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The creation of compact mixed-use neighbourhoods with a diverse mix of co-located destinations (including employment, education, retail, fresh and healthy food outlets and recreation land uses) integrated with public transport and within close proximity of a variety of residential dwelling types allows residents to undertake and fulfil a variety of daily activities and needs (i.e., live, work, play) in their neighbourhood and encourages active and sustainable modes of transport.

  1. Source: Sallis, J. F., et al. (2012). “Role of Built Environments in Physical Activity, Obesity, and Cardiovascular Disease.” Circulation 125(5): 729-737.
  2. Source: McCormack, G. R., et al. (2008). “The relationship between destination proximity, destination mix and physical activity behaviours.” Preventive Medicine 46(1): 33-40.
  3. Source: Hooper, P., et al. (2015). “The building blocks of a ‘Liveable Neighbourhood’: Identifying the key performance indicators for walking of an operational planning policy in Perth, Western Australia.” Health & Place 36: 173-183.
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Defining 'Destinations' 

In general, the term ‘destinations’ refers to the existence of a variety of different land uses (e.g., shops, services and businesses) within the same location – whether that is a project area, precinct, locality, site or building that people will make a special trip to visit.

Town centre is the term historically used to refer to the commercial or geographical centre or core area of a town or neighbourhood.  A town centre acts as a community focal point or hub, with a clustering and concentration of destinations and mixed land uses that attract people to a variety of activities and is served by public transport.  Centres should include a diverse mix of retail, commercial, health, education, entertainment, cultural, recreational destinations and community facilities. This mix is essential for creating hubs of destinations with sufficient diversity to be useful walkable nodes or a regular destination for majority of the population.   A mix of destinations or land uses that generate activity outside normal business hours and at different periods of the day and night (e.g., hospitality and entertainment, community facilities, gymnasiums) should also be provided to generate additional evening and weekend activity and to take advantage of shared use of facilities such as car parking and public transport.  This is important for creating vibrant, inviting and safe neighbourhood and town centres.  Higher-density housing in and around the centres is also important to support the centre destinations and facilities as well as high-frequency public transport. 

Neighbourhood and local centres play an important role in providing walkable access to services and facilities for communities.  Neighbourhood centres help to provide for the main daily to weekly household shopping and community needs.  Local centres provide for the incidental and day-to-day convenience shopping needs of the local community within their walkable catchments.  These will typically include a corner store or delicatessen and newsagent, but are limited in their retail offering.

The term ‘mixed-use development’ refers to buildings that contain a mix of uses – such as commercial, retail or other non-residential uses, which maintain an active commercial and business environment at pedestrian (street) level often in conjunction with residential dwellings on the upper levels in a multiple dwelling configuration. [1, 2]

The term ‘land use’ describes land that has been zoned for specific purposes; these include residential, retail, commercial, civic, open space, or mixed-use within a town planning scheme.  ‘Destinations’ refer to the specific types of businesses present (e.g., a supermarket, hotel, cinema or bank).  

The term ‘land use mix’ is often used throughout the public health literature to describe the diversity (i.e., mix) of different land uses or destinations over a given area, (i.e., within the neighbourhood). [2] Measures of ‘land use mix’ are often computed in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and include simple counts of different destination types or land uses present, as well as more sophisticated methods such as entropy formulas that measure the variety and distribution of land uses over a given area. [3, 4]

Destined for physical activity & health

The location of different land uses relative to one another has a strong impact on how people travel between, to and from them. [5] The location of key destinations such as employment, education, retail and recreation land uses close to homes is a key design feature of ‘walkable’ and sustainable neighbourhood design to encourage active transport. Living within close proximity to a mix of destinations is consistently associated with higher levels of active transport in adults [13, 18-20, 30] and older adults.   Areas with a greater mix of co-located, complementary, land uses or destinations allow for multiple activities to be undertaken and different daily needs (i.e., live, work, play) to be met in the one location.  Neighbourhoods with a mix of co-located destinations (for example at a neighbourhood or town centre) when supported and surrounded by a network of connected streets, paths and cycle ways, provide opportunities for active transport. Good public transport access creates environments that are also more conducive for walking and cycling as they provide local focal points for people to meaningfully and conveniently commute to within their neighbourhood. [6] The inclusion of fresh food outlets in the mix of neighbourhood destinations is also important to provide residents with easy access to fresh foods and to assist them in adopting healthy eating behaviours.  

The provision of mixed-use neighbourhood and town centres within walking distance from homes also makes alternative forms of transport such as walking, cycling or public transport use more viable and provides people with the option not to use the car.  In addition to the health benefits associated with walking and cycling, this assists in reducing the use of the car for local trips – an established known producer of greenhouse gas emissions. 

The presence of mixed-use buildings with ‘active’ ground floor uses and those that extend onto the street (i.e., café seating areas) fosters natural surveillance and feelings of safety and help to create a vibrant streetscape and mixed-use neighbourhood centres.  Additionally, the presence of a mix of destinations and/or mixed-use buildings that facilitate a variety of uses and generate activity at different periods of the day and night is important for creating vibrant, inviting and safe neighbourhood and town mixed-used areas/centres.

Ensuring neighbourhoods have access to a mix of shops, services and transport connections has positive implications beyond physical activity.[7]  The provision of a mix of destinations and community facilities within the neighbourhood helps to attract a range of people of all ages and provides opportunities for casual and chance interactions with other members of the community as well as providing places and spaces for people of all ages to gather, meet friends and family and engage in social activities. [8, 9]   Mixed-use planning and the presence of a variety of destinations also promote walking, which in turn increases the sense of community and social capital through the facilitation of interaction between residents on the streets. [8] However, post-war suburban development, with its segregated retail and commercial land uses, has resulted in the development of isolated residential suburbs. [10, 11] The increased distances as a result of this segregation of land uses makes it impractical for residents to walk or cycle to these destinations as part of their daily routine. [10, 12]

Activity centres should also be developed and redeveloped in a manner that is sensitive to the needs, assets, and deficiencies of the surrounding community while respecting local historical patterns, precedents, and context. The design or configuration of the centre is also important for promoting active modes of transport to the centre.  Conventionally-designed retail shopping centres configured in big-box formats tend to cater exclusively for cars whilst failing to provide a pleasant or easy walking or cycling environment to encourage healthy active transport behaviours. [77] This increases motivation to drive to the centre, even if people live within a close and comfortable walking distance. [78] More traditional, main-street centres, where pedestrian-scaled, street-fronting mixed-use buildings with small setbacks and ‘active’ ground floor uses that extend onto the street (i.e., café seating areas, external shop displays) encourage walking and cycling access.