We are all fundamentally aware of the pressures on our urban and suburban areas to deliver more housing. The UK government’s goal is to build one million new homes by the end of 2020 and a further 500,000 by the end of 2022. At the same time it has committed to making us the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.
The planning system will have to play a crucial part in successfully achieving these two goals in tandem. Of importance in achieving this will be the need for effective placemaking processes that capitalise on local community assets, inspiration and potential and result in the creation of quality public spaces that contribute to people’s happiness, health and well-being. Strengthening the connection between people and the places they share, placemaking also maximises shared value and delivers financial gains that can sometimes far exceed expectations.
Food for thought, especially when we look at projects that some of our international counterparts are undertaking. By way of example, New Yorkers Robert Hammond and Joshua David launched a community campaign to save an old elevated railway on Manhattan’s West Side and transform it into a green open space. Little did they imagine that this 3ha park in the sky would attract more than 5 million visitors a year and that it would become the second most popular visitor attraction in the city after the Museum of Modern Art. Not only has it been central to the regeneration of the West Side, but its $150 million cost is set to be far outweighed by the predicted $1 billion revenue it will generate over the next 20 years.
Closer to home and on a much smaller scale, but nonetheless relevant to greening our grey spaces, a local artist in Henley-on-Thames is brightening up the urban fabric with the installation of a self-watering living wall on the side of a three storey town centre Georgian building. The living wall is covered with shrubs and flowers that absorb and digest pollutants from exhaust fumes in a town where nitrogen dioxide levels are more than 50% above recommended safe limits in some streets. Whilst this is only a small contribution to the overall problem, community initiatives are crucial to inspiring town centre management packages that we hope, will lead to greater environmental improvements.
No matter what the scale, it is clear we planners and developers should be seeking to creatively maximise ways of incorporating clever green spaces and environmental improvements into developments for, as the built environment grows ever denser, the opportunities to deliver the traditional concept of green space become less. The two are inversely proportional, a fact we must accept and embrace. It is also a fact the planning system will need the flexibility to allow for more creative ways of incorporating environmental and open space improvements in developments of the future, not simply the expectation of the provision of X number of hectares of open space.
Future growth projections dictate that we will need to apply a more holistic approach to the delivery of housing in tandem with providing environmental improvements. Whether this will be through public / private partnerships or other means, any mechanism that inspires investment in a post Brexit economy and permits us to develop more housing whilst meeting the expectation of environmental improvement will be crucial. Interestingly, after years of emphasis on the environmental impacts of residential development, the NextGeneration Initiative notes that we are beginning to witness a shift in focus to its impact on people. They believe it is this shift that will generate the groundswell of demand and innovation needed to truly transform the way homes and neighbourhoods are designed, delivered and cared for. Homes that are fit for the future need to be good for people, the planet and for profit. Companies that are able to provide these homes will stand out from the crowd.
Here at FoddyConsult we specialise in working closely with architects, landscape designers and local authorities to deliver creative and cost effective solutions to the challenges of site regeneration, providing not only new additions to the built environment but also sensitively incorporating green spaces that will deliver greater advantages to developers to enable them to stand out from the crowd.