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BP 47: Using street audit approaches to determine neighbourhood priorities

Date: June 2015
Category: Briefing Paper
Author: GCPH

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Street audits are used in a number of ways to evaluate the quality of the built environment and to prioritise streetscape improvements. This briefing paper provides evidence and information on how street audits can be effectively carried out to support community involvement in neighbourhood decision-making.

Lessons from research into the impact of a community street audit undertaken in a Glasgow neighbourhood are presented alongside evidence and examples of similar approaches used elsewhere, including desk-based audits which can be completed using online street imagery. The findings presented and the resources and examples included are intended to aid the future use of street audits for service providers and local groups. 

Learning from this study highlights the importance of ensuring that everyone in the community has an opportunity to participate in the audit, that expectations are set out at the start of the process and that consideration is given to how population groups might be differentially affected by proposed changes.

Also important is that plans are in place to ensure the long-term maintenance of changes, and that the process is used as part of a wider visioning exercise for the development of the area. Feedback from local people suggests that community audits can be an effective way of identifying neighbourhood priorities and starting conversations between communities, local organisations and service providers. 

As an alternative approach to community audits, desk-based audits using street imagery are increasingly being used to evaluate and/or compare places based on the quality or quantity of street features. Desk-based audits have been found to be effective at quickly assessing how well resourced places are, having the important benefit of allowing large geographical areas to be assessed from one location.

Both qualitative community-led approaches and more quantitative approaches to street auditing can be used in complementary ways, providing different depths of understanding of strengths and needs within or between areas.

Three appendices are also available alongside this briefing paper:

Appendix 1: Street audits and similar approaches in Glasgow.
Appendix 2: Community street audit resources.
Appendix 3: Applications and online resources for assessing neighbourhoods.

Access a related report 'Assessing the health impacts of neighbourhood improvements in Calton'.