Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

The role of fine urban grain in securing the diversity of the urban centre

Norton, Conor A.

The role of fine urban grain in securing the diversity of the urban centre Thumbnail


Conor A. Norton


Diversity is a key concept in urban and planning theory and policy with important physical,social and economic dimensions. It is also central to the sustainable city and a key component of vital and viable urban centres. Urban form plays a key role in physical diversity, however, its relationship with other social and economic aspects of diversity remains poorly understood. Urban grain is a key part of the urban form of all places, and it too has suffered from a lack of research and investigation. Urban grain is essentially a description of the pattern of plots in an urban block and when this pattern is dominated by small plots it is described as fine urban grain. Fine urban grain is notable as it is surrounded by numerous claims about the range of benefits that it provides for mix of use, mix of ownership, mix of business, streetscape and street life in the urban centre. These claims are very significant as they are all, in one way or another, related to the important concept of diversity. In spite of the significance of the claims, there is a lack of awareness of the role and potential benefits of fine urban grain for diversity, particularly in practice. This, alongside current processes of urban planning and property development, is slowly but surely leading to a depletion of fine urban grain in many urban centres in Ireland and Britain. A greater understanding of fine urban grain and its benefits is urgently required as its continued loss may irreversibly damage the diversity that all urban centres rely on for their survival.

This research explores the role of fine urban grain in securing the diversity of the urban centre. In particular, it explores the rhetorical claims linking fine urban grain and mix of use, mix of ownership and mix of business. The lack of empirical evidence behind these claims is a significant gap in the knowledge in this area and a part of a larger issue around the need for more research on urban form, particularly at the local level. A case study approach, investigating two precincts in Dublin city centre, is adopted for the research and it utilises a range of existing and new techniques for data collection and analysis. Significantly, new advanced spatial analysis techniques for measuring urban grain and mix of use are developed for this research. The findings show the robustness of research methodology and present
significant new evidence in this area. The research highlights the implications of the findings for theory and practice and it makes recommendations for change in current planning practice. The research also identifies areas where further investigation would help to reduce further the knowledge gaps in this area.


Norton, C. A. (in press). The role of fine urban grain in securing the diversity of the urban centre. (Thesis). University of the West of England. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Acceptance Date Nov 3, 2015
Publicly Available Date Jun 5, 2019
Keywords urban grain, urban centres, diversity, mix of use, mix of ownership, mix of business
Public URL
Award Date Jan 31, 2016


Downloadable Citations