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Thoughts on the Good City

Throughout 2022, Dr Elizabeth Brooks and Anna Christy collected thoughts on good cities from researchers, academics, practitioners, space makers, thinkers and doers. A collection of thought-provoking ideas on what makes and shapes good cities.

"A good city is a city that has 20-minute neighbourhoods, where you pay attention to the quality of the amenities such as local shops, places to go to meet others and where you have good transport links. Good neighbourhoods are an important part of a good city."
- Barbara Douglas
Executive Officer, Elders Council of Newcastle
"My vision of a good city: it’s just having a little bit more cohesion. A cohesive city, just something with a little bit more transparent governance, where people could get involved if we want them to, but are happy with the decisions made by those involved." 
- Gayle Purves
Citizens’ Advice, Newcastle upon Tyne

"I think a good city is an inclusive city that is sustainable to all. [...] It’s a city that innovates and uses new ideas and continues to progress and reinvent itself. It’s a city that’s ambitious and that wants more for its people. At the same time, it’s a city that builds upon its past and looks to its future, utilising the skills and inherent assets that are part of it. It’s a city that uses its natural assets, that is distinctive, it uses its position in the world and looks at itself in context and doesn’t look at itself in isolation but recognises the role it plays in its hinterland, but also internationally as well as nationally. It’s a city that is friendly, that is a place that people want to come to and that people want to be part of. And that the people that live here are proud of and want to talk about."
- Sarah Green
CEO, NewcastleGateshead Initiative
"Joining the public sector has made me look at it from the point of view of not just being a user, but being a resident. What does it mean to be a resident in a city district, with the city dynamics evolving and changing? And what does it feel like to be a resident if you access public transport, if you access the services we deliver, what does it mean to you?
- Michelle Percy
Director of Place, Newcastle City Council

"I think my idea of a good city is… This is going to sound so on-message, and it’s not meant to – a good city is one that thrives, one that can thrive, and that is enabled to do so."
- Caroline Hargreaves
Project Manager, Capital Projects Team, Gateshead Council
"A good city is one that seeks to provide a stable life for everyone and sanctuary to those in need. To do this, a good city promotes understanding and fairness through cultural and community services?
- Neil Munslow
Service Manager for Active Inclusion, Newcastle City Council

"I think the key component for me is equity - a city that is equitable for every member of the city. And, almost a subset of that, the resilience and sustainability of a city, because I think that if you don’t have those two things, you can never hope to have true equity… It’s not just about the benefits being equitable, it’s about people’s opportunities to shape those benefits and access them also being equitable."
- Matt Wilton
Assistant Chief Executive, Newcastle City Council
"I think a good city is somewhere where people can lead the fulfilling lives that they want to lead, so that could mean a number of different things to different people, but they’ve got the choice and the control and the opportunity to do the things that they want to do, that they have some say over how things are governed and how things look and how things work in the city, so they’ve got an active voice, and are listened to, and if they don’t like something, they know that they can influence it and change it, and that’s kind of my image for a good city. But also that it’s not just those people who are most able to be vocal that can change things. A good city is inclusive for everybody, everybody can change things, everybody has a fair say and everybody is included, that is my utopia.
- Laura Choake
Senior Advisor, Health and Social Care, Newcastle City Council

"What I hope is going to happen and what I would like to happen is a move back to more inner city and city centre living. And I think that seems to be happening. Obviously, there are controversies over that in terms of how that is delivered, such as Build-to-Rent – but I think having more people living there on a daily basis would hopefully encourage more independents, more people to set up a bakery or whatever. There do seem to be examples of that around Newcastle. Ouseburn, for example, is a fantastic place and putting housing down there has changed it, and you’ve got the ice cream shop and the bakers and other businesses. I think that is what government policy and planning policy should be trying to encourage - more inner city and city centre living."
- Joe Ridgeon
Planning Consultant, Hedley Planning Consultancy, North East England
"So I’d say [the Good City is] 'inclusive' but you need to unpack what that means. Inclusion can be about the physical built environment, which should be obvious: easy access, public transport, that kind of thing. And then there is the inclusive culture which involves a financial element because people need to be able to afford to be part of city life. 
- Dr Victoria Armstrong
CEO, Disability North

"Barcelona’s a fabulous city, in the way it’s dealt with its roads and its infrastructure, with brilliant pedestrian links, green space, parks and the communal areas, giving priority over the roads, so I love that aspect. I must agree that Ouseburn and some of the areas that you see in London, where you have your independents and your little markets, bringing the vibrancy to the street, encouraging the local economy, whilst enabling the local community to access some affordable local food, are great because of the community spirit it builds and the liveliness of it all."
- Anneliese Hutchinson 
Service Director Gateshead Council
"So I think there are biblical images of what a good city would look like, but how to get to that in practice is the bit that people get stuck at, especially around the justice thing. We can see how we can be a Good Samaritan. If you ask people what a general picture would be, you know, that we do charity, that we are kind to our neighbours and all of that stuff which is great. But when it comes to talking about power or injustice, I think there’s a bit more of a disconnect, of OK, how do we do that? We don’t know, and we feel a bit disempowered. So within the church, there are always images of what a Good City would look like, but the bit missing is the practical steps on the ground of how we, in the North East, try to get to that place.  


I think we need to have more social innovation, more experimental thinking now, because things are going to be different over the next few years, and I think [we should be] providing spaces where we come together and go, actually, what could this look like?
- Val Barron
Community Development Practitioner, Communities Together, Durham

"When I judge a city, an obvious factor for me is seeing people on the street. That’s probably easier to achieve in warmer climates. But whenever I see people on the street, it becomes a kind of communal space. I think it’s an early indicator of a real sense of community."
- Prof Ruth Morrow 
Head of School X, Newcastle University
"What fascinates me about cities is the complex subjectivity that makes up cities. They are constantly changing and almost impossible to analyse.
- Prof Richard Clay
Head of School X, Newcastle University

"A city that would be a good city is a place where we do have that kind of left and right to the city, where we can travel across it without feeling that some of our social identity is lost."
- Dr Nick Morgan
Senior Lecturer in Latin American Studies and Director of the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Newcastle University
"We all have questions beforehand and words to think about what criteria define a good city. A big one for me that is always on the forefront is walkability. How accessible is the city for a pedestrian?”
- Natalie Bamford
PhD Researcher at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, Newcastle University

"Classically, you look at things like, is there accessibility? As a geographer, I’m thinking about mobility. Do we have mobility options? Is the city equitably accessible, or is accessibility more likely to be clustered in certain parts of the city?"
- Prof Jeremy Crampton
Professor of Urban Data Analysis, Newcastle University
"In some of the discussions we’ve had with both council actors and actors involved in planning and other aspects of running the city, the thing that comes up is that policies are focused on particular issues. They don’t connect. There has been, for example, a big focus on sustainability within studies, understandably so. Particularly environmental sustainability and cities have been the focus. But some of the people we talk with have shared how that focus has drowned out the conversation about accessibility. That is what happens if you’ve got different policy actors working on particular themes without connecting up. When thinking about ‘just cities’, I think it’s about multiple aspects of what enables people to be genuinely included and to feel part of the city.
- Prof Janice McLaughlin
Professor of Sociology, Newcastle University

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, especially when you think in terms of judgment. The factors that make a good city are influenced massively by your own lived experience. You come back to it like this: the very basics of understanding the gaps in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Think of hygiene factors. Cities need to be able to offer good places for people to live, they need to offer good places for people to educate their children, good connectivity, and good jobs. I think that good cities need to also have a strong sort of offer in terms of quality of life. You have to make sure you have those first; that is the foundation."
- Prof Jane Robinson
Pro-Vice Chancellor, Engagement and Place, Newcastle University
"Interconnections are important for a city: how everything is connected together. Especially the boundary between public and private, you can integrate public and transportation services and prevent an abundance of private services where everything is quite similar.
- Dr Charles Morisset
Director of Postgraduate Studies and Senior Lecturer in Security, Newcastle University