Environmental quality in residential areas : a social survey approach to improvement priorities

  • Simon Cane

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The research is concerned with the measurement of residents' evaluations of the environmental quality of residential areas. The research reflects the
increased attention being given to residents' values in planning decisions
affecting the residential environment. The work was undertaken in
co-operation with a local authority which was in the process of revising its
housing strategy, and in particular the priorities for improvement action.
The study critically examines the existing evidence on environmental
values and their relationship to the environment and points to a number of
methodological and conceptual deficiencies. The research strategy developed
on the basis of the research review was constrained by the need to keep any
survey methods simple so that they could easily be repeated, when necessary,
by the sponsoring authority. A basic perception model was assumed, and a
social survey carried out to measure residents' responses to different
environmental conditions. The data was only assumed to have ordinal
properties, necessitating the extensive use of non-parametric statistics.
Residents' expressions of satisfaction with the component elements of the environment (ranging from convenience to upkeep and privacy) were
successfully related to 'objective' measures of the environment. However the survey evidence did not justify the use of the 'objective' variables as environmental standards. A method of using the social survey data directly as an aid to decision-making is discussed.
Alternative models of the derivation of overall satisfaction with the environment are tested, and the values implied by the additive model compared with residents' preferences as measured directly in the survey. Residents' overall satisfactions with the residential environment were most closely related to their satisfactions with the "Appearance" and the "Reputation" of their areas. By contrast the most important directly measured preference was "Friendliness of area". The differences point to the need to define concepts used in social research clearly in operational terms, and to take care in the use of values 'measured' by different methods.
Date of AwardMay 1977
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorHugh Williams (Supervisor)


  • residential
  • environment
  • perception
  • social survey

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