Last edited 07 Jun 2021

City centre


A city is a human settlement with a large population. A city centre is the area of a city where significant commerce, political, cultural and power is concentrated. It is often also the geographic centre of a city. Typically, the city centre will be the first part of a city that was settled, making it the most historic area.

A city centre plays an important role in the economy of a city, since businesses benefit from the proximity that the centre offers. It is typically well-connected to other districts and suburbs, i.e. with good infrastructure and public transport links, and attractive in terms of employment, education and leisure time. Many cities share their centre with what is known as the Central Business District (CBD), although the concepts differ; the CBD is focused solely on economic and business factors, and is often referred to as the ‘financial district’.

Efforts to improve city centres can be focused on ‘urban renewal’ or ‘regeneration’ to encourage and direct private finance into a particular area as a supportive measure where market forces have failed.

Densification is a term used by planners, designers, developers and theorists to describe the increasing density of people living in urban areas, particularly city centres which can often be the most expensive places to live in the city.

In the United States, the term ‘downtown’ is typically used interchangeably with ‘city centre’.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) defines a town centre as an; '...area defined on the local authority’s proposal map, including the primary shopping area and areas predominantly occupied by main town centre uses within or adjacent to the primary shopping area.’

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