In Chapter 2, we described the fringe as a ‘landscape without community’, and this is an image of the rural-urban fringe supported, at least in part, by Daniels (1999) and Shoard (2002). But this view seems to have been contradicted in the last chapter. Retail and leisure-based ‘edge centres’ are sometimes associated with residential development and particularly with red-brick ‘estates’ organized on culs-de-sac. It is also the case that in the years before green belts (see Chapter 8), some expansion of towns occurred along arterial roads to form low-density ‘ribbon development’. But the characteristics of the fringe – a functional landscape of unimproved grassland truncated by major roads and dotted with low-density warehousing and essential services – can make it an inhospitable space for living. However, the notion of a ‘sociocultural’ landscape should not be conflated or confused with the idea of a ‘residential’ landscape. The fringe may, in large part, be a landscape without community, but it does have a community of users: people with various objectives in mind who experience the fringe (or might experience it in the future) for informal recreation, for formal leisure, or for employment. This chapter examines three major issues, or dimensions, within the sociocultural fringe. Because of the reality of some housing growth in the fringe – particularly around transport hubs including parkway stations (see Chapter 5) – we begin by focusing on the quality of housing development in the fringe. But the major focus of this chapter is how the fringe is used for non-residential and non-employment uses: how people experience the fringe for recreation, for education or for health reasons. The benefits of having open access to the fringe for these purposes has been highlighted in the government’s recently issued PPS 7 (see Chapter 8). The second objective is to focus on the fringe as a space for recreation and experience. This leads into a third and final objective: to consider how accessible the fringe is for potential users. Accessing major hubs, where a collection of economic and service uses may be concentrated, is a fairly straightforward task as we saw in the last chapter. But how connected

are towns and cities with the unimproved grasslands and open spaces of the rural-urban fringe?