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Mapping cities of the future

7 March 2014

Fracnis Maude MP Cardiff University

Software with the potential to make our future cities more efficient and regeneration plans for Swansea High Street were on show as Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude visited the University's School of Planning and Geography yesterday.

The Minister met with students and lecturers at the forefront of the development of tools and designs that will ensure the cities of today are fit for the future.

On display was the pioneering Spatial Design Network Analysis (sDNA) tool, jointly developed by Cardiff University's School of Planning and Geography and the University's flagship Sustainable Places Research Institute. It has already been used by local authorities and architects to understand better how cities use land, and how that can impact on efficiency and wellbeing.

Students also showed off their regeneration exhibition of Swansea High Street. The strategy and design work was developed with Swansea City Council and is informing the way the historic High Street can be regenerated to serve today's business and retail needs.

Francis Maude said: "It is great to see the fascinating work that Cardiff University is doing to create efficient cities that best serve their communities and to hear about the regeneration of Swansea High Street. There are lessons here that many town centres across the country can learn from.

"Efficiency is at the heart of this Government's long-term economic plan. It's this approach which helped save hard-working taxpayers £10 billion last year alone. But we want to do more including releasing further surplus properties that could be put to better use.

"I'm interested in how analysis from initiatives like Cardiff University's sDNA tool could help my officials examine how our plans will shape the local environment in the future."

Alain Chiaradia, lecturer in Urban Design at the School of Planning & Geography said: "The sDNA tool helps drive better and more reliable evidence-based urban planning and design.

"Through our work we have found that sDNA enables far more efficient and effective spatial planning analysis. The tool models low-cost "what if" scenarios providing a better understanding of the impacts on health and wealth before investments are made.

"Another innovative element of the sDNA project has been combining sDNA software with off-the-shelf open data, and industry standards, to improve the analysis of spatial planning and design."

The sDNA tool uses spatial design analysis to better understand urban form and activity patterns by taking into account the underlying street network design structure. The underlying principle, based on social network analysis, is that while transport networks are not the only indicator of urban form, travel, activity or land use distribution, an understanding these links provides a good basis for understanding and designing cities.