Making space for children and youth in Surrey City Centre: an assessment of child and youth friendly policy and practice in Surrey, British Columbia

Author/s: Erin Schultz

Creation date: 2010

Contact info: n/a

Senior supervisor:  Karen Ferguson

Keywords:  Children, Youth, Families, Cities, Urban planning, Sustainability
Surrey, BC.

Geographic focus: Surrey, BC; British Columbia; Canada

Research question/s: To what extent do Surrey’s overarching plans, policies, and strategies reflect the needs of Surrey’s children and youth? How have the needs of children and youth been articulated in plans for Surrey’s city centre? What are the challenges and potential obstacles associated with planning for children and youth in a high-density neighbourhood such as Surrey City Centre?


As the urbanization trend continues around the world, more children and youth than ever before will be living in neighbourhoods with higher densities. The needs of the youngest and most vulnerable urban residents will need to be planned for if high-density urban neighbourhoods are to support the healthy development of children, youth and their families. While academic research has focused on the importance of engaging young people in community planning, there has been less attention to how the needs of children and youth translate into actual municipal policies. There is a need to move beyond merely engaging children and youth to actually developing child and youth-friendly city policies. This research aims to contribute to that project.


Through document analysis and interviews, the author found that many of the City of Surrey’s recently developed overarching plans, policies and strategies already incorporate policies that are likely to benefit children and youth. The updated Surrey Centre Plan envisions a future urban centre in which children, youth and their families have the opportunity to live in a compact, accessible, family-friendly neighbourhood. This is expressed through elements such as provision of both ground-oriented and higher-density housing, planned improvements to the connectivity of the street network and the creation of additional green spaces and improved access to natural areas. Many of the challenges and obstacles to creating this child and youth-friendly city centre are connected to the broader challenges of retrofitting and urbanizing suburbs. The author also makes several recommendations for enhancing the child- and youth-friendliness of the city centre and Surrey as a whole.