Prince’s Foundation follows on from its 2020 publication, Walkability and Mixed-Use; Making Valuable Communities, which reached similar conclusions and highlighted the positive impact of new developments that are planned to incorporate a mix of uses.

A key focus of the new report is the positive impact of walking on our physical and mental health. In his opening essay, Dr William Bird reflects upon the many negative impacts of stress on the human body and how walking can counteract this, connecting us to each other and the place in which we live.

He explains: “To really improve health we need to improve the places where we live to reduce chronic stress. To help us feel valued we need to build places that support strong communities where everyone, regardless of age, is connected and supported.

“A walkable place built with communal areas is more likely to be vibrant and exciting, yet with a perception of safety. Walking brings everything together. Without people walking, a place starts to fade and lose its vibrancy and energy.”

He adds: “The place where we live can define our health. Poorly designed places create chronic stress leading to unhealthy behaviour and chronic inflammation that in turn develop both mental and physical diseases. As a GP, I can only alleviate the symptoms and sometimes limit the impact of chronic diseases. As landowners and built environment professionals, you can prevent the diseases from starting in the first place.”

The report’s findings suggest that a greater quality of life can be achieved from this approach to future developments. It concludes: “Practical, efficient, and walkable urban design promotes healthier residents, generates less polluted and greener urban zones, and may start up, or refresh local economies. Capable business ventures can be tuned to respond to the echoes of local footfall, the cadence of cycles, and the vitality of streets more populated by residents, workers, and visitors.

“Well-designed, walkable neighbourhoods, as the evidence proves, can be more attractive places in which to live and work; more beautiful and better to visit, as well as healthier for the body, mind, and soul.”

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