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Cities are urged to create cafe culture

BRITISH towns and cities must reclaim their streets from the car and create a new 'cafe-style' culture if they are not to follow American urban areas into a vicious spiral of decline, according to a report published yesterday, writes David Nicholson-Lord.

The introduction of more squares into towns, coupled with traffic calming, the return of city-centre housing and the greening of urban environments, are vital to boosting the 'liveability' of cities, a study by the European Institute for Urban Affairs at Liverpool John Moores University says.

The rise of a culture based on pedestrians, squares and streets could form a focus for restaurants, concerts and festivals designed to revitalise urban life, it says, and claims there is little difference between the weather in London and in Paris, where pavement cafes thrive.

The alternative is town centres which have been turned into fortresses with shop fronts 'armour-plated' against crime. The report says the 'best antidote to fear of crime is the presence of people' - a recipe which has worked in parts of Chicago.

The study, Liveable Towns and Cities, was commissioned by the Civic Trust as part of a campaign launched last spring.