An action plan to celebrate suburbia and protect its distinctive qualities will be unveiled today by the think-tank Demos. The blue print for suburbia makes a number of recommendations to ‘save suburbia’ including more communal spaces for Ramsay Street-style barbecues and setting up car-washing circles.
The blue print to save suburbia will be launched by Demos at an event held by the Centre for Suburban Studies at Kingston University, London. Speakers at the Suburban Futures: Participatory Lifestyles event on 23rd March include Nick Hubble of the Centre for Suburban Studies, Melissa Mean of Demos, and Giles Lanes of Proboscis, the artist-led organisation specialising in social interaction.
“Suburbia is the forgotten heart of Britain,” says Melissa Mean, Head of the Self-Build Cities programme at Demos. “While politicians have focused on tackling the problems of inner cities and the countryside, the suburbs have been neglected by policy makers. At the same time, cultural stereotypes of the suburbs are overwhelmingly negative.”
Up to 86 percent of the UK population, and two out of three city dwellers, live in the suburbs. Yet the suburbs are coming under increasing pressure from urbanisation, and are experiencing significant problems such as run-down shopping centres, poor transport links and loss of employment. 
“Demos is seeking to start a public debate about how we can modernise the suburbs, to ensure that we protect the unique qualities of suburbia,” says Melissa Mean. “We need to find ways to preserve the core values of suburbia, such as a strong community spirit, while opening up the suburbs to new ideas and new people.”
Demos’ has proposed a seven-point action plan to help celebrate suburbia and nurture distinctive suburban qualities. The action plan’s recommendations include:
- Fostering a sense of community by creating suburban spaces where Ramsay Street-style communal barbecues and other neighbourhood social events can take place. In Denmark, residential areas are often kitted out with communal benches and barbecue areas in cul-de-sacs and suburban streets.
- Harnessing the powerful sense of suburban pride to encourage positive change to enhance neighbourhoods through a spirit of YIMBY-ism (‘Yes! In My back Yard’). Councils should allow local people and community organisations to seize unused land banks, such as roundabouts and roadside verges, and turn them into suburban communal gardens.
- Developing existing suburban networks to harness the economic and creative potential of the growing number of thirty-something female entrepreneurs working from home. For example, the Women’s Institute could be re-vitalized as a Young Mums’ Enterprise Club.
Download Demos' action plan for suburbia in PDF.
Notes to editors
- Demos’ blueprint for suburbia will be launched on Thursday 23rd March 2006. It will be available to download from www.demos.co.uk/.
- The Demos blueprint for suburbia will be launched on Thursday 23rd March, 18:30, at an event on Suburban Future: Participatory Lifestyles. The event is hosted by the Centre for Suburban Studies at Kingston University, London, and will be held at The Senior Common Room, Kingston University, Knights Park, Kingston. To register to attend email email@example.com
- Melissa Mean is Head of the Self-Build Cities programme at Demos.
- Demos is the think tank for everyday democracy. It has a major programme of research on the future of cities. For more information, visit www.demos.co.uk/content/selfbuildcities
Civic Trust, In Suburbia (2002)