Create Streets say: We don't want NIMBYs, but YIMBYs and BIMBYs (Y for "Yes", B for "Beautiful")


We spent a lot of time in the streets around Devonport Guildhall, in Plymouth last week for the Inquiry stage of our collaboratory. It’s a combination of attractive new terraces - their houses echoing the designs of the Oddfellows Hall next door - and some traditional towerblocks, with the classical frontage and striking column of the Guildhall at its centre. There’s a lot of street life, with children and adults: the feel isn’t gentrified, but properly mixed.

How important is it to build streets that encourage wellbeing; a sense of pride and ownership in the place; a healthy, inclusive bustle? We came upon an interesting organisation the other day, Create Streets, who seem to be dedicated to this goal, drawing together residents, developers, councils, landowners and architects. Here’s their mission:

Create Streets exists to help solve the housing crisis and to help communities and developers create beautiful street-based places of sufficient density that will be popular with the wider community, are likely to be correlated with good wellbeing outcomes and which are likely to prove good long term investments based on the historical data of value appreciation and maintenance costs.

Our goal is to make it easier to develop high density, beautiful, street-based economically and socially successful developments with strong local support and which residents will love for generations. Over the next fifteen years we are also determined dramatically to improve the UK planning system so that it better delivers what people like and therefore helps deliver more new homes.

One of the impediments to this crisis are existing urban and suburban residents who oppose new housebuilding because they fear a degradation of their quality of life, whether through the design of new buildings or the difficulties of social integration of new residences.

Create Streets, in their consultations and projects, aim to turn NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard-ers) into YIMBYs (Yes in My Back Yard) and BIMBYs (Beauty In My Back Yard). The new Neighbourhood Planning powers given to communities in the 2017 Act grant them the right to shape the design of new planning developments in a profound way.

This YIMBY report contains a fascinating case study (p.77-104) titled “Creating Streets in Cornwall with consent”. It lays out in detail how a development in Nansledan, Newquay, established a form of development that maintained a quality of beauty for residents - for example, establishing a “pattern book” for the details of whatever building should arise in that area.

Following their tweetstream, Create Streets seems to be part of what used to be called the “New Urbanist” movement. This follows the precepts of the visionary US writer on cities Jane Jacobs, who urged architects to moderate their great plans and attend to the vitality of existing street life. They cite events like this Conscious Cities anthology, which gets us to think about cities and tranquility, smell, colour, nightlighting, wonder, restfulness, and networks.

And finally, to close down this brief tour into urbanism, Create Streets retweeted the graphic below, from the walkable city advocate Donald Appleyard. According to the tweet:

It illustrated how car traffic impedes the formation of social capital…Appleyard found that most people living on light-traffic streets considered their entire street to be their “home territory,” while most people on heavy-traffic streets only felt at home within their own buildings or apartments. More remarkably, while people on light-traveled streets counted on average 3.0 friends, people on busy streets averaged only 0.9 friends. That’s hardly the best ad copy: “Heavy traffic: for those times when you want to have slightly less than one friend.”