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Although there is no exact definition, neighbourhood generally refers to a residential area of distinctive identity that provides residents with a sense of belonging and community. Principles of neighbourhood design were discussed in the lecture Design of neighbourhoods, based on that, this blog is going to explore more about the design process and the form and function of neighbourhoods.

The Twin-Track Model Design Process

Neighbourhood design should consider the site context in a larger scale and aim to achieve economic efficiency, social inclusiveness and environmental sustainability in the long term. A feasible starting point can be the analysis of local public transport network and greenspace/waterspace system, which is called the twin-track model (Barton, et al., 2003). Because these two systems are determining factors of the concentrations of human activities and the ecology of settlement. In a town expansion scheme, existing pedestrian accessibility to public transport system, activity centres and greenspace should be appraised base on the twin-track analysis. Next step is to devise and evaluate land-use pattern and levels of intensity. After that, road networks for vehicles and pedestrians can be designed on a modified grid basis to ensure permeability. Finally, the spatial framework should specify the site and character of existing and planned neighbourhoods and its relation to adjacent spaces.

Source from: Shaping Neighbourhoods: For Local Health and Global Sustainability 2nd ed,  P236-237


Neighbourhood Form Archetypes

Hugh Barton categorises the neighbourhood forms into four archetypes: pods, cells, clusters and linear township.

Source from: Shaping Neighbourhoods: For Local Health and Global Sustainability 2nd ed,  P263

Pods is a pattern of car-oriented and use-segregated dispersal that becomes dominant since the late twentieth century because of rising car reliance. Each pod is an independent development with dedicated cul-de-sac or loop-road off the main road system. Due to the separation of residential, commercial and retail uses, pods are pedestrian–unfriendly and does not create a sense of community.

Cells are mixed-use neighbourhood units with local centres. Each cell is an independently functioning neighbourhood designed at pedestrian scale, and can locate either on a distributor road or has a separate access from it.

Clusters is a group of overlapping mixed-use neighbourhoods with no clear edges between them. Although each neighbourhood has its own centre, the district centre locates at the main distributor with facilities along the road provides a wide range of local services that are highly accessible by foot. This archetype has been advocated by the Urban Task Force (1999) as a means of achieving compact city.

Linear township refers to neighbourhood development along a public transport spine. The central spine with local facilities scattered along also plays the role of a high street, which is the place for social meeting as well as exchange of goods and services. The prime advantage of this archetype is the viability of public transport.

Case Study – Newcastle Great Park

SOLUTIONS (Sustainability of Land Use and Transport in Outer Neighbourhoods) research was funded by EPSRC. According to a series of local neighbourhood scale studies, its final report published in 2010 presents the assessment of the sustainability of current spatial planning strategies as well as the possible alternative planning strategies for these areas. Newcastle Great Park is one of the test cases of SOULUTIONS research.

Source from: Solutions: Tyne and Wear Local Case Study Final Report

It is about 8km from the city centre with an A1 trunk road cross the site. Besides, Newcastle Airport is several kilometres to the west. The progressing development is for about 2,500 new homes, a local centre, a business park and primary school. The proposed design separate land uses in a series of pods with limited interconnections. According to the accessibility analysis, the majority of residents stay more than 800 metres from the local centre. Besides, less than half of residents can reach bus route within 400 meters. Thus, car use is expected to be high; and there is a lack of support for bus services and local facilities.

Source from: Solutions: Tyne and Wear Local Case Study Final Report

To solve the problems, SOULUTIONS suggests an alternative linear plan. The high street spine is the main bus and bike route and the location for local facilities. This option allows almost all the residents to stay within 800m of the local centre and two-thirds of them are within 400m of bus services. The linear plan encourages the use of public transport and the development of community networks.

Source from: Solutions: Tyne and Wear Local Case Study Final Report

Additionally, in order to make good use of the existing Metro system, SOLUTIONS also suggests an alternative location for the development. In this proposal, the development will be a series of cells around the Metro stations towards airport to improve accessibility.

The case study demonstrates that each design choice has its own implication; the design of neighbourhood should be linked to the wider area and enhance the sustainability strategy for the overall urban development.





  1. Barton H, Grant M and Guise R, 2010, Shaping Neighbourhoods: For Local Health and Global Sustainability 2nd Edition, Routledge, London.
  2. Barton H, Rice L, Grant M, Horswell M, Solutions: Tyne and Wear Local Case Study Final Report, available from
  3. Echenique M, Barton H, Hargreaves T, Mitchell G, 2010, Sustainability of Land Use and Transport in Outer Neighbourhoods Final Report, available from
  4. Urban Task Force, 1999, Towards an Urban Renaissance, Spon, London.

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Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
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