Liveable public spaces are those which are inclusive in design. Successfully designing such environments necessitates involving the community in the planning process. The Liveability app is an auditing and planning tool that enables active participatory design action which is essential to producing liveable and public spaces.
Planning for walkability necessitates designing an environment that is inclusive of all members of the community. We believe that walkability, sustainability and liveability are interlinked and that planning for such a city means designing an inclusive city. The Liveability app, developed by the University of New South Wales, is a tool designed to encourage active participatory design action and has been utilised by local governments to audit their urban spaces for liveability with the assistance of volunteers representing a range of ages and abilities. The data and community knowledge gathered using the app is intended to inform planning decisions that meet community needs and increase walkability.
To what extent however, is the data that is collected translated into informed planning decisions and inclusive design? To answer this question, we draw upon the Crown Street upgrade as a case study. Crown Street is a busy street in Sydney’s Surry Hills and prior to the redevelopment, the City of Sydney, selected the liveability app to trial as a community engaged auditing tool. Local residents volunteered to assist the City of Sydney and UNSW researchers to conduct a “Walk and Talk” audit, where residents identified both negative and positive aspects of the area selected for redevelopment. Audited features of the urban built environment were created as “objects” and uploaded onto the liveability database, with an accompanying photograph and a description about what was either good or bad about them. This generated a map of the area with the audited objects able to be easily located and identified.
After the upgrade was completed, a second audit was conducted to evaluate the new streetscape. The results from the second audit indicate that the majority of issues originally identified had been addressed and the overall streetscape was considered an improvement. The success of the upgrade indicates the Liveability app’s potential as a planning tool capable of successfully engaging the community so that local government can work with local residents to design urban environments that are walkable, sustainable, accessible and liveable.
The research team has plans to further develop the app and increase its ability to audit not only accessibility and liveability, but also sustainability.