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P L AC E M A K I N G 2 0 1 2 — S H A R I N G I N N OVAT I O N I N U R B A N L I F E
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Enabling technologies for transport, space and place
MODELLING WORLD 2012
Modelling World will: ■
The 7th annual conference and exhibition
Modelling World will cover need-to-know developments and best practice across the design, modelling and data sectors – and, new for 2012 – will offer 'innovation sessions' introducing the pick of emerging ideas and evolving technologies from around the world.
11-12 July 2012 The Kia Oval London
Learn – Information – Network –
Explore new methods for the capture, analysis, presentation and monetisation of data and digital information Try out new tools supporting effective partnership working, decision-making and scenario-testing for place and movement Highlight core skills in early adopting fields that are transferable into new areas
THE ART OF MAKING PLACES ‘Innovation occurs at the intersection of disciplines. In this space, we provide leadership and create value for clients’
SHARING INNOVATION IN URBAN LIFE
Landor LINKS: Learning, Information, Networking & Knowledge Sharing
Who bears the responsibility of making functional, enjoyable, cohesive and sustainable places for the urban world?
PLACEmaking is one initiative within the Landor LINKS group that facilitates the sharing of knowledge and best practice between the ever-expanding circle of professionals and organisations involved in making better places.
It may be a truism, but the honest answer is: everyone.The time has certainly passed when a single profession – or even one or two – could lay claim to this task as their own. Urban placemaking – the subject of this annual review – does not define a profession, a discipline or even a skill. Rather, it defines a mission. The mission is one that must be shared by all: by communities, by politicians, by investors, and across the expanding fields of professional endeavour that contribute to defining and delivering places that are ‘fit for purpose’. Those behind the publication – now in its fourth year – come from a range of backgrounds within the Landor LINKS organisation, which collects and shares information across the fields of planning, urban design, transport and traffic, economics, asset management, digital technology, public governance, community empowerment, parking and town centre management. We feel uniquely qualified to pool our knowledge, but in producing PLACEmaking, we have readily gone beyond our current worlds to add contributions offering food for future thought: the creation of social cities, the use of Big Data for civic benefit, the articulation of economic and social value, and the development of tools and processes that enable everyone to participate in the design and shaping of place.
Juliana O’Rourke | Editor
Our companion activities include online hubs RUDI.net and TransportXtra.com, established conference and networking forums Quality StreetScapes, Modelling World,Travel 2020, UK and European Rail stations, and Rail Stations and Property; and our print portfolio includes Local Transport Today,Transport and the Urban Environment,Technology, Space and Place, Living Spaces, New Transit, and Parking Review. Our core task is to build and manage professional networks.We connect with local authorities, central government, universities and research bodies, suppliers, consultants, contractors and service providers. Professionals depend on us for authoritative information, news and analysis.We deliver through targeted events, print, online and social media. Our work is highly regarded across the transportation and urbanism sectors and, increasingly, the associated technological, service, policy and delivery fields. Our strengths lie in defining emerging territories.Through our proven facilitation skills and excellent access to both expertise and audiences, we enable previously disparate interests to align, learn and exchange knowledge and experience. Our established networks give us a unique insight into the ‘bigger picture’ of placemaking: spatial, transport and infrastructure planning and delivery.We succeed by bringing our partners together to explore mutually beneficial solutions to shared challenges.
Knowledge-sharing hubs and events Landor LINKS online knowledge sharing hubs provide fast access to authoritative information, best practice case studies, news and analysis
Landor LINKS founded many of the UK’s most established and innovative urbanism and transport events including:
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Urban intelligence – www.rudi.net Transport intelligence – www.TransportXtra.com
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Rail Stations Quality Streetscapes: Access and Activity Property & Parking Open Data Modelling World Transport and the Urban Environment Rail Stations and Property Parking World
Landor LINKS also publishes more than 100 publications and event supplements per year, and is the perfect media partner for those wishing to connect with the urbanism, transport and transit communities. Find out more at – www.landor.co.uk For a list of our upcoming events see – www.TransportXtra.com/events Partnership and sponsorship opportunities available at our events call: Rod Fletcher on 0191 280 1410 or email email@example.com
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Learning Information Networking Knowledge Sharing
DESIGN & DELIVERY
Landor LINKS: knowledge-sharing and networking
The lost art of placemaking
Setting up: new funding
EDITORIAL Juliana O’Rourke, Editor E: firstname.lastname@example.org CONTRIBUTORS Robert Cowan | Julian Dobson Peter Warman | Chris Sharpe Mark Treasure | Tim Stonor John Swanson | Diarmaid Lawlor October Brennan | Jennifer Ross Stuart Woodin | Dana Dolghin
NEW COMMUNITIES, SMART CITIES
THE VALUE OF URBAN DESIGN
ENGAGING COMMUNITIES & STAKEHOLDERS
PUBLIC SPACES, PUBLIC PLACES
Localism: real participation?
Social high streets
Open data opportunities
More than a station
Active town management
New approaches to growth 34
Knowing your place
Plymouth West End
The digital data revolution
Learning to listen
Bypassing the bypass?
Walking and cycling: making it normal
The whole journey
A space for all time
Urban realm valuation
PUBLISHER PLACEmaking is published annually by Landor LINKS and RUDI.net (Resource for Urban Design Information)
REGISTERED OFFICE Apollo House, 359 Kennington Lane, London SE11 5QY Registration Number: 768 3671 83 T: +44(0)20 7091 7950
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Individual copies: £20 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
DESIGN & PRODUCTION Landor LINKS email@example.com
Cover image: Illustrative sketch of the Brentford Lock West development proposals
PHOTOGRAPHER Mohamed Panchbaya
© Ash Sakula Architects
01 DESIGN & DELIVERY
MAKINGTHE BEST PLACES
DEVELOPMENT:GAIN NOT PAIN
THE LOST ART OF PLACEMAKING? How does the urban design profession promote itself to an industry and a planning system seemingly obsessed with process and detail, and sceptical of the long term value of creating really, really good places? And despite the years of policy and new practice, can we honestly say that we have any really, really good answers? By Juliana O’Rourke
The built environment is shaped by a wide range of professional and community interests. Development, real estate companies, architects, landscapers, urban designers, transport professionals and planners all make an impact, ideally via a representative system that communicates and embeds community aspirations. Hundreds of thousands of policy papers, toolkits and strategic guides have been written and published. But, despite pockets of good practice, something is amiss. Professional forums such as the Urban Design Group are beginning to ask Big Questions: Have we lost the simple art of placemaking? Does good design add value for those who commission it? How does the urban design profession promote itself to an industry and a planning system seemingly obsessed with detail and often sceptical of the long term value of creating places? And despite the years of policy and process, can we honestly say that we have any really, really good answers? New directions for the art and science of masterplanning have been eagerly debated for the past few years.The consensus, supporting a move away from prescriptive, object-focused masterplanning, towards a lighter touch that provides a guiding framework for enterprise and future growth, has prevalence. Developers need flexibility, to de-risk investment. A new era of funding mechanisms is upon us: Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL),Tax Increment Financing (TIF), along with new forms of public and private partnerships. Local authorities plead poverty – although as
Tony Travers, director of the Greater London group at the London School of Economics, points out, local authorities have some of the soundest AAA credit ratings to be found in the UK, if not Europe. With the government aiming to ‘put out’, as we go to press in March 2012, the final version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) framework, there is still much dissent about the impact of downsizing 1,300 pages of planning guidance to a mere 52. As Planning Minister Greg Clark says:‘Our reforms aim to strengthen local decisionmaking and reinforce the importance of local plans.’ Local Government and Planning minister Bob Neill swears that: ‘The NPPF was never intended to be a charter for inappropriate development.’ There have been mixed reactions to the draft NPPF from the design community. From the urban design perspective, there appears to be some cause for optimism. Along with economic growth, the definition of sustainable development includes ‘creating a good quality built environment, with accessible local services that reflect the community’s needs and supports its health and well-being' and 'using the planning system to protect and enhance our natural, built and historic environment’. Yet, as has been noted by the membership of the Urban Design Group in its meetings and seminars, where the NPPF is weak in design terms is that a high standard of urban design is not described as a core planning principle.
from around 70 per cent to 95 per cent, suggests urban designer Andrew Lainton. Surely this rings warning bells? FOLLOW THE MONEY – AND THE EVIDENCE The financial landscape will no doubt be a determining factor in whatever happens. New funding streams such as the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) could support the funding of urban realm and ‘place-based’ improvements, but there remains the challenge of accessing CIL income streams upfront, as funds will not materialise without development. Tax Increment Financing (TIF) schemes (see page 6) schemes may provide a useful mechanism for capturing future income flows, but clarity on legislation and implementation in England and Wales is still required. It is likely, however, that one by-product of the preparation for a TIF scheme would
be use of new and consistent tools and systems designed to spotlight the monetary value of quality urban realm design. There are already many such toolkits in use – many are being discussed at the event at which this publication is being launched. Yet the argument for better articulating the potential value of public realm – be it the quality of its built form, accessibility, security, health and impact on surrounding development value – needs to be given a much higher priority in need and impact assessments. ‘ VALUE, NOT COST Value’ rather than ‘cost’ should drive investment decisions. It is only by using innovative valuation tools that long term value comes in to the equation. £8m was released by TfL, for example, at the initial stages of the Exhibition Road project, as a result of using an early version of the TfL and EC Harris urban realm valuation tool.The resulting scheme is clearly a success in both design and popularity terms – but which tools will become the ones that give real credibility, monitored over time, to land owners, investors and developers with a hard eye on the bottom line? And where will this leave the urbanists’ plaintive cry for placemaking support? As Julian Dobson, co-author of the Business, Innovation and Skills report into the much-reported demise of the high street, and a contributor to this publication (see page 52), notes:‘It is ironic that government has withdrawn from serious investment in placemaking at precisely the time when placemaking skills are most needed.’ Urban design has communicated itself as a form of public policy that seeks to steer development and infrastructure investment towards policy-shaped rather than market-led outcomes. In these times of austerity, we need to try harder. The difference between ‘space’ and ‘place’ is felt immediately. Space seems to have no feeling at all, while a great place has many points of interest from the built, natural and cultural landscapes and is formed by the response of the public to their surroundings. We should require nothing less than our designers to take into account natural processes, such as socialisation, to create well-defined, distinctive areas. People need an identifiable spatial unit to belong to (Alexander, 1977), and designers wield such great power; it should be used only for good.
01 DESIGN & DELIVERY:THE CURRENT AGENDA
LOCALISM IN PRACTICE In practice, the advent of the localism agenda means that it is increasingly likely that the weight given to placemaking and economic growth in planning decisions will be decided locally. Local and neighbourhood plans may eventually mitigate against potential NPPF flaws, but this could take years. Meanwhile, critics have noted that the NPPF calls for all but ‘obviously poor design’ to be supported. And with even the Homes and Community Agency noting publicly that stewardship of good design – with the relative demise of CABE and changes in operational structure of the HCA – has been weakened, there is definite cause for alarm.The NPPF states that development must be approved when a local plan is not ‘up to date’ or is ‘silent’ on proposals. Estimates of the numbers of councils whose plans are not up to date vary
IN A CHANGING ECONOMIC, FINANCIAL, INSTITUTIONAL AND POLICY CONTEXT: HOW CAN WE MAKE BETTER PLACES? Partnership working will enable stakeholders to get the most from the new economic and policy tools:TIF, CIL and other new funding mechanisms
The economic, financial, institutional and policy context has changed radically in the last years, according to the Local Government Association (LGA), due to recession and the formation of the coalition government. Councils recognise the importance of supporting local economic growth, yet due to significantly reduced resources, interventions will need to be prioritised. Direction will come from councils working through new structures, including Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), which require new forms of partnership between the private sector and local councils.They will be chaired by private business people and be instrumental in leading and delivering economic development in the future. Councils will need to agree how to work across local authority boundaries to share services and co-ordinate interventions. LOCAL GOVERNMENT RESOURCE REVIEW (LGRR) The funding framework is being transformed via the Local Government Resource Review (LGRR).‘The current dependency of councils on central grant allocations makes planning difficult, weakens accountability, and stifles local innovation,’ said Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, on launching the review.‘In the future, I am keen to move to a radically different system of funding and support for councils that is built on strong incentives, is driven by local decision-making and breaks this dependency.’ Phase two of the review is looking at the role of community budgets. Alexandra Jones, chief executive of think tank Centre for Cities, welcomes government proposals to give local authorities greater control of decision-making and finance, particularly to retain more of the business rates they raise locally. Last year, the Government announced proposals to allow local authorities in England the power to raise finance against predicted growth in their locally raised business rates via Tax Increment Financing (TIF). The private sector relies on the public sector to create conditions for business activity, in particular through infrastructure growth, writes Richard Ellard, Partner in Commercial Property & Development,Thomson, Snell and passover, in a review of funding initiatives.TIF can offer a solution for regeneration projects which depend on the delivery of infrastructure for which funding cannot be found. TIF allows upfront money to be raised by committing revenues which would not have arisen but for the project going ahead to be used to repay that initial investment.
A POWERFUL DEVELOPMENT TOOL Foley quotes a Columbia University law professor who has written about the growth of TIF:‘Tax-increment financing districts are a very popular economic tool. In effect, they are a way of raising money without raising taxes.They are widespread, but there’s also pushback out there.’ Officials elsewhere are worried about what might happen in their states, and are mobilising to defend what they consider a powerful development tool, says Foley. Lawmakers are now considering banning cites from using the incentives to steal businesses from their neighbours, and more want additional study of the economic benefit of projects. New legislation is required to implement TIF in the UK, says Ellard, but several local authorities have already identified schemes they consider to be suitable for TIF. There are questions that need to be answered.Who bears the risk if a project is not completed on time? What if IN BRIEF:The current planning reform agenda offers new tools for funding the physical and social infrastructure costs of development, and for encouraging communities to accept growth in their area.The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) enables local authorities to levy a charge on development which can be used to fund infrastructure. Although it came into being in April 2010, it is being reviewed with a view to making a number of changes, including allowing a meaningful proportion to be spent on the neighbourhood directly affected by the development, and enabling community groups to inform
revenues are less than predicted? Will lending banks require guarantees? Yet TIF could provide much needed investment at a time when raising capital by conventional means is difficult.TIF schemes are more advanced in Scotland than England, but even there it has not all been easy. A report in the Scottish Sunday Herald at the end of March 2012 revealed that at least two of Scotland’s TIF schemes are in trouble.‘Three pilot schemes in Edinburgh, Ravenscraig and Glasgow have all encountered serious difficulties. So far none is under way, says the paper. ‘A fourth in Aberdeen is highly controversial, while new legislation on council rates coming into force next month might make the rest of Scotland’s municipalities wonder if such schemes are necessary any longer.’ As PLACEmaking went to press in March 2012, a report from local government think tank Localis and Lloyds Banking Group suggested that some tax increment finance schemes and enterprise zones should be sold to the private sector by local authorities to maximise the schemes’ value.According to SocInvest, a regeneration finance and funding organisation, this would be one way in which central government can encourage private investment in infrastructure. Selling the schemes would create upfront cash for capital investment and provide an additional localised stream, a move that would ensure there was genuine private sector demand for the development, by transferring more risk to the investors, says the report.‘Local government should take a lead here, and argue for a bottom-up, locally led version of this mechanism – determined by LEPs and local authorities, not Whitehall.’ decisions on how that money is spent.These changes would allow communities to directly benefit from new development and to fund ongoing infrastructure and community project costs.The CIL can be used along with planning obligations and Section 106 agreements, so that funds can be pooled in an integrated manner to deliver community benefits and make the case for development. Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a public financing method which has been used as a subsidy for redevelopment and community improvement projects in many countries, with varying degrees of success.
SETTING UP: THE COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE LEVY There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach; but it doesn’t have to be that difficult. It’s not a particularly onerous process to get a CIL up and running. A CIL can be delivered in about 12 months with the right approach The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is a levy that local authorities can charge on new developments in their area. The funds can be used to support development by funding infrastructure that the council, local community and neighbourhoods want.To date, suggests George whately, Urban Planning and Economic Consultant at URSA, around one-third of local authorities have moved to implement a CIL Charging Schedule – the process that determines the levy’s rates in their area. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach; but it doesn’t have to be that difficult.‘One lesson that we’ve learnt,’ says whately, is that the whole process is a lot more straightforward and less daunting than many councils would think. It’s not a particularly onerous process to get a CIL up and running.There really is no reason to delay. CIL can probably be delivered in about 12 months.’ The challenge is creating an evidence base that local authorities can use to structure the CIL, which is where consultants can help, says whately.‘The idea is the CIL will generate funds to invest in infrastructure, and that it should generate a bigger pot of money than was previously deliverable using s106 arrangements. ‘The key is demonstrating the existence of an infrastructure funding gap, and creating a viability analysis to ensure that the CIL will not jeopardise development. Councils have a lot of power to decide what they spend that money on.’ Section 106 related specifically to particular aspects of development, says whately, and was negotiated between developers and councils.‘Often there was little
01 DESIGN & DELIVERY:THE CURRENT AGENDA
The idea is that the local authority borrows money from public or private sources to pay for infrastructure on the basis that the increased business rate revenues generated by the scheme can be used to repay the initial investment. TIF is tried and tested in the USA and is simply based on the concept that a developed site creates more tax than an undeveloped site. But critics say the incentives have strayed from their original mission and are increasingly used to recruit employers to suburban developments at high cost and questionable benefit, says Ryan J Foley,Associated Press, as tax revenue is diverted from education and government services without much accountability.
scrutiny as to what was agreed, but things are much tighter with CIL regulations. CIL is more of a local tax on development.The funds go into the pot and can be used to on whatever the council and local stakeholders prioritise.’ CIL funds will be more robustly implemented than Section 106 agreements.‘It’s a more transparent process with statutory protection, to be charged at a certain rate and spent on local priorities.Traditionally, developers as a whole have contributed a relatively small proportion of the total funding necessary to mitigate the impact they place on local infrastructure, but that could change if CIL is implemented fairly.’ The Localism Bill includes a provision to enable a proportion (five per cent is mooted) of CIL revenue to go to neighbourhoods.Via the neighbourhood forum or the representative body at the neighbourhood planning level to spend on local priorities. The CIL charge needs to reflect the local development context, but economic assessment will inform the proposed charge per square meter. Developments larger than 100 sq m can charge a CIL, which is also definable by different use types or geographical areas. A NEUTRAL TOOL ‘CIL is quite a neutral tool,Theoretically, I think that it could be good for placemaking. A neighbourhood forum or parish council could create a neighbourhood plan and, when the CIL comes in, can implement projects that correspond to their neighbourhood plan.’ Another key point is that local councils will be able to benefit from Section 106 contributions alongside CIL. If the CIL is set at an appropriate level that avoids prejudicing development across the area as a whole, then for larger more profitable developments, councils may wish to ask for Section 106 contributions alongside the CIL.This could help to fund infrastructure items such as primary schools and roads that are directly relevant to the new development. ‘Our role is to advise our clients on flexibility within the CIL, so enabling the best strategy to be developed, using both quantitative and qualitative tools to create convincing arguments that will enable stakeholders to assess their risk objectively and thus achieve their land use and economic development objectives.’
NEIGHBOURHOOD PLANNING A flexible and light-touch approach? The Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations (valid from 6 April 2012) were laid before Parliament in March.This secondary legislation sets out the details of the new regime and the steps groups must take to designate a neighbourhood area, establish a forum and draw up a neighbourhood plan and neighbourhood development orders (NDOs).The Royal Town Planning Institute has welcomed ‘the flexible and light touch approach’ of the regulations. But it has also called for clarification from ministers on whether local planning authorities will have extra funding to resource the new arrangements, and urged time limits for local planning authorities (LPAs) in making validation decisions on proposed neighbourhood plans (NP) or orders.
The ‘alphabet soup’ of development proposals outline what communities must include in their neighbourhood plan.The tools and mechanisms are there, but it remains to be see how will local groups will be able to resource themselves and work the system. NPs must comply with wider local plans, says Mark Challis from law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, speaking at a seminar organised by The Historic Towns Forum that sought to clarify for its many interested members how localism might work in practice. Local plans – Local Development Frameworks (LDFs) – and the emerging National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) dictate the wider frameworks that neighbourhood plans must work within. The Local Development Framework
(LDF) is the collection of local development documents produced by the planning authority that sets out the spatial planning strategy for its area. So Neighbourhood Development Plans (NDPs) will be part of the LDF, and consistent with the overall plan for the local authority, known as the Core Strategy. Neighbourhood Plans cannot propose less growth than is proposed in the Core Strategy. But they can propose a higher level of growth and, when a Neighbourhood Plan is approved, this higher level would be incorporated in the LDF. NDPs can be promoted by a parish council/neighbourhood forum for a neighbourhood area, and will form part of the statutory development plan. Neighbourhood Development Orders (NDOs) will enable permitted development rights in ‘neighbourhood areas’ – another definition that remains vague. NDOs may become the vehicle by which neighbourhood forums and parish councils can establish general planning policies for the development and use of land in a neighbourhood. NDOs permit development without the need for planning applications, but do not take effect unless there is a majority of support in a referendum of the neighbourhood.The local planning authority must make an NDO if all the conditions are met, says Challis. However, that there is still considerable ‘wriggle room’ in the definition of ‘conditions’ and referenda. NDOs cannot permit ‘excluded development’, but can grant
01 DESIGN & DELIVERY:THE CURRENT AGENDA
The Localism Act does not define ‘sustainable development’ – but it is clear that the government intends to give a higher priority to development which promotes economic growth than social or environmental concerns.The controversy surrounding the competing definitions will be resolved by the final NPPF
(from top) Across Europe, people demonstrate that if you give them a good place, then they will use it, as happened at the new plaza in Rijeka, Croatia. Communities can help to drive local growth and development, and prefer to be involved in the process. Early community buy-in can also reduce developer risk
planning permissions, conditionally or unconditionally. Parish council may decide to act as the authority to determine applications for approvals under NDO conditions, says Challis. Proposed NDOs are subject to independent examination, and specific provision will be made for listed buildings and conservation areas.The examination process will be mainly by written representations. Community Right To Build orders are similar to NDOs, being proposals made by a ‘Community Organisation’ – a body corporate with at least 50 per cent local residents – to permit specific development in a specific place.Again, these must be in general conformity with the strategic policies in the development plan, and may be promoted in tandem with a NDO. NATIONAL PLANNING POLICY FRAMEWORK (NPPF) Through new legislation, the government is condensing more than 1,000 pages of national guidance to local planning authorities into a 50-page document, to be finalised in April 2012.The key issue is that neighbourhood plans (like all other development plan documents) will be required to contribute to the aim of achieving ‘sustainable development’. The Localism Act does not define ‘sustainable development’ – but it is clear that the government intends to give a higher priority to development which promotes economic growth than social or environmental concerns.The controversy swill be resolved by the final NPPF.
IF YOU WANT THE RIGHT ANSWERS, ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS Community participation in placemaking is now the norm, and we no longer rely solely on the judgement of professionals.The first step in placemaking is to understand the place. That is something that professionals need to learn how to do, and it is a process to which the people who live, work and play in a place must contribute. By Rob Cowan
A planner recalls working for a local authority in the early 1960s.‘Our only consultation was with the engineers in the county surveyor’s department,’ he writes.‘No parish councils, no amenity societies, no residents’ associations and no neighbours.We made the judgement, and we made the recommendation based on our judgement. If we called on a neighbour to assess a proposal for his property it was certainly not to seek any representation. It was purely to assist our decision making.’ How times have changed.We no longer rely so completely on the judgement of professionals.What did they base their judgements on, anyway? The first step in placemaking is to understand the place.That is something that professionals need to learn how to do, and it is a process to which the people who live, work and play in a place must contribute. Over past few decades a bewildering number of methods have been developed to help the process.Their uses range from setting agendas and understanding places, to planning, design and managing change. Some of the methods need facilitators to help run them. Some need designers, planners or other professionals with specific skills. Some of the best-known methods have been developed by, or are supported and used by, big organisations. Examples include Enquiry by Design (extensive and intensive workshops and charrettes) by the Prince’s Foundation and Qualityreviewer (design appraisal for non-designers) by the Homes and Communities Agency. Spaceshaper (public space appraisal), created by CABE, has recently been taken over by the Landscape Institute. Planning for Real (model-based
visioning), invented by Tony Gibson and one of the oldest participation methods, is now operated by the Accord Group, a Midlands-based housing provider. Enquiry by Design (EbD) brings stakeholders and professionals together to assess a complex range of design requirements for a development site, with every issue tested by being drawn.The process relies on a concentrated effort over a short period of time. It includes preparation and a leadin period of approximately six months prior to the workshop. EbD usually runs for five working days, proceeded by preparatory sessions. Spaceshaper is a means of assessing the quality of a public space before investing time and money in improving it. It captures the views of professionals who are running the space as well as those of the people that use the space. Facilitated workshops discuss how the space works for different people. Planning for Real uses a physical model (usually made by local residents, often children, at a scale of about 1:500) as a focus to help people to suggest how an area can be improved. Unusually, Planning for Real has been registered as a trade mark to prevent untrained people using it. The Accord Group’s website warns sternly:‘Our intention is to dissuade random and often untrained people and organisations from applying the name Planning for Real to what is often a complete travesty of the
Placecheck is the simplest, quickest way of finding out what the place and its people can tell us, and starting the process of making change happen
(from left) The Woughton Placecheck, in a part of Milton Keynes where major change is expected; place dynamics and activation make a big difference; the Steep Hill, Lincoln, Placecheck followed the designation of Steep Hill as the Academy of Urbanism’s Great Street
■ Rob Cowan is a director of Urban Design Skills, which created Placecheck and has recently updated it for English Heritage www.placecheck.info
01 DESIGN & DELIVERY:THE CURRENT AGENDA
technique.’ If you are a random person, keep well away.You have been warned! The Community Street Audits used by Living Streets evaluate the quality of streets and spaces from the viewpoint of the people who use them, rather than those who manage them. Small groups of local residents, traders, councillors and officers assess a route on foot, with their findings presented in a detailed report. The website communityplanning.net, run by Nick Wates, lists dozens more community participation methods. A longstanding and well-used method, Placecheck, has just been updated with funding from English Heritage. Placecheck is a method of taking the first steps in deciding how to improve an area.There are many other ways of doing this, but most of them need to be led by someone trained or experienced in a particular method, and they can take considerable time and resources. By contrast a Placecheck can be done by anyone, without much preparation.A Placecheck is often able to kickstart change in a way that might not otherwise be possible. Other methods and studies can follow later. Placecheck’s simple idea is that much of what needs to be known about a place can be seen and understood by looking at it, or is in the heads of the people who live, work or play there. Placecheck is the simplest, quickest way of finding out what the place and its people can tell us, and starting the process of making change happen. Placechecks have been organised successfully by – among others – local residents, shopkeepers, teachers, schoolchildren, leaders of neighbourhood forums and their advisers; local authority officers; and staff of regeneration agencies. Placecheckers consider the place with the help of a series of prompts.These are grouped under four headings: a special place; a well-connected, accessible and welcoming place; a safe and pleasant place; and a planet-friendly place.The participants consider three types of action: getting organised; general housekeeping; and improving the neighbourhood.A Placecheck can lead to anything from litter clear-up days and street parties, better planning and effective neighbourhood plans, right through to community-led groups that buy local assets such as banks, pubs, shops and libraries, and run local services.
(above) Places that have been shaped largely by by people, rather than professionals, tend to stand the test of time and resilience; (left) in Beijing, China, and in most other big Chinese cities, the central planning hall is a big visitor attraction for residents.The halls feature interactive planning games as well as information on development plans and huge, scale city models
Neighbourhood planning is central to placemaking, which in turn offers real opportunities for a multi-disciplinary consultancy like URS. Our specialists all tend to understand ‘place’ in a different way because they focus on different aspects of it.We can bring together these different shades of understanding and analysis in terms of the place-making agenda.To capture this experience and expertise, we are currently developing a new business tool, called the Oikos Analysis, (Greek for ‘Home’) that will help us to establish a well-rounded picture of what makes places tick, early on in the placemaking process. URS has been involved in a lot of work around the localism agenda, and we’ve realised that too much of a ‘technocratic’ approach to place is beginning to rub people up the wrong way. Local scepticism does not help developers and consultants to work effectively with key stakeholders in terms of placemaking and neighbourhood planning. So our approach is aimed at raising awareness of the natural, social and economic capital of a place, and to establish priorities for local interests.We think that this kind of affordable, light-touch background analysis will really help to inform communications and support engagement with local players under new localism initiatives, in terms of highlighting early on potential impacts and opportunities. NEW TOOLS There are several approaches to place engagement and exploration currently in use, ranging from established toolkits such as Placecheck (see page 10) to more complex algorithmdriven scenario-testing tools. Oikos is focused on stimulating early conversations across and around community interests and commercial and statutory place-making requirements. Many of the neighbourhood planning groups that are springing up around the country have a strong historical and a personal view of what’s important in terms of place, and they are suspicious of how development proposals would impact on how they live. Oikos, together with careful facilitation, enables an informed conversation to clarify hot issues such growth, habitat protection, community infrastructure and employment. CONTEXT & CERTAINTY Developers pursuing land options need context and certainty. The Localism Act invites them to form long-term relationships with neighbourhoods and communities, and Oikos will provide them with an initial desktop analysis to build on; a framework on which they can outline how their ideas might impact on, and add value to, the area whilst respecting social, economic
DEVELOPMENT: GOING FOR GAIN, NOT PAIN Unlocking conversations about growth, development and neighbourhood planning is the aim of a new tool developed by URS. By Stuart Woodin
and natural capital. Some of the wealthier villages that we are working with on the neighbourhood planning front haven’t had any social housing for decades, for example. Non-resident workers, cleaners and gardeners for example, have to drive in, and that is just accepted. The process for forming a neighbourhood forum or neighbourhood planning community is rooted in a presumption of sustainable growth.Yet we’re working with several such groups around the country that are starting from an anti-growth scenario.They’re taking a ‘protection’ stance because developers won’t take them seriously.They are saying: ‘we want to create a much more powerful local planning context first so we can understand what the benefits and
challenges of proposals are in a more considered way’. In our experience, communities do want development, but only if they can see the point of it, and it doesn’t changing the character or specialness of a place or street. There is a real dilemma around growth. Our role is to help all the players have that discussion head-on. ■ Stuart Woodin is head of engagement and social sustainability at URS Wherever the place, providing a rounded understanding of a place’s existing capital – and what is missing – provides a starting point for stakeholders to work together towards improvements
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FLEXIBILITY AND FIXITY An inclusive pre-application process enabled masterplanners Tibbalds to evolve an innovative outline planning application at Brentford West, providing flexibility for the landowner, while delivering sufficient certainty for the council.The case provides an insight into how an open, transparent and inclusive approach to the planning process can deliver rewarding results for all, says Jennifer Ross
ÂŠ ASH SAKULA ARCHITECTS
Illustrative sketch of the Brentford Lock West development proposals
Two years ago, development was going nowhere fast on the Brentford Lock West site in north London.A lengthy appeal process had left Isis Waterside Regeneration, the site owner, no closer to developing the site than when it was transferred to them from British Waterways.The vacant industrial site, situated on the edge of Brentford Town Centre, represented a huge missed opportunity, underperforming economically and offering little to the surrounding area in visual, social or environmental terms. Proposals for a mixed-use development including 992 residential units, commercial and leisure uses, shops, restaurants, bars, a health centre and 833 parking spaces had been refused on numerous counts, primarily relating to over-development of the site. This was followed by the dismissal of an appeal and the publication of two new Development Plan Documents that sought to retain the site in its existing industrial use. In summary, development appeared a long way off. However, though the Council remained resistant to the loss
of existing employment uses, at appeal the Inspector acknowledged that existing use was failing and that the site had the potential for mixed-use development. As a result, the employment designation of the site was removed.This provided a basis to continue to pursue plans for redevelopment. A FRESH PERSPECTIVE In order to break the deadlock and win the trust of the Council and community, it was recognised that if development was to come forward, an entirely new approach was required. In recognition of this fact, a new team was appointed in order to provide a fresh perspective. Masterplanning of the new development was to be led by a joint team comprising Tovatt Architects, Klas Tham and Urbed. This collaboration sought to blend Swedish knowledge of delivering successful, humanist neighbourhoods, with local expertise in community consultation and urban design.Tibbalds were appointed as
development they would like to see on the site, inspired by a ‘possibilities slideshow’, given by Urbed. This was then followed by a series of feedback sessions at which the proposals were presented and refined in response to community comments. This informed the preparation of a preferred masterplan proposal for the site, drawing upon the ideas provided from the workshops and backed up by the team’s own analysis. This approach allowed the community to better understand the challenges faced by the design team, as well as offering some useful suggestions in response. WORKING COLLABORATIVELY The same principles of openness and collaboration were also applied to the pre-application process with the planners at the London Borough of Hounslow. Due to uncertainties in the market, as with many developers, the landowner desired a highly flexible planning consent that would enable them to bring forward
02 NEW COMMUNITIES, SMART CITIES
© CAMLINS LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS
Public realm and landscaping illustrative masterplan
© RICHES HAWLEY MIKHAIL ARCHITECTS
© KARAKUSEVIC CARSON ARCHITECTS,DUGGAN MORRIS ARCHITECTS, RICHES HAWLEY MIKHAIL ARCHITECTS
© DUGGAN MORRIS ARCHITECTS
BUILDING TRUST Pre-empting Localism, the team recognised the value of neighbourhood planning long before the Coalition Government had put pen to paper on its vision for a new planning system.There was an overwhelming desire within the team to work with, rather than against, the community in an effort to build bridges and address the failures of the previous scheme.And so commenced an involved community engagement process. Adopting an open and transparent approach, the team sought to engage what proved to be an active, informed and articulate local community within Brentford.The process included a number of consultation events throughout 2009 and early 2010; beginning with a number of informal consultations with local residents and stakeholders. Importantly the team also sought advice about how to properly engage with the community. As loss of employment was a key issue, the team also undertook a profiling exercise of the key employers in Brentford, including one-to-one interviews, in order to understand their investment plans, their local economic links and their views of Brentford.This was followed by a series of consultation workshops. The first ‘Design for Change’ workshop gave local people a chance to put forward their own vision for the site. Informed by a series of technical background studies undertaken by the design team, local people were encouraged to undertake an analysis of the Brentford area in order to develop a greater understanding of the site context. The group were then asked to model the type of
(from top) Computer generated image of proposals for Development Zone G; illustrations indicating how the Phase 1 proposals meet the parameters set out in the Regulatory Plans; model of Phase 1 proposals
development in a number of ways, using a range of architects, over a number of years. The strategy was to apply for an outline planning permission that set a range of development ‘parameters’, within which future development would need to sit, including land use, block layouts, scale and massing, access and movement routes and principal public realm areas. Due to the complex site history and abstract nature of outline planning applications, initial meetings with Council officers were tentative. Early meeting with officers within the Council’s policy team provided a useful steer, but it was only once fruitful engagement with the local community had taken place that the Council’s Development Control team were fully engaged. Following positive discussions over the initial masterplan concept, a structured approach to the pre-application process was set out within a Planning Performance Agreement (PPA), the first of its kind within the London Borough of Hounslow. PLANNING PERFORMANCE AGREEMENT (PPA) Based on the key issues identified at the first full Development Control meeting, the PPA set out a programme for addressing the key policy issues raised by the scheme, including meeting dates, topics, attendees, information to be provided up-front, agreed outputs and timeframes for the delivery of those outputs. This process worked well for both sides, through: ■ allowing effective planning of resources, for example when, and the extent to which, internal officers (from the Council) and external consultants (from Isis’ design team) would need to be engaged, and to what extent; ■ ensured that there was a clear agenda for confronting all of the key issues that the scheme raised up-front; ■ helped to drive the scheme forward, with a clear programme for addressing any issues; ■ created an open and transparent forum for discussion, in which key issues were debated and discussed until a solution acceptable to both sides was found, and enabled internal and external consultation to be front-loaded, ensuring that by the time the application was submitted, all the relevant parties had already been engaged and their issues addressed. The shared approach was typified by the approach to dealing with one of the more controversial elements of the scheme, that of Block B.The Council was resistant the
© KARAKUSEVIC CARSON ARCHITECTS
height of this block, at that time 13 stories, stepping up to 14. In order to break the impasse, the developer held a mini-design competition involving three external architecture practices in order to demonstrate how Block B might be realised. The Council officers were then asked to select their preferred option, which would then be incorporated into the masterplan. Following some exciting presentations, the council favoured an innovative proposal by Bauman Lyons. This broke from the constraints imposed by the previous masterplan, proposing three rather than two blocks, one of which was incorporated into one of the warehouse structures to be retained on the site, and lowering the height from 10 to eight storeys. With the exception of some delays arising from complex highways issues, the process was deemed a success by both sides. ESTABLISHING DEVELOPMENT ‘PARAMETERS’ This inclusive pre-application process enabled us to evolve an innovative outline planning application, providing sufficient flexibility for the landowner, while delivering sufficient fixity for the council. The application comprised a series of ‘regulatory plans’ that establish a series of development ‘parameters’.This was supported by development ‘specification’ that explains the overall mix of uses, quantum of development, and parameters established by the regulatory plans, while providing a series of further principles for key areas of the scheme, such as the replacement bus depot, the taller Block B, and the new bridge over the Grand Union Canal.
(left, from top) Phase 1 public realm and landscaping illustrative masterplan proposals; Illustrative sketch of Phase 1 proposals
The close relationship developed through the PPA process built sufficient trust with the council to evolve this highly flexible application. Following submission, the reciprocal relationship continued. The Council were quick to inform the team of any concerns raised by the Council, consultees or the public, enabling Tibbalds to coordinate a comprehensive response to each matter. This resulted in all issues being effectively addressed, enabling the Council to progress swiftly towards a positive recommendation. The scheme went to the Council’s Sustainable Development Committee in March 2011. The end result was one of the most consensual committees Hounslow’s officers’ had recently seen, with few objections (17 in total) and a unanimous decision in favour of the scheme. All parties acknowledge that they have learned much from the process.The relationship between the landowner and the council has been improved exponentially, enabling trust to be built between the two. This will prove to be invaluable in taking the proposals forward through the detailed design process.The PPA process is now being used as a template for other schemes across the borough, together with Tibbalds and Isis’ work elsewhere. The Brentford Lock West experience demonstrates that a collaborative approach to planning can deliver flexibility and trust, can mitigate against risk. Following a design competition and the selection of three architectural practices, Karakusevic Carson Architects, Duggan Morris Architects, and Riches Hawley Mikhail Architects.Tibbalds is about to submit the first reserved matter application for Phase 1 of the scheme. ■ Jennifer Ross is a Director at Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design www.tibbalds.co.uk
02 NEW COMMUNITIES, SMART CITIES
© CAMLINS LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS, KARAKUSEVIC CARSON ARCHITECTS, DUGGAN MORRIS ARCHITECTS, RICHES HAWLEY MIKHAIL ARCHITECTS
All parties acknowledge that they have learned much from the process.The relationship between the landowner and the Council has been improved exponentially, enabling trust to be built between the two
NEW COMMUNITIES, SMART CITIES
OPEN DATA OPPORTUNITIES
THE DIGITAL AND DATA REVOLUTION
MAKING WALKING & CYCLING NORMAL
ARTICULATING SOCIAL (AND ECONOMIC)VALUE Economic, spatial and digital masterplans need to operate in the same space in order to drive successful smart cities.We need a starting point for the discussion that is not focused around the technology, bit around place aspirations and delivery What will a day in the life of society look like in the future in a smart enabled world?, asks Simon Giles, Senior Principal Intelligent Cities,Accenture Global.‘It’s only through telling stories about how things are changing that we’re ever going to engage citizens with this issue. So my plea is, please let’s start telling stories about how technology can help us on a day-to-day basis because, if we’re able to articulate this, then we have a starting point for the discussion that is not focused around the technology.’ Giles’ focus is on the articulation of value – and not just economic value, or capital, or operating efficiency.‘We need to start thinking about articulation of social value and environmental value.There are many mechanisms by which we can do that, for example, social return on investment calculations. But social value also needs to link to delivery in real terms, he adds, because if you’re going to ask city administrators and business leaders for funding, then they will need to be able to make value statements, and to be able to measure outcomes.‘It doesn’t have to be the lowest cost solution, it should be the highest value outcome.’ Such changes in articulation will lead to a ‘step change’ in the type and allocation of funding.‘The way we measure outcomes in a city have to start from first principles: what kind of outcomes do we want to deliver? There is no reason why we can’t create business models that reward the private sector for delivering societal and environmental outcomes.’ Such mechanisms are clearly articulated within regulatory economics, says Giles. Utility companies already have frameworks by which they are allowed to earn higher rates of return on their assets on the basis of delivery of certain
outcomes.That same principle could be applied to any body operating in a regulated environment, related to the delivery of societal and environmental outcomes. ‘This is business model innovation, it’s not rocket science. The economics works, we know that.These are known and trusted structures.We just need to align policy to regulation. Regulators tended have a ‘policy lag’. For example, utility regulation currently set in the UK reflects the policy environment from the late 1990s, not that of the current day.We need to recycle that regulatory lag, reduce it, and create regulatory structures that are fit for purpose for the policy environment for today and tomorrow.’ We also need to consider alternative enterprise structures, he says.We need to look at a much broader spectrum of mechanisms for implementing smart city projects; projects that engage the community and providing community solutions for the community, by the community. We could also think of tapping into philanthropic funding and multinational and development bank funding, aligned to the delivery of societal and development outcomes. To bring these changes about, we need a much more integrated view of planning from an infrastructure perspective, and more integration in ways of managing and operating data across networks. But at the moment we’re still operating in silos, says Giles.‘If we want to innovate on business models, we’ve to innovate on governance. Can we move beyond the state and the local government being the only parties able to make investments within a city, and start talking about alternative governance models that put that responsibility into some form of mutual type organisation on behalf of the city, but which has more freedom to act
02 NEW COMMUNITIES, SMART CITIES
Let’s not kid ourselves. There is no such thing as a smart city at the moment. There are conglomerations of smart projects, but these are just islands of smartness.The more connected they become, the more likely we are to move forward Simon Giles, Senior Principal Intelligent Cities, Accenture Global and spark the entrepreneurial spirit?’ ‘Let’s not kid ourselves.There is no such thing as a smart city at the moment. There are conglomerations of smart projects, but these are just islands of smartness.These islands need to be connected, and the more connected they become, the more likely we are to move forward.’ Economic, spatial and physical masterplans need to operate in the same space in order to drive successful smart cities, says Giles.‘City growth and strategy is important in terms of setting the context, economically and politically, of where you want your city to go.’ What kind of outcomes do entrepreneurs want, what kind of outcomes do large multinational investors want, what kind of lives do high-tech R&D and investors with families want to live? ‘Ultimately,’ says Giles,‘planning decisions should be about people.They should be about the lifestyles that we want to deliver as a city for the people that we want to attract to live and work in there.’ By October Brennan, from a paper presented at Digital London, March 2012 Smart technologies can be used to tell us meaningful stories about human behaviour patterns. Eric Fischer’s geo-tagged images, for example, visualise where photos are taken, and by who. Blue points on the map are photos taken by locals (people who have taken pictures in this city dated over a range of a month or more), red points by tourists (people who seem to be a local of a different city and who took pictures in this city for less than a month); yellow points are pictures where it can’t be determined whether or not the photographer was a tourist.The maps are ordered by the number of pictures taken by locals, in this case, in London, UK
OPEN DATA, OPEN OPPORTUNITY An explosion in the availability of digital and online data opens up opportunities for cities, city planners, and transport professionals.We face a potential leap in the extent and depth of the analytic capability that will be available, and equally key changes in the costs of providing them. By John Swanson The last few years have seen an explosion in the availability of online data, largely but by no means exclusively driven by the Open Government Data movement.This has been accompanied by the development of crowdsourcing, data capture from devices like GPS-enabled mobile phones and smart cards.There will be key implications for cities and city planners, especially in the field of transport.We face a potential leap in the extent and depth of the analytic capability that will be available, and equally major changes in the costs of providing them.These changes are happening now, and success will go to those with the imagination and foresight to seize the opportunities. In recent years, the quantity of data relevant to city planners available online has increased enormously.This opens up many possibilities for new kinds of analysis based on significantly richer and timelier data than has been available in the past. In some cases the declared intention of the data providers has been to stimulate the imagination of applications developers to see what is possible, and one of the effects has been that many ingenious applications are being developed by skilled amateurs. The District of Columbia launched the first major government data catalogue, bringing together data formerly published in different areas of the DC website. In May 2010, the UK Prime Minister wrote to government departments asking for specific action on opening up government data and established a new ‘Transparency Board’ to include Tim Berners-Lee (often credited as the inventor of the Web) and others. Real growth has happened in the last two years, driven from the top.The volume of data on these original sites has grown exponentially and the idea’s popularity is spreading.
A further important, but quite different, data source is crowdsourcing: the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community through an open call.The term has become synonymous with the Web, with volunteers
providing data, monitoring quality, editing and updating, and even developing or testing software. In the UK and elsewhere, census and other population data have been available on the Web for several years.An online data interrogation system draws on several data sets collected by the Office for National Statistics to rapidly generate reports on the population, labour force and employment in local authorities across the country. The Ordnance Survey (OS), the national mapping agency for the UK, has been providing high quality maps for more than 200 years. In 2010 the OS made a substantial part of its data freely available for use via the web service OS OpenData, including raster and vector-based maps. Accompanying this is a service called OS OpenSpace that provides a set of tools to help people develop their own applications using the data.A premium service called OS Mastermap is also available at a cost, containing the higher value data sets, but once the fee is paid data can be downloaded immediately. The implications go beyond making detailed maps of anywhere in the country available at no cost, because the vector-based data can also be used to build transport network models. Only a few years ago, building a highways network model for a city might take weeks, as the network was coded up, usually by hand, and then tested and debugged. Now, it is quite feasible to put together such a network in a day. Indeed given the quality of the OS database, not only is the job done much more quickly, the quality is also higher. This has profound implications for the cost of such work and the ways in which transport models can be used. MySociety, for example, is a not-for-profit company that builds ‘websites of a democratic bent for other people’, and The work of Dr Snow in the mid-1850s is one of the most famous and earliest cases of data, geography and maps being utilised together. Dr Snow plotted the distribution of deaths in London on a map, and determined that an unusually high number of deaths were taking place near a water pump on Broad Street, London, the cause of a cholera outbreak
IMPLICATIONS FOR CITIES It is always risky to try to predict the consequences of new technology, either because we lack the imagination to see what is possible, or underestimate the difficulties of what we do foresee. However it is safe to say that while we really do not know what the precise consequences of open data will be, we are at a point where there are many new opportunities for those who can see them and exploit them. One theme follows from the obvious observation that analysts now have access to quantities of data that could hardly be imagined even five years ago.This means that many tasks that previously took a lot of time and money can now be done much more rapidly. Because it is now possible to
MySociety’s Mapumental cross-references data from several sources, drawing on mapping from OpenstreetMap, public transport service data and house price data from the land registry. It responds instantly to the use of slider bars to change selection criteria
build network models using this data so quickly, the cost of building those networks will fall dramatically.This could mean that network modelling becomes available to a wider range of clients, but also that resources that previously had to be devoted to building models can now be directed at using them, to help answer real policy questions better and faster. Further, because much of this data is geo-coded, it is relatively easy to cross reference and merge different data sets, presenting them using GIS. The quality of these models should also increase, because models and data sets need not be re-created for every new application, but are available from authoritative sources, with large numbers of users reviewing the data and notifying the providers of errors or even making the corrections themselves. Next, the ability to cross-reference data sets means that new applications can be produced that might not previously have been possible, or considered. In time, we will see the extent of what can be done, but even now it is not hard to see how transport, population, land-use and GIS data might be obvious ‘mashes’ for city planners.At Steer Davies Gleave
■ John Swanson is an Associate at Steer Davies Gleave
This article is based on a paper given at the 2011 Computers in Urban Planning and Urban Management (CUPUM) conference in Canada. An updated and extended version will be presented at the Modelling World conference in July (see inside back cover)
02 NEW COMMUNITIES, SMART CITIES
we are already using these new sources to help develop strategic planning tools that cut across several fields. If there is a gap, it lies with the behavioural side, because it is still hard to obtain information about actual travel movements. In the UK, the 10-year census provides information about travel to work, but other sources are more fragmented, and usually based on surveys. One possibility that has been discussed for several years is to track the movements of mobile phones, and use the information to derive trip data. Certainly this has been attempted, but in our experience it is a difficult issue.There are worries about spatial accuracy, while just knowing that a mobile phone has moved is not usually enough: we don’t know with certainty what mode was used or the trip purpose, for example. However, specialist providers like TomTom are now able to provide locally accurate traffic speed information derived from GPS devices, offering much greater location accuracy than earlier generations of phones. As ever more reliable information about the movements of people and vehicles becomes available, then the possibilities multiply rapidly. All this raises the interesting question as to whether the existing range of tools and techniques we have measure up to the new possibilities. In the past the modelling technology often outstripped the availability of data, but suddenly we may have a reversal of this position, with the availability of data running ahead of our ability to make use of it. Given imagination and technical ability – and the evidence is that neither is in short supply – this could generate a real step change in the quality and capacity of the tools available to city and transport planners in the very near future. If there is any down side to this, it lies in the economics of this new world for consultancies and providers of similar services.There is a real possibility that the costs of building and using models will fall drastically, and the business models that have underpinned this kind of consultancy work in the past will no longer apply. In summary, we are now in an exciting situation ripe with possibilities for productive change: All this will create a pressure and stimulus for new tools to exploit the new possibilities; tweaking older models will not be enough.
has generated some very interesting projects. One of them, Mapumental, produces map-based analysis of catchments, allowing users to select employment locations, and then use a variety of criteria, including house prices, travel costs and ‘scenicness’ to identify and plot locations that might suit people as places to live. This project is interesting for many reasons, not least its ability to handle high levels of computational intensity very rapidly, so that the display responds instantly to the use of slider bars to change selection criteria. However it is also a good example of how data can be cross-referenced across several sources, drawing on mapping from OpenstreetMap, public transport service data and house price data from the land registry.The ‘scenicness’ measure was constructed by asking people to rate on-line photographs of landscapes, and is a clever example of the use of crowdsourcing. MySociety also runs a number of websites designed to help citizens interact with city authorities. For example, its FixMyStreet site offers people the chance to report potholes in their local streets using postcode data. Many cities and highways authorities now run on-line traffic information services that provide information about current, real-time, conditions, designed to help people make informed decisions about how and when to travel. In the UK the Highways Agency makes information about traffic disruption available via its website, with live maps such as the one below.An interesting development on this theme is HD Traffic from TomTom, the people who provide in-vehicle GPS units. According to their website, they use crowdsourced data from ‘up to 80 million anonymous mobile phone users on the road, 1 million connected TomTom devices’ to calculate traffic speeds and status.
‘Liveability’ or ‘quality of life’ analysis is not new, but historically it has meant calculating a single, place-based 'score'.Today, new technology and the release of large quantities of public data mean that we can look forward to a more personalised approach to liveability analysis; taking account of wide-ranging priorities and needs. By Chris Sharpe
Ask an architect or planner, or anyone else involved in placemaking, what sort of project they find most rewarding, and many are likely to say:‘Delivering a really good urban housing project that people enjoy living in.’ Most of us agree that liveable places are desirable, and most people agree on what makes up a liveable place – affordable, well-designed, spacious dwellings and good access to employment opportunities, green spaces, shops, health and education services and other amenities – yet we don’t always agree about the relative importance of each of these things. A particular scenario that ‘scores’ highly for sustainability, relative to certain parameters, is very useful for making broad-objective comparisons, but remains a blunt instrument for individuals and organisations engaged in exploring the potential of a location, or its future development.The use of new technologies in placemaking is supporting a more evidence-based approach to development, quickly delivering objective, measurable indicators and informing discussion and comparison. We might know instinctively, for example, that compact cities improve accessibility, but new types of placemaking analysis can quickly give us objective, measurable indicators, so informing debate, discussion and the comparison of different options. This will be helpful not just for individuals or organisations
New types of placemaking analysis can quickly give us objective, measurable indicators, so informing debate, discussion and the comparison of different options
same can be done with objective indicators, although they can be simulated more easily by computer models to optimise a plan before any new development takes place.
HOW DO WE MEASURE LIVEABILITY? Currently, liveability scores are calculated from a large number of indicators that cover a wide range of topics.They can be objective or subjective, and can measure aspects of the physical, economic, social, political or cultural environment. For example,The Economist Quality-of-Life index uses a variety of objective indicators such as life expectancy at birth, latitude (to distinguish between warmer and colder climates), divorce rate, unemployment rate and gender equality (ratio of average male and female earnings). Other systems, such as the New Zealand Quality of Life report, combine a large number of objective indicators, such as the average proportion of net household income spent on housing, with more subjective, survey-based indicators such as residents’ satisfaction with their leisure time, or the percentage of residents who identify dangerous driving as a problem in an area. There has been more interest in this type of analysis as global competition between cities increases.The rankings are traditionally dominated by cities from Canada,Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia and central Europe. In 2011,The Economist rating system promoted Melbourne to the number one position, after Vancouver had been at the top for 10 years.
LARGE SCALE (MACROLIVEABILITY) OR SMALL SCALE (MICROLIVEABILITY) Indicators can relate to a very large area, such as the unemployment rate in a city or a country, or to a very small area, such as the convenience of refuse collection arrangements within a residential block. In place-making projects, it is often the indicators in the middle and towards the smaller end of the scale range that are most relevant. For example, the average distance from a dwelling to an area of green space, or to a bus stop, often falls within the control of a place-making team. Cities or places should not just have single ‘scores’.They should have many scores to reflect the different priorities that people place on different indicators. Evolving geospatial technology and public datasets will make it easy to search the map and find places that match your requirements. For example, someone should be able to say:‘I want to live within 20 minutes’ travel time (by any means of transport) from place A (a workplace), and where flats cost between £x and £y per month, and where they can be within 10 minutes’ walk of a bus stop, and within 15 minutes’ walk of a supermarket which is open until at least 11pm, and within 10 minutes’ walk of a primary school that has at least rating z (by some other criteria).’ Multi-criteria spatial analysis requires large amounts of data and is computationally intensive, even by today’s standards, if a large area is being studied in detail. However, more data is made available all the time, and with advances in processing power and cloud systems (internet-based distributed systems) there is no reason why it should not become commonplace very soon.
ORGANISING LIVEABILITY INDICATORS There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different indicators in use around the world, and organizing them into categories can help keep track of the more relevant ones. Indicators can be related to design (for example, proximity to a rail station) or to public policy or estate management (cost of parking). In placemaking initiatives, which frequently come under the control of a placemaking team, design-related indicator scores are typically more expensive to improve and complex to demonstrate. Estate management and policy-related indicator scores can be less expensive to improve. Indicators can be based on objective statistics, or on the subjective opinions of residents from surveys.When preparing a plan for a new area, subjective indicators can give a quick insight into the baseline situation, and can be measured again after a development has been completed.The
LIVEABILITY ANALYSIS IN 3D CAD In a conventional CAD model of an urban area – made up of lines, polygons and other geometries – the software does not know whether a shape is meant to be a house, a car, an office building or something completely different. With newer, parametric BIM (Building Information Modelling) tools and parametric urban masterplanning tools such as the CityCAD system, the software ‘knows’ what each 3D object is meant to be. For example, it knows that a zone within a building is for residential use, or that an object is
Cities or places should not just have single ‘scores’.They should have many scores to reflect the different priorities that people place on different indicators. Evolving geospatial technology and public datasets will make it easy to search the map and find places that match your requirements supposed to be a house with a certain floor area, or a mixeduse building, or a shop or a school.With this extra information about what each shape represents, it becomes possible to compute many liveability indicators automatically such as the average distance from a dwelling to an area of green space, or the number of dwellings within 5 mins’ walk of a bus stop. A selection of other indicators that can be automatically calculated include: ■ Frequency of entrances along a street, which can be used as a measure of how lively and safe a street may feel ■ Number of dwellings at ground floor level ■ Net residential density, floor area ratio and other planning values ■ Ratio of residential to non-residential floor areas ■ Green space per person or per 1,000 residents We are also working on ways to link this to other information sources so that the location of real-world places such as GPs’ surgeries or supermarkets can be accounted for within the CAD model area.This technology makes it easy to understand the liveability of existing areas, and to test and evaluate options for new places.The trend towards greater openness of data and information, and in particular geospatial data released by governments, has opened up many more possibilities for more advanced, more sophisticated and more personalized liveability analysis.The excellent Mapumental technology (http://mapumental.com/), which uses transport data to create journey time maps for specific locations, remains one of the best current examples of new, accessible liveability analysis at its most personalised. ■ Chris Sharpe is Director, HCL Software www.holisticcity.co.uk/
02 NEW COMMUNITIES, SMART CITIES
choosing where to live, but also for place-makers looking to shape cities and promote development in a way that maximizes the quality of life for everyone.
CHANGING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PROFESSIONALS AND THE PUBLIC The digital and data revolution is changing the relationship between designers, planners, elected representatives and communities involved in place and movement. Scenario testing tools and ‘games’, 3D visualisation systems, real-time data tracking and collaborative management tools are enabling public debate and discussion to come before, and not after, decision-making. By Peter Warman
The digital and data revolution is having a big impact on the wide range of professionals – and communities – involved in place and movement. Scenario testing tools and 'games', 3D visualisation, Building Information Modelling (BIM) systems, real time data tracking and 4D collaborative management systems are changing the relationship between designers, planners, elected representatives and the public. In a digital world, public debate and discussion can come before, and not after, decision-making. A new interactive 3D visualisation developed by Parsons Brinckerhoff enables the public to virtually ‘drive’ across the proposed San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.Active participation in the form of a car driver simulator with onscreen touch controls for speed, steering (by tilting the screen) and braking is taking ‘public participation’ to a new
level.These powerful tools will soon allow the public to actively participate in ‘visioning’ and possibly ‘voting’ on our futures. Augmented reality (AR) applications are already on the way into our shops, enabling shoppers to ‘try on’ virtual clothes in front of a full-size high resolution TV screen. Viewed on smart phones or tablets,AR imposes an extra layer of information (sound, video, graphics or GPS data) over an on-screen image of the real world. When it comes to designing and planning transport projects for our urban and rural environments, interactive visualisation and AR are becoming professional tools that urban and transport planners will be encouraged to work with for both professional and public benefit. Smart transport systems, 3D images on in-car navigation systems,
mobile phone ‘way-finding’, walking, cycling and public transport apps are already widely available. Increasingly, we expect a mix of real time information and ‘journey planning’ information combined with 3D images to augment our experience of the real world. VISUAL ANALYSIS OF TRAVEL PATTERNS At an afternoon seminar of the ITS (UK) Public Transport Interest Group at the beginning of March, PhD Student Roger Beecham from City University London demonstrated how data and animation are being used to analyse use of the London bicycle hire scheme, linking docking sites and bike distribution at any given time.Transport Control Centres are beginning to use such systems – by capturing information from vehicle tracking systems, smartcard data, mobile phones and CCTV – to monitor travel patterns, provide asset management systems and track vehicular movements, creating rich evidence bases to inform future decision-making. UNDERSTANDING COMPLEXITY Data of this kind enables designers to bring together virtual 3D simulation of the built environment with movement and crowd sourcing data.At Imagina (held each February in Monaco), I took the opportunity to see the many ways in which 3D visualisation and simulation technologies can be used. Clay Starr from RTKL explained the benefits of BIM: consistency across drawings and schedules, accurate 3D visualization, enabling designers from various disciplines to work collaboratively in a 3D database, and scenario testing. ‘BIM allows us to express our concepts in three dimensions, giving clients a more accurate depiction of the project’s
(left) St Jean de Cornies: south of France.The images are extracted from the Bionatics interactive 3D model of the Hérault Region (7,000 km²) developed by the urban planning division to study and present scenarios leading to the reduction of urban sprawl around typical villages
EXTENDING 3D TO 7D Such approaches are becoming standard practice on large construction projects, and the use of BIM will be mandatory on public projects by 2016. The discussion is moving on to envisage projects as 7D processes: the fourth dimension is ‘time’ so a project can be visualised at each stage of its development; the fifth dimension is ‘cost’, so a bill of quantities and construction labour costs are incorporated; 6D is ‘asset management’ to determine how the building will be maintained when in use; and 7D examines a building’s lifetime sustainability and, possibly, its demolition.‘Technology and the cloud are making it easier to test and simulate virtually how buildings will perform within their environments over their lifetime,’ says Starr. Such approaches will soon be impacting on large scale development and major transport infrastructure investment, as wider applications across the urban development and transport planning sectors take shape. DIALOGUE WITH ‘TIME TRAVELLERS’ Several cities across Europe maintain an on-going dialogue with their citizens using a 3D virtual model of their city: past, present and future. In France, national legislation has even been passed to encourage the city authorities to provide below ground 3D mapping of all the main utilities. A presentation by the City of Bolzano, Italy, explained a 10-year programme to improve communication with the local 100,000-strong population using 3D virtual animation, encouraging public participation in new ideas for future investment in urban development, infrastructure, mobility and tourism.All ideas are included on the city’s 3D territory virtual model, which is linked with a GIS database, and the public is encouraged to share in city decision-taking about their city through an online voting system.Virtual reality enables us to collectively explore our past, present and future.As professionals, it is up to us to realise the immense potential available in the smart capture and use of the data that streams across our towns and cities. ■ Peter Warman is a specialist multi-disciplinary consultant advising on the opportunities offered by new digital technologies
02 NEW COMMUNITIES, SMART CITIES
SIG 3D: LANDSCAPE: BEST 3D TERRITORY MODEL CATEGORY, IMAGINA
progression while providing us with a platform for greater integration among disciplines throughout all phases of development.’
MAKING WALKING AND CYCLING NORMAL In Britain, using the car for short trips in urban areas is convenient, habitual and normal. Research has identified several specific areas where policy change is needed to need to increase levels of active and sustainable travel in British urban areas. By Colin Pooley
It is widely recognized that there is a need to increase levels of active and sustainable travel in British urban areas.The Understanding Walking and Cycling (UWAC) project, funded by the Economic and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 2008-11, examined the factors influencing everyday travel decisions and proposes a series of policy measures to increase levels of walking and cycling for short trips in urban areas.A wide range of both quantitative and qualitative data was collected in four English towns (Leeds, Leicester, Worcester, Lancaster), including a questionnaire survey, analysis of the built environment, interviews and ethnographies. Key findings of the research show that, whilst attitudes to
walking and cycling are mostly positive or neutral, many people who would like to engage in more active travel fail to do so due to a combination of factors.These include: ■ Concerns about the physical environment, especially with regard to safety when cycling or walking. From our analysis of the influence of the physical environment on walking and cycling, it is clear that traffic is a major deterrent for all but the most committed cyclists. Potential cyclists, recreational (off-road) cyclists and occasional cyclists are discouraged from using their bicycles for everyday urban journeys because of their fear of cars and heavy goods vehicles. For pedestrians, the major factor relates to footfall. Empty
streets are perceived to be more dangerous and, again, although committed walkers are not deterred many potential or recreational walkers restrict their journeys on foot because of their perception of risk. For both walking and cycling, the availability of local facilities and the structure of the built environment, although not unimportant, were not major factors determining levels of walking and cycling. ■ The difficulty of fitting walking and cycling into complex household routines (especially with young children). Our research shows that, under the conditions which currently prevail across urban Britain, household and family commitments are significant factors in restricting the extent to which people use walking and cycling for everyday travel, even when their own values and attitudes incline them towards more sustainable forms of transport. For most people there is no single factor that restricts the use of more sustainable travel modes, rather it is a combination of circumstances, including the logistics of organising and moving with (sometimes tired) children, pressures of time and other commitments, the ready availability of the paraphernalia needed for walking and cycling and parental concerns about safety. Unless such factors are explicitly recognised and tackled, strategies to increase levels of walking and cycling for everyday trips are likely to have limited success. ■ The perception that walking and cycling are in some ways abnormal things to do. Most people prefer not to stand out as different, but tend to adopt norms of behaviour that fit in and reflect the majority experience. In Britain, travelling by car is the default position for most people. Our research makes clear that the extent to which a household finds it difficult to incorporate walking and/or cycling journeys into its everyday routines reflects the degree to which car use has become normal, and habitual.We suggest that as walking and cycling are made more normal, more households will
Solutions to supporting cycling and walking are obvious – just make it easy and safe – but can be difficult to implement because they require integrated policy and extend well beyond the usual remit of transport policy and planning. Basically, we need to make it much more attractive – and definitely not harder...
The key message that comes from this research is that, at present in Britain, using the car for short trips in urban areas is convenient, habitual and normal. It is what people expect to do, what most people expect others to do, and what many other people who have yet to benefit from car ownership aspire to do. Alternatives to the car – especially cycling and walking – are perceived to take too much effort, need planning and equipment that causes hassle, and may be risky and uncomfortable.They also run the risk of being perceived by others as eccentric or odd.These are all powerful reasons for not walking and cycling, and for using the car for most short trips in urban areas. Solutions to this conundrum are obvious, but difficult to implement because they require integrated policy and extend well beyond the usual remit of transport policy and planning. It is argued that to achieve any significant increase in levels of walking and cycling it is necessary to reverse the balance of power between different transport modes. In short, it is necessary to make travel by car for short trips in urban areas more difficult and, most crucial, make it feel abnormal and exceptional. In contrast, policies have to be put in place that make walking and cycling easy, safe, comfortable, and accepted as the normal and obvious way of moving around urban areas for most people. We identify several specific areas where policy change is needed. First, it is essential that the urban environment is made safe for cyclists and pedestrians.This requires the provision of fully segregated cycle routes on all arterial and other busy roads in urban areas. It is clear from the research that most noncyclists and recreational cyclists will only consider cycling regularly if they are segregated from traffic, and that pedestrians are hostile to pavement cyclists. Second, pedestrian routes must be made as welcoming as possible to increase footfall.This could include widening pavements, removing street furniture that obstructs pavements and ensuring that pavements are well-lit, well maintained and kept free of leaves and ice. Third, there need to be effective restrictions on traffic speeds, parking and access on residential roads and other routes without segregated cycle and pedestrian paths.This
could include 20mph speed limits and resident-only access by car in some areas. Fourth, the system of legal liability on roads used by the public should be changed to protect the most vulnerable road users (cyclists and pedestrians). One approach would be to adopt ‘strict liability’ so that pedestrians or cyclists injured in an accident involving a motor vehicle do not have to prove fault in seeking compensation. Forms of ‘strict liability are adopted in much of continental Europe and while not changing criminal responsibility they place a civil responsibility on drivers to obtain insurance that will pay vulnerable victims independently of fault. This may act as an incentive for car drivers to behave in a way that protects the most vulnerable road users. Fifth, there need to be changes in the spatial structure and organisation of the built environment, enforced through planning legislation, to make accessing common services and facilities on foot or by bike easy.This would require the development of more neighbourhood shopping centres within walking or cycling distance of most people, restrictions on out-of-town developments, provision of secure bicycle parking facilities and the provision of cycle storage in most homes. Sixth, there need to be wider societal and economic changes to give people the flexibility to travel more sustainably. Polices (that already exist in many countries) could include the greater use of flexi-hours so that walking and cycling could be more easily fitted into a household routine, more familyfriendly welfare policies so that in families with small children one parent could afford to reduce working hours and thus be less constrained by time commitments, and more equitable educational provision so that most children attended a school close to home. Seventh, it is necessary to change the image of cycling and walking.To a great extent this should be consequential on the above changes: as more people walk and cycle then more people will accept it as normal. However, campaigns to promote walking and cycling as normal and something accessible to all and not dominated by super-fit or unusually committed specialists should also be adopted. ■ Colin Pooley is Professor of Social and Historical Geography at Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster For further information and a copy of the full report see: http://www.lec.lancs.ac.uk/research/society_and_environment/ walking_and_cycling.php
02 NEW COMMUNITIES, SMART CITIES
develop more strategies and systems to more easily accommodate walking and cycling into their everyday movements. Ethnographic observation of households in which walking and cycling, and not driving, were usual modes of transport demonstrates this to be the case.
MEASURE, MAP, MODEL AND MAKE
THE VALUE OF URBAN DESIGN
The localism agenda places new emphasis on accessibility and activity.The challenge for urban design is to demonstrate how spatial planning and quality of place generate demonstrable economic and social value, says Tim Stonor
MORE THAN A STATION
21st CENTURY GROWTH
MAKING THE CONNECTIONS
THE WHOLE JOURNEY
URBAN REALM VALUATION
Work undertaken at Space Syntax in recent years has identified many strong connections between urban design and property value.We have found strong correlations between the way space is planned and the economic impact that it has, for example on property taxation and rental income. Good urban design increases investment potential. Indeed it is possible to argue that it is only through good urban design that property value can be truly realised. But value, of course, can be expressed in social and cultural, as well as economic terms, and successful placemaking is the sum of all these impacts, simultaneously occurring in a natural way. Our big step forward has been to develop tools that measure this complex matrix of urban design value.These tools reveal the crucial contribution of local movement networks. They show that it is not, and never has been, all about major roads – big infrastructure. But nor is it only about local streets and squares. Instead, our research indicates that what matters is the way places connect at all scales: macro, meso and micro. It is about how larger-scale movement converts into, and interacts with smaller-scale movement to generate the interactions that lead to social and economic transactions.This balance has been lost in recent decades, usually with too much of an emphasis on the macro as witnessed by extensive road building, but very little place-making. The challenge for urban design practitioners should be to show politicians and investors, along with the transport community, how multi-scale activity rooted in quality of place generates real, economic value. But this argument has often been lost either because urban designers have focused too much on local placemaking (and therefore too little on the
planning of towns at every scale) or because their analytic methods have been too few and too weak in the face of weighty transport models that have delivered carboniferous road after road. To make the difference that is needed, urban design methodologies should be just as informed, evidence-based, and scientific as transport models. More so indeed.And creative too. Urban practitioners need to be rigorous and objective about the built environment. But do urban designers have the mindset to measure and, even if they have this, do they have the tools to help them? Unfortunately, in many projects I look at, a figure-ground plan and a five-minute ‘ped shed’ is about as scientific as it gets. And that is just not good enough when the levels of investment and scales of impact are so great. Our argument at Space Syntax over many years has been that there is tangible value in urban design. Our goal more recently has been to show exactly how this ‘place value’ can be measured through the analysis of key urban design components such as spatial layout geometry, land use distribution and density – how these factors lead to economic spend, safety and security. We now have these tools and we are applying them in projects worldwide with positive results. Developers who have difficult choices to make need clear evidence; by building urban design characteristics into real estate financial modelling, we can speak a common language. In the same way, describing design proposals in terms of their implications for safety and conviviality can give neighbourhood groups the confidence to speak up about their own ideas and aspirations.
‘It is important to describe the mechanisms for creating good places in a language that others can relate to. Likewise, to show that this approach can deliver a different and better kind of long-term value that is just as economically viable as that of current approaches. Once this occurs, then real change can happen in the delivery of quality places’
they can see the value for themselves.We have published extensively in academic journals, but people in practice don’t often read these. Our approach has often been too technical for a professional audience. But I have little time for people, usually architects, who say that science has no place in design. Or, that there is no connection between design and behaviour, never mind value. Who are they kidding? The evidence is too strong. If we care to measure environmental and structural performance, then why should we not also care about something of even greater value: the human factor? To create the change that I believe is needed to raise the quality of urban planning and design by using rigorous, scienceinformed methods, then we need to make Space Syntax’s methods more accessible, affordable and useful.This means we as an organisation need to disseminate our processes and our learning in ways that we haven't previously been geared up to
do.This is now happening. Our first step has been for the key analytic software to become "open source", making it freely available for anyone to use it and develop it. Our next step will be to openly distribute the knowledge bases that will allow the software to be really well used. In summary we are now ready to share our technology, the techniques behind the technology and the learning we have embodied over 40 years. In doing so, our aim is to equip urban practitioners with tools and techniques that will strengthen the argument in favour of great towns and cities by demonstrating the social, economic and environmental values that flow from careful urban planning and design. The transport profession has dominated the making of place for the past 50 years because it has counted and modelled. Measurement is power. Urban practice has much to learn from the transport industry if its legacy is truly to be one that is great. (from left) Trafalgar Square accessibility before and after: the work done by Space Syntax was part of the evidence base providing confidence to go ahead with remodelling the square 'The everyday activity of people in places is influenced by the way that spatial layout design makes it easier, or more difficult, for them to move around,’ says Tim Stonor, Managing Director of Space Syntax. The more accessible a place is, the more movement it experiences. Movement leads to sustainable land use, and so spatial layout is intimately linked to social and economic indicators, such as the viability of retail and commercial activity Space Syntax uses models that show how spatial planning and design interventions add value to buildings, local neighbourhoods and entire urban settlements.The techniques demonstrate how fine-scale urban design changes at an early stage can lead to improvements throughout the lifetime of a development
03 THE VALUE OF URBAN DESIGN
However, if urban practice is to undergo the step change that I believe it should – to equip itself with models and methods to reverse almost a century of anti-urban roadbuilding, then the techniques that Space Syntax has developed need to be disseminated. In doing so, our aim should be to raise the status of urban design to a higher level. At the moment, discussions about the value of good urban place-making are often in the policy ‘quiet corner’ but they should be centre stage. It has typically been because of exceptional political leadership and exceptional design leadership that great places have happened, as in the redesign of Trafalgar Square, Kensington High Street and Ashford. But we can not rely alone on such forces – the importance of good urban design needs to be institutionally recognised and this will only happen, I believe, once value-creating urban design methodologies, such as those developed by Space Syntax, are professionally embedded. I do sympathise – to a degree – with people who aren’t convinced about Space Syntax’s models because, although the techniques are widely used by us in practice and by researchers all over the world, we haven’t made them available to be easily used by other practitioners.We haven’t yet put our software in the hands of planners, architects, urban designers, transport planners and urban economists, so that
MORE THAN A STATION Station masterplanning must focus on ‘place’ as well as ‘product’ to respond to the multiple opportunities created by station sites.The experience of the Tottenham Hale masterplan has demonstrated that it is possible to create a new urban place to support regeneration and intensification of activity in the area, as well as an efficient new interchange. By Martina Juvara
In August 2011, UK newspaper The Guardian interviewed youths in Tottenham after a couple of days of widespread riots. One declared he was not surprised, as ‘Tottenham is poverty.’ Another one added:‘This is an area with no opportunities for employment ...’.The area has never been rich and prosperous. When the railway first opened at Tottenham Hale in the 1840s (the Northern and Eastern Railway linking London to Cambridge), the land was marketed as a workers’ district with special train fares enabling access to jobs in London and the Thames Gateway. When working at Arup in the late 1990s, I was engaged in a planning study for this area, and creating jobs, education opportunities and better access to public transport were already priorities.The station was seen as an important gateway to employment and prosperity, especially in connection with the services to Stansted Airport. Tottenham Hale Station, however, is one of the ugliest places in London: a complicated jumble of bus and other access roads, with a diminutive entrance to one side, and surrounded by mighty through-roads and retail sheds.The fun architectural details added to the station by Will Alsop in 1991 were a brave approach, but now, tarnished by time, they barely mitigate against the harshness of the space. WIDENING THE PERSPECTIVE With this background, when SKM Colin Buchanan were approached by Transport for London (TfL) in 2007 to take a fresh look at the station, we knew we had to look at more than station capacity and efficiency of interchange.The conditions were ideal: we had a fabulous team covering the full range of transport demand and transport planning, led by the in-house masterplanning team, with Landolt and Brown Architects for station design.The client team was equally strong and committed: a combination of experienced professionals from the TfL Interchange Team, other representatives of all transport modes, the Greater London Authority and the planners of the London Borough of Haringey. In addition, a separate team within TfL had begun to explore ways to unravel the one-way systems in the area. Very early on it was recognised that the objectives had to include creating a new urban place: a centre to support the regeneration and intensification of activity in the area, as well as an efficient interchange for London. This realisation may seem obvious now, but at that time, the initial starting point was rather narrower in perspective.The London Plan and local policy advocated significant growth and a much improved public realm, while TfL had to deal with customer congestion
03 THE VALUE OF URBAN DESIGN The final masterplan created a new, significant urban square for north London and a local destination for leisure and investment.The square replaces existing roads and turning loops outside the stations, provides the catalyst for new development above and beside the station, and rejoins the northern and southern sides of Tottenham Hale. It also performs as an external concourse, distributing movement between rail, buses and street, achieving considerable journey time savings and clarity of routes. A LEGION pedestrian model was used to guide routes and separate conflicting desire lines, simply by placing furniture in a way that aids movement and prevents the need for barriers and other deterrents. Bus station capacity is greatly increased and efficiency of interchange for rail multiplied
at the interchange between theVictoria Line Underground services and the express trains to Stansted Airport. Network Rail was concerned with revenue protection, train congestion along the line and safeguarding potential for adding two additional tracks in the future. Embracing a wider perspective is only possible through dialogue between stakeholders and structured explorations of scenarios, until a win-win situation is found. In this particular case, the difficulty lay in creating a connection between the policy aspirations (by definition broad and flexible) and the hard justification of transport investment, strictly based on demand forecasts and transport efficiency. Our team knew that we needed to ‘speak multiple languages’ until a common ground of shared objectives was identified and supported by all parties. We did this by finding transport justifications for urban design improvements, an economic and delivery framework for place-making and by providing a local
perspective on the proposed scale of change. For example, we extended the survey of passenger movement and were able to demonstrate that many people walked to and from the station to the nearby areas: less than the number of people changing trains within the station, but many more than originally anticipated. By tracking movements, we found that pedestrian routes were highly disrupted, tortuous and inefficient. Our approach was to present the creation of a quality public space in terms of transportation benefits: a space used to ‘distribute’ pedestrian movement away from the station, in an efficient and effective manner; direct, safe, step-free and directly linked to road crossings connecting residential neighbourhoods. At the opposite end of the spectrum, we set about defining the meaning of ‘high standard or urban design’ and ‘area of intensification’.We explored the target audience of the station area as a destination in itself and as an opportunity for
investment. It was necessary to agree on the correct ‘pitch’: sufficient change to create a new urban heart for Tottenham, and a place of pride and investment, but also appropriately scaled to the area and its community. Several options were developed and discussed with a variety of local stakeholders, until both clients and consultants were sure that the station had to serve at different levels: international users and London-wide passengers are likely to use Tottenham Hale, but the outside environment, the square and buildings ‘belonged’ to local communities and should be designed in a way that would enhance life and provide opportunities. THEVALUE OF MASTER PLANNING It is my belief that a master plan must be more than just ‘good urban design’; it must express the collective vision of the stakeholders, have clear objectives, strong technical knowledge and an achievable delivery roadmap. Implementation can then
The traditional transport-oriented business case must now incorporate property valuation techniques, so creating a common decision-making tool be phased and gradual, and solutions can be flexible – as long as the vision is kept in sight. John McNulty, who guided TfL’s dynamic Interchange Team, recently said that the Tottenham Hale Master Plan provides a model for station masterplanning. It achieves all that is possible for a better experience of travelling and efficient interchange, creates the new place that residents deserve, and delivers opportunities for investment. This is a win-win approach, happily supported by all parties, and set to be implemented over time. Our team designed the masterplan to work ‘within the system’ and achieve a very strong transport business case (over 5:1), thus securing rapid progress within TfL and unlocking the first steps of implementation. Benefits related to pedestrian movement outside the station, increased bus capacity, legibility of the public space and public realm quality were assessed, alongside interchange time saving and used to justify the design.
WHAT NEXT IN TOTTENHAM HALE? Now, three years after completion of the SKM Colin Buchanan station masterplan study, and in a period of financial constraints, implementation at Tottenham Hale is getting closer; pre-planning consultation on the creation of the square and bus station took place in October 2011; works to reverse the one way system are timetabled for late 2012. The design currently considered is somewhat more pragmatic than the original masterplan: a car park remains and bus and taxis are separated. Both these measures were necessary to expedite implementation and are part and parcel of normal design developments.The masterplan acted as guide and framework within which decisions like these could be taken, safeguarding the overall approach. Future stages could see more flexibility in transport operations, and further place-based improvements.
Other great changes are underway:Tottenham Hotspur’s football stadium will move to the area, a sign of confidence in the neighbourhood and a source of job opportunities.The masterplan concept again proves its resilience: by creating a place and a well-connected local destination, the station will be able to serve a dramatic and unexpected shift in pedestrian movement patterns on match days.These developments many not erode tensions and reverse poverty in the area; but they can help to engender pride in the local community, and to create places that people can become emotionally attached to. AN APPROACH THAT CAN BE REPLICATED? The SKM Colin Buchanan team replicated the experience of the Tottenham Hale masterplan in two other major stations in London: Euston Station and Liverpool Street. Both projects were initially successful, but implementation was dependent on property development, which has not taken place in the downturn.Yet the project enabled us to understand what makes station masterplanning effective: the need to focus on ‘place’ as well as ‘product’. Both are extremely important: making places that have long-term value and emotional significance is the essence of good urban design but, in the case of stations, design must also deliver robust functionality. Property development is becoming more connected with stations and interchanges. Development is necessary to create successful places, but also to raise the necessary capital and revenues to sustain the stations themselves. Investors and potential tenants are already joining the main client and stakeholder groups, meaning that masterplans must become investment drivers. The traditional transport-oriented business case must now incorporate property valuation techniques, so creating a common decision-making tool. Shortterm decisions need to safeguard not only transport demand, but also development value and property management. However these changes come about, the important thing is to remember that the project will never be ‘just a station’. ■ Martina Juvara is Global Head of Urban Design at SKM Colin Buchanan www.globalskm.com Tottenham Hale Station: a complicated jumble of bus and other access roads, with a diminutive entrance to one side, and surrounded by mighty through-roads and retail sheds.The fun architectural details added to the station by Will Alsop in 1991 were a brave approach, but now, tarnished by time, they barely mitigate against the harshness of the space
URBAN IDEAS MAKING LIFE EASIER. Easy to find. Easy to use. Easy to do the right thing.
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A 21st CENTURY APPROACH TO GROWTH At Woodbrook, Northern Ireland, the concept of creating a 21st century village that left behind sprawling, car-based ‘could be anywhere’ suburbs captured the imagination of key stakeholders and provided clear direction for the preparation of the masterplan
WOODBROOK:THE CONTEXT Brokerstown Village is a new village, in excess of 3,000 homes, on the edge of the city of Lisburn. Having achieved city status in 2002, Lisburn is now one of the UK’s fastest growing areas, with a 50 per cent increase in its population over the last 30 years. Located in the south-western quarter of the new village,Woodbrook was the 2009 winner in the RTPI/RSPB NI Sustainable Planning Awards, Urban Areas and Built Development Category, and the HT/DfT Manual for Streets Award 2009. Woodbrook has two defining characteristics: First, a strong and attractive village character derived from the careful analysis of the small towns and villages of County Down; and second, a strong emphasis on sustainability. In recognising Woodbrook with the national Manual for Streets Award, the Institute of Highways and Transportation praised the design process as ‘…an excellent example of collaboration between a number of key parties, some of whom may have been reluctant to adopt the approach initially’. The provision of good quality local shops and services within walking distance of home is a fundamental need in a sustainable community. The design team also helped to facilitate a ‘land swap’ between developers so that the proposed village centre was sited in the optimum location within the second phase of Woodbrook.
Dr Patrick Clarke, Director of Strategic Planning and Urban Design at URS, has been involved with the Woodbrook project for 10 years, taking it through from concept to delivery.This story reflects positive changes in approaches to design and planning over the years, and shows what can be achieved with the support of a particularly innovative developer, and committed stakeholders willing to share the bigger picture. It also highlights areas that remain challenging in terms of creating quality development in times of economic constraint. Back in the 1980s and 1900s, when the Troubles were still an issue, there was very little inner city development in Northern Ireland (NI), says Clarke. But with the advent of peace, people rediscovered the economy and convenience of urban living.At this time, NI was engaged in a series of studies that would underpin plans for an uplift in density, with Clarke leading several of the initiatives.‘We were looking at proposals for quite dense developments in the form of urban extensions, and at intensifying density within existing residential neighbourhoods.We needed a new policy framework to guide and improve development proposals.’ Clarke became involved with the Woodbrook project as consultant to developer Carvill Group, which was making plans, together with two other developers, for an urban extension near the city of Lisburn, just outside Belfast, as part of the Lisburn area plan. Lisburn is one of the fastest growing cities in the UK, and the planning policy context at the time favoured a cohesive, comprehensive masterplan for the area, so an outline plan was developed that each developer and land owner could take forward in phases. In line with quality and environmental commitments from the NI planning service of the time, the team began to plan for an accessible, sustainable, mixed-use development, but
the conversations with the planning authority and the roads service initially did not connect.‘Most of the consultees took a standard approach to the design and delivery of elements of new developments, with the Roads Service highway design standards being the most obvious example,’ says Clarke. In the northern Ireland of the early 2000s, many local villages were conservation areas with outstanding heritage assets. Growth was needed, but there was no desire to surround these characterful villages with ‘anywhere’ housing. ‘Our plan was to create a 21st century village or small town that drew on the character of the surrounding villages,’ says Clarke. The concept was welcomed, but after detailed analysis, plans for
■ Juliana O’Rourke spoke with Dr Patrick Clarke www.ursglobal.coWoodbrook has the characteristics of a typical village: mixed housing, mixed-use facilities such as a crèche, shops, wildlife area and a village green. Off-road parking, coupled with proximity to the train line, ensures that car use is kept to a minimum. Homes have been designed to minimise carbon emissions; windows, walls and roof space have been given the highest insulation possible.The central heating system runs off an industrial-sized woodchip burner, the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, using local woodchip. Other features, such as a ‘wet meadow’ for natural drainage, demonstrated the visionary approach taken by developers Carvill and the project architect Todd Architects
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To encourage broader inter-disciplinary thinking, we instigated design workshops that were very effective in encouraging stakeholders to examine different ways of meeting performance requirements without applying the standard solution
through roads, on-street high street parking and shared space in the town square did not find favour.There was simply no meeting of minds, says Clarke.The Roads Service at that time expected to see culs-de-sac, streets with limited through access, wide visibility splays and no on-street parking.We were told that our ideas were not acceptable in highway engineering terms. Making little progress towards an online planning application, the team brought in the Prince’s Foundation to hold workshops on design with the mayor, planners and local stakeholders, hosted by the local city council.The Prince’s Foundation also hosted a study visit to Poundbury, and gradually, through a process of engagement and with the input of consultants such as Andy Cameron – who helped to produce the key guide Places, Streets and Movement – the team began to reach agreement on key ideas such as creating through roads and high streets with areas of car parking. After several years’ work, planning consent was given and work started on site. Despite a slow evolution, the plan was taken forward due to the commitment of the client and, thanks to the strength of working relationships, the scheme worked out well. Sadly, the delay in getting the scheme through planning impacted negatively on the developer who, having stuck with the vision for sustainable design, missed the market in terms of recouping investment and has since suffered in the economic downturn – not a great incentive for other developers to support quality and innovation. In an era that supports local growth and seeks to address housing need, it is clear that a strong policy lead, a clear vision and engaged stakeholders are the only way to take forward timely and economically viable development.
MAKING THE CONNECTIONS Many studies have looked at the role of rail in improving accessibility and connectivity, but most look to the market, rather than the map. Yet an era of localism promises an approach that begins with where, and how, people wish to travel, which in turn will impact on investment and development priorities. By Jonathan Tricker With the rail industry now driven by the desire to deliver improved services and better value for money, there is a renewed interest in unlocking the development potential of land attached to, and close to, rail stations. One only needs to look at the land around many urban and rural stations to see serious under-utilisation. Ipswich is case in point: the station is replete with character, but once over the station threshold, travellers are into ‘another world’ of traffic conflict, poor footpaths, subways and under-utilised land. Things get better once you’re in town, mind you, but why is the journey so bad? Thankfully the good folk in Suffolk are trying to deliver some positive change – and with considerable success. Guildford is not much better – the town is highly affluent and continues to attract business, but the station and its surroundings are poorly developed and offer poor onward pedestrian connections for those arriving at the station.
(clockwise from top left) From train to town: Liverpool Lime Street has been transformed to reveal the historic station facade.Work to create quality public realm and good street design has delivered a better place and an attractive arrival point into Liverpool; positive change in Guilford, where recent investment in pedestrian movement has proved successful; streets and spaces strategy around Bristol Temple Meads; poor urban realm in Ipswich creates a barrier between the station and the amenities in the town
STATIONS – AND PASSENGERS – DESERVE MORE Surely our stations areas deserve more? We spend huge amounts on maintaining our railways, but a disproportionally small amount on the station interface and immediate hinterland. With continued pressures to promote growth and vitality in town centres and more sustainable transport systems, our stations must work harder. We must invest in the surrounding infrastructure to ensure quality patterns of movement and capture development opportunities along the way. Importantly, these brownfield land opportunities often offer high natural footfall – a crucial driver for retail and leisure development. So if our stations are important, why do so many sit in swathes of unutilised land and poor quality urban realm? The answer is complex, but is likely to come down to a few key issues: fFirstly,‘red lines’ of ownership and responsibility are big barriers to change with land owners and transport providers only wanting to improve ‘their bit’. Secondly, the historic short term train operating company (TOC) leases have not helped, as providers have been unable to take longer term investment decisions in the local area. Finally, the often difficult development opportunities arising from constrained and complex sites have put developers off, and local authorities have remained unwilling or unable to champion the effort needed in the redevelopment of such sites.Throw in the perceived attractiveness of out of town business parks and the faltering office market, and you can see why many station areas are the way they are. We must work harder to make these projects happen. In the last 10 years Transport for London (TfL) has pioneered the Strategic Urban Realm Plan (a holistic method which deliberately looks beyond the ‘red line’ boundaries, exploring and unpacking the infrastructure and development opportunities around the stations or interchanges).
This approach is all about taking a broader view, delivering joined up development, infrastructure and urban realm designed ‘as one’.TfL has made this approach work throughout London, demonstrating how refurbished stations, great street design and developments can come together as an integrated set of projects. It also demonstrates the role in regeneration of strategically important areas, through using station activity to support the development of vibrant ‘transit hub’ driven development. This type of approach must become common place across the UK. So many places have no real strategy for improving the area around the stations, often placing it in the ‘too hard’ box or saying:‘it’s Network Rails responsibility, isn’t it?’ Surely, every place needs a plan and a shared vision. However, delivering quality development needs more than just a plan.Viability must drive the whole approach. Increasingly, we must relate commercial development income to infrastructure provision, and designing the two hand in hand is essential in creating deliverable masterplans. So many masterplans have (excuse the pun) ‘hit the buffers’ because they failed to integrate accessibility, amenity and activity, and so could not balance the books.This is hardly rocket science, but many masterplans have been unsuccessful because those involved failed to confirm that the infrastructure and urban realm improvements required by the plan were embedded into the development reality. Increasingly, there are tools and processes available to help transport professionals, designers and developers build quality placemaking in to the heart of masterplanning. Indeed, in the age of localism; politicians and policy makers insisting that place-based approaches be given greater attention and resource. THE NEED FOR RAPID PROTOTYPING We need new tools to better understand what is viable and what is not. Rapid prototyping to aid design is used in manufacturing industries and we should learn from these approach to urban planning and design. GIS tools which assess development viability and infrastructure cost need to be developed to allow viable plans to be created with increasing input from stakeholders. We also need to develop new forms of partnership working. increased stakeholder input is certainly welcomed and an increased stake in the ‘station asset’ will give TOCs a clear seat at the development table. Understanding this potential will form an important component of franchise bids. We also need help from local government. Planning and
Maximising investment strategies The rationalisation, and increased management of station car parking may create development opportunities by freeing up sites and enabling the realisation of the true value of sustainable town centre sites for alternative uses. We must also capitalise on high footfall around our stations and create good quality streets that will form an important means of stitching places together and, through rateable value benefits, create new opportunities for channelling investment into these key sites. For example, in Manchester a recent study, conducted on behalf of Network Rail, identified that Manchester Piccadilly redevelopment improvements (650,000 square feet of new and refurbished office) resulted in an annual rental value of about £10 million.
Highway Authorities play a core part in developing policy, strategies and funding. Government agencies such as the HCA will increasingly provide an important facilitation role. Proper planning facilitation and a move to active development management as opposed to development control will form critical steps in delivering quality built form and urban realm improvements on the ground. The Localism Bill also points to neighbourhood planning groups having a larger stake in shaping and delivering plans. So, where are the opportunities? Increasingly, masterplans will need to align with business plans, clearly setting out how the strategy will be delivered. We also need to consider how the private sector can deliver infrastructure through long term revenue streams. Parking, dare I say, will be part of the answer. Smart use of parking income offers a great deal of potential, and is something TOCs will need to consider in future bids. Parsons Brinckerhoff’s Parking Model is a great example of a innovate tool, aimed at analysing aspects of development income which have previously gone unanalysed. Understanding all the benefits is increasingly becoming the key success factor in delivering development through a better understanding of outcome, giving investors more certainly. ■ Jonathan Tricker is lead masterplanner at Parsons Brinckerhoff www.pbworld.com
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From station to town centre, one needs to negotiate busy narrow footways, busy arterial roads and faceless shopping centres. Again, plans have been prepared, but little improvement has happened in recent years. This interest is station and related urban realm regeneration is further fuelled by the potential introduction of extended 15 year franchise periods for rail companies, and radical new leasing arrangements increasing the viability of new investment in station-led urban regeneration. Whilst the idea is not new, past attempts to unlock the development potential of railway stations have been patchy.
WHY THE WHOLE JOURNEY MATTERS
When taking a trip or visiting a place, it’s clear that the whole journey matters – especially in light of an increasing focus on rail as a key driver of connectivity and local growth.‘This is why placemaking is such an important issue,’ says John Dales, Director of Urban Movement at Urban Initiatives.‘It comes down to thinking: why would you take the train? There may be all sorts of reasons for and against – price, speed, access, station retail amenities, interchange facilities – but we need to address real and perceived barriers to the whole rail experience.’ It’s a classic case of last mile syndrome, says Dales. In the case of mainline railway services, the station is often the first point of encounter and a key experience of a town or city. ‘First impressions count, especially if we’re talking about potential investment.’ There’s an increasing understanding, says Dales, that station environs need to be as good as they possibly can be.‘Configuring stations and station spaces
around the technical fixes that enable them to function in narrow transport terms is simply not good enough.’ Urban realm regeneration around stations has traditionally been very challenging. One key issue is that land ownerships – and therefore responsibilities – are fragmented and complex. ‘Even if the local authority is keen to instigate a project to merge two seemingly public environments – the public highway and the forecourt – in the past there may have been resistance in terms of land ownerships and funding priorities. But as far as the traveller experience is concerned, it’s an invisible ownership boundary,’ says Dales. In today’s tight economic climate, the funding issue is pressing. What we can do to tackle this is to show how well partnership can work, says Dales. ‘Success is often down to individuals. We need station manager partners who are prepared to listen to arguments, and to think further than maximising revenue from the concessions on the forecourt or
The existing public realm outside Liverpool Street station is extremely poor (inset), dominated by provision for what are very low vehicle flows compared with pedestrian activity, and presenting both a dismal first impression and almost no space for people to ‘dwell’.The Urban Initiatives concept designs for the street/space to be delivered as part of the Crossrail station project focus on increasing the convenience of movement on foot, on providing more and more attractive places for people to linger and orientate themselves, and provide a fitting welcome to the City of London at this key gateway location
Permission to use this image courtesy of Crossrail Limited
There’s an increasing understanding that, especially for major town and city stations, station environs need to be as good as they can be. Configuring stations and station spaces around the technical fixes that enable stations to function is simply not enough: we need to create attractive and distinctive places that support urban revitalisation, accessibility and urban realm improvements. John Dales talks with Juliana O’Rourke
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(right) Camden Town is one of London’s chief tourist attractions, but visitors arriving at its tube station were until recently ‘dumped’ rather unceremoniously into a highly unprepossessing streetscape, with no suitable area to wait, meet or find their bearings.The section of Camden High Street between the station and the markets and canal at Camden Lock was improved to our design and re-opened in March 2010.While the congested Britannia Junction immediately to the south of the station has a ‘red route’ passing through it and is extremely hostile to pedestrian movement, our design for its transformation is in the process of being implemented in time for the 2012 Olympics (below) Lime Street station is located within Liverpool's UNESCO World Heritage Site, but until recently the area immediately in front of the station was both difficult to negotiate on foot and of an inadequate public realm quality, bearing in mind the historic and symbolic importance of the location for the city as a whole.The visualisation of the proposed new gateway space shows a new commercial tower which was intended to replace an old, unoccupied office block that detracted further from the cityscape.This old block has been demolished, but a replacement is still awaited. In the mean time, our public space concept has been developed and delivered to create a much better interface between the station and the city it serves
within the ticket hall.’ It’s not always easy to get a professional who has spent years managing a station to suddenly get interested in the idea of placemaking and city branding, Dales notes.Why spend time, money or effort on improving the passenger experience when the economic link between public realm improvements and the business bottom line is so poorly documented and communicated? ‘What we need are local officials who understand the wider policy responsibility of encouraging people to travel by noncar modes.The best way of discharging that responsibility is to work with partners who can create a coherent masterplan for the immediate urban realm.’ That plan must involve the local landowners and stakeholders, indicating how benefits can be shared relative to commitment in terms of risk bearing and investment.There are several examples of such schemes in progress, although pulling partners together and developing common visions remains extraordinarily complex.‘The pressure on space is incredibly high, the buildings are frequently sensitive historic structures, and the potential for conflict between the different user groups is huge. All reasons why it’s so much more effective to have an urban realm masterplan guiding the process.’
RISK AND VALUE The complexity, and lack of consistency of approach, in valuing and capturing economic uplift is another issue that needs attention.‘Can we demonstrate that spending thousands or millions of pounds on improving the forecourt will make trains busier? And do partners have a social and corporate responsibility to improve the area? In these difficult times, many stakeholders may think not.’ Bus operators, for example, typically have their own ways of considering and analysing value; frequently in terms of return on investment, and not necessarily in advancing the sustainable transport agenda. But we are beginning to understand the benefits of growing patronage and developing a destination, says Dales, and new regulation and funding mechanisms are changing the landscape of transport funding – presenting an opportunity that looks set to drive innovative station and urban realm development. ■ John Dales spoke with Juliana O’Rourke www.urbaninitiatives.co.uk/
EVOLUTION, NOT REVOLUTION The road is not the customer: new – but familiar – urban realm valuation tools could enable highways engineers to better understand the value of public realm placemaking, and support more informed decision-making capabilities for local politicians and investors, says Brian Fitzpatrick
Traditions of high quality engineering could, it can be argued, be more concerned with function than form.The result, in many cases, is well-engineered infrastructure that often fails to consider the wider implications of how it contributes to the aesthetic environment and the wider public realm. A recent breakfast briefing at New London Architecture brought together developers and local authority senior officers to debate this issue, particularly in relation to new tools being developed to better articulate the potential value of public realm – be it the quality of its built form, accessibility, security, health and/or impact on surrounding development value – thereby monetising the debate around investment. This is particularly pertinent given the current financial constraints, which risk a reversal in the progress made in recent years in the delivery of high quality public realm. Is there an opportunity to establish a more sustainable approach to investing in public realm improvements? And should this approach be based on a central premise that ‘the road is not the customer’ but should instead be viewed as a one element of the public realm that should not absorb all of its resources, or dominate the form of our urban environment? It’s clear that we need to better understand the relationship between increases in land and amenity value following urban realm investment and development, so that we can provide tools enabling a more focused dialogue between local authorities and potential development
partners. To this aim, EC Harris has developed a tool that measures asset deterioration over long periods of time, as well as the ‘value’ of improvement or remedial interventions in a wider context. This tool is able to support public realm investment decisions or comparisons. We agree that the orthodoxy of roads infrastructure dominating the urban realm in terms of both form and function needs to be challenged, but we want to bring this about in a way that highways engineers are happy with. We call our approach evolution, not revolution. We are still at the early stages of the project with case studies currently underway. We hope that one aspect of the tool’s job in future will be to clarify the value of public realm intervention such as crime reduction through improved street lighting, or the immediate value afforded by increased accessibility, park benches or new green space, but in a scientific way that the engineers who traditionally control the budgets can relate to, and decision makers who have to make choices between different interventions can recognise. PERSPECTIVES ON THE URBAN REALM As an engineer who has also been a senior officer client, a consultant and an elected councillor for local authorities, I’ve got quite a rounded perspective on the pressures faced by authorities, and on how the public realm is funded. At EC Harris we have been using an asset valuation platform for some time to value the highways estate for four strategic Roads authorities – Highways Agency, Northern Ireland
Well-engineered infrastructure often fails to consider the wider implications of how it contributes to the aesthetic environment and the wider public realm
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Roads Service,Transport Scotland, and Transport Wales (as was). To comply with Treasury guidelines the depreciated replacement value of inter-urban routes has to be calculated and accounted for. Alongside this, the Whole of Government Accounts (WGA) initiative (which aims to produce a set of consolidated financial accounts for the UK public sector on commercial accounting principles), required that local authorities evaluate the depreciated replacement cost for Roads in the same way that we had been doing for the Highways Agency and others. A BUSINESS PERSPECTIVE From a business perspective I was aware that our platform would be very useful for local authorities in this context. We considered the additionality of considering the amenity of the wider public realm, and how it was or wasn’t ‘valued’ by highways engineers, and using the tool to value that benefit as well. From this angle, we could clearly see a relationship between the amenity value of the public realm and the fact that value is derived in part to the fact that it is maintained by highways engineers, who are mainly focused on the road. At this point, we began to look at a public realm valuation tool being developed by Transport for London (TfL), and organised some knowledge-sharing sessions. So, although we developed our approach to valuing the public realm in isolation from TfL, we’re now testing ways of using elements of the TfL toolkit (the categories) together with our platform to develop a key strategic decision support tool for urban realm investment. Some enlightened local authorities do consider roads in terms of their amenity value to their users. But the value of the public realm for those who live near the road, or who would like to see different types of infrastructure in place, is not accounted for in any efficient way at the moment. ■ Brian Fitzpatrick is Head of Highways, EC Harris
Towns and cities across the globe are realising what kind of places people like to send time in. Budgets from a range of departments are now made available for public realm improvements, and transport engineers have a place at the table in wider discussions so that decisions can be made more holistically
ENGAGING COMMUNITIES & STAKEHOLDERS
KNOWING YOUR PLACE
LEARNING TO LISTEN
WILL WE FINALLY ACHIEVE REAL COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION? Can a radical shift of power, from the centralised state to local communities, really deliver for communities? Back in its 2008 Communities in Control consultation document, DCLG stated:‘We want to shift power, influence and responsibility away from existing centres of power into the hands of communities and individual citizens.This is because we believe that they can take difficult decisions and solve complex problems for themselves.The state’s role should be to set national priorities and minimum standards, while providing support and a fair distribution of resources.’ No longer do we assume that all local authority policies are in the interests of entire communities. The highly televised battles of Twyford Down versus the M3 planners made it clear that chasms existed between the views of elected representatives and significant minority interests. The communications revolution has helped to spread debate, enabling those with facilities to tune into what is happening across the world, never mind locally. Once engaged and involved, community members taking part in neighbourhood planning projects prove themselves to be motivated, and with valuable insights and knowledge to offer. However, the Disconnected Citizens report from the Social Market Foundation suggests that ‘evidence of concrete outcomes of community empowerment is patchy at best, as is evidence of a huge and unsated public appetite for engagement’. New neighbourhood planning initiatives may change this, and the many ‘frontrunners’ that have received funding to pilot the creation of neighbourhood plans have shown themselves to be enthusiastic and informed.There remain, however, many issues to be resolved in neighbourhood planning regulation, and it is far from clear where the support and resource needed to support local plan-making will come from. In part, says the report, this mismatch between evidence and enthusiasm reflects that the concept itself remains ill-
defined – in language, aims and ambitions. It further suggests that there is also mismatch between the Government’s ambition to reinvigorate local democracy and the community empowerment mechanisms that it hopes will provide the solution, particularly in a context where citizens have only limited time and willingness to participate.A ‘false dichotomy’ between representative and participatory democracy; a failure of initiatives to transfer power in a meaningful sense, and a lack of clarity and transparency in lines of accountability for decisions all lead to the public’s seeming non-interest in engagement activity.’ ‘DESIGNING IN’ DEMOCRACY Engagement is part and parcel of living in a democratic society. Successful engagement requires a two-way flow of information – real knowledge exchange – and for those organisations leading the engagement process to be willing, and able, to act on the outcomes.‘It is also a matter about which we have much to learn,’ says Nick Raynsford MP.‘There can be cases where the local authority may be in conflict between the aspirations for the local authority and the locality.There could also be cases where individual groups from different cultural backgrounds or ethnic backgrounds have a different perception of what is in the interest of the area.There is the familiar problem of nimbyism.’ The learning from a range of community engagement projects suggests that successful engagement lies in the degree of influence that people feel they have on issues under consideration.‘The most successful engagement occurs when you identify what kinds of “stake” different groups have in any project,’ says Adeola Dada, Southwark regeneration team. ‘There are winners and losers in all initiatives, and it’s important to manage expectations.
NO ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL As part of its duty to create a Local Development Framework, every council must prepare a Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) and a Sustainable Community Strategy (SCS). Prior to localism initiatives, many baseline standards were to post letters and put announcements in the local press. No-one says it is easy: it has long been recognised by practitioners that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ engagement strategy.‘The more forward-thinking and canny developers have come to understand this, especially when they are working on contentious projects,’ says Julian Hart, planning consultant, Lancefield Consulting.‘They engage with, and involve, the local community from an early stage in order to pre-empt problems at a later stage, by which time it would be very expensive to change course and would increase “planning risk”. Unfortunately, such developers are few and far between.A great deal of consultation for the purposes of planning determination has been a very cynical affair.’ The public sector suffers from an equally problematic situation in regard to consultation, but for very different reasons.‘Local authorities may be full of good intentions when seeking to consult with local communities,’ says Hart, ‘but the real issue lies in their ability to follow through and deliver.’ A local authority might run out of money for the proposed project, or run into a shift in internal politics, he adds. Communities need to see action, or they may become cynical and uncooperative. Engagement approaches should not be top-down, but community engagement teams do need to be led by stakeholders with vision and commitment.’ Localism will be either propelled or proscribed by the quality of local political leadership.The public must be assured of clear lines of prioritisation, and accountability for service delivery, backed by national minimum standards and sufficient resource to see the project through.
regulations is needed before many localism provisions come into force; the government has stated an intention that ‘many major measures’ will come into effect in April 2012. The Community Right to Challenge is is a new right, enabling communities to submit an ‘expression of interest’ in relation to the provision of a service. The authority must consider expressions of interest and, where they accept them, run a procurement exercise for the service.This right hands the initiative to groups with good ideas about how services can be run differently or better, ensures that their ideas get a fair hearing, and that they get the time they need to prepare effective bids for services. Local authorities can specify periods within which expressions of interest may be submitted, and may reject an expression of interest, but only on grounds to be specified by the Secretary of State. If a relevant authority accepts an
expression of interest, it must carry out a procurement exercise.To date, the provisions in Localism Act 2011 are a skeleton outline, and much detail is awaited in secondary legislation. Ultimately, however, it is clear that those expressing interest will need to compete in the open market. Expressing interest may be the easy bit, as there is scant detail regarding support for community and other groups wishing to put together professional tender bids. There is also legislation surrounding Assets of Community Value. Parish and community councils and local voluntary and community organisations will be able to nominate local land or buildings to be included in a list of community assets maintained by local authorities There are detailed several steps involved in determining whether assets are of community value, and interested parties should consult their local authority. For more on localism, see page 8.
The Localism Bill provides several ways in which community or neighbourhood forums can express interest in managing local authority assets or services
NEW LOCALISM OPPORTUNITIES Aside from neighbourhood planning,The Localism Bill also provides several ways in which community or neighbourhood forums can express interest in managing local authority assets or services:The Community Right to Challenge and Assets of Community Value.A raft of
04 ENGAGING COMMUNITIES & STAKEHOLDERS
Diverse views can be handled, if the communication is honest and candid.’
In February 2012, the Social Cities of Tomorrow International Conference, organised by The Mobile City andVirtueel Platform with the support of ARCAM, took place in Amsterdam. Brought together by a mutual interest in the potential of technology to help describe, understand and communicate about key issues in urban life, more than 190 professionals from across the world explored the possibilities of using technology to support and empower civic engagement.The organisers noted that in an age of increasing localism and desire for community ‘ownership’ of spaces and places, the task of the ‘traditional’ makers of cities – transport professionals, urban planners and architects – must be increasingly supported by locally-grounded, flexible initiatives aiming to enable a greater range of citizens to become participate in, and contribute to, urban development and the life in the city. Digital media enables us to make connections that are spatially unthinkable, as well as providing effective channels for transferring power to the collective. COLLECTIVE TECHNOLOGIES As Martijn de Waal from The Mobile City argued in the opening talk, the concept of ‘social city’ means finding flexible alternatives to civic engagement, able to transcend both topdown local authority agenda-setting and enabling wider participation via a bottom-up approach to ‘designing’ places. City dwellers’ engagement with their urban environment is complex and messy; one of the key reasons why common perceptions of digital media as ‘personal’, rather than ‘collective’ technology, are misplaced. De Waal suggests we should replace the ‘smart city’ (infused with technology) with the ‘social city’ (where technology is used for collective civic benefit). He stresses the urgency of understanding the positive role that digital technology and media can play in creating a sense of place in increasingly disjointed cities, where issues of trust and ownership in relation to ‘belonging’ and ‘roots’ underlines an imperative need for participation and transparency in an increasingly connected age. Digital technology transcends spatial and social barriers, and can provide a reliable and constant engagement platform for
In an age of increasing localism and a the desire for community ‘ownership’ of spaces and places, the task of the ‘traditional’ makers of cities – transport professionals, urban planners and architects – must be increasingly supported by locally-grounded, flexible initiatives aiming to enable a greater range of citizens to become participate in, and contribute to, urban development.Technology can help, people come first. By Dana Dolghin
The Amphibious Architecture digital-meets-nature project used LED sensors that lit up with the movement created by swimming fish in the NewYork river to make the fish ‘visible’
citizens.They key theme of the conference, therefore, was how we design for ownership of the city in an age of collaborative consumption. London-based designer and architect Usman Haque raised a different issue. He suggests that the life of the city is more about displaying a platform of contingent meetings and actions that foster the unknown. Haque argued that initiatives such as Pachube.com, his most extensive project to date, have the capacity to both engage disparate city dwellers and to build on the unexpected results of their encounters in the urban environment. Haque develops both physical spaces and the software and systems that capture the ways that people relate to each other and to their surrounding space. His algorithmdriven systems have several functions: detecting the position in space of a sound, an odour or a temperature, or of physical objects such as cellular phones. Design is conceived as an ‘operating system’, that enables us to explore the poetry of urban living rather than promoting rationality, literalness and verisimilitude. In this sense, Haque discussed projects that enable users to store, share and discover realtime sensor, energy and environment data from objects, devices and buildings around the world. THE INTERNET OF THINGS Pachube is a convenient, secure and scalable platform that helps us connect to and create the ‘internet of things’. As a generalised real-time data brokerage platform, the key aim is to facilitate interaction between remote environments, both physical and virtual. Along with enabling direct connections between any two responsive environments, Pachube can also be used to facilitate many-to-many connections. But the emphasis is less about the data gathered and more about the possibilities offered by the process of collecting data. During a recent workshop in Barcelona, for example, live data about the air and sensory nature of the city was generated by project participants walking on trails across the city; while Haque’s Natural Fuse project creates a city-wide network of electronically-assisted plants that act both as energy providers and as circuit breakers, illustrating the the interdependence between users, material and the environment.
These themes continued across showcases looking at the possibilities offered by digital technology for new kinds of engagement with the city. Instant Master Plan, presented by Anne-Marie Sanvig Knudsen, Niels Skovlund Madsen and Lasse Andersson, showed how digital media technologies can be used as tools to create new forms of citizen engagement. In Copenhagen, they gather live data and form connections that can help to mitigate against the stark differences between social groups that city masterplanning has created over time. Artist Natalie Jeremijenko introduced her concept of the Environmental Health Clinic.The project approaches health as a factor dependent on external local environments, rather than on the internal biology and genetic predispositions of an individual. Jeremijenko suggests that we we need to rethink our relationship towards natural systems. Her projects explore the relationships between nature and technology, using an interface that facilitates new forms of communication, for example using sensors to enable fish in the NewYork to make themselves ‘visible’.The Amphibious Architecture digitalmeets-nature project used LED sensors that lit up with the movement created by the swimming fish.The sensors also monitored water quality and 'texted' information about the river.Although unsure of the practicality of such a project, the audience was charmed by the way the project enhanced New York urban life by enabling such unexpected communication. Other projects demonstrated the reach of digital tools: Ohyoon Kwon from TU Delft discussed the London-based Homeless SMS project. Starting from the observation that 70 per cent of the homeless in London have a cellphone, the project creators use technology to help them improve their lifestyle by delivering an inspiring quote in the morning and tips and tricks in the afternoon, via both Twitter and SMS. Ava Fatah of Screens in the Wild outlined the challenges for designing urban screens, and how they can augment real life interventions and maximise the quality of public interaction. ■ By Dana Dolghin/CITIES www.socialcitiesoftomorrow.nl/international-conference-frifeb-17-at-the-mc-theatre www.citiesthemagazine.com
FARMING THE CITY
An augmented reality application guiding users on a cycling route through 12 of Amsterdam’s urban agriculture projects has been created on the Netherlands Architecture Institute’s (NAi) augmented reality platform, in collaboration with ARCAM.The route is self-guided and provides information via text image, and archival material.The Farming the City project has been running since November 2010 (, with a pilot bringing city dwellers together to exchange knowledge and experiences about urban farming in Amsterdam, Stockholm and beyond. Phase one of Farming the City was completed in spring with the launch of free online resource www.FarmingtheCity.net FarmingtheCity.net maps and showcases key city farming projects on an interactive online site, and has been promoted at several exhibitions (see above). Groups and individuals are able to upload information about their projects to the FarmingtheCity.net database and map. Farming the City phase two is now raising awareness of, and developing innovation around, the development of models for food-related creative clusters in Amsterdam and beyond.‘We need to build dynamic, sustainable food webs within cities and regional food businesses,’ says Francesca Miazzo, project director. ‘When focusing on local food consumption and production patterns, along with the creation of food-related infrastructures, there is great potential in approaching food as a tool for urban, social and economic development.’ Farming the City is organised by the CITIES Foundation, based in Amsterdam which together urban explorers from across the world to inspire action in policy and practice. CITIES and its partners, of which RUDI.net is one, promote urban knowledge-sharing and debate through a magazine, publications, events, workshops, research initiatives, exhibitions and via an online community hub. A book,AllYou Can Eat, will be published later in the year. ■ www.FarmingtheCity.net
02 NEW COMMUNITIES, SMART CITIES
We should replace the ‘smart city’ with the ‘social city’
KNOWING YOUR PLACE A ‘crowdsourcing’ experiment in Bristol is developing a new approach to public realm design: integrating urban design, transport and neighbourhood considerations into city projects via improved community-wide engagement and participation
Bristol City Council is in the early stages of an ambitious experiment into crowd-sourced placemaking, led by the City Design Group (CDG) as part of Bristol’s City Design Initiative (CDI).‘Specifically, the City Design Group has been looking at new ways in which local government practitioners can connect with the localism agenda,’ says Andy Gibbins, City Design Group Manager, Bristol City Council.‘We need to engage with communities, and give them greater influence in the shaping of the physical form of the city, over how money is spent, and how the quality of the public realm can be improved.The focus is on integrating urban design thinking in the planning policy framework for the city, specifically in terms of the urban movement framework that we’ve developed jointly with our transport colleagues, but which the City Design Group has led on.’ Bristol is seen by many to be an early adopter of the localism agenda. And, in its determination to grapple with new ways of harnessing the enthusiasm, knowledge and commitment of its communities, the city council is exploring ways in which second generation social media can prove a
The web-based portal KnowYour Place enables communities to learn about the historic development of Bristol, and use this knowledge to inform decisions about planning at the neighbourhood scale
valuable tool to creatively and cost-effectively deliver more participative debate and decision-making.‘We’re integrating design thinking much earlier in projects,’ says Gibbins.‘We need to bring skills together earlier in the design process, so as to deliver a better and lasting impact.’ TOOLS AND RESOURCES Over the past years, Bristol City Council has created several web-based tools that enable crowd-sourcing to be applied to placemaking.The web-based portal KnowYour Place, for example, enables communities to learn about the historic development of Bristol, and use this knowledge to inform decisions about planning at the neighbourhood scale.The website provides access to a range of high-resolution historic maps and geo-referenced information from the Bristol Historic Environment Record. Communities are encouraged to upload locally-sourced information, and to identify heritage assets online.‘Through the use of such an intuitive interface, we believe that a wider audience will be encouraged to engage with neighbourhood planning,’ says Gibbins.
The project concept, part funded by English Heritage, was co-designed by planners, archaeologists, urban designers and conservation specialists in the City Design Group, in partnership with the corporate GIS team and local communities.‘It addresses the issue of how we connect the historic environment record with community groups, but in a totally new and accessible way,’ says Gibbins.‘It’s very userfriendly and representative of the new generation of thinking amongst local government practitioners. It helps us to understand how we connect our skills with the enthusiasm and support put in by community groups. It’s designed to create and encourage dialogue.’ ‘It’s a balance between getting to the broadest audience and receiving detailed feedback, and we've developed mechanisms for both,’ says Peter Insole (Senior Archaeological Officer), Bristol City Council.’We are already seeing heritage statements from planning proposals that refer to suggestions that have been uploaded by members of the community to KnowYour Place.And this isn’t just an outward facing tool, it’s also become very useful across the council from pollution
(left) Community feedback to the use of online planning tools has been highly positive
control to planning officers and customer services.The concept is highly exportable.’ Gibbins agrees. A second piece of work, relating to advocacy, is the development of the Design Bristol web site.“When developing the concept for the CDI, there was a lot of discussion about the potential role of a design champion in the city.We were aware that a number of other large cities already had nominated design champions or a design panel made up of a number of prominent design professionals. However, our preference was to promote a broader community of design advocates across the city” says Julie Witham, Urban Designer, Bristol City Council.The purpose of the 'Design Bristol ' website is to support this community, providing its members with resources and contacts, and signposting to other useful websites. Design Bristol is best described as an on-line noticeboard for anyone to upload content to.This content could include photos, films, details of events etc. Blogs are automatically fed to Twitter and Facebook, and further extend the reach and profile of the resource. ”Although social networking is not automatically something that you would find a local government organisation entertaining, says Gibbins, it’s something that we have embraced. Prior to launch, there were concerns about the type of content that would be uploaded. However, so far, any fears of negative or irrelevant content have been unfounded.A facility has been provided to allow the pre-moderation of content, but so far this has not posed a problem.” Design Bristol is still in its infancy. Over the next year there are plans
to expand the reach and appeal of the website using it as a host to other web-based resources. As for demonstrating the impact of such tools, the future looks rosy.The Cherish and Change initiative, created by the City Design Group, Corporate Consultation Team and Bristol Streets, enabled the public to identify both cherished places and places that they felt could be changed for the better.‘The aim was to inform preparation of the Bristol Central Area Action Plan and sister publication, the City Centre Public Realm and Movement Framework.‘Almost 1,000 comments were received over the six-week consultation period,’ says Witham. Comments were geo-coded for accuray and, as well as uploading their own preferences, participants were also able to comment on other the remarks of others. DISCOVERING SPATIAL PATTERNS Recognisable spatial patterns relating to the comments began to emerge, together with recurring themes.‘Cherish and Change’ complements, rather than replaces, more traditional approaches to planning consultation such as workshops and exhibitions: its strength is in attracting a wider demographic to get involved in the plan-making process. Encouraged by the success of this tool in the central area, the CDG is currently working on making it available for consultation initiatives citywide.A permanent online resource gathering the public’s impressions of the city could, it is hoped, become a valuable resource for all neighbourhoods involved in preparing neighbourhood plans.
The next stage of engagement around the Bristol Central Area Action Plan was to ask the public to submit their ideas for positive change.This required a different type of tool, and the team secured National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) funding to help develop this. Participants were encouraged to submit an idea, via an online form, which requested brief details of the project, and ideas on how it might be delivered.The public was allowed to comment on ideas and vote for ideas they liked.We enabled participants to sign-up via Twitter and Facebook, extending the reach of the consultation.‘Over the six-week consultation period, we received 3654 unique visits, 128 ideas and nearly 1000 votes. Again the significant response has directly fed into the Central Area Action Plan and the Public Realm and Movement Framework,’ says Witham. Bristol City Council’s crowdsourcing experiment is beginning to establish the link between specialist skills and local understanding.‘Urban design thinking at practitioner level in local authorities needs to move on radically,’ says Gibbins. ‘We’re making a contribution to that in our own way.There are a lot of people hungry for practical methodologies about engagement around neighbourhood planning and placeshaping.’ ■ Juliana O’Rourke spoke with members of the City Design Group, Bristol City Council www.bristol.gov.uk/page/know-your-place www.designbristol.ning.com
04 ENGAGING COMMUNITIES & STAKEHOLDERS
‘We used Know Your Place at a recent consultation with local people about improving Dean Lane, Southville, as a cycling, but especially walking route…as well as discussing how the street currently works and improvements that might be made’ Ben Barker, Greater Bedminster Partnership
LEARNING TO LISTEN Planning reform in Scotland has put ‘placemaking’ at the heart of sustainable economic growth and delivering better outcomes through public policy. An outcomes approach needs a clear brief that is place-based, and authentic. A series of ‘visioning’ initiatives by Architecture and Design Scotland are seeking to build better briefs to deliver better places, says Diarmaid Lawlor
Scotland seeks a place-based approach to delivering public policy outcomes.This means better briefs for better places. Key to this is listening, and deriving briefs through participation with citizens.The report ‘Delivering Better Places’ is about using these briefs to drive joined-up working and use of public resources. It’s about better integration of service delivery through community planning, and guiding strategic change through spatial planning. It’s about linking placemaking and market making. At the heart of better briefs for better places are conversations about desire and need. If we start the process of delivering better places with conversations about the kind of lives people want to lead, we get to the heart of the desires that will drive change. The challenge, however, is that the product of these conversations will not be about single issues such as land use.They will be about lives, seen from a citizen perspective.This data can be likened to qualitative criteria; place-based performance standards against which future decisions can be measured. The challenge for place planning is to bridge between these conversations, the resource holders and the service providers who form part of the public framework for people’s lives. It is about ‘making visible’ the possibilities of different futures, and demonstrating how shared use of resources – with people as the focus – can achieve better impacts on the ground, and efficiencies in public resources. It is about visioning with intent. Better place briefs then are about three things: participation in conversations about lives; collaboration by resource holders to deliver conditions for
better lives; and pragmatism – resonance with the place. Over the last the last three years,A+DS has been working with partners across Scotland to explore methods of deriving better place briefs using these principles of participation, collaboration and pragmatism. The methods include mapping design into the business case for capital investment in the health estate, and looking at ‘whole place’ approaches to delivering the new learning curriculum, Curriculum for Excellence.This work, expressed in the Learning Towns approach, is based on the idea that there are many assets in existing places, building and people, which can provide the basis for a rich learner experience. If we could use these assets more creatively, share spaces and resources, could we achieve more connected communities, better learner transitions, and new purpose for existing places? DEVELOPING BETTER BRIEFS In parallel, the Urbanism team has been exploring how to develop better briefs which link spatial planning at whole settlement, neighbourhood and street scales, with community planning and market making.This work has been published in a set of case studies, setting out lessons learned (see resources on page 51). We found that in collaborating on shaping the the brief, we were also creating and enabling capacity on the ground. We were seeing how people decide to do certain things for themselves. Over and above shaping briefs for planning, the processes build capacity and the collaborative structure for getting things done.We learned that to make visioning work,
The foundations for the future vision for Stirling are based in its ‘place stories’ we needed to develop new skills: learning how to listen, how to capture conversations, and how to ‘shape’ outcomes by using the listening.We learned that a key starting point for shaping briefs is not about identifying a schedule of tasks or items. It’s more like a brief for the life people want to lead.We learned that to make this work, we need to participate in shaping that brief authentically – not to superimpose words or superimpose policy – but to carry that authenticity through the planning process and into the decision-making stages.The following pages focus on one of the case studies, the Stirling City Vision, which was developed in partnership with, and through the strong leadership of, Stirling Council.This example outlines how the approach can work.
The story of Stirling
The reform of the Scottish planning system encourages the making of new plans that are ‘visionary and ambitious’.They should explain the kind of place we want to create in simple terms, so that everyone can play their part in making the vision happen. Stirling has already done a great deal of work on visioning through its Community Planning Partnership; the purpose of the visioning exercises was to explore what the outcomes might mean in spatial terms, and to look at the shape and character of the future built environment. Within the city there are many stories: from the esplanade of the castle you can look down over the urban area.The background is a dramatic composition of folding landscape forms and a meandering river.The foreground is a complex of neighbourhood and communities, each with its own story, history and identity. You can see that one neighbourhood must have been built
in the ‘50s, the next definitely in the ‘60s, and that there’s a physical separation between the parts. And that the physical separation is also emotional: people identify themselves relative to their neighbourhoods.They give their neighbourhood addresses first, and often don’t see the city as an entity that they participate in. It is clear that at local level, there is a strong sense of belonging, of loyalty to a local area. In planning terms, we also take into account that Stirling is also a visited place, a working place, and a commuting place. The experience of the visitor is often very different to the resident. Our task is to make sense of the whole. THE SINGLE OUTCOME AGREEMENT Stirling’s Single Outcome Agreement (SOA), rooted in key outcomes from the visioning workshops (see panel), puts together a series of ideas and issues valued and desired by the
Key place economics issues Stirling currently has a highly qualified workforce, with expertise in many areas.The majority of these individuals however commute to Edinburgh or Glasgow, rather than working in Stirling itself.To gain from these skills, Stirling will have to become more attractive to this workforce. Currently the University is quite detached form the city, with little interaction between the two, either on an everyday basis or professionally. The local economy is largely unconnected to the university’s areas of specialisation.Though attractive, the city centre faces challenges from out of town shopping and competing centres. Tourism is strong, anchored by the stunning castle but the city centre has not captured as much of this potential as the citizens desire. Suburban development to service a mobile population is a characteristic of the edges of the city, creating challenges to diversify the identity and economic base of the city. This is best captured in this question which drove the visioning process at MIR stage: what kind of city does Stirling want to be?. Key challenges for the future spatial form of Stirling Stirling has a major opportunity to generate a new knowledge economy within the city. The university provides resources, research and skills which relate to a number of industries and technology sectors integral to Stirling’s economy and situation, for example advanced agriculture.The city centre could become home to related specialisms, drawing skills and knowledge back to the local economy.These could be encouraged through economic incentives but, in order to attract high level professionals, the city must offer a high quality of life and amenity.The recently published economic strategy for Stirling entitled ‘Open for Business’ sets out a useful foundation for the future development of the city.
04 ENGAGING COMMUNITIES & STAKEHOLDERS
The first annual report of the Council of Economic Advisors to the Scottish Government says that ‘too much development in Scotland is of mediocre or indifferent quality…..the function of an effective planning system is to create places where people want to be.We must rise to that challenge’
Overview of place economics context Economics is integral to the success of a town or city, it drives development and growth.To be really successful, particularly as a small town or city, the economic drivers should not be generic, but should link inherently to the sense of place and the local opportunities. Originality and distinctiveness are valuable assets that enhance and promote economic growth and stability.
THE SCOTTISH RENAISSANCE TOWNS INITIATIVE The Scottish Renaissance Towns Initiative (SRTI) is a response to the challenges facing small-town Scotland. The Renaissance Towns concept was initially developed at the Re-Making Cities Institute (RCI) at Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, USA, and subsequently through the successfulYorkshire Renaissance Towns programme. STRI builds on this legacy, exploring ways in which the most successful futures will be developed collaboratively; drawing on local energy, and capitalising on local assets and distinctiveness. It aims to re-engage with the process of town-building and town-mending, transforming it for our time, and to create a legacy of practice that can be handed down to the next generation.The current visioning initiatives developed directly out of this initial work.
community of Stirling.The economy is a focus, with an emphasis on creating stability and opportunities for a diverse range of business and people.The city should work economically at different scales, with effective service delivery and a vibrant city centre. Community resilience and involvement is another key issue, as is improving health, wellbeing and active empowerment in placemaking. FROM STORIES TO SPATIAL ANALYSIS Using the product of the visioning process, we found that mapping the stories that people told in spatial terms led us to see where certain themes ‘overlapped’. In those areas of overlap, it was clear that we needed to concentrate public investment. In some parts of the city,we realised that we needed to intervene directly, find solutions at the local scale that fitted a framework for the rest of the city, and help set relationships up to drive activity. In essence,we are trying to consistently understand the lived experience of the places we’re trying to construct, and to develop tools and processes for collaboration in large-scale decision-making. We’re saying that public investment in place needs to be
VISIONING IN STIRLING:THE PROCESS In summer 2009, Stirling Council hosted a series of visioning workshops as part of the preparation of its new Local Development Plan (LDP).The aim of the workshops was to link community planning with spatial planning, building upon previous visioning work carried out by the Stirling Community Planning Partnership, and to create a Single Outcome Agreement that would, in turn, feed outcomes into the preparation of the LDP. As part of the visioning process, a series of experts was invited to input their view of the challenges facing Stirling, and to set out principles for the way ahead. These technical analyses focused on land use, place economics, movement, public space and sustainability. The visioning exercise was broken down into four workshops.The first sessions focused on introducing Stirling: its history, development, challenges, and the new ‘foundations’ needed by the city. Later workshops understood differently, so we can use a deeper understanding to drive a more grown-up discussion from the beginning of the planning process. We need new ways of aligning the investments that are available with the lives that people want to live – at the end of the day, the consumer is the market. Our lives are changing and cost structures are changing, and setting out with a better understanding of place economics and objectives can help to de-risk key development decisions. DRIVING THE PROCESS To achieve agreed outcomes, a set of relationships needs to be established, bringing us to the realm of leadership; but one that moves away from a single person driving the process towards a distributed idea of leadership, with many people leading and inputting.This is an idea that the Homes and Communities Agency and the Centre for Urban and Regional Research at Birmingham have been looking at recently. Using the lessons learned from the visioning work,A+DS have developed similar thoughts entitled ‘Places need leaders’. This work suggests three broad lessons to drive successful
used a process facilitated by the British Council. Future City Game, which involves key stakeholders and communities in developing potential solutions for the city. These discussions led onto the development of the Stirling Strategic Growth model, rooted in analysis of the possible growth scenarios that may influence the shape and structure of Stirling: no growth, moderate growth and accelerated growth.This was followed by a discussion about ‘placemaking’ that looked in more detail at how growth might be handled on the ground, and how it could translate into streets, blocks, buildings and spaces. The final discussions set out a justification for the projects and concepts identified, in terms of the relationship to national objectives and the Stirling Single Outcome Agreement, and outlines principles for ‘delivery’ in terms of partners, priorities and scales. delivery of places that achieve impacts for people’s lives: better briefs must be derived participatively using spatial thinking; the briefs should inform thinking on ‘leadership ability’ or skills; and ‘leadership capacity’ or powers (see resources on page. 52) DELIVERING IMPACTS Drawing the strands of conversations, thinking and planning together, the City vision for Stirling set out a strategy for delivery with three key components: ■ it sets out the priorities for delivery in time in terms of short,medium and ling term priorities; ■ it identifies a range of potential partners, public and private sector, third sector and community, and; ■ it suggests the scales at which delivery might be most appropriate for each of the spatial concepts.This moves in scale from whole settlement, to city centre, neighbourhood, street, space, block and building. In broad terms, the proposed strategy helps to make a positive impact on national and local outcomes. It helps to strengthen the spatial and social/cultural structure of Stirling. The delivery strategy suggests that initial phases of delivery could overlap with the period of the Local Development Plan.
RESOURCES ■ Delivering Better Places; using briefs to drive joined up working and use of public resources: www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/12/31110906/0 ■ Mapping design into the business case for capital investment in the health estate: www.ads.org.uk/healthierplaces/pulse ■ Focus on one case study, the Stirling City Vision; developed in partnership with, and through the leadership of Stirling Council, to demonstrate the approach: www.ads.org.uk/urbanism/features/place-visioning-inscotland-lessons-learned www.stirling.gov.uk/__documents/temporaryuploads/economy,-planning-_and_-regulation/main-issuesreport/stirling-city-vision-arch-_and_-design-scot.pdf ■ Thinking on ‘leadership ability’, skills and ‘leadership capacity’ or powers: www.ads.org.uk/urbanism/features/leadership-is-key-tocreating-better-places
04 ENGAGING COMMUNITIES & STAKEHOLDERS
‘The key is to choose to listen. When you do, the instruction is not just how to deliver a model, or a prototype, or a standard answer. People are asking us to let them talk, and for us to listen, and that is the professional obligation that we have to carry’
Stirling’s diverse urban realm reflects its many place stories
PUBLIC SPACES, PUBLIC PLACES
FROM SHOPPING CENTRE TO SOCIAL CENTRE
SEVILLE’S METROSOL PARASOL
AWAKENING THE WEST END
BYPASSING THE BYPASS
A SPACE FOR ALL TIMES
THE HIGH STREET: FROM SHOPPING CENTRE TO SOCIAL CENTRE Why do we need high streets and town centres? As most commentators have recognised, they serve a social function as well as an economic one.They are not just places for the exchange of goods, but for the exchange of news, gossip, ideas and more, says Julian Dobson
The story of recession on the British high street has been one of business failures:Woolworths, Zavvi,Adams, Peacocks. Over the next few years that story will be compounded with a story of retail retreat. Between now and 2015 more than half the leases on Britain’s high street shops and shopping centres will come up for renewal, according to property agents Jones Lang LaSalle. It will provide a convenient reason for retrenchment. JLL say there will be a ‘swift and dramatic’ polarisation between prime and sub-prime, the destinations of choice such as Bond Street, Bluewater or Birmingham’s Bull Ring, and the rest. The race for riches of the last decade has left the UK with a massive over-supply of retail space as town sought to compete with out-of-town.Analysis by property experts CBRE shows that, if all the plans for new supermarkets currently in the pipeline are approved, the amount of supermarket trading space in the UK would rise by 50 per cent. More than half the UK’s retail floorspace is now out of town.Yet towns still seek to regenerate themselves and establish competitive advantage by focusing on their retail offer. It is ironic that government has withdrawn from serious investment in placemaking at precisely the time when placemaking skills are most needed: when the chickens of retail expansion have come home to roost and places, especially the town centres which were once the heart of their communities, need radical and intelligent rethinking. It’s not as if we couldn’t see it coming. In 1988 John Dawson, professor of retail studies at the University of Stirling, wrote in The Geographical Journal of the shift towards out-of-town
shopping that was then only just beginning:‘[T]here is a concern that the high street shopping environment to which society has grown accustomed, whether as shoppers, investors, employees or entrepreneurs, is changing and we are not sure whether we will like it ...’.In the same year the National Economic Development Council, in one of its last reports before its abolition, produced a tome entitled The Future of the High Street, prompted by concerns that some town centres were already dying. A PRESUMPTION IN FAVOUR OF DEVELOPMENT? Ann Burdus, chair of the Distributive Trades Economic Development Council, acknowledged that ‘visiting a gradually deteriorating and derelict high street is not an attractive proposition for most customers’, but came down on the side of letting market forces provide their own remedy:‘Being positive is a viewpoint which underpins the conclusions and recommendations of this report.’ For example, the report supports the presumption in favour of development and change, whilst accepting a need for some control over major regional shopping centres in off central locations. Time has not been kind to Ms Burdus’s positive thinking.At a moment when a ‘presumption in favour’ once again underpins planning policy, it is hard to see the major retailers denying themselves the economies of scale that come from ever-larger developments and the leverage that comes from increasing market share. Having made their fortune on Britain’s high streets, the big grocery chains have found they no longer need them as they once did.
05 PUBLIC SPACES, PUBLIC PLACES But the people, arguably, still need the high street – but not necessarily for shopping.The British high street was a phenomenon that grew out of the growth of global trade combined with the need for local distribution, and thrived for the best part of a century and a half. But, today, the second half of that equation no longer holds true. Nearly half of all retail sales growth in the UK between 2003 and 2010 was online; shopping via smartphone is expected to rise from £1.3bn in 2011 to £19.3bn in 2021.The place and the purchase are becoming increasingly disconnected. So why do we need high streets or town centres? They serve a social function as well as an economic one.They are not just places for the exchange of goods, but for the exchange of news, gossip and ideas. That concept of the high street as a social space was at the heart of a submission I coordinated to the Mary Portas review of the high street in 2011. Drawing together examples of how people across the UK are already thinking differently about town centre spaces, we argued that we should conceptualise the high street as a ‘21st century agora’, echoing the idea of a public space that is far more than a marketplace. The ancient Greek agora was a civic place, where democracy was exercised and justice done. It was a place of sport and spectacle. Most of all, it was a place where people congregated.The agora of the 21st century needs to reflect society’s need to gather and exchange just as the Greek agora reflected the needs of its culture. We argued:‘High streets and town centres that are fit for
the 21st century need to be multifunctional social centres, not simply competitors for stretched consumers.They must offer irresistible opportunities and experiences that do not exist elsewhere, are rooted in the interests and needs of local people, and will meet the demands of a rapidly changing world.’ How can that happen in high streets like Rochdale’s, where even McDonald’s is pulling out? For some it may be too late. But many, by layering numerous functions into the same town centre space, can restore the uniqueness and vibrancy of their towns. What it takes is imagination, determination and a strategic overview.The place needs to be seen as a whole, starting from a sober assessment of the challenges it faces. Organisations like the Empty Shops Network and Meanwhile Space now have several years of experience of putting new and creative uses into empty shops, negotiating temporary leases and brokering arrangements between shortterm users and landlords. Events and artworks in empty property are now commonplace and are bringing new people into town: in Wigan, more than £3,000 of art has been sold from one empty shop unit. Festivals like Sheffield’s Tramlines can bring tens of thousands of people into a town centre who might not otherwise visit. Community activities bring in people who might feel uncomfortable in a place designed solely to lighten visitors’ pockets. The challenge is to turn site-specific approaches into something coherent, thinking of the whole town centre rather
than the use of individual premises. Neighbourhood planning and the ‘town teams’ recommended by Mary Portas could provide a framework for such a whole-place approach. A growing number of people want to go into town for experiences other than shopping, or in addition to shopping. As the architect Jan Gehl put it, it’s going into town ‘because you want to go into town’.A recent survey by JWT Intelligence found that 74% of ‘millennials’ – people aged 21 to 34 – would be interested in shopping at a store that offered something extra, like a special event or the opportunity to learn something new. A social town centre is not an alternative to the existing high street aimed at a particular segment of the market. It is a way of underpinning and expanding what the high street has to offer, mixing a multiplicity of uses that draw from and celebrate the uniqueness of each place.The alternative in many places is not the ‘clone town’ of popular outrage, but a ghost town. Creating social town centres will not be easy.As the Portas Review argues, it will require management and coordination; but it will also require the courage to think differently. ■ Julian Dobson is a writer, facilitator and speaker on placemaking and communities. He is director of Urban Pollinators Ltd (www.urbanpollinators.co.uk).The submission to the Portas Review,The 21st Century Agora: a new and better vision for our town centres, is available at http://bit.ly/opLqiD
THE ‘MUSHROOMING’ EFFECT OF SEVILLE’S METROSOL PARASOL Seville’s new Metropol Parasol – or the mushroom, as it is affectionately known by locals – is a grand structure re-linking a regenerated market area to the north of the main shopping streets back to the urban centre. It has helped to boost trade by re-connecting the old town to a vibrant new quarter with a plaza, space for events, and a stylish catering and leisure offer. By Isabel Martinez Six years in the making, Seville’s Metropol Parasol is one of the world’s largest wooden structures.As the title suggests, it is a parasol-shaped canopy designed to shade a large central plaza from the Spanish sun. The purpose behind the structure is to re-activate demand for commercial premises over a larger area of the city centre, by using the Mushroom, as it is affectionately known by admiring locals, to link to a regenerated market area to the north of the main shopping streets. The successful Al Centro town centre management scheme is making the most of the new arrangements.‘One of our main challenges is to continue to foster a culture of cooperation between the private and public sectors, with sustainable funding sources that address the needs of key stakeholders, including residents and small independent retailers, who are often at the forefront of town centre management schemes in Andalucia,’ said Carlos Bejarano, Director of Andalucia’s Business and Retail Confederation (CECA), and a European partner of the Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM). He adds that Metropol Parasol has boosted footfall around from the old town.‘Leisure and restaurants benefit the commercial fabric of the centre,’ says Bejarano.‘Thanks to this development, we expect to greatly increase the number of visitors and improve business levels in the area of the Plaza de la Encarnación and its surrounding streets.’ Al Centro is one of Europe’s first town centre management schemes with a definition officially enshrined in law and bound by recognised criteria.According to Oxford Economics, local retail trade is beginning to show positive changes in 2012, after the regeneration process began back in 2008. Nationally, Spain has seen a decline in the services and office sector, while food and leisure has gained ground. Seville’s newest addition to the cafe society scene features the panoramic restaurant GastroSol-Tapas, part of the Metropol Parasol, with the longest bar in Seville – 55 metres –
The curved timber structure has been coated in polyurethane and connected using strong glue and steel rods. Its simple elegance is the result of extensive computer modeling.The new urban centre is connected to the old centre by the spaces below the Metropol Parasol, which now include a museum, a farmers’ market, bars and restaurants. The structure accommodates an elevated plaza, a viewing deck and walkways offering views of the medieval city.The basement museum, designed by Felipe Palomino, displays archaeological finds from the site
and with great views of the city. The vast – but human – new urban spaces of the Metropol Parasol serve as a stage for events.The Parasol has quickly become a new urban landmark, revitalising the traditional image of the city of Seville.The new amenities are attracting new visitors to the area, with sales and footfall figures on the rise.The site was destined to become a standard parking garage until the excavation of the plot uncovered ancient Roman remains, prompting the city to redevelop the area as a cultural destination.A design competition was won by Berlin-based practice Jurgen Mayer H Architects, and the honeycomb-like weave of timber began to take shape.With the help of engineering firm Arup, Mayer delivered a series of interconnected parasols that flow seamlessly together. The Mushroom has quickly won the hearts of the city’s residents.The structure, more than 450 feet long and seven stories high, incorporates the Roman ruins into a museum on its lowest level.The upper levels house an indoor food market, plazas with panoramic views, and a restaurant. But most notable is the undulating, honeycombed roof of the structure, made from polyurethane-covered wood and held together by a new type of glue. Key attractions for visitors are the light shows and the markets. Town centre officials are proudly concerned that, over the busy holiday period, they received a complaint because the number of people exceeded the maximum capacity in the square. Spanish local government recognises that urban trade plays a key role in town and city centres.Town centre management schemes are heavily focused on accessibility and mobility, which they refer to as ‘the magic formula’. City models have mobility policies built in, as it is understood that getting to the town centre is equally as important as what you do once you get there. Seville’s central area is accessible by tram, bus, bike and on foot, alongside limited car access.A popular and long established cycle hire scheme is available in the central urban area.
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The ‘mushroom’ has quickly won the hearts of the city’s residents.The structure, more than 450 feet long and seven stories high, incorporates the Roman ruins into a museum on its lowest level.The upper levels house an indoor food market, plazas with panoramic views, and a restaurant
AWAKENING THE WEST END The eight-month regeneration of Plymouth West End’s public realm has improved accessibility for all with the creation of a central shared space.The aim was to stimulate activity and growth for local independent traders and, so far, it seems to be working...
The Plymouth West End public realm scheme is one of the first projects to be completed as part of the city’s 25 year visioning strategy:Awakening the West End. LHC Urban Design began work some years ago to identify opportunities for opening up this rather ‘tired’ area of the city, so enabling it to better respond to changes in high street and town centre activity happening across the city and the UK.‘We wanted to make the West End a more enjoyable place, and improve accessibility and pedestrian footfall,’ says Richard Bara, Urban Planning Co-ordinator and Chartered Landscape Architect, Plymouth City Council.‘We needed to support the many independent businesses in this part of the city centre.’ The West End had seen a declining level of footfall and retail business since the early 1990s, further exacerbated by the opening of the Drake Circus city centre shopping centre not far away.Yet, as an independent retail enclave, the West End generates a level of diversity and vitality rarely seen on in today’s clone towns and homogenous retail streets.The area has many assets, not least its strong community. In order to create the best conditions for success, the council and the local Business Improvement District (BID), managed by Plymouth City Centre Company as an independent, not-for-profit company accountable to retailers for the management of the city centre, wished to address accessibility. For most car drivers, access was via a short but unattractive overhead link from a nearby multi-storey car park. ‘There was a lot of emphasis on the way that customers accessed the area, on how they shopped and the way parking was accommodated,’ says Bara, speaking of the extensive local
05 PUBLIC SPACES, PUBLIC PLACES The Plymouth West End public realm scheme is one of the first projects to be completed as part of the city’s 25 year visioning strategy (above). The old West End was difficult to find and complicated to navigate, with lack of reference points for pedestrians. This was aggravated by routes that meandered through semi-private service areas, over bridges and under subways.Too few connections made it hard for people to move easily and efficiently into and around the area. Car-driving visitors are crucial to the success of local businesses and add to the vitality of the street, particularly in the evening. Before the works, accessing the area by car was not easy. Now, limited short stay on street parking is bringing new more visitors to the local shops and cafes
consultation that took place.‘ We wanted to create a dynamic and dignified quarter, and the provision of more convenient, accessible short stay car parking was clearly expressed as a need by the local community, and was considered to be a key part of the revitalising mix.‘ COMMON SOLUTIONS It may be true that no two high streets, town centres or district centres are alike, but recent government-led reviews have focused on common solutions to perceived ills.The December 2011 Portas and Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) reviews, for example, offered a wealth of contextspecific advice for ailing local centres, yet the one aspect picked up by the media was accessibility – mainly parking. But is increasing parking provision really one of the best responses to town centre vitality? In this case, the answer appears to be ‘yes’.‘One of the scheme’s drivers was to accommodate more parking,’ says Alan Swan of Peter Brett Associates, who worked on the traffic management phase of the project. A key difference in this scheme was introducing a shared space scheme into a “happily” pedestrianised environment such as the West End. As a relatively new concept, and with most applications happening in busy traffic-dominated environments, it was a challenge to approach shared space from a different angle. We needed to make sure that the space could still be readily used by pedestrians, whilst managing any trafficrelated potential conflicts and ensuring safety.We try and make places that are easily accessed by desirable and
attractive means. But the key focus is to keep the area vibrant.’ The work around the West End is part of a much broader vision for the city;West End retailers wanted approved parking at their doors due to an increased pull from the new Drake Circus shopping centre.‘Their solution was to get more people walking past their front doors.This was a great opportunity to revitalise a tired area, and to turn a large pedestrian zone into a series of more interesting and multifunctional spaces, including the opportunity to add more short stay parking,’ says Swan. If the aim was to stimulate growth for local traders, it seems to be working. As the scheme beds down, the
improved access is now drawing more footfall from the south end of the city centre to the West End.The local press reported that ‘visitor numbers to the £3.2 million regeneration scheme have risen by 12.49 per cent, according to Plymouth City Centre Company, with more than 10,000 drivers already using the new parking spaces since the scheme opened in December 2011. Patrick Knight, Plymouth City Centre Company, said:‘These figures for parking and footfall are an excellent start to the scheme and show it is already doing exactly what it was designed for – opening the West End for business by making it a more attractive environment for shoppers and encouraging more people to visit here.’
Visitor numbers to the £3.2 million regeneration scheme have risen by 12.49 per cent, according the Plymouth City Centre Company, who pioneered the redevelopment, funded by Plymouth City Council. More than 10,000 drivers have used the new parking spaces since they opened in December, says Patrick Knight, Plymouth City Centre Company.‘The figures for parking and footfall are an excellent start to the scheme and show it is already doing exactly what it was designed for – opening the West End for business by making it a more attractive environment’.The figures have also been welcomed by traders. Martin Berry, of Martins The Butchers on Market Avenue, said:‘We are all for the scheme here.You can see that the footfall is picking up’
Another issue that Plymouth, and the West End, has to deal with is that the city centre is large and spread out.The West End has typically been perceived, although perfectly walkable in 10-15 minutes via pedestrian precinct links from the new shopping centre in the east of the city, as a completely different part of the urban realm. Distances may not be great in spatial terms, but they’re perceived strongly in ‘place’ terms. One of the big issues that consultation threw up was that people visiting the new shopping centre simply weren’t walking down to the West End. This indicates how complex a task town centre regeneration can be. Bringing local users, potentially conflicting interests and active stakeholders along with a common vision is requires a great commitment to
collaborative and partnership working.‘It’s about putting in place strategies and interventions that provide new options, and encouraging people to use them,’ says Swan. FOCUS ON ACTIVITY Designer Dan Hutchinson from LHC Urban Design saw the West End scheme as an opportunity to use his experience of home zones, and apply their successful principles to public spaces such as shopping areas and business parks.‘It’s the natural progression for shared space, a logical next step.We wanted to make this space safe, but also exciting and different. We came up with a concept design and worked with Peter Brett Associates on the traffic elements of the scheme. In
The West End has been opened up the area so that it is accessed more easily by cars. There is new vehicular entrance into the area, adding positively to its vibrancy and vitality, whilst creating a much improved public realm. By reconfiguring landscape and highway design the quality of the streetscape is higher, and there are more opportunities for parking
entertainment, in a unique place that is home to more than a few local characters and a rich diversity of life. CREATING CULTURAL ANCHORS ‘We took the view that the opening of the space would enable other events to take place within the street.The new space makes it easier to stage arts events and parades, which Plymouth City Centre Company are working really hard to create.The West End is an independent quarter, with its own character, and we wanted to allow that character a chance to develop.We’re putting in place the infrastructure to support “cultural anchors”, which enable the development of new kinds of economic security within the area.’ The possibility of having incidental events occurring in the street is key to place-making.‘There is a great deal of thought, detail and considered design that’s gone into the West End,’ says Hutchinson.‘And it’s paying off, already one of the restaurants in the area has created outdoor eating and seating space, which is really excellent because it shows that they are buying into the whole idea of the West End and its future. I’ve also spoken to shoppers who’ve told me:“You could walk around here before because it was pedestrianised, but… it didn’t really feel like being anywhere. Now it feels like somewhere”.’ Few shared space schemes evolve without tension during the design process between road engineers and landscape architects.‘If it’s skewed too far in one direction, it can all go wrong,’ says Hutchinson.‘In order to be flexible, we did
something which is quite interesting: we set foundations in place, but didn’t put in bollards. This worked well, as now that the situation has been assessed, it’s been agreed that several of the planned bollards weren’t necessary.We’re using additional planters and seating to adjust traffic flows and speeds as the space matures.’ The West End is being actively monitored, and the designers are very involved with any ongoing adjustments that may be needed to improve accessibility for all as the scheme beds down.‘The highways engineers at Plymouth are being very collaborative if they wish to make adjustments.They tell us about any new issues, which enables us to come up with tweaked designs in keeping with the overall theme,’ says Hutchinson. ■ Juliana O’Rourke spoke with Richard Bara,Alan Swan, Andrew Cottam and Dan Hutchinson
Whilst independent retail provides the most activity, the West End has a number of different character areas which have separate and distinct atmospheres
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terms of the actual detailed design of the street, and the safety aspects, we worked with Amey in partnership with the City Council.’ Amey’s Andrew Cottam, Principal Engineer Major Projects for Plymouth Transport & Highways, bridged the gap between the LHC concept design and the detailed engineering design needed to deliver the scheme. 'The project was delivered by a multi-disciplinary team –the safety audit team, the planning team, the maintenance team – because shared space is still a relatively new concept and there aren't any hard and fast rules for each case.We have to consider traffic calming, the delineation between the scheme’s zones.We use tactile delineators to that indicates movement from a pedestrian zone into a zone where you’re potentially going to encounter vehicles.’ Materials must perform engineering, swell as visual functions.The design must meet objective such as road safety audits, and not just urban design objectives.' Reaching consensus is, as ever, the inevitably impossible dream of most regeneration schemes.As with many shared space initiatives, local disability made considerable input into the design stages.‘The process is really important because it empowers people to be heard. Public engagement is a really positive part of any scheme.’ The premise for the layout of the street, says Hutchinson, was the creation of a generous boulevard that ran along wide, tree-lined New George Street.‘We’ve created a space where people can watch, and see people walking by.We’ve made room for activity. It’s the idea that shopping is
BYPASSING THE BYPASSES?
Bypasses are as common in the Netherlands as they are in England, and serve much the same purpose.The key difference is that many Dutch town centres with bypasses, unlike England, are designed to be unattractive to cars, leaving town centres largely car-free, but accessible by other means. By Mark Treasure The reduction of motor traffic in British towns and villages is not a particularly alien concept.Throughout the latter part of the 20th century, the bypass became an increasingly familiar, and often contested, way of reducing the effects motor vehicles were having on the centres of these settlements – namely, the problems of congestion and pollution resulting from an excess of motor traffic. Many of the towns and villages in my county, West Sussex, are now ringed by recently-constructed dual- or single-carriageway roads, designed to divert through-traffic away from the towns and villages themselves.The villages of Ashington and Billingshurst both had bypasses constructed in the 1990s, taking the A24 and A29 trunk roads, respectively, away from the village centres. My own town of Horsham has a bypass; the original northern section extended in the 1980s to incorporate a western diversion, keeping the A24 and A264 away from the town centre. Bypasses are just as common in the Netherlands.The key difference, however, is that the Dutch are far more assiduous about making journeys by motor vehicle in their town centres unattractive. In Britain, bypasses are often presented as ‘relief roads’, aimed at easing the congestion that through traffic might otherwise cause.You will still find little impediment to direct journeys by car through Horsham, Billingshurst or Ashington – the roads have remained largely unchanged subsequent to the construction of their bypasses, which are in effect an ‘additional’ measure to accommodate motor traffic. In the Netherlands, by contrast, bypasses form part of a package of measures aimed at reducing motor vehicle use within town centres; they are, explicitly, a way of keeping the traffic out. In the UK, there is a growing movement that feels cars should be discouraged at all costs from urban centres, while others insist that some access and parking is critical to growth and vitality.The urban design community is currently engaging with a range of studies that hope to inform the debate with
some much-needed evidence-based reasoning. The small Dutch city of Assen, the capital of Drenthe, does, of course, have a ring road, the single-carriageway Europaweg. It is also flanked by a motorway, the A28.What makes Assen different from a typical British town with a bypass, however, is a centre that is very difficult to drive around. Routes for motor vehicles into and out of the town centre still exist, of course – they haven’t been excluded from the city completely. To take just one example, deliveries to shops, restaurants and offices remain essential, and these will have to be made by lorries and vans.What has happened is that it has been made relatively unattractive to use the private car, by comparison with cycling.
Some of the town centre streets are access-only, or allow only pedestrians and cyclists to use them. Others form part of a network of one-way streets, arranged in such a way that their use, by car, makes no sense as a through-route, although they remain useful and convenient two-way routes for bicycles. Other streets that used to be major through-routes are now blocked off completely – although still permeable for bicycles
It’s not just the city centre that has been carefully planned to favour bicycle use; residential streets in the suburbs are typically designed in such a way that the only people driving on them will be those seeking to gain access to a house or property on it, achieved through a combination of selective road closures, and/or one-way arrangements. Likewise, driving from a place of residence in a suburban street will often involve a circuitous route out onto a distributor road, while making that journey by bicycle will be continuous and direct. It wouldn’t make sense to exclude cars, or make their use difficult, in the city centre, without providing a feasible alternative; a pleasant and attractive city centre has been achieved through facilitating, and prioritising, bicycle use both in that city centre and across the city as a whole. The equivalent UK town or city has very little, often none, of these advantageous measures put in place to encourage sustainable modes of transport. Journeys by car are just as short and direct as they would be on foot or by bicycle. Similarly, the major routes which a UK cyclist will have to use to get into and of town centres are typically unpleasant and hostile for cycling, being shared with high volumes of motor vehicles. The safe, high-quality segregated cycle facilities common in Assen, which protect cyclists on arterial routes, are nonexistent in the UK. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that the car continues to be used for such a high proportion of short journeys in this country when the alternatives are not being prioritised, or made attractive. 56 per cent of all British journeys under two miles are made by car. If we are really going to make a dent in that figure, we need more than just bypasses. ■ Mark Treasure writes the As Easy As Riding a Bike blog
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Routes for motor vehicles into and out of the town centre still exist, of course – they haven’t been excluded from the city completely.To take just one example, deliveries to shops, restaurants and offices remain essential, and these will have to be made by lorries and vans.What has happened is that it has been made relatively unattractive to use the private car, by comparison with cycling
(clockwise from top) The street that heads into the city under the ring road from the new settlement of Kloosterveen is a direct route for bicycles only, along the canal.To make the trip into the centre by car involves diverting onto the ring road itself. The route for cycling and walking is the shortest, and straightest. Radial routes that still exist for motor vehicles will have bicycle paths running alongside them, making cycling into the city a safe and pleasant option for people of all ages. Busy junctions are also easy to use by bike; there is no mixing with motor vehicles, achieved by means of a separated network of paths, or, more commonly in Assen, a dedicated green phase for bicycles
SPACES FOR ALL TIME Achieving the ‘holy grail’ of growth, vitality and distinctiveness requires a renewed emphasis on public realm quality, both in design and value terms. Maximising return on infrastructure investment is key for all stakeholders. Such quality public spaces can best be achieved through smart thinking and creative collaboration
‘The key to the look at Exhibition Road is the integration of the lighting into the masts,’ says Carol O’Riordan, senior project engineer at highways engineer Project Centre, which worked on the project with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and designer/manufacturer Woodhouse.Woodhouse mocked up a prototype at its headquarters in Leamington Spa, and tweaked the design to achieve the lighting precision necessary.The finished product incorporates three luminaires at heights of 12, 12.5 and 13m to provide illumination specifically suited to the shared space
As the economic, social and cultural importance of public space has moved up the agenda, led largely by forwardthinking urban design practitioners, transport engineers have slowly responded, approving moves away from highly engineered, tightly regulated and expensively controlled streets and public spaces.Today, there is scope to create.This shift has unleashed a new era of active public spaces designed to accommodate a diverse and complex mix of activities and users.These new spaces are flexible, functional and – particularly fitting when it comes to one of the capital’s key cultural offerings – rather beautiful. London’s Exhibition Road is a high profile example of quality shared space.A busy street and traffic route has been decluttered and transformed into a social boulevard; a fitting home to several of the world’s leading museums and cultural centres. Some of its most striking elements are the tall, slender lighting masts from which bright white light floods across the space.The towering 20m masts claim the centre of the street, creating a strong architectural feature that defines the space
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As an industry, we haven’t historically been very good at either recording or validating the impact of completed projects, or being able to properly define ‘best practice’. But this has changed in recent years and there is now much more focus on evidence-based research into the valuation of the urban realm Romy Rawlings,Woodhouse
and complements the grand buildings that line it.Today Exhibition Road, just six months after completion, looks and feels like a major civic plaza.Yet it remains a thoroughfare, and its sleek looks and smooth functioning belie the attention to detail lavished on making the space perform. Besides being a delightful area in which to stroll, sit, sup and stare, Exhibition Road sees more than 500 vehicles an hour vehicles pass down its elegant length, according to council figures. The bold lighting concept was delivered by designer/producer Woodhouse, working in close collaboration with the project architects, landscape designers and engineers. ‘These bespoke fixtures break new ground in exterior lighting,’ says Guy Harding, Lighting Development Manager at Woodhouse.‘To accommodate the latest light sources into such a sleek mast, with almost no protruding parts, and at the same time achieve the required statutory level of light on the road surface, was a huge challenge.’ David Moores, Head of Public Realm at Project Centre, was a key project partner involved in the scheme’s delivery, and worked closely with Woodhouse during product development. ‘I found them a very creative organisation to work with,’ he says.‘They will engage with you on a concept, help to develop the design detail and manage the fabrication. Often, the initial brief can be literally a basic idea in sketch form.Woodhouse is innovative in taking ideas forward through product development, and very amenable to the need to work through the process.’ A SPECIAL PLACE The grand lighting scheme at Exhibition Road celebrates and frames the grand buildings that line the street.The result marks the space as a ‘special place’: one that can change and adapt to the needs of its many users day and night, summer and winter. It is without doubt an expensive scheme, and one that indicates what can be achieved when creative thinking,
innovative design, quality engineering and effective collaborative working come together.The result is wellengineered infrastructure that considers the implications of its place in the aesthetic environment and wider public realm. But in times of increasing austerity, is it possible to achieve the same ‘wow’ effect with less funding? ‘Good design is not always proportional to money spent,’ says Romy Rawlings, Design and Development Director at Woodhouse.‘It’s about a strong core design concept tailored with the varying materials and finishes that helps to bring out the quality of public space.’ As an industry, we haven’t historically been very good at either recording or validating the impact of completed projects, she adds.‘This is changing, and today there is more focus on evidence-based research into the valuation of the pedestrian environment. I’ve recently heard of significant changes being brought about by the work carried out to Exhibition Road.Already, the character of retail outlets such as cafes has improved dramatically and everyone seems to have “upped their game” to reflect the improved, and clearly more desirable, surroundings. ‘If budgets are tighter, our approach to delivering a scheme may be different, but we have a large and infinitely customisable product range for cost-effective urban realm regeneration that still makes an impact. The concept of “totalcost-of ownership” is too often wrapped in conjecture rather than reality, but every project should consider longevity and quality. And this shouldn’t be forgotten following the Comprehensive Spending Review.’ Investing in high quality design and materials will inevitably reap benefits, suggests Rawlings.‘A considered, long term approach is ultimately more sustainable than a ‘knee-jerk’ value engineered scheme that is less robust – in every sense – and therefore has reduced longevity and increased maintenance, or even replacement, costs.’
(above) Woodhouse’s design team is always willing to seek alternative materials or manufacturing methods that will reduce cost without compromising quality of design or materials. In Southend, a bespoke project, the team reduced the cost of the designers’ initial proposals by some 50 per cent through a collaborative and extensive design process
Woodhouse can turn grand design theory into practical reality, and is always open to collaboration on the design, detailing and production of products.‘We believe that it’s worth investing more time and resource in the design stages of a project, which can save a huge amount of cost further down the line. On bespoke projects, getting our multidisciplinary design team involved early, and getting the brief and context right, can save a great deal of time, effort and cost.’ More recently, says Rawlings, we’ve recognised the significant downturn in spending within the landscape sector is likely to be here to stay, and our new product development is focused upon minimising costs, but with no loss of the design and material quality for which we are known. The design team at Woodhouse, a long-standing mix of architects, landscape architects, product designers and engineers, are immersed in the culture and practice of place-making through extensive experience.‘We are very involved, along with our partners and clients, in the understanding of localism,’ says Rawlings.‘We are keen, for example, to contribute to the wayfinding process.We frequently get involved with wayfinding consultants, and through our experience of how this works, we’re are able to confidently advise on signage product solutions that will integrate across wider range of public realm and town centre projects.’
The team organises regular seminars and round tables on key placemaking issues, and an active knowledge blog exhibits the company’s engagement with current issues in urban design. ‘We are fortunate in that we work closely with many of the UK’s leading urban designers and lighting consultants, and so are privy to their vision and design direction long before their work ‘hits the streets’. Our standard product families have always been conceived by external consultants whose conceptual design skills ensure our new products are fresh and current, says Rawlings. Woodhouse constantly seeks to innovate.‘Our key mantra is probably that we refuse to compromise, on either design or material quality.‘We view our ranges of lighting, street furniture and signage in combination, rather than as isolated products, and this is one of the key things that differentiates us.’ Our in-house team of engineers, metallurgists and product designers works closely with our landscape architects, and there is little we don’t know between us about relevant emerging materials and technologies, she adds.What we don’t know, we seek out through an established network of specialists, and we’ve established extremely beneficial working relationships in this way. ■ Romy Rawlings spoke with Juliana O’Rourke www.woodhouse.co.uk