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designing the urban renaissance

Designing the Urban Renaissance
Francesco Vescovi
Designing the Urban
Sustainable and Competitive Place Making
in England
Francesco Vescovi
Dipartimento di Progettazione
Politecnico di Milano
Milano, Italy
This Work was first published in 2011 by Maggioli Editore with the following title: Il rinascimento
urbano in Inghilterra - Lezioni di strategia progettuale tra sostenibilità e sviluppo economico.
ISBN 978-94-007-5630-4
ISBN 978-94-007-5631-1 (eBook)
DOI 10.1007/978-94-007-5631-1
Springer Dordrecht Heidelberg New York London
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012955029
© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013
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Cover Illustration: © ImageCapture; photography by Joe D. Miles
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ai miei tre angeli
In writing the present research, I have run into a lot of debts with many people,
as usual.
Thanks go to Professor Corinna Morandi from Polytechnic of Milan, who gave
me the opportunity, as an Erasmus student, to approach and appreciate the English
planning system and also understand the fascinating usefulness of comparative
planning practices.
Although he has never been directly involved in this work, Professor Giancarlo
Consonni from Polytechnic of Milan is creditor, in different ways, to the best ideas
that I could express, and for that I thank him very much.
My gratitude goes to all my family, of course, that helped me and sustained me
with the typical unusual patience during the long period of preparation.
A very special thanks for their invaluable help in translating the original Italian text
goes to Alessia Amoni and especially to Brian Ashby (www.fuzzymemes.com).
Thanks also to Dr. Elodie J. Tronche from Springer Science + Business Media
B.V. for her very kind advice and constant help.
My gratitude for the incredible and useful tools that have made available free to
users of the Internet also goes to Google Maps, Flickr, Yell.com, Microsoft Bing,
Wikipedia and all those organisations who have made public access to the vast
documentation which I could use: a very valuable aid for anyone involved in this
Many thanks also to all the very kind photographers from Flickr, who gave
permission to publish their photos, making this book a sort of collective work:
Stuart Reeves, Patrick Linsley, Dave Riseborough, Ken Hawley, Martin Pearce,
Sophie Penney, Ben Abel, Clifford Stead, Jim Brodie, Michael Perregaard, John
Lord (yellow book ltd.), David Merrett, David Jones, Elliot Brown, Gene Hunt,
Glen Bowman, Luke Butcher, Marilyn Peddle, Matt Buck, James Lumb, Richard
Holden, Sean Robertson, Tony Hisgett, Craig Spivey and Campbell Mitchell.
Finally, I would like to thank the following people (for reasons of space I must
unfortunately omit their position and title) and the organisations or firms they
represent who contributed to varying extents to my work, mostly consenting to the
publication of images:
Paula Aucott (Great Britain Historical GIS Project Team, University of
Portsmouth); Tamara Goodwin (CABE); Catherine Tranmer (Information for the
Built Environment); Susie Bell (Barratt Homes); Sarah Goodrum (Leeds City
Council); Clare Milcoy (Panter Hudspith Architects); Alice Jenkins (University of
York); Daniel Hartley (Sheffield City Council); Kay Brown (Southampton City
Council); Paul Shirley Smith (Camlins); Colin Smith (Birmingham City Council);
Eunice Kirk (Nottingham City Council); Manuel (AZPA); Joe Berridge (Urban
Strategies Inc.); Brendan Moffett (Creative Sheffield); Tony (www.exhulme.co.uk);
Kath Lawless (Newcastle City Council); Anthony Brand (HCA); Ema Melanaphy
(Manchester City Council); Jeni Quirke (NEM Ltd); Sanna Fisher-Payne (BDP);
Jenny Sturt (House of Commons); Matilda Crisp (Tovatt Architects & Planners
AB); Phil Bonds (BroadwayMalyan); Machteld Schoep (Mecanoo Architecten);
Matthew Heller (Jerde Partnership); Elena Rustici (Temple Bar Cultural Trust);
Jenny Douglas and Rosemary Kent (Liverpool Vision); Michael Wilberforce (Bristol
City Council); Juliet Leng (Gillespies Llp); Carol Ramm (Morston Assets); Lucy
Whitworth (LSI Architects); Joe D. Miles (ImageCapture); Robert Fiehn (Rogers
Stirk Harbour + Partners); Sarah Carter and Jim Wensley (Salford City Council);
Jonathan Ellis (Urban Vision); Jolene Libretto, Ellie Moser, Stella Bland and Daniel
Elsea (Aecom); Vicki McGrath M (Glenn Howells Architects Ltd); Andy Avery
(MBLA Architects + Urbanists); Sarah Noble (Rivington Street Studio); Louise
McKenzie (York St. John University); Pauline Williams (Studio Egret West); Emily
Crompton (Urbed); Stephen MacKenna (Mott MacDonald); Gemma Harris
(Whitehill & Bordon Eco-town team); Phil Smith (Swindon City Council).
I apologize to readers for any omissions or inaccuracies in the text, which I am
ready to correct once reported. I am also at disposal of anyone – institutions,
municipalities, companies, design studios and photographers – who has been
possibly subject to some error or misunderstanding, in particular with respect to the
copyright of the images used.
This book is a tribute to all those who in recent years have contributed through
their efforts to the exemplary work of the Commission for Architecture and the
Built Environment, making it one of the major international references in the field
of urban design.
Introduction ....................................................................................................
The Recent Reform of the English Planning System ............................
1.1 The Planning System up to 2004 .......................................................
1.2 New Issues and Tools Introduced
by the Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 .............................................
References ..................................................................................................
New Strategic Drivers for the Regeneration of Cities...........................
2.1 The Evolution of the National Legislation: Sustainability
and Competitiveness in Urban Planning............................................
2.2 The Proactive Approach: CABE, Training,
Government Publications ..................................................................
2.3 Administrative Tools for Controlling the Quality
of Urban Design ................................................................................
References ..................................................................................................
Stakeholders, Programmes and Strategies ............................................
3.1 English Partnerships, the Homes and Communities
Agency and the Housing Question ....................................................
3.2 The Urban Regeneration Companies
and the Local Partnerships.................................................................
3.3 Strategic Plans for the Urban Renaissance:
Objectives and Constraints ................................................................
References ..................................................................................................
Elements of Design Strategy ...................................................................
4.1 The ‘Quarterisation’ of the City ........................................................
4.2 The Industrial Legacy: Urban Villages and Waterfronts ...................
4.3 The Knowledge Clusters ...................................................................
4.4 The Role of Housing: City Living, Communities and Places ...........
4.5 New Characters of the Urban Fabric .................................................
4.6 Urbanity of Places and Public Realm ................................................
References ..................................................................................................
Conclusions: Short Notes on the English Lesson ..................................
References ..................................................................................................
Index ................................................................................................................
Area Action Plan
Architecture and Built Environment Centre
Area Based Initiatives
Architecture Centre Network
Annual Monitoring Report
Advisory Team for Large Applications
Business Improvement District
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method
British Urban Regeneration Association
Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment
Economic City Company
Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation
Creative Industries Quarter Sheffield
Department for Communities and Local Government
Compulsory Purchase Order
Comprehensive Spending Review
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
Department for Transport
Department of Environment
Development Plan Documents
Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions
Economic Development Company
East Midlands Development Agency
English Partnerships
Greater London Authority
Government Office
Homes and Communities Agency
Housing Health and Safety Rating System
Housing Market Renewal
Holbeck Urban Village
International Conference and Exhibition Centre Gateshead
Index of Multiple Deprivation
Local Development Documents
Local Development Framework
Local Development Scheme
Local Employment Partnership
Local Neighbourhood Renewal Strategies
Living Over The Shop
Lower Layer Super Output Area
Local Strategic Partnership
Large Scale Voluntary Transfer
Local Transport Plan
Modern Methods of Construction
Mineral Policy Guidance notes
New East Manchester
National Indicator Set
Neighbourhood Renewal Fund
National Retail Planning Forum
Northwest Regional Development Agency
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
Public Art Commission Agency
Private Finance Initiative
Planning Performance Agreement
Planning Policy Guidance notes
Public Private Partnership
Planning Policy Statements
Partnership for Urban South Hampshire
Renaissance Towns and Cities Programme
Regional Development Agency
Regional Economic Strategies
Royal Fine Art Commission
Royal Institute of British Architects
Regional Planning Guidance notes
Regional Skills Partnership
Regional Spatial Strategies
Royal Town Planning Institute
Regional Transport Strategy
Resource for Urban Design Information
Statement of Community Involvement
Spatial Development Strategy
Social Exclusion Unit
Supplementary Plan Documents
Supplementary Planning Guidance
Single Regeneration Budget
Subregional Strategic Partnership
Sustainable Urban Drainage System
Town Centre Management
Town and Country Planning Association
Townscape Heritage Initiative
Transport Policies and Programmes
Urban Development Companies
Unitary Development Plan
Walsall Regeneration Company
A wind of change has been blowing through England and the whole United
Kingdom for more than a decade, bringing radical reforms in architecture, urban
design and planning. Several ministerial surveys and reports, especially the
renowned 1999 extensive document published by the Urban Task Force, have
underlined the fundamental and inescapable driving role of cities and metropolis
for the economy and society in the post-Fordist era. The new challenges of intermetropolitan competition caused by economic globalisation had by then begun to
be considered by the English government from a sustainable development perspective. The centrifugal trends of the sprawling neighbourhoods developed during the
post-war period had been completely revised, together with that particular kind of
suburban lifestyle – scattered, car-dependent and rather peripheral – that was both
the cause and effect of those planning models. After experiencing a progressive
physical and social decline caused by decades of uncontrollable sprawl, the English
cities have been appointed again to preserve the local identities and spread wellbeing fairly among their citizens, becoming places with renovated vitality, attractive
to workers, investors and tourists.
Even if many local and cultural characters are so specific that they cannot be easily translated into other contexts, the English example still remains a notable case
study for several reasons.
First of all, competitiveness and (social and environmental) sustainability, which
are the two main objectives of the new English urban renaissance, have also been
put at the heart of the political agenda of the European Union. They are the key
drivers of both the 2000 Lisbon Strategy to support the knowledge economy – a
policy that has actually been scarcely implemented – and the 2007 Leipzig Charter
to promote a sustainable urban development. These two topics have been engaged
in England extensively by a large number of policies and initiatives delivered by an
equally wide range of institutions.
Moreover, many European countries share the similarly neo-liberal approach that
characterises the English urban regeneration policy. This sets a further methodological
benchmark especially for managing and coordinating both private and public sectors in contributing to the quality of life and of the built environment.
One of the strongest points of this country, in this as in other fields, is its
ability to move promptly and rather clearly towards its goals, basing habitually
its action on the results of experimentations derived from previous policies and
academic research. Further studies are also frequently promoted by the government together with informative campaigns and pilot projects. Sometimes such
a pragmatic attitude may produce too mechanistic or simplistic interventions.
Even if sometimes it hinders the scope and rich potential of some policies, this
defect can be probably considered, however, as a lesser evil which, while showing the limits of some approaches, often highlights also their more fruitful
The English case study is particularly notable also for the paradigmatic evolution
of its urban policies. From the New Towns programme onwards, throughout the
second half of the twentieth century, the English approach, besides showing an
extraordinary organisational capability at all levels of government, has been traditionally marked by the striking radicalism of some of the measures taken. The
demolition works carried out in the historic centres of many cities to make way for
highways and urban areas planned according to rigid zoning schemes, as well as the
adoption, on a vast scale, of large complexes of system-built tower blocks and
‘streets in the sky’, are just some of the policies that have been implemented nationally during the 1960s and 1970s which, in full compliance with the functionalist and
engineering orthodoxy of that time, have transformed profoundly – and very badly,
according to the current opinion – the landscape and degree of urbanity of the
English cities. Its outcome – considered today the heavy legacy of a short-sighted
technical euphoria and thus rejected almost everywhere in England – allows us to
measure, as if in a laboratory, all of the weaknesses and mistakes of this disastrous
planning culture, whose unhappy principles unfortunately have not yet been eradicated from many political and academic contexts, especially in those countries
where less effective or, quite seldom, more far-seeing planning and economic policies have luckily avoided similar results. The scientific and planning commitment to
a radical improvement, as shown by the English authorities at each level, are important points of reference for those who consider following the same revolutionary
path, especially when they can benefit, as in many European cities, from a far less
affected urban condition.
There are currently many essays and publications relating to urban regeneration
schemes undertaken by major British cities while many individual achievements
and experiences have become by now notable examples or case studies. The present
work, which focuses more broadly on the role and on the contribution of urban
design in the processes taking place in the last two decades, seeks to differentiate
itself from other monographic works on individual cities or on works relating to
particular aspects of current policies and attempts to give an extensive overview of
a situation that is usually described only partially and in a fragmented manner. It
tries to highlight the complexity of the phenomenon and the mutual relationship of
the different components that help to define it.1 The recent work edited by John
Punter (2010b) on this subject has been an especially valuable aid for a first orientation in the recent large developments that have occurred in the major cities of the
United Kingdom.
The textbook, in an attempt to provide a sufficiently comprehensive but concise
exposition of the English urban renaissance according to an extensive rather than a
rigidly field-specific approach, has opted for a more descriptive than critical
approach, drawing as soon as possible directly from the substantial documentation
produced by the multiple agencies involved rather than from the rich analytical
elaboration which has flourished in academia. Many of the questions and critical
issues that emerge from the research of scholars have thus been omitted or only
mentioned both because they threatened to complicate the discussion taking it away
from its main informative purpose and because in many cases are so culturally
specific as to be of less interest than the exemplary nature of the central topic. An
in-depth discussion and an exhaustive anthology of these issues can be found in the
work of Phil Jones and James Evans (2009) and especially in the excellent textbook
by Andrew Tallon (2010): all of them, however, treat this topic mainly from an
urban policy perspective.
The focus of this work, as mentioned, has therefore been directed primarily to
the processes and results of the physical transformations in progress or already carried out in England, paying particular attention to those management and design
aspects having direct effects on the quality of places. For this reason, the description
of the examples also makes use, where possible, of a quite rich iconography, looking in part to propose a sort of small urban design compendium.
The treatment consists of three main sections: the first five chapters describe the
English planning system analysing its administrative structure and policies, emphasising above all the instruments for controlling the quality of built environment,
their purpose and how they are managed. Then follows a transitional middle section
made up of three chapters, in which the framework is extended to illustrate ongoing
regeneration projects, conducted in an integrated way, within the institutional framework and regulations previously described. The third section, quantitatively dominant, focuses on the architectural and urban design elements and the planning
criteria adopted from different regeneration strategies. It illustrates both achieved
and expected results and describes how they contribute to shape the new urban landscape whose characters and recurrent themes are also investigated.
The different examples analysed by the book are drawn primarily from eight
metropolitan English cities – the so-called Core Cities – several Urban Regeneration
The present research derives from the revision and especially the development of two previous
articles: Vescovi F., «Nuove politiche residenziali inglesi: case, comunità, luoghi» in QA Quaderni
del Dipartimento di Progettazione dell’Architettura del Politecnico di Milano, n. 24, giugno 2009:
pp. 46–49; Vescovi F., «Il nuovo rinascimento urbano inglese: la qualità dell’urban design tra
sostenibilità e sviluppo economico» in Complessità e sostenibilità: il territorio e l’architettura, n.
3–4, settembre-dicembre 2007 (CD ROM).
Companies, the Millennium Community pilot projects and some additional cases of
particular interest, often derived from CABE’s case studies. Attention has been
focused mainly on typical situations, easily documented, and those experiences
which can be more easily replicated in other contexts. The particular case of London,
on account of the history, size, issues and resources involved, often differs so much
from the more usual regeneration processes of the other cities that it can rarely be
considered as a generalisable or meaningful example and has therefore been almost
completely omitted.
Chapter 1
The Recent Reform of the English
Planning System
The Planning System up to 2004
Although some of the major cities of the United Kingdom such as Glasgow,
Birmingham and Manchester have launched own policies and plans aimed at reversing
their relentless physical and economic decline already in the late 1980s, it is with
the gradual reform of the territorial government that began in the next decade that
the urban renaissance process, a movement that has become widespread nationally,
found its own institutional framework. To better grasp the scope of the changes
introduced by the New Labour executive of Tony Blair, it is therefore useful to give
a brief account of the planning system in force in England before the important
changes made by the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act of 2004.
Until that time, the territorial government, whose original layout dates back to
the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947, was the expression of four levels of
administration: national, regional, county and district level.1 To the latter two, as
required by the Town and Country Planning Act in 1968, was entrusted in particular
the mandatory drafting of planning documents, while the central and regional government had the authority to issue general directives and coordination guidelines of
a strategic nature. Since 1988, the year of their introduction, the Secretary of State
laid down the policies at a national scale using the Planning Policy Guidance notes
(PPG) and Mineral Policy Guidance notes (MPG). Among the 25 PPG that were
emanated, each pertaining to specific topics such as planning of industrial settlements, environmental safeguards or telecommunications, the first – the PPG1 –
had the task of outlining a framework of policies and objectives that have guided all
the others. The reform of the system introduced in the late 1990s, which led to an
The districts are divided into metropolitan, non-metropolitan districts and boroughs of London
(established in 1965); each district may also have the title of borough, or royal borough or city.
Finally, in some cases, there is a further administrative layer below the district level: the civil
parishes. This is the civic equivalent of the ancient parishes and represents local communities.
F. Vescovi, Designing the Urban Renaissance: Sustainable and Competitive
Place Making in England, DOI 10.1007/978-94-007-5631-1_1,
© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013
1 The Recent Reform of the English Planning System
almost radical rewrite of many of the guidelines then in force, began in 1997, by
reconsidering general settings and policy directions contained in PPG1.
From 1989, the Secretary of State was initially responsible also for the editorial
of the Regional Planning Guidance notes (RPG), that is, strategic guidelines for the
development of specific parts of the country which were valid over a period of 15 or
20 years. The RPG generally defined the quantity and distribution of residential
uses and priorities on environment, transports,2 infrastructure, economic
development, agriculture and waste management and mining. Following the greater
importance given to this planning level and starting from the Planning and
Compensation Act 1991, the role, initially only consultative, of the regional authorities was reinforced. The Regional Planning Bodies were thus called upon to set the
first draft of the Regional Planning Guidance notes together with the Government
Offices (GOs), created in 1994, leaving to the Secretary of State the supervision of
the final document.
The nine Government Offices, active within the eight regions and in London, are
decentralised control bodies organised centrally by the Regional Coordination Unit.
Their task is to supervise the implementation of ministerial policies on a regional
scale, in accordance with the management level required by the subsidy scheme of
the European Union. The establishment of Government Offices, who have acquired
an increasingly important administrative role with the new millennium, leading to
the coordination of the policies of nine ministries, marked the first concrete step
towards regional decentralisation.
This process was further enhanced by the establishment in April 1999 of the
Regional Development Agencies (RDAs),3 modelled on the corresponding Welsh
and Scottish structures, to promote a territorially more balanced economic development in response to the overwhelming weight of London and the south-eastern
regions. The RDAs were mixed partnerships headed by the ministries for economic
activities and research – currently the Department for Business, Innovation and
Skills (BIS) – and funded by six departments through a unified fund. They were in
charge of strengthening the competitiveness of the regions through the definition of
10-year strategies for the economic growth, called the Regional Economic Strategies
(RES), that were committed to a socially and environmentally sustainable approach.
Among the various competences they had inherited was the funding of the Single
Regeneration Budget (SRB), integrated projects for urban regeneration, for years
the main source of economic support for many initiatives, and of the Urban
Regeneration Companies, public corporations for improving the urban areas. The
Regional Development Agencies acted also through Subregional Strategic
Partnerships (SSPs), in charge of leading economic development strategies in
response to the specific needs and specifications of the homogeneous areas that
Sometimes the transportation plan was addressed in a specific document, the Regional Transport
Strategy (RTS), which became mandatory with the first reform of PPG11 (concerning the Regional
Planning Guidance) introduced in 2000 by the DETR (Department of the Environment, Transport
and the Regions).
The act establishing the Regional Development Agencies is the Regional Development Agencies
Act of 1998. The creation of the London Development Agency dates back to July 2000.
1.1 The Planning System up to 2004
make up the regional territory. Since 2005, the RDAs cooperated also with other
regional bodies responsible for vocational training – the Regional Skills Partnership
(RSP) – to ensure that the economic development planned and led by the Regional
Economic Strategies would integrate with the many policies for the diffusion and
accessibility of knowledge introduced by the individual ministries of competence
(ODPM et al. 2005).
The increased power that the regional bodies have come to take with the reform
of the national administrative system had led in 2002 the New Labour government
in office, with the report ‘Your Regions, Your Choice’ (DTLR 2002), to introduce
the possibility, later acquired at a legislative level by the Regional Assemblies
(Preparations) Act 2003, to establish, after a referendum, regional parliaments elected
directly by the people. However, after the strong negative response that came out from
the first of these consultations, which took place in the North East, the preparation of
the remaining referendums was suspended and was never again addressed.
Currently, budget revisions and the different Eurosceptic political approaches of
the new liberal democratic government team have led to the dismantling of the role
of regions in the perspective, outlined in the recent Localism Act 2011, of replacing
the majority of the centralised government bodies with an administrative structure
‘from below’, supported again by the local authorities. The local authority leaders’
boards, consisting of representatives from local organisations which since March of
2010 were in control of the Regional Development Agencies, will cease to be subsidised and will be abolished, while the RDA themselves should be replaced by
subregional partnership initiatives (the Local Enterprise Partnerships) (England’s
RDAs 2010). Even the Greater London Authority, a coordination body of individual
boroughs of the capital restored in 1999 13 years after its previous abolition, will
once again see its role resized in favour of institutions of a lower administrative
level. The government has also expressed the intention to abolish the Government
Office in London and, ultimately, all of the others in the eight regions (BBC 2010).
The administrative layer below the regional level in force before the reform of
2004 was that relating to county government, which had the responsibility to draw
the Structure Plan, Minerals and Waste Local Plan and, more recently, the Local
Transport Plan (LTP). The Structure Plan, without going into spatial details of
municipal relevance, provided a 10-year framework of the priorities, objectives, tools
and policies to be activated at a local level with respect to several issues: new residential quantities, green belts, conservation and enhancement of the natural and built
environment, commercial and manufacturing settlements (with eventual approximations of the designated areas), tourism and recreational activities and energy consumption. The Local Transport Plan, which replaced the Transport Policies and
Programmes (TPP) in force since 1974, was introduced in 1999 following the publication of the ‘White Paper on the Future of Transport’ (DETR 1998) and has a 5-year
validity. Compared to the tool they have replaced, which was an optional plan aimed
almost solely at the request of funds for roads infrastructure, the new LTPs, obligatory by law, are above all characterised by a strategic and multimodal approach,
integrated with other regional policies (e.g. the programming of productive or residential areas). They offer more flexibility in the expenditures and present greater
detail when planning the areas affected by the interventions (DfT 2003).
1 The Recent Reform of the English Planning System
Taking as reference the guidance given by the Structure Plan, the municipalities,
at a district level, were then called to produce the Local Plan for their territory.
Metropolitan cities and others having the status of unitary authorities, in which the
powers of the county and the districts match, were controlled instead by the Unitary
Development Plan (UDP), which summarised in a single document, divided into
two parts, both the Structure Plan and the Local Plan. In London, since the reintroduction of the Greater London Authority, the mayor is in charge of producing the
Spatial Development Strategy (SDS). The Planning Policy Guidance notes 12 of
1999, which set the responsibilities of the various planning levels, recommended
that the policies specified in the Local Plan should not be overly detailed, as they
were too long to draw and harbingers of too many litigations. Instead their structure
had to be flexible enough to allow negotiations on the basis of clearly expressed
criteria (DETR 1999b).
The Local Plan had to determine the areas under constraint, and standards and
criteria to be met in designated areas, such as housing densities (expressed in units
per residential hectare) or the type of functions which can be installed in a given
sector. It was, essentially, a zoning scheme whose grain of definition was at the
discretion of the local authority. The relatively vague indications of architectural
and spatial type contained in the Local Plan were completed by the Supplementary
Planning Guidance (SPG), a set of more sectorial planning tools, optional and without cogency, that contributed to help establish architectural and urban design principles and provided analytical frameworks and better detailed information with
respect to particular issues, such as public housing or neighbourhood layouts. These
documents usually had quite flexible formats and diverse contents. The derived
products, therefore, ranged from strategic frameworks to masterplans up to the prescription of details, such as the architectural characteristics of shop fronts or the
arrangement of satellite dishes on buildings. Although they could also treat quite
technical issues, the Supplementary Planning Guidance documents were approved
by the local community and for that, even in the absence of a binding authority,
constituted still ‘material considerations’ that are influential criteria in determining
the approval or denial of planning permissions.
In 2001, the document ‘Planning Green Paper’ (DTLR 2001), released by the
ministry that was then in charge of the planning system,4 identified some questions
that had to be tackled to reform the national planning system. Key issues brought to
light were different: the complexity and slowness resulting from various levels of
The Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR) was the result of an
intermediate stage in the reorganisation of administrative responsibilities. The DTLR was founded
in 2001 by the former Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), itself
established in 1997 from the union of the first English Ministry of the Environment – the Department
of Environment (DoE), founded in 1970 – and the Department of Transport. The DTLR was later
abolished just a year after its formation in 2002, and its responsibilities were absorbed by three
other entities: the Department for Transport (DfT); the Lord Chancellor’s Department, which has
competences in the electoral and party financing; and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
(ODPM), which was the executive body of the Prime Minister. The latter has been replaced in 2006
by the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG).
New Issues and Tools Introduced by the Compulsory Purchase Act 2004
control, connected in a cascade, led very often and easily to indeterminacies and
conflicts due to discrepancies and overlaps; approval times were often excessive,
creating uncertainty among the investors; local communities were in many cases
excluded from planning processes; and the information service on local planning
and planning permissions was not very attentive to the needs and level of public
understanding. The same document proposed then to subdivide the Local Plan into
distinct but integrated parts, so that it could be updated regularly without compromising the overall planning scheme.
The year following the publication of the ‘Planning Green Paper’, a first comprehensive proposal for a legislative reform was drawn up in the ‘Planning and
Compulsory Purchase Bill’, which received final approval with the Royal Assent
2 years later, in May 2004.
New Issues and Tools Introduced by the Compulsory
Purchase Act 2004
The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 introduced the new reform of the
system. It completed and summarised in a new administrative body the progressive
changes carried out since the mid-1990s. Environmental, social and economic sustainability underpins entirely the new legal framework. All plans produced by
regions and districts and in general all those plans that can lead to substantial
modifications of the environmental assets will henceforth be assessed accordingly
on the basis of some indicators as requested by the European ‘Strategic Environmental
Assessment Directive’ (2001/42/EC).
The use of indicators in planning policies has been part of a national tradition in
the UK for more than a decade. With the new 1999 strategy – ‘A Better Quality of
Life: a Strategy for Sustainable Development for the UK’ (DETR 1999a) – the government had already introduced 147 indicators (including 15 key indicators) to
measure and monitor national policies in relation to the proposed targets for sustainability (Government Statistical Service 1999). The same document then gave birth
to an annual report on the progress of policies and their effects. In 2004, the dataset
was updated with the addition of 16 new indicators (DEFRA 2004). Later, in 2005,
the government’s strategy was subsequently modified with the publication of
‘Securing the Future: delivering UK sustainable development strategy’ that, based
on the priorities identified together with the new devolved governments established
in 1999 (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), replaced the previous monitoring
system with a new set of 68 indicators (20 UK major Framework Indicators plus a
supplementary 48), subjected to an annual review, divided into four thematic areas:
sustainable consumption and production, climatic change and energy, preservation
of natural resources and environmental improvement, and the creation of sustainable communities (DEFRA 2005). Besides these parameters, valid on a national
scale, in 2008 the government also introduced the National Indicator Set (NIS).
1 The Recent Reform of the English Planning System
These are 188 indicators, based on a synthesis of previous verification methods
(Best Value Performance Indicator) for monitoring local authorities. In the same
year was also set up a biennial survey of 18 indicators relating to NIS, called the
Place Survey, which aimed to capture the degree of satisfaction among residents
about environmental features and services in their local area. The data collection,
whose cost-effectiveness raised some concern, was cancelled by the new government in 2010 (Audit Commission 2012).
Having set clear measurable objectives, the new system introduced by the
Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 has therefore made changes also to
the implementation tools, in order to strengthen on multiple fronts the power of
local authorities with respect to those of the private sector. The period available to
developers for the implementation of planning permissions has been reduced from
5 to 3 years to make urban transformation projects quicker and more reliable, while
the Secretary of State was given the opportunity to regulate the use of planning
obligations (also known as ‘Section 106 Agreements’, from the section number of
the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 that established them), that is, the negotiation process between developers and local authorities. Even the procedures of
compulsory acquisition for public utility have been made faster, clear and fair. The
compulsory purchase order (CPO) – this is how the dispossession procedure is
called in England – has proved in more than one occasion to be an invaluable tool to
ensure the viability of significant and complicated projects, such as the regeneration
of Brindleyplace in Birmingham or Ancoats in Manchester. By allowing the local
authorities to assemble lands and properties that are sometimes so divided as to
make otherwise impractical any coordinated redevelopment scheme, the CPO has
made available to public-private partnerships, or directly to private developers, areas
appropriate in size, shape and position to developments deemed strategic to the
goals of the local plan.
From an administrative point of view, the most important innovation brought by
the 2004 Act is the reduction in the role of the county, which already began partially
with the introduction of the unitary authorities by the Local Government Act of
1992, and the subsequent reduction of the planning system to a two-tier structure
made of regions and districts.5 At a national level, the Planning Policy Guidance
notes have been joined or replaced by Planning Policy Statements (PPS), which are
less prescriptive than the previous guidelines (Fig. 1.1). So, the new PPS1, in accordance with the progress and the experiences made by the national policies, has
replaced PPG1 in 2005, confirming its guiding principles but giving even greater
emphasis and priority to the topic of sustainability.
The old Regional Planning Guidance notes were replaced by the Regional Spatial
Strategies (RSS), which were in turn abolished by the liberal democratic government in July 2010, after just 6 years of service, as part of the ongoing localist reform.
In addition to prescribing land uses, these new planning documents contained the
The counties still have the responsibility to draw up the Minerals and Waste Plans, possibly in
conjunction with the district authorities through the so-called Joint Committees. These committees
are optional and may also be set up to prepare the Local Development Framework.
New Issues and Tools Introduced by the Compulsory Purchase Act 2004
National Level:
Planning Policy Guidance note [PPG]
National Level:
Planning Policy Statement [PPS]
Regional Level:
Regional Planning Policy
Regional Level:
Real Spatial Strategy [RSS]
Regional Transport Strategy [RTS]
County Level:
Structure Plan;
Mineral and Waste Local Plan;
Local Transport Plan [LTP]
County Level:
Mineral and Waste Plan
[Community Strategy]
District Level:
Local Development Plan
Development Plan
District Level:
Local Transport Plan [LTP];
Local Development Framework [LDF]
Fig. 1.1 Differences between the administrative levels of the old system (up to 2004) and of the
new system (up to 2011)
Regional Transport Strategies, which set the overall mobility framework and gave
appropriate guidance for the local plans. The Regional Spatial Strategies were also
programmed to complement the Regional Economic Strategies prepared by the
Regional Development Agencies and to coordinate with other environmental and
social regional strategies, such as the Regional Housing Strategy and the Regional
Cultural Strategy, and other sectorial policies affecting the configuration of places.
The RSS had in particular to integrate with the Regional Sustainable Development
Framework, adopted by the Regional Assemblies, that constituted the reference
framework for all other government policies. As the county level of planning had
been dismissed, the Regional Spatial Strategies also presented more detailed programmes at a subregional scale, in continuity with the economic strategies of the
partnerships operating at this particular level. The plans were subject to annual
audits, based on parameters specifically identified in relation to the goals defined.
With the exclusion of the Core Strategy, the various policies proposed for achieving
these goals were considered flexible and were thus submitted to constant checks on
their effectiveness and subject to appropriate adjustments. Much emphasis was also
placed on the involvement of local communities in drafting the plan, which was
prepared by proposing possible scenarios associated with different options. To this
end the regional assembly also had the task to prepare, publish and update the
Statement of Public Participation, a plan of ways and schedules to inform the citizens and involve them in the initiatives concerning the Regional Spatial Strategy.
At a district level, however, many municipalities are still engaged in the slow transition from the previous Local Plan or Unitary Development Plan to the new Local
Development Framework (LDF), as indicated by the Planning Policy Statement 12 of
2004 (ODPM 2004). This transition is often carried out in a sort of cross-fade: some
of the old planning policies are taken up and absorbed into the new documents, which
1 The Recent Reform of the English Planning System
often are still under consultation. The greatest innovation characterising this new kind
of plan resides in the flexibility and continuous democratic involvement, in a consensus-building process developed through transparent administrative procedures and in
the sustainability of planning choices underpinned by a solid base of knowledge and
clear guiding principles. The Local Development Framework, made up of a set of different documents, is in many respects the spatial translation and the necessary complement to the economic plan, expressed by the municipality or by the local Urban
Regeneration Company and, particularly, of the community strategy, which became
already mandatory with the Local Government Act of 2000. The community strategy
is carried out involving the citizens and summarises the desires and ambitions of local
communities, determining their medium- to long-term objectives through a plan of
action and monitoring. It is often prepared by the Local Strategic Partnership (LSP),
organisms introduced in 2001 to collect and coordinate public and private actors, such
as local authorities, organisations of citizens, volunteers, representatives of the local
economy and any pre-existing partnership (ODPM 2003). Being an expression of the
communities of citizens ‘from below’, the actual size of these partnerships and the
extension of the area affected by their strategies depend on the scale of the issues and
the interests involved and can therefore vary considerably from the urban sector to the
county. The Local Strategic Partnerships, operating in 88 areas specifically designated
by the government in 2001, are the recipients of the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund
(NRF), a form of funding aimed at financing integrated action plans – the Local
Neighbourhood Renewal Strategies (LNRS) – for areas and neighbourhoods at risk of
social exclusion or afflicted by particular housing, social and economic difficulties
(SEU 2001). The new Localism Act 2011, moreover, has very recently strengthened
this basic planning level introducing also Neighbourhood Plans. These are optional
schemes run by small local communities – towns, parishes or newly constituted
‘neighbourhood forums’ – to make more effective decisions about their area within
the Local Development Framework. The new ‘neighbourhood development orders’
and the ‘community right to build orders’ should in particular allow local communities
– provided certain conditions are fulfilled – to grant directly planning permissions to
developers or to start themselves new developments without the need for normal planning applications (CLG 2012).
The Local Development Documents (LDD) which constitute the Local
Development Framework are prepared according to a very detailed programme of
works, times and resources provided by the Local Development Scheme (LDS).
The documents which make up the LDD are the Development Plan Documents
(DPD), the Supplementary Plan Documents (SPD), the Annual Monitoring Report
(AMR) and the Statement of Community Involvement (SCI). The latter actually
precedes all others. It focuses on the actions and measures that local authorities will
take to ensure that citizens will be constantly informed about the various topics
dealt with by the plan and involved in their formulation.
The Development Plan Documents consist of the following components (Fig. 1.2):
– Core Strategy: It is at the heart of the whole Local Development Framework and
is the first document being produced. The Core Strategy sets the basic spatial
framework supporting all the sectorial policies of the plan (shopping and business
New Issues and Tools Introduced by the Compulsory Purchase Act 2004
Regional Spatial Strategy
RDA’s Regional Economic Strategy;
Other sectorial regional strategic plans
Local Transport Plan
Local Development Framework
Local Development Scheme
Local Development Documents
Development Plan Documents
Supplementary Planning Documents
Annual Monitoring Report
Statement of Community Involvement
1. Core Strategy;
• Vision
• Objectives
• Strategy
• Policies
• Monitoring
• Implementation
2. Site Specific Allocation of Land
3. Area Action Plan (AAP);
• Area Masterplan
• Neighbourhood and Villages Plan
• Design Statement
• Site Development Briefs
4. Generic development control policies;
5. Proposals maps
Fig. 1.2 The planning process of the new system (up to 2011)
activities, services, housing, transportation, parks, etc.) and specifies at the local
level, in more detail, the priorities, sustainability objectives and other guidelines
prepared by regional and subregional plans. For this purpose, it identifies areas
for residential and manufacturing extensions and establishes criteria for the preparation of the Local Transport Plan and the Area Action Plans. In addition, the
Core Strategy indicates the procedures and the schedule for the implementation
of the plan and outlines its monitoring framework.
– Site Specific Allocations: These documents state the reasons and requirements
that make certain areas especially suited to host new developments, particular
functions or facilities which help achieve the objectives outlined in the Core
Strategy. For this purpose, design specifications may also be included.
– Area Action Plans (AAP): These are detailed plans for specific conservation
areas or development sites. In the case of urban transformation, the AAPs set the
main uses and their correlation with the context, provide planning specifications
and key design features and recommends control measures and implementation
times for areas of strategic relevance. The instruments used for this purpose can
be Masterplans, Neighbourhood Plans (or Village Plans), Design Statements or
Site Development Briefs.
– Adopted Proposals Map: Each Local Development Framework must contain one
or more synthetic maps that indicate at the appropriate scale areas under protection or conservation and those concerned by the actions and policies set by the
plan, in particular those subject to Area Action Plans. Sometimes this document
also provides diagrams explaining the relationship between the various strategic
1 The Recent Reform of the English Planning System
The Supplementary Planning Documents consist, exactly as the Supplementary
Planning Guidance which they have replaced, of additional documents that, referring to the Development Plan Documents, specify better their scope and analyse in
greater detail some topics or, through Masterplans or Development Briefs, some
planning and design aspects for areas of particular interest. This type of documentation, on which the public is called to express its opinion, however, is not subject to
the scrutiny of the central government – conducted by an external inspector appointed
by the Secretary of State – and therefore assumes less importance in the definition
of criteria for granting planning permissions.
The Generic development control policies are included in the Core Strategy or in
the Supplementary Planning Documents and constitute the coherent body of criteria
and planning principles on the basis of which planning applications are considered.
The flexibility that ought to characterise the plan suggests that these indications are
not so much linked to particular land uses, which can easily be modified, but rather
to specific goals that the project is expected to achieve with respect to the needs and
potentials of the context.
Finally, the Annual Monitoring Report identifies the criteria for implementing
the plan and the parameters that define over time policy outcomes with respect to set
targets. The report is delivered to the Secretary of State and must allow for suitable
adjustments to the plan along the way.
The Local Development Framework, thus structured, aims, for flexibility, transparency of processes and clarity of purpose, to be the best tool for the management
of urban transformation policies, and for the administration of the territory, conducted in the wake of sustainable development recently introduced by the national
government according to terms, goals and results which will be described in the
following chapters.
Audit Commission (2012) National Indicator Set (NIS). Audit Commission, web page. http://www.
nis/Pages/Default.aspx. Viewed 15 Nov 2012
BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] (2010) Regional government offices face axe. BBC News,
22 July, web page. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-10728140. Viewed 11 Feb 2011
CLG [department for Communities and Local Government] (2012) Localism act: Neighbourhood
plans and community right to build. Impact assessment. CLG, London
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) (2004) Quality of life counts.
Indicators for a strategy for sustainable development for the United Kingdom. 2004 update.
Updating the baseline assessments made in 1999. National Statistics, London
DEFRA [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] (2005) Securing the future.
Delivering UK sustainable development strategy. TSO, London
DETR [Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions] (1998) A new deal for transport:
better for everyone. HMSO, London
DETR (1999a) A better quality of life. Strategy for sustainable development for the United
Kingdom. TSO, London
DETR (1999b) Planning policy guidance 12: development plans. TSO, London
DfT [Department for Transport] (2003) Local transport plans – policy evaluation: part 1 – final
report. Department for Transport, London
DTLR [Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions] (2001) Planning: delivering
a fundamental change. Planning Green Paper. HMSO, London
DTLR (2002) Your regions, your choice. HMSO, London
England’s RDAs (2010) Q&As on the future of RDAs, 27 August, England’s RDAs, web page.
http://www.englandsrdas.com/news/qas-on-the-future-of-rdas. Viewed 11 Feb 2011
Government Statistical Service (1999) Quality of life counts. Indicators for a strategy for sustainable development for the United Kingdom: a baseline assessment. ODPM, London
Jones P, Evans J (2009) Urban regeneration in the UK. Sage, London
ODPM [Office of the Deputy Prime Minister] (2003) The relationships between community strategies and local development frameworks. Final report. Entec UK Limited, London
ODPM (2004) Planning policy statement 12. Local development frameworks. TSO, London
ODPM, HM Treasury, DTI, England’s RDAS (2005) Realising the potential of all our regions: the
way forward. ODPM, London
Punter J (ed) (2010) Urban design and the British urban renaissance. Routledge, London
SEU [Social Exclusion Unit] (2001) A new commitment to neighbourhood renewal. National
strategy action plan. SEU, London
Tallon A (2010) Urban regeneration in the UK. Routledge, London
Chapter 2
New Strategic Drivers for the Regeneration
of Cities
The Evolution of the National Legislation: Sustainability
and Competitiveness in Urban Planning
Since 1997, when the Planning Policy Guidance note 1 (PPG1) was revised, the
English government has attempted to reinvigorate and update the role of planning in
policies of local and national territorial control. Several documents explicitly
stressed the new task of active intervention that should connote the actions of local
authorities in assuring adequate qualitative standards for the enhancement and
development of urban areas, not merely from a spatial perspective but also in terms
of their social and economic profiles. Given the complex knit of objectives to be
pursued in any attempt to wed competitiveness and sustainability, legislation placed
particular emphasis on the plan as a flexible and indispensable instrument for controlling and verifying development processes.
The PPG1 identified three themes as fundamental requirements and instruments
in order to attain these objectives: sustainable development, mixed uses and design.
The first was actually derived from principles that had already been expressed in
1994 in a governmental strategic policy document, ‘Sustainable Development: the
UK Strategy’ (DoE 1994a), one of the first organic programmes for sustainable
development to be adopted by a European nation. The measures described can be
summed up in four main actions:
– Planning commercial and industrial development, neighbourhoods, agricultural
production and mining in full respect of the environment
– Using brownfield or previously urbanised areas as much as possible, making
them more attractive for living and working
– Protecting and enhancing cultural and natural heritage
– Planning new developments so as to reduce the need for travel as much as
Mixed-use developments are deemed an essential tool in the creation of vitality
and diversity in the urban environment, and it is thought they might contribute
F. Vescovi, Designing the Urban Renaissance: Sustainable and Competitive
Place Making in England, DOI 10.1007/978-94-007-5631-1_2,
© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013
2 New Strategic Drivers for the Regeneration of Cities
appreciably to the reduction of private motorised travel. In those urban areas planned
according to this principle, private developers proposing a largely monofunctional
intervention are obliged by law to demonstrate why a mixed-use development would
not be financially viable or, alternatively, its contribution to the overall functional
diversity of the context. The PPG1 also provided a more precise description of
mixed-use interventions, compared, in terms of qualitative effects, to urban villages
having the following characteristics:
Mixed uses and dwelling types, including affordable houses
A series of services and facilities for work, leisure and the community
Appropriate infrastructures and facilities
High-quality urban design standards
Accessibility of open spaces and public green areas
Easy access to public transport
Finally, according to government guidelines, the design, or in this case the
urban design, should handle ‘the complex relationships between all the elements
of built and unbuilt space’, because ‘…the appearance and treatment of the spaces
between and around buildings is often of comparable importance to the design of
the buildings themselves’ (DETR 1997: par. 14). In addition to its direct and
substantial contribution to achieving certain specific goals, which include making
urban areas appealing to business and investments and reinforcing civic pride and
a sense of place, high-quality design can actually be considered an indication of
the method for the correct application of the first two principles: sustainability
and complexity of uses.
From the perspective of employment and economic development, the planning
system, as advocated by PPG1, must focus on the requirements needed by cities
and regions to establish new business and commercial activities, investigating how
these might contribute to regenerate degraded areas and improve their accessibility
from workers, clients and markets. City plans furthermore must make clear how
these new economic developments respond to the specific needs of small and
medium enterprises, how they relate to the infrastructural system and the existing
economic activities. These considerations must be tackled according to three main
– The issuing of clear policies on regional development, to stimulate the establishment of new companies
– The organisation of such activities in harmony with sustainable transport
– The commitment to the overall sustainability of the interventions, especially
through the employment of brownfield sites
A fundamental requirement for the sustainable objectives of these interventions
is therefore the planning of mobility and transport – considered as an integral part
of a whole urban framework – so as to reduce the number and distance of journeys
by motorised means, planning new developments in such a way so as to encourage
The Evolution of the National Legislation: Sustainability and Competitiveness…
pedestrian, cycle and public transport mobility. Another parameter that is essential
for achieving this objective is housing density, which the third Planning Policy
Guidance note concerning the residential design actually brought up from the
national average of 25 dwellings per hectare to no less than 30, citing 30–50 units
as an ideal quantity (DETR 2000b). Housing policies must also be in line with
declared principles of sustainability. In addition to the reuse of areas that have
already been urbanised and are served by public transport, this implies above all that
housing must be built close to workplaces and public facilities, such as schools,
shops, community centres, etc.
As historic town centres are considered the driving force of sustainable urban
development, the PPG1 required that they be protected and that their quality and
competiveness be developed. This applies especially to their retail and business core
and their wealth of functions and uses, which were the subject of a specific Planning
Policy Guidance note, the PPG6. And finally, the PPG1 provided brief indications
on disabled access, the upkeep of rural areas, landscape and historical heritage.
Having outlined these themes and objectives, the PPG1 introduced the
operating legal instruments by which to guarantee the implementation of the
terms outlined. Plan policies and proposals are required to be ‘…realistic and
provide for choice and competition’ (DETR 1997: par. 42). To this end, they
must be sufficiently flexible and indicate essential functional options, leaving
the design control of interventions to the Supplementary Planning Guidance. It
is furthermore essential to guarantee monitoring of the policies adopted within
a decade. More frequent monitoring will provide greater opportunities to
remodel these policies in response to the plan’s changing feasibility conditions.
The PPG1 focused also more specifically on methods for controlling urban
design, which would then be further analysed through practical examples and
good practices by publications ‘By Design’ (CABE and DETR 2000) and ‘Better
Places to Live, By Design’ (CABE and DTLR 2001). Among the several indications given in this section, the most interesting refers to the statement of design
principles (the ‘Design Statement’), with which anybody wishing to transform
areas of large dimensions must comply. These principles are to meet the objectives and requirements outlined in national guidelines. Thus, reversing, so to
speak, the burden of proving the goodness of the proposed interventions, the
private sector will be called to exert greater responsibility and awareness of
design implications, forcing it to actively understand fundamental planning
principles. Alongside the organisation of debates and meetings between the
private sector and local authorities from the offset, this method is considered of
great importance in making the process of implementing the plan safer and
faster. The sooner any friction and conflicts are overcome, the fewer obstacles
will arise during the planning procedure. Local authorities are therefore invited
by the national government to play an active role in the construction of planning
and dialogue with private entities.
It must be noted that the design indications proposed by the PPG1 which aim to
promote a high degree of urban complexity can make its concrete application somewhat difficult, especially if tackled mechanically or simplistically. Consider, for
2 New Strategic Drivers for the Regeneration of Cities
example, the seeming contradiction between the promotion of multiuse complexes
and the reduction of private transport. With regard to the latter, the rigid functional
compartmentalisation of traditional zoning – but also the extraordinary model of the
Cité Industrielle by Tony Garnier, for example – would be infinitely more effective
in ensuring the economic sustainability of public transport. It is therefore a matter
of reconciling, through innovative, carefully monitored and balanced policies of
intervention, potential friction generated by various issues, and finding the right balance between them. And it is the PPG1 itself that urges that design policies must not
obstruct ‘responsible innovation, originality or initiative’ (DETR 1997: par. 19),
permitting the contravention of some of the proposed indications, if and when, it
can be justified.
Planning Policy Statement 1, introduced in 2005 to replace the PPG1, is much
more synthetic and lean than its predecessor.1 It reconfirms the basic principles contained in the latter but does so by recalibrating its priorities and reassessing specific
weighting under the new system. Hence, the role of environmental, social and economic sustainability, one of the three cornerstones of the 1997 version along with
mix of uses and design, assumes a predominant position compared to the other two
elements in the new text. The importance of design and the diversity of uses is
resized, and they are reinterpreted above all as instruments by which to achieve
sustainability2 (ODPM 2005a).
The new agenda on sustainable development introduced in 1999 (‘A Better
Quality of Life: A Strategy for Sustainable Development for the UK’), which has
updated the 1994 strategy underpinning the PPG1, despite maintaining the same
definition of sustainability – taken from the famous 1987 Brundtland Report – as
‘development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (DETR 1999: 3), placed great
emphasis on the defence and development of ‘quality of life’. The four main objectives identified by the new strategy, which is the driving force of the PPS1, are:
Social progress that recognises the needs of all
Effective protection of the environment
Cautious use of natural resources
Maintenance of a high and stable level of economic and occupational growth
The PPS1 does not pause to give a definition of design, merely introducing the
subject with a sort of axiom: ‘Good design is indivisible from good planning’
(ODPM 2005a: par. 33). Despite indicating the principles and objectives of economic, social and environmental sustainability that it must respond to, the text
The PPS1 issued definitively in 2005 was much more concise, if not even laconic, than the draft
presented in March 2004. This latter tackled the various issues of the new programme much more
systematically and in-depth through references to the appendix (ODPM 2004b).
The need to ensure the highest possible levels of design quality in relation to the sustainability
was also subsequently confirmed by the Planning Act 2008 which integrated the article 39 of the
previous Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004: ‘… the person or body must (in particular)
have regard to the desirability of achieving good design’ (Planning Act 2008, par. 183).
The Evolution of the National Legislation: Sustainability and Competitiveness…
leaves complementary governmental manuals to give precise details on the methods
to be adopted in order to achieve the desired levels of design quality. Therefore,
objectives of social inclusion are reconfirmed and are to be pursued by guaranteeing
the accessibility of urban services to all citizens and the diversity of different strata
of the population in residential areas. Environmental sustainability is linked to the
recovery of brownfield areas, an increase in construction density and the integration
of mobility plans with the urban design, which must especially provide, as far as
possible, a balanced mix of uses. Competitiveness requirements, given as a primary
goal alongside protection of the environment in the old text, are barely mentioned in
the definition of the principles for economic planning in the new document. Instead
reference is made to the attractive qualities that should characterise the new interventions, of which ‘vitality and viability’ are to be promoted (ODPM 2005a: par.
27). The PPS1 continues giving a brief description of the scope of design policies,
which ‘…should avoid unnecessary prescription or detail and should concentrate on
guiding the overall scale, density, massing, height, landscape, layout and access of
new development in relation to neighbouring buildings and the local area more generally. Local planning authorities should not attempt to impose architectural styles
or particular tastes and they should not stifle innovation, originality or initiative
through unsubstantiated requirements to conform to certain development forms or
styles’ (ODPM 2005a: par. 38).
In fact, great emphasis is placed on the new spatial aspect of planning policies,
which must be supported by clear anticipation of future territorial structure through
integration with other programmes and interventions that might influence them,
especially with urban and rural regeneration projects. The planner must focus on the
expected effects of the proposals and the methods by which these will be constantly
monitored to ensure correct implementation.
And finally, unlike the PPG1, particular, if not even redundant, emphasis is
placed on the involvement of the population in the planning process.
Among the planning polices introduced on the theme of competitiveness, the
PPS6 stands out in particular. Introduced in 2005 to replace the previous PPG6 of
1996, it cuts back on some of the details that came under regional competence
(ODPM 2004a). The main focus of this report is urban centres, in which commerce,
as well as being considered for its fundamental role in policies for the revitalisation
of historic town centres, is closely linked to mobility planning. Retail, accessibility,
mix of uses, residential density and the quality of urban spaces are given as the
foundations of any process of urban redevelopment.
The cornerstone of the PPS6, inherited from old legislation, is the sequential
approach mechanism. It is a governmental prescription that invites local authorities
to allow commercial interests to settle in external or peripheral zones of the city
only if they demonstrate that it would be absolutely impossible in a central area,
following centripetal logic. This principle, already used to defend functional diversity, was proposed in other Policy Planning Guidance notes for public services in
general, residential expansion and important functions that attract more people.
A survey commissioned by the government and carried out in 2004 on the
previous PPG6, however, had reported several practical difficulties of the parties
2 New Strategic Drivers for the Regeneration of Cities
concerned by the measure in the interpretation of the theory. In particular, various
problems emerged of a terminological nature, in definition of retail activities and the
hierarchy of commercial urban centres. Furthermore, despite indications in the regulations, there was complaint over the shortcomings of local authorities in actively
promoting the sequential approach policy, more often than not deemed a mere
instrument to passively protect urban areas (CB Hillier Parker and Cardiff University
2004). The new Policy Planning Statement note has therefore tried to remedy these
inefficiencies, more carefully illustrating the mechanism for the implementation of
the sequential approach and introducing the requirement that anybody wishing to
build a new shopping mall would have to demonstrate both the necessity for it and
the overall impact3 of the proposal on the context and would have to consider every
possible option, both qualitative and quantitative, for adapting the new intervention
to its environment as much as possible.
To tackle the topic of accessibility, the PPS6 promotes a sort of egalitarian
conception of citizen’s mobility, favouring public transport – for obvious reasons
of sustainability – and boosting the construction of paths for cyclists, pedestrians
and disabled people. The regulation has no intention of penalising the use of private vehicles, but only reducing that use in order to make it compatible – and
integrated – with the government’s objectives for vitality. Vehicle accessibility is
nevertheless deemed a fundamental requirement in order to guarantee the competitive nature of central areas in comparison to external shopping centres. For
this reason the previous PPG6 contained also directives concerning the aesthetic
quality of car parks,4 which must not be conceived of as architecturally extraneous
to the city. They must be provided in a position that rationalises access to the
centre as much as possible, avoiding, for example, their construction for one single area or use. Accessibility becomes a fundamental principle in establishing the
quality of the public spaces and their effective and real provision in the heart of
the reference community, from a regional to local level. This theme, deemed a
crucial element for the competitiveness of urban centres, is in fact the focus of the
manual that accompanies the PPG6 ‘Going to Town’ (NRPF 2002). It analyses in
detail the possible strategies that would put public realm and transport at the service of the economic system in the town centre. The logic of the sequential
approach, applied to qualifying uses, is also effective with regard to mobility policies. In fact, the probability of delivering greater equity in terms of accessibility
to these important functions is obviously higher in those dense urban areas which,
because of a much larger amount of potential users, can offer an economically
viable public transport system.
Assessment of the need for and impact of shopping premises has also resulted in some ambiguities, so much so that corrections to assessment methods are subsequently being studied (CLG
The design guidelines contained in PPG6, even though they were pruned in the next PPS6, however, were partially reported in the companion document: ‘Planning for Town Centres: Guidance
on Design and Implementation Tools’ (ODPM 2005b).
The Evolution of the National Legislation: Sustainability and Competitiveness…
Another interesting feature of the document is the parameters suggested for the
analysis, assessment and monitoring of vitality within the centres, examined from a
perspective that is not purely commercial. In fact, the emphasis is placed on the
opportunity to promote evening and night time economy and a mix of diverse uses
as much as possible, especially in those areas, defined as ‘secondary’,5 that are considered more suitable to operate in a type of mixed urban economy and in line with
different times and schedules. The possibility of changing the intended use to be
more flexible within a certain range of uses and in line with certain pre-established
rules makes the redevelopment process much easier.
The document also highlights once more the importance of commitment to quality design for the public realm, which must be created through the definition of
guidelines for private schemes – the design of shop fronts, for example – or for
street furniture and paving. Pedestrian usability is considered a priority requirement
of urban design.
Definition of strategies for the redevelopment and re-launching of historic centres cannot set aside the involvement, from the very beginning, of shopkeepers and
private individuals who have interests in the area affected by the planning. Combining
forces – only possible in a clear framework of shared objectives and timetables – is
essential in order to be competitive against large out-of-town shopping malls,
typified by a single property and centralised services, resulting in lower management and promotion costs. That is why the PPS6 invites all subjects involved in the
redevelopment of central urban areas to form partnerships intended for strategic
planning, management, maintenance and the constant improvement of the city
In 2009, the PPS6 was in turn absorbed6 and substituted by the new PPS4
‘Planning for Sustainable Economic Growth’, which integrated and recombined
previous directives into one single legislative framework on economic sustainable
development. These had previously been tackled from different sectorial perspectives, regarding commercial and productive settlements, simplified planning zones,
agricultural land and transport.7 From this perspective, the very heart of the city then
becomes the driving force of the regional economy, while the development of a balanced and hierarchically structured network of urban centres connected by public
transport is presented as an indispensable requirement for fair and widespread
access to the positive repercussions this entailed.
Again in this case, the PPS6 shows a simplification of definitions compared to the previous PPG6,
which recommended singling out secondary areas over primary areas, on the basis of pre-eminent
rent values (PPG6, Annex B, par. 6). The PPS6 refers solely to the concentration of shopping
Among supplementary documents to the new PPS4 features ‘Planning for Town Centres, Practice
guidance on need, impact and the sequential approach’, which picks up and expands on with case
studies the indications contained in the PPS6 and relevant guide.
The PPS4 replaces, in addition to PPS6 (‘Planning for Town Centres’), also PPG 4 (‘Industrial,
commercial development and small firms’) and PPG5 (‘Simplified Planning Zones’) of 1992 and
various sections of PPS7 (‘Sustainable development in rural areas’) and PPG13 (‘Transport’).
2 New Strategic Drivers for the Regeneration of Cities
The Proactive Approach: CABE, Training, Government
The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) has been the
central pillar of the direction taken by Tony Blair’s government. CABE has been a
body for research, promotion and development of design disciplines for the government, subordinate to the Secretary of State and funded by the Department for
Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Department for Communities and Local
Government. It was born in 1999 to replace its predecessor the Royal Fine Art
Commission (RFAC), established in 1924, with the task of defining the parameters
that would control the quality of architecture and town planning and raise awareness
nationally. Since then, it has pursued its mission to stimulate and control the quality
of living spaces through continuous contact with local bodies, conferences and publications. Following the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) in
2010, which saw massive reductions across the public sector, in 1 April 2011 CABE
has merged with the Design Council, a charity incorporated by Royal Charter aimed
at promoting industrial design among businesses, schools and public services organisations. The merger is expected to save public money and to provide a ‘one stop
shop’ with a broader, yet stronger and coherent remit for design support and industry advice.
The multiple activities of CABE, which in many cases were integrated into special programmes and initiatives, can be divided into four main areas: advice, promotion, training and research.
Advice to local government was a direct continuation of the service performed
by the previous RFAC, whose intervention, especially in case of projects in areas of
environmental value, was considered highly authoritative. Unlike other bodies of
local control CABE, through the Design Review programme, required its involvement from the preliminary phases investigating design guidelines and building practices, entering the planning process as a constant reference with the creation of
Supplementary Planning Guidance and in negotiations between developers and
technical department heads. Projects that can request support from CABE, from a
single public or residential building to large scale masterplans, should be of particular importance, involve public funding or be of strategic value to the context in
which they occur, both in terms of environmental characteristics and the multiplier
effect that they may have on social sustainability and the quality of life of the community of inhabitants (CLG 2006).
While the Design Review programme was aimed at making judgements and
forming opinions regarding planning processes and design proposals, assistance to
local government during the preliminary phases was promoted by a specific programme named Enabling Programme. Experts were assigned to technical offices or
public committees to help outline the formal, procedural and financial characteristics of the project, particularly in cases where these issues are considered indispensable for the attainment of important social and environmental regeneration results.
Furthermore, in view of the absolute centrality of public spaces in the construction
The Proactive Approach: CABE, Training, Government Publications
of places of quality, a section was established specifically to provide advice on this
topic: CABE Space. The professionals who worked here were experts in planning,
design and management strategies for street design, pedestrian areas, parks and gardens; in some cases advice also included collaboration in the preliminaries of design
competitions or in the organisation and coordination of consultancy processes and
the participation of the community concerned.
CABE’s promotional activity involved numerous initiatives. One group – the
policy team – handled the critical review of political or governmental proposals in
terms of planning and design. Another group was in charge of cataloguing (through
an online database) and publishing (also electronically) case studies and national
and international good practice in architectural and urban design projects (CABE
digital library). The recipients were as often professionals, whom the group intended
to provide with important updates on the matter, as they were users, whom the
group aimed to provide with the tools to assess buildings and neighbourhoods. In
fact, in a market economy, the quality of architecture or town planning depends as
much on the professional ability of those working on the side of the offer as it does
on awareness of the demand for potentially achievable standards. Some of these
case studies were published as Design Reviewed, projects examined in the context
of the Design Review programme and considered to be particularly interesting or
emblematic examples of certain planning themes (CABE 2004b). Among these,
Building for Life in particular collected case records, published periodicals and
provided guidance on residential planning according to the principles of sustainability set out by the government in collaboration with other national associations.
In a short time Building for Life became one of the major references for assessing
the architectural quality of settlements, especially for local authorities.
Furthermore, various publications that were often the result of collaborations
with other agencies, something between promotion and training, focus on specific
planning themes or issues – for example, those produced in association with the
Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in the sphere of the Building Futures
programme – which aim to raise questions and stimulate reflection on the future role
of the disciplines and the professions of architecture and town planning or the
possible planning developments of a particular functional type. In many cases, such
publications have been instrumental to the many awareness and information
campaigns initiated by the institution, such as the Public Building Initiative which
began in 2000 to support the quality of public buildings and works.8 The spread of
a greater architectural culture was promoted by CABE also by urging public bodies
and major developers to appoint Design Champions, that is, people with an influential
background who are adequately prepared to guide decision-making regarding highquality interventions (CABE 2011b).
The Public Building Initiative, as other similar campaigns, was also based on the publication of
dissemination brochures such as the 2000 ‘Better Public Buildings’ report (DCMS 2000) and the
2003 ‘Creating Excellent Buildings’ (CABE 2003a, 2011a). Furthermore, in 2001 the Prime
Minister introduced an annual award, the Prime Minister Award for the best public building.
2 New Strategic Drivers for the Regeneration of Cities
Proselytising was widespread at a regional level, where CABE has been active
through a network of representatives at the Regional Development Agencies and
other bodies that operate at this territorial scale, as well as at a district level. Thanks
to a specifically created fund, CABE also financed several local initiatives in collaboration with other institutions and associations, whose task is to ensure stable
relations and cooperation in favour of better planning and improvements in the built
environment. The pilot scheme Design Liverpool, the first programme of this type,9
testifies to the potential negative implications of this form of interference ‘from
above’, as CABE ended up overlapping, raising some friction, with the advisory
panel of volunteers who had been working in the town since 2007 (the Liverpool
Urban Design and Conservation Panel), and in fact going on to replace them
(Biddulph 2010).
The CABE was also involved in several partnership initiatives in support of
design quality within specific programmes such as Delivering Design Quality, in
support of the Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder of Sheffield, or Living Places,
for the promotion of sport and culture in urban regeneration interventions, and
above all, it supported and developed the network of Architecture and Built
Environment Centres (ABECs), spread throughout the country and coordinated by
the Architecture Centre Network (ACN). These centres not only carry out initiatives
identical to CABE at a local level (promotion of events, lectures, debates, exhibitions, advice to local government, cooperation with other bodies, etc.) but also
become points of reference for the resident population in dialogue with the local
Some survey campaigns, such as Streets of Shame or Wasted Space held between
2002 and 2003, were intended to collect the opinion of the citizens on the places
they live and to generate public debate on this issue. Developing in residents a critical perspective of where they live – of vital importance in raising the overall demand
for quality from government and developers – was also at the basis of a vast campaign of teaching programmes and support to primary and secondary school teachers. Through the Engaging Places programme and with the help of the quarterly
magazine ‘360°’, CABE saw to creating and distributing materials free of charge
that might develop in young people the ability to observe and understand the places
and buildings in which they live in a critical and creative way.10
Training and refresher programmes were also aimed at professionals, members
of planning departments, representatives of government and public institutions,
As a part of the Design Liverpool work, a particularly interesting initiative ‘Liverpool 50’ stands
out, that is, a themed workshop series gathering representatives from public bodies and enterprises
involved in the city transformation, here invited for a twofold purpose: creating rising awareness
and debate concerning certain issues and encouraging the creation of a virtuous network of scholars, professionals and engineers.
A similar initiative, focused on town centres, had been promoted since 1992 by two major members of the Association of Town Centre Managers, Boots the Chemists and Marks and Spencer. In
its third edition (‘Talk of the Town’), it was made up of an interactive cd-rom specifically designed
to spur kids (aged 14–19) to consider and be increasingly more curious about different issues
related to urban environment, in particular as regards planning and design (Woolley 2000).
The Proactive Approach: CABE, Training, Government Publications
through the urban design summer school, introduced in 2004. In the past CABE also
organised themed workshops, such as Streets for People, which focused exclusively
on street design, offered to professionals and public and private sector organisations
involved in this field. A 2003 survey conducted by the Chartered Institution of
Highways & Transportation (CIHT) revealed that 85% of the 1,000 interviewees
admitted to never having had any training in urban design (CABE 2006). Two other
programmes – Design for Change and the Design and Historic Environment
Champions Programme (in association with English Heritage) – and other similar
initiatives had the purpose of informing, refreshing and assigning responsibility to
leaders of political and technical structures of government on the issues concerning
urban planning, architecture and the preservation of historical and artistic heritage.
In terms of research, as well as the above-mentioned collaboration with the
RIBA, CABE’s work has included several collaborations with university researchers, professionals and government focus groups on various issues concerning town
planning and architecture. One of the first publications coedited by CABE was ‘By
Design’, a companion guide to the PPG1, which outlines and explains the design
principles set by the government. Among the most interesting branches of research
are those which investigated economic value in urban and architectural design quality, those on the potential of Planning Guidance and Design Codes and those concerning sustainable design. In general, however, as already mentioned, the research
section also involved initiatives aimed at training and promotion, resulting in a wide
range of end products. Among these, CABE Space, as well as the above-mentioned
advisory work, offered an integrated, hybrid programme based on the quality of
open spaces, especially parks and gardens. This field also brought together studies
on the economic value and social benefits of public parks, collaborations with the
authorities and local communities in the development of planning policies, strategic
plans and design briefing, information campaigns of quality standards and best
practice, as well as professional training and retraining.
The year that CABE was founded, 1999, is important with respect to the centrality of the government’s new policy for another reason, the publication of the Urban
Task Force – chaired by Richard Rogers – research report, ‘Towards an Urban
Renaissance’ (Urban Task Force 1999). It was a very extensive, systematic and
thorough survey on the English urban condition and the instruments deemed to be
necessary to meet new challenges of globalisation in terms of competitiveness and
sustainability; the approach is therefore perfectly in line with the government’s
recent perspective on urban policies.
To handle aspects of environmental and social sustainability, the first part of the
report puts forward some now classic formulas for town planning as reference
design principles, among them neighbourhood unit, based on a radius of a quarter
of a mile, development of public transport, functional and residential mix, increased
housing density and increased longevity of buildings. On an urban scale, these
objectives are reflected in the control of the taxonomy of built-up areas, city districts
and neighbourhood public spaces and services. The public realm – especially the
street with its original richness of uses – is referred to as the structuring principle of
urban form. The Public Realm Strategy, since then widely adopted by local
2 New Strategic Drivers for the Regeneration of Cities
authorities, is one of the suggested planning tools which should be included as part
of the Supplementary Planning Guidance for coping with this issue.
Urban design principles from this perspective can be summarised in nine
– Integration of the project in the urban area in which it is inserted
– Respect for the scale and character of the context
– Accessibility (especially for pedestrians and cyclists) and permeability of public
– Optimisation of building land and increased residential density
– Mix of uses
– Mix of tenures
– Durable and flexible building construction
– Constructions designed to the highest standards of quality and sustainability
from the point of view of energy and environment
– Environmental responsibility
Subsequently, in relation to the objectives identified, the document suggests the
most suitable means for their achievement: the masterplan, complemented by further, more detailed Supplementary Planning Guidance, is given as the primary
means to ensure the most appropriate control of formal elements and design principles. This highlights flexibility in response to market conditions, the ability to
create and gather ideas and consent from involved parties and the possibility of
enriching the community in which the intervention will be located. A second
instrument of formal control of urban transformations is the Development Brief,
which supplies developers with a clear description of the area’s character and,
above all, the objectives and quantitative and qualitative requirements with which
the project must comply.
In the following sections the research of the Urban Task Force offers guidance on
mechanisms for implementation and management of urban regeneration policies.
Among the most interesting proposals is the institution of Urban Priority Areas, or
areas that undergo a particular integrated regime of projects combined with priorities of investment, resources, tax incentives and managerial and decision-making
power. The designation of these areas, valid for a period of approximately 10 years
(the time predicted for developing positive trends in the local market) should occur
through grassroots nomination, with a financial proposal for particular implementation measures from the community and local authorities, rather than the usual practice of assigning standard packages of actions and funds through tenders on the
basis of compliance with prefixed parameters.
Another proposal of interest, adopted by the government straight away in fact, is
the constitution of public-private partnerships, specifically dedicated to individual
urban regeneration projects, along the revised and corrected model of the Urban
Development Companies (UDC) from the 1980s.
The report continues with other guidance on planning policies, which should
allow for greater flexibility, safety and speed in urban transformation, especially
within the consolidated city; suggestions are then made to facilitate the recovery
The Proactive Approach: CABE, Training, Government Publications
of brownfield areas and investments in urban transformation, both through
improvement – especially in terms of time and red tape – of expropriation procedures both through fiscal instruments and leverage (particularly for redevelopment works) and through public funds aimed at spawning private investments.
The year following the publication of the report, in direct response to the analyses and solicitations of ‘Towards an Urban Renaissance’, the government publishes
the White Paper ‘Our Towns and Cities: the Future’ (DETR 2000a), a document that
outlines the framework of policies undertaken until then and through comparison
with proposals from the Urban Task Force sets the agenda for the years ahead.
There emerges a clear understanding of the phenomena of change taking place, the
national situation and the objectives for the economic regeneration of the country
through recovery and enhancement, both from a metropolitan and regional perspective, of the whole urban system. The common factors of success stories such as
Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds can be summed up in four main points:
The role of the city as the centre of a regional metropolitan system
The presence and strength of institutions for higher education
The role of culture and tourism
Promotion of an urban lifestyle, 24-h cities
On this basis, a summary is given of the bodies and instruments that already
operate in urban regeneration or will shortly do so, such as the Millennium
Communities, Urban Regeneration Companies, Regional Development Agencies,
the above-mentioned Local Strategic Partnerships and various financing, economic
regeneration and urban transformation programmes.
In 2000, as a complement to the first Planning Policy Guidance note, the ‘By
Design’ manual was published which, by referring to the theoretical contributions
of Jane Jacobs, Jan Gehl, Kevin Lynch, Richard Sennett and Christopher Alexander
among others, tries to explain government guidelines through examples and images.
The manual, which follows a typical English tradition in terms of technical guidance, inaugurates a new course of publications and guidelines relating to the new
principles of urban design prioritised by the government. ‘By Design’, primarily
focused on issues relating exclusively to design, traces the effects, stimuli and interactions with the planning system and, more generally, the new ministerial policies.
The most relevant addition is the indication and explanation through images and
examples, of the seven main design objectives pursued by urban design:
– Character: When determining design elements that will ensure identity, it is recommended that the architectural, formal and material characteristics of the context be taken into consideration – even dialectically.
– Continuity and enclosure: These design categories are essential for managing the
relation between public and private spaces. Much emphasis is placed on the
architectural relation between the building and the street. Alignment of the building facings along the street, direct access to the street and differentiation of frontages between the outside (the public dimension) and the inside (the private
dimension) are encouraged.
2 New Strategic Drivers for the Regeneration of Cities
– Quality of the public realm: It must be accessible, attractive and characterised by
busy areas. To this end it is recommended that particular attention be paid to the
activities at the ground floor, the relationship with the surrounding buildings and
the details of the architectural design.
– Ease of movement: This concerns accessibility to places as much as it does the
ability to move as freely as possible within them, thanks to a clear structure of
connections, a well thought-out public transport infrastructure, interchanges,
infrastructure of high architectural (not just engineering) quality and a small,
dense urban grain.
– Readability: This is a requisite connected to the image of the city and the ease of
understanding its structure. To ensure this objective, the role of views, landmarks
(especially corner buildings) and the character of architectural details are
– Adaptability: With this objective, the functional flexibility of buildings and parts
of the city is promoted, thanks to solid and essential design, subject to subsequent changes or adjustments.
– Diversity: The social and functional complexity of urban areas and single buildings
(horizontal and vertical mixed uses) is entrusted with the task of making the city
and its neighbourhoods places that are ruled by variety and choice.
Based on these seven objectives and their specific characteristics, possible parameters are listed for the reading and evaluation of the existing design; moreover, eight
relevant aspects for control over the urban form are set out, to be correlated from a
planning perspective with the previous design principles:
– Layout of the urban structure: connections and relations between the parts of the
city, routes and public spaces
– Layout of the urban fabric: the size of blocks and plots
– Urban landscape: natural elements and open spaces
– Density and diversity
– The scale of heights
– The scale of volumes
– The appearance of details
– The appearance of materials
The manual emphasises the need for alert and active commitment from institutions responsible for the quality of housing, for which it is necessary to clearly
address the objectives and planning principles from the initial phases, moving
from a ‘passive’ process, based on checking standards, to a positive conception
based on the request for certain solutions and needs identified through best
practice examples.
The document then continues to briefly illustrate the planning instruments needed
to ensure the desired results through focused use of the design control policies of the
Development Plans, and above all, the meticulously structured guidelines contained
in the Supplementary Design Guidance, thought of as the keystone with respect to
government objectives on sustainability, of the national planning system and
The Proactive Approach: CABE, Training, Government Publications
negotiation practice between the public and private sectors. In order to use these
instruments effectively, institutions need to adopt a collaborative approach to developers and designers from the outlook. Civil servants are also invited to engage in a
continuous professional development, in line with the commitment of the central
government for a wider dissemination of architectural culture and urban design.
In the same year, another manual edited by Llewelyn-Davies on behalf of English
Partnerships and the Housing Corporation, entitled ‘Urban Design Compendium’,
complements and elaborates on the more specific design guidelines contained in ‘By
Design’, supplying a rich and accurate reference text for professionals and officials,
complete with numerous international examples (EP and HC 2000) (Fig. 2.1). Using
the same theoretical and cultural background as the government manual, it briefly
deals with design principles for the creation of urban frameworks, the creation of
internal and external connections and the importance of detailed planning, including
financial and managerial information. The aim of the document, as well as spreading
greater awareness of the best contemporary practices in terms of urban design, was
to provide another important contribution for the definition of the concept and level
of quality of urban design, so as to give concrete cultural references and a meaning
to a principle that was otherwise too abstract and subjective. In 2007, following the
wide reach achieved by the manual, a second version was published by the same bodies: ‘Urban Design Compendium 2: delivering quality places’. The second manual, a
complement to the first, was specifically devoted to planning processes, managerial,
political and financial methods and strategies for integration between sectors, for
which it provided examples and case studies (EP and HC 2007).
The year following the ‘By Design’ edition and the first ‘Compendium’, the
Department for Housing, Planning and Regeneration and CABE published another
illustrative guide to government policies focused on design of residential areas,
complementary to the 2000 PPG3,11 the above-mentioned ‘Better Places to Live, By
Design’ (CABE and DTLR 2001). The new document follows the route already
taken by ‘By Design’, from which it lays out design principles and objectives in
light of residential units, adding to this information the guidelines for street design
provided by the 1998 DETR publication ‘Places, Streets and Movement:
A Companion Guide to DB 32’ (DETR 1998). From these are obtained specifications
on various planning themes (among them, movement, functional and social mix,
attention to detail, safety, maintenance, etc.) inspired by principles of social and
environmental sustainability, illustrated by a wide series of national examples. The
guide does not so much focus on the dimensional, functional or distributive requirements of housing, as on certain planning issues and solutions regarding the architecture of the street and public spaces, population density in relation to accessibility of
public transport. The home is evaluated from a planning perspective, above all as a
function of the extended context of the city and neighbourhood in which it stands,
to which it is required to supply a central contribution in terms of quality.
The Planning Policy Guidance note 3 is about residential settlements design. After including
various changes in 2000 as brought about by the Urban Task Force report, it recorded a number of
reissues until its final substitution in 2006 when the PPS3 came into force.
2 New Strategic Drivers for the Regeneration of Cities
Fig. 2.1 ‘Urban Design Compendium 1’. An example of the kind of diagrams and sketches used
by the British urban design manuals promoted by the government to illustrate good practices (EP
and HC 2000: 50, 55. Courtesy of HCA)
2.3 Administrative Tools for Controlling the Quality of Urban Design
Urged on by the Urban Task Force report on the state of health of the public
realm in England and the key role it plays in the quality of life of the residents and
in urban regeneration processes, the government, along with the unfailing CABE,
dedicated two other important popular and informative publications to public green
spaces, ‘Green Spaces, Better Places and Living Places: Cleaner, Safer, Greener’,
both from 2002 (DTLR 2002a; ODPM 2002). Two years later, ‘Living Places:
Caring for Quality’ was added to these two, another publication more generally
focused on the design and care of open public places and therefore also including
streets and squares (ODPM 2004c). Also in this case, the publications provided
guidelines not only on design principles, which were in fact of lesser weight compared to the first two PPG companion guides, but especially on managerial, financial
and legislative methods connected to maintenance, planning and the redevelopment
of public spaces.
As far as street design is concerned, the 2007 ‘Manual for Streets’ (DfT 2007)
must be highlighted in particular that replaced the previous and aforementioned
‘Places, Streets and Movement’ of 1998. The main objective of this latter was to
provide the community of street planners, who were mostly educated in engineering, with a new design attitude – especially regarding the design of settlements –
that would accord with principles of urban design introduced by the 1997 PPG1.
The guide was conceived of therefore as a concise and flexible instrument, whose
guidelines were mainly of conceptual nature, rather than normative. For example,
the chapters’ titles include slogans like ‘Look at the place not the car’ or ‘Creating
a high-quality public realm’ (DETR 1998b: 26, 38). The manual that succeeded it
9 years later, and which has also recently had a second version published – ‘Manual
for Streets 2’ – expanded and elaborated on the design principles introduced by the
first, entering into more formal and regulatory details of the design of streets (from
the overall layout to use of materials, from signage to street furniture), car parks,
cycle and pedestrian paths, public transport lanes and Home Zones (Young 2010).
Administrative Tools for Controlling the Quality
of Urban Design
The most interesting fact to emerge from the new direction taken by the New
Labour executive is the proactive approach that permeates, or at least should permeate, administrative action on various levels: from ministerial action, via the particular effect of CABE, to the technical departments of local bodies. The heads of
local government are invited to assume a more collaborative attitude with the private sector, working together to develop the plan, rather than only checking in once
work has been completed, especially in the cases of public-private partnerships. To
this end, in 2004 the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister created the Advisory
Team for Large Applications (ATLAS), a consulting body for local government
that specialised in the management of complex and far-reaching urban transformation. ATLAS followed in particular the development of a new planning tool, the
2 New Strategic Drivers for the Regeneration of Cities
Planning Performance Agreement (PPA), formally introduced in 2008 after a
period of experimentation, intended, through the setting up of a sophisticated
agreement protocol, to speed up coordination between the public and private
sectors and make reciprocal commitments as clear as possible in order to ensure a
successful planning permission (ATLAS 2008).
Collaboration between the public and private sectors, though, is not synonymous
with acquiescence of the former towards the proposals of the latter. In fact, executives in charge of the territory are now called more than ever before to take on a
quality monitoring role in projects, with the full backing of the government. A commitment that, according to the assessment of the Urban Task Force, is still too
underused (Urban Task Force 2005): an analysis carried out in 2003 into the reasons
for complaints from the private sector against Municipal Technical Departments
and the causes for the low number of building permits showed how disagreements
concerning design made up a low minority (CABE 2003b). One of the greatest
obstacles, which CABE has tried to overcome with suitable professional development programmes, is precisely this lack of competence in the field of urban design
on the part of a significant number of municipal employees. The training of decisionmakers and officials and the focus, at all levels of the institutions, on high-quality
built environments are still firmly at the centre of the government’s agenda, as
recently shown by the document ‘World Class Places: the Government’s strategy for
improving quality of place’ (CLG 2009).
According to this proactive form of managing urban transformation, it
becomes even more fundamental that local authorities express clearly in black
and white what their agreed planning principles are and the various assessment
criteria that the community has established as the basis for development of the
territory. This occurs in two main ways, which have remained almost entirely
unaltered since 2004 and the introduction of the new national planning system:
examining the features of the context (area appraisal12) and the declaration of
design principles (design statements). These are joined by other monitoring
instruments contained in the Supplementary Planning Documents. Very often the
boundaries between these three planning methods are blurred, and the necessary
descriptive and planning indications are mixed within summary guidelines, tending to unite all the necessary material into a few informative documents. Both the
area appraisals and the design statements may be included in the Local
Development Framework, either as an SPD or within the Area Action Plan. In
the latter case, however, the planning documents have the same cogency as the
LDF. This is certainly not an insignificant new development in the English planning sphere, as the AAPs now finally provide local government with an extremely
powerful instrument for territorial control, which must nevertheless be managed
with the required skill.
In the case of conservation areas, the preliminary analysis, focused solely on the architectural
and morphological aspects of the context, goes by the name of ‘character appraisal’.
2.3 Administrative Tools for Controlling the Quality of Urban Design
The area appraisal – for which various manuals were produced, proposing
checklist models,13 in order to facilitate drafting of the document by technical departments – is composed of an analysis of the areas of transformation or conservation
led on the initiative of the public authority and indicates the main distinctive
characteristics of the places, including the architectural detail of invariable
elements, such as styles, materials and sizing.14 In some cases, the structure of the
analysis relates expressly to the indications, concepts and terminology contained in
the planning guidelines published by the government. Sometimes explicit references are made also to the perceptive theories of Kevin Lynch or the interpretative
categories of the urban landscape by Gordon Cullen.
Where areas of expansion or transformation are concerned, the area appraisal is
generally seamlessly interwoven with the design statement. As well as providing
details on the distinctive elements of the area, this document also provides planning
indications with regard to the correct insertion of new buildings into the existing
fabric and the character that architectural design and public realm has to convey,
very frequently accompanying the text with images and national and international
examples that better express the concepts and models to take inspiration from. In
this case, the document also takes on a guiding role and can be included in the
Supplementary Planning Documents. The goal of these publications is to provide
initial indications to developers and designers on the current situation and the situation hoped for during work, so as to facilitate the convergence of interests between
the public and private sectors from the early planning stages.
It is above all the mechanism of the design statement that dialectically sanctions
the mutual responsibility of the public and private when defining planning guidelines, making the terms for negotiation over transformation of the territory very
clear. Local authorities are invited by the government and CABE to produce SPDs
containing clear indications of the architectural and urban design elements required
of the developers while realistically keeping in mind the needs of the market.
In some cases, and depending on contexts, the community of residents can also
produce specific planning documents, such as the Neighbourhood Design Statement
for urban neighbourhoods or the Town Design Statement for smaller villages, both
derived from the Village Design Statement model, which had already been
This is the case, for example, of the ‘Conservation Area Appraisals’ publication, published by
English Heritage (1997), a brief document that sums up in 13 points the main themes used for the
description of places: localisation and population; origins and development; past and prevailing
intended uses; archaeological importance; architectural quality and historical value of buildings;
contribution of unlisted buildings; character and relationships of spaces; materials, textures,
colours and traditional and prevailing details; contribution of green spaces, trees and other natural
elements; configuration of the area and relationship with the context; extent of losses, intrusions
and damage in the area; and presence of neutral areas.
The most common types of area appraisal can be composed of landscape analysis, studies on
pedestrian mobility, accessibility and traffic; surveys on the perception or meaning of the places for
the population, historical and morphological analysis; and census and inventory of the ecological
and environmental character, measured qualitatively and quantitatively and SWOT analysis of
regional resources (Carmona et al. 2003).
2 New Strategic Drivers for the Regeneration of Cities
anticipated by the PPG1 in 1997 for control over transformations in rural centres
(The Countryside Agency 2003).
The private sector on the other hand, as outlined by the Planning and Compulsory
Purchase Act 2004 is obliged to justify how their construction will respond to planning indications issued by local authorities or, on the contrary, what reasoning lies
behind the various considerations and what alternative solutions are proposed. The
Access and Design Statement consists of a description – either succinct or detailed,
on a case to case basis – of how the area was assessed in terms of planning; how
the design principles given by the government were interpreted, locally outlined by
the competent authorities; and what measures were taken to ensure equal access
opportunities for all users (CABE 2008). This documentation occurs in two subsequent stages: as a draft during pre-application, that is, the consultation and guidance phase prior to presentation of the formal planning proposal which occurs with
the collaboration of the technical department, and in definitive form during the
planning application itself. This procedure is valid both for standard planning permissions and outline planning permissions. These differ from the former in that
they are issued in the absence of a masterplan or similar sufficiently detailed document. They guarantee the approval of various general planning guidelines, leaving
the approval of formal and functional specifications, called ‘reserved matters’, to a
second stage of the planning application. It must be noted that the agreement does
not directly concern the developer, but rather refers to the place and planning idea.
This allows other possible subsequent developers to operate on the basis of the
same outline planning permission, making this particular solution especially suitable for more complex urban regeneration plans. This flexible system has raised
various debates over its expediency with regard to renewed objectives of greater
control over design. On the one hand, it can guarantee faster contracting and completion times for the agreed work, thus incentivising the private sector to invest in
quality. On the other hand, the loose knit of the restrictive system, in the absence
of tenacious and attentive intermediaries, might be to the detriment of the desired
architectural and town planning results. Therefore, a measure has been in place
since 2006 (DCLG Circular 01/2006) that requires precise indications with regard
to intended use, quantity, general design, progressive parameters and indicative
access points even at this early stage.
The Supplementary Planning Documents, materials that are rather varied in
terms of subject and scale of coverage, constitute the fundamental points of reference in negotiation processes between the public and private realms. Although their
use is not actually compulsory, it is highly recommended. They are subject to
screening by citizen assemblies and are therefore the formal expression of the democratic management process of the territory. Not only must they defend the interests
of the local community but must also respond to the request of private developers to
provide common rules and appropriate guarantees concerning the quality of the
process of transformation of the context. In fact, especially after the unbridled liberalism of the Thatcher era and following the serious problems encountered in some
particularly unscrupulous real estate operations, such as the extremely well-known
case of the Docklands in London, it is precisely the real estate operators that are
2.3 Administrative Tools for Controlling the Quality of Urban Design
demanding greater control and coordination over the quality and quantity of work
on the market. The implementation of formal and performance requirements that
are mandatory, or at least highly influential, means that private operators find it
more opportune to meet requests for high quality from local authorities in order to
avoid wasting time and funds in continuing negotiation.
The Urban Task Force primarily, and then CABE, have placed great emphasis on
instruments for planning preparation and coordination in order to ensure the quality
of interventions for urban transformation. These strategic documents make it possible to balance the strict levels of quality demanded by local authorities with the
requirements for flexibility needed to respond more easily to the market demands
conditioning the private sector. The relationship between the different levels of
planning guidance is not always and necessarily hierarchic, but rather dialectic. The
‘entrepreneurial’ feasibility of the design performance required by a planning document can be verified through the proposal of alternative, and more conciliatory,
solutions with respect to the diverse needs of the various subjects involved. When
this balance is not guaranteed, the plan risks failing at its task altogether. This was
the case of the ‘City Centre Masterplan’ in Hull, for example. Despite the plan,
according to assessment by Hull City built, the local Urban Regeneration Company,
having already led to an overall investment of £906 million and future investment of
a further £594 million Bondholderscheme Ltd (2011), it was nevertheless shelved in
August 2010 as new administration and private developers deemed it too inflexible,
as demonstrated by the numerous planning permissions processed in exception to
local planning regulations.
The four main types of document that constitute the backbone of the Area Action
Plan and Supplementary Planning Documents are the Urban Design Frameworks,
the Development Briefs, the Masterplans and the Design Codes (Cowan 2002). The
choice of how many, and which, of these documents to produce and the various
drafting methods is the prerogative of local organisations. There are also cases, such
as Manchester’s ‘Guide to Development’, in which the guidelines contain no images
and are limited to concise descriptions of the planning and formal principles
required. Often the name and type of content of these instruments is confused. The
term masterplan in particular, as interpreted by CABE in a special publication
(CABE 2004a), indicates any act of physical planning on a large and medium scale,
from the urban sector to the localised area of transformation, but in practice the term
is often used to more specifically indicate this latter planning level.
The Urban Design Framework, or Urban Design Strategy, is a strategic planning
document drafted for the most part to a city scale, although it can on occasion refer
to single neighbourhoods. It is a two- or three-dimensional plan with the task of
correlating the various spatial and regional governance policies outlined in the
Local Development Framework and coordinating the possible, foreseen interventions on the basis of predefined objectives. It is therefore a comprehensive plan
which is used mainly in case it becomes necessary to handle large programmes of
intervention and transformation, in which the actions of diverse sectors converge,
such as transport, social housing, traffic and mobility, the public realm, etc. Already
at this level of planning, guidelines of an architectural or urban design nature can
2 New Strategic Drivers for the Regeneration of Cities
Fig. 2.2 Southampton. Strengths, opportunities and constraints of the city centre (Southampton
City Council 2001: 32. Courtesy of Southampton City Council)
be provided: access points, public and pedestrian space layouts, the height and
massing of buildings or blocks, street alignment, the hierarchy and sections of the
road network, relationship with the existing fabric, functional distribution, possible
landmarks and areas or buildings of historical interest. For example, in the case of
the ‘City Centre Urban Design Strategy’ in Southampton (Southampton City
Council 2001), the document, introduced by a fairly in-depth area appraisal, was
focused on the planning indications needed to meet the objectives set out by the
Local Plan, which mainly revolved around the development of an economy connected to the trinity of tourism-culture-leisure at a metropolitan and regional level
(Southampton City Council 2003). To this end, the policies provided by the plan
(creation or redevelopment of the public realm, the sequential approach for commercial settlements, the defence and conservation of collective buildings, etc.)
were translated, through a map of diagrams, into guidelines for the development,
qualification or reinforcement of the routes (pedestrian especially) between the
main gateways (such as the railway station), the historic town centre and the waterfront. It therefore indicated the public areas that required improvement and the
most suitable points for the construction of landmarks that would function as visual
references for the development of the new focus planned for the seafront area
(Figs. 2.2 and 2.3). The ‘City Centre Urban Design Strategy’ was then completed
by in-depth study of the design framework for strategic areas identified on the basis
of the objectives outlined in the previous section. These, indicated as Character
2.3 Administrative Tools for Controlling the Quality of Urban Design
Fig. 2.3 Southampton. City centre urban design framework (Southampton City Council 2001: 36.
Courtesy of Southampton City Council)
Areas, also analysed, where present, the fundamental places for the main and crucial projects of transformation and redevelopment (the ‘keynote projects’), supplying development frameworks with detailed indications on the form of buildings
and public spaces, intended uses and the relationship with the context. Control over
urban development is entrusted to this document and the ‘Development Design
Guide’, a sort of design statement for Southampton, complementary to the ‘City
Centre Urban Design Strategy’ aimed mainly at developers (Southampton City
Council 2002) (Fig. 2.4).
The overall vision composed in this manner allows the streamlining of financial
and political efforts by establishing a hierarchy of interventions and providing an
overall framework of completion times. The drafting of the Urban Design Framework
facilitates cooperation between the public and private sector and is vital in promoting the territory to this latter, illustrated in its crucial development lines and phases
of transformation. In fact, the presence of guarantees provided by a document of
intention and a time schedule constitutes enormous leverage for stimulating
financing from the entrepreneurs.
The Development Briefs or Development Frameworks specify, on a neighbourhood scale, the design framework that regulates the interventions organised by the
Urban Design Framework. In this case then, the architectural and urban design takes
on a predominant significance, as more strategic and functional choices with regard
to the goals of the city have already been resolved. These documents provide
2 New Strategic Drivers for the Regeneration of Cities
Fig. 2.4 Southampton. Potential development massing and open space configuration of West
Quay III Phase 3 (Southampton City Council 2001: 83. Courtesy of Southampton City Council)
indications concerning the objectives and performance characteristics that the design
proposal should take into consideration, specifying, depending on the size of the area
in question, the main details that must be respected regarding quantity, construction
and size. Referring once more to the Southampton case, some Development
Frameworks were then further examined, in terms of urban and architectural character, functional expectations and the relationship with the context (public realm and
existing historic buildings) through some Development Briefs, on the basis of which,
in the West Quay III area, for example, it was possible to propose, as planned by
Terry Farrell and Partners initially and Foreign Office Architects subsequently, masterplans that responded perfectly to the city scale concept of planning (Fig. 2.5).
Often the drafting of these documents, which due to the competence required are
entrusted to external consultants in the majority of cases, is accompanied by
diagrams, sketches and photographs, either as suggestions or more explicit
requirements. These also illustrate the qualitative aspect of the expectations from
local government.
The urban design masterplan, identified by the Urban Task Force as a fundamental instrument for ensuring the quality and competitiveness of urban development,
constitutes, before any definitive realisation, the third and final level of supervision
and definition of the design of places within schemes of a certain scale. As the roles
and uses of the different components connected to the city and context have already
been established, as well as the structure of spaces and main architectural connec-
2.3 Administrative Tools for Controlling the Quality of Urban Design
Fig. 2.5 Southampton. 3D rendering of the new project for West Quay III Phase 3 designed by
AZPA – Alejandro Zaera-Polo Architecture (Courtesy of AZPA)
tions in the area, the main objective of the masterplan is to pin down the formal
result in a three-dimensional vision that is as close as possible to the final one,
assessing the effective compliance of the forms planned with the requirements
needed. Furthermore, the masterplan, as well as constituting a spatial model, acts as
2 New Strategic Drivers for the Regeneration of Cities
Fig. 2.6 Nottingham. Sketches of the Urban Design Guide giving guidance on the relationship
between buildings and street, the use of landmark and the design of buildings (Building Good
Manners) (Nottingham City Council 2009: 53, 68, 69. Courtesy of Urbed)
an implementation programme and therefore includes detailed information on
funding terms, the phasing of works and relevant completion times. In fact, it is
generally produced by promoters, whether they are private, public organisations or
Finally, the Design Guidance regulates the architectural character of various types
of intervention at a detailed level, through diagrams, drawings and photographs. It
provides indications on various themes such as methods for expansion of houses or
the design of residential open spaces, ensuring ‘from below’ respect of certain elementary formal regulations (Fig. 2.6). A particular aspect of this instrument is represented by the design codes, predefined abacuses of architectural and design solutions
introduced by the PPS3 (Housing) on the model of examples taken from the American
New Urbanism. These may vary notably depending on scale (from blocks to street
furniture) and level of detail (from concise indications to dimensioned drawings)
(Fig. 2.7). After a study period on 19 pilot projects, these began to come into use in
the English system as well – despite it being correctly noted that this practice was
already in use in England in Georgian times – and have been the focus of a manual
published with CABE contribution (CLG and CABE 2006). In this case, the capacity
to ensure the difficult equilibrium between the variety, which is derived from the
designer’s freedom of expression, and the definition of a homogenous character for
the entire settlement is a fundamental requirement. The first research reports deemed
the first experimental results to be of notable interest due to the quality of the outcomes, both in formal and management terms (CABE 2005).
In addition to the instruments described above, local authorities also have the
option of influencing the planning and formal quality of proposed interventions by
making use of planning conditions that establish the conditions by which the private
sector must abide in order to obtain the planning permission. A ministerial circular
(11/95 of the then Department of Environment) sanctions exactly what is subject, or
not, to this complex type of planning instrument: in general the planning condition
is acceptable if it can be considered fair, meaning if it meets requirements of necessity, applicability, reason and significance for the plan and feasibility of the intervention. Control over elements of urban and architectural design can meet these
2.3 Administrative Tools for Controlling the Quality of Urban Design
Fig. 2.7 Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne. Examples of design codes (Newcastle City Council 2007:
20. Courtesy of Newcastle City Council)
requirements, according to which it is possible to impose that certain planning (e.g.
the use of certain materials or guidelines) or management characters be indicated
and agreed upon, for example, that the work be completed in full, or that certain
2 New Strategic Drivers for the Regeneration of Cities
parts of a large and complex project be subject to possible changes during the long
realisation process. When the circumstances for imposing planning conditions do
not arise – for example, and most frequently, in case of financial contributions by a
private developer – the authorities in charge can then turn to the entering into of a
legal agreement (under article 106 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act
1990) to sanction the conditions for issuing the planning permission. In this case,
planning obligations are used, which, in order to be accepted, must meet the same
requisites of fairness as the planning conditions.15 It is also possible to include some
lines of conduct in certain agreements with this method, relating to the formal quality and control over particular design elements, or instead request that certain services be guaranteed, for example, a certain percentage of affordable houses or
cultural facilities at the service of the city or neighbourhood.
There is one final form of control over the quality of the designs nominated for
planning applications, which is wielded by advisory panels: assessment bodies whose
role was established and reinforced during the 1920s. These are civic committees of
voluntary professionals who are experts in architectural and town planning disciplines and hold an advisory role for local government with regard to planning applications, offering critical analysis of the projects. Their opinion, insomuch as it is
often of a very high quality and unbiased – frequent rotation of the volunteers prevents the formation of lobbies – is not in itself binding. The conditions and regional
coverage of the service, given its voluntary nature, may be very dissimilar in terms of
skill and availability, depending on the context. Alongside more fragile cases that
have little or no recourse to this instrument, there have been others in which several
control bodies have been involved (CABE 2009; CABE et al. 2009). In the aforementioned Liverpool case for example the administration, besides relying on the
advice of the local panel and CABE, both at a municipal level and in the URC
Liverpool Vision, made also use of consultants specialising in Planning Management
with particular focus on the quality of urban planning. Furthermore, Places Matter!,
an organisation in the North West region that was once financed by the regional
development agency NWDA, has planning consultancy duties very similar to those
carried out by CABE (and in fact also financed by the same) (Biddulph 2010).
Other organisms that provide similar services, although mostly committed to the
defence and protection of places rather than innovation, are the Civic Societies,
local voluntary associations represented at a national level by the Civic Trust. Civic
Societies establish very close contact with the city technical departments and in
various cases can trigger a high level of interest among inhabitants. Other advisory
panels operating in England are English Heritage, a public body cofinanced by the
government, which works for the defence of historical heritage and the landscape,
and the National Trust, which performs the same functions as English Heritage
(but is only funded by its members), specifically through the purchase of valuable
environmental areas and historic buildings (Vignozzi 1997).
Wherever possible, planning conditions are always preferable to planning obligations, mainly
because they permit savings of time and money and avoid the bureaucratic complications required
to draw up a further legal agreement on which to base the latter.
Despite this, as the second Urban Task Force report complains, in as much as it
has been possible to appreciate an increase in planning quality overall, many new
developments and buildings still fall below the standards that an apparatus of regulation and control of this nature should guarantee. Diverse reasons have been
identified, but the fact must be attributed above all to the lack of attention paid by
many organisations to the quality of the work that they commission or manage,
prioritising economic and quantitative aspects. In general, despite efforts in that
direction, both the demand’s requests and the supply’s proposals bear witness to
extreme inertia and cultural impermeability with respect to ministerial indications
and guidelines concerning architectural planning and urban design.
ATLAS [Advisory Team for Large Applications] (2008) Implementing planning performance
agreements. Guidance note. CLG, London
Biddulph M (2010) Liverpool 2008: Liverpool’s vision and the decade of cranes. In: Punter J (ed)
Urban design and the British urban renaissance. Routledge, London, pp 100–114
Bondholderscheme Ltd (2011) City centre masterplan. Bondholderscheme Ltd, web page. http://
www.hull.co.uk/template02.asp?pageid=201. Viewed 11 Feb 2011
CABE [Commission for Architecture and Built Environment] (2003a) Creating excellent buildings.
A guide for clients. CABE, London
CABE (2003b) Protecting design quality in planning. CABE, London
CABE (2004a) Creating successful masterplans. A guide for clients. CABE, London
CABE (2004b) Design reviewed, Issue 1, February. CABE, London
CABE (2005) Design Coding. Testing its use in England, CABE, London
CABE (2006) Designing streets for people. How highways and transportation professionals can
help make better places. CABE, London
CABE (2008) Design and access statements. How to write, read and use them. CABE, London
CABE (2009) Survey of local and regional design review panels, their location, type and impact.
CABE, London
CABE (2011a) Creating excellent buildings. CABE, web page. http://www.cabe.org.uk/buildings.
Viewed 1 Feb 2011
CABE (2011b) Design champions. CABE, web page. http://www.cabe.org.uk/design-champions.
Viewed 1 Feb 2011
CABE and DETR [Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions] (2000) By design.
Urban design in the planning system: towards better practice. HMSO, London
CABE and DTLR [Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions] (2001) Better
places to live, by design: a companion guide to PPG3. TSO, London
CABE, RTPI [Royal Town Planning Institute], RIBA [Royal Institute of British Architects],
Landscape Institute (2009) Design review. Principles and practice. CABE, London
Carmona M, Heath T, Taner O, Tiesdell S (2003) Public places – urban spaces: the dimensions of
urban design. Architectural Press, Oxford
CB Hillier Parker and Cardiff University (2004) Policy evaluation of the effectiveness of PPG6.
ODPM/TSO, London
CLG [department for Communities and Local Government] (2006) Planning applications:
arrangements for consulting Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment as a
non-statutory consultee, letter to local authorities. CLG, London, online pdf. http://www.cabe.
org.uk/files/design-review-government-criteria.pdf. Viewed 11 Feb 2011
CLG (2008) Proposed changes to planning policy statement 6: planning for town centres.
Consultation. HMSO, London
2 New Strategic Drivers for the Regeneration of Cities
CLG (2009) World class places. The Government’s strategy for improving quality of place. HMSO,
CLG and CABE (2006) Preparing design codes. A practice manual. HMSO, London
Cowan R (2002) Urban design guidance. Urban design frameworks, development briefs and master
plans. Thomas Telford, London
DCMS [Department for Culture, Media and Sport] (2000) Better public buildings. A proud legacy
for the future. DCMS, London
DETR (1997) Planning policy guidance 1: general policy and principles. HMSO, London
DETR (1998) Places, streets and movement. A companion guide to DB32. Residential roads and
footpaths. TSO, London
DETR (1999) A better quality of life. TSO, London
DETR (2000a) Our towns and cities: the future. Delivering an urban renaissance. HMSO, London
DETR (2000b) Planning policy guidance 3: housing. HMSO, London
DfT [Department for Transport] (2007) Manual for streets. Thomas Telford Publishing, London
DoE [Department of Environment] (1994a) Sustainable development: the UK strategy. HMSO,
DTLR (2002a) Green spaces, better places. Final report of the urban green spaces taskforce.
DTLR, London
English Heritage (1997) Conservation area appraisals. English Heritage, London
EP [English Partnerships] and HC [Housing Corporation] (2000) Urban design compendium.
English Partnerships, London
EP and HC (2007) Delivering quality places. Urban design compendium 2. English Partnerships,
Newcastle City Council (2007) Walker riverside design code. Supplementary design document.
Newcastle City Council, Newcastle
Nottingham City Council (2009) Nottingham city centre urban design guide. Nottingham City
Council, Nottingham
NRPF [National Retail Planning Forum] (2002) Going to town. Improving town centre access.
A companion guide to PPG6. Llewelyn-Davies, London
ODPM [Office of the Deputy Prime Minister] (2002) Living places cleaner, safer, greener. ODPM,
ODPM (2004a) Consultation on draft planning policy statement 6. Planning for Town Centres.
ODPM, London
ODPM (2004b) Consultation paper on planning policy statement 1. Creating sustainable communities. ODPM, London
ODPM (2004c) Living places. Caring for quality. ODPM, London
ODPM (2005a) Planning policy statement 1. Delivering sustainable development. TSO, London
ODPM (2005b) Planning for town centres. Guidance on design and implementation tools. ODPM,
Southampton City Council (2001) Southampton city centre urban design strategy. Southampton
City Council, Southampton
Southampton City Council (2002) Development design guide. Southampton City Centre.
Consultation draft report. Southampton City Council, Southampton
Southampton City Council (2003) City of Southampton local plan review. Revised deposit version
February 2003. Southampton City Council, Southampton
The Countryside Agency (2003) Town design statements: why and how to produce them. Good
practice advice. The Countryside Agency, Cheltenham
Urban Task Force (1999) Towards an urban renaissance. HMSO, London
Urban Task Force (2005) Towards a strong urban renaissance. HMSO, London
Vignozzi A (1997) Urbanistica e qualità estetica. La lezione della Gran Bretagna. Franco Angeli,
Woolley H (2000) Town centre management awareness: an aid to developing young people’s
citizenship. Cities 17(6):453–459
Young A (ed) (2010) Manual for streets 2. Wider application of the principles. CIHT, London
Chapter 3
Stakeholders, Programmes and Strategies
English Partnerships, the Homes and Communities Agency
and the Housing Question
The English urban renaissance conducted over the last two decades was made
possible largely due to the technical and financial direction of the national regeneration agency English Partnerships (EP), merged in 2008 into the new Homes and
Communities Agency (HCA), which reports to the Department for Communities
and Local Government. The complex and broad mandate of English Partnerships
was to promote economic and social development through policies of land transformation aimed at improving residential, environmental and infrastructural conditions, with four areas of intervention: sustainable regeneration; social housing; the
strategic reconversion of brownfield sites; the promotion and dissemination of best
practices in terms of urban redevelopment, quality of design and environmental
compatibility. The tasks and programmes of the old agency, often administered in
partnership with other agencies or ministries, were transmitted in full to the new
Homes and Communities Agency, which also took on those formerly assigned to
the Housing Corporation (housing policies) and to the Academy for Sustainable
Communities (research and training), both now merged into the new entity.
The reason for this merger was especially linked to the fundamental role
assigned to residential policies for the future of England, which can be said to represent both the inescapable premise and the testing ground for the achievement of
sustainability goals desired by the government. The research report on national
housing needs that was presented to the government in 2004 by the economist Kate
Barker (2004) had since become a major benchmark for ministerial directives. The
document drew a diagnosis of the alarming situation in the country that showed a
serious deficiency in terms of both quantity and quality. Not only, especially in
metropolitan London and other densely populated south-eastern provinces, there is
a growing demand for new houses, which has recently been estimated by the
National Housing and Planning Advice Unit at about 290,500 dwellings per year
F. Vescovi, Designing the Urban Renaissance: Sustainable and Competitive
Place Making in England, DOI 10.1007/978-94-007-5631-1_3,
© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013
Stakeholders, Programmes and Strategies
until 2031,1 but a considerable part of the existing stock, public and private, is
moreover considered to be below acceptable standards both in terms of dimensions
and technology, or rather economically inaccessible – precisely because of the
high prices associated with short supply – to an increasingly large portion of the
population. To overcome this huge deficit, the government looks to the free market
and the offer of affordable housing – with the questionable aim of promoting ownership of the dwelling over rental – no less than to social housing.2 Despite its
urgency and scale, the problem is not addressed by responding to purely departmental and quantitative logic but on the contrary is also strategically framed, at
least in intention, according to regional perspective in light of national programmes
for economic development, for the defence of social justice and environmental
heritage. The intervention policies of the Homes and Communities Agency are
therefore organised, depending on the characteristics of the different contexts,
either in restructuring work or new construction both aimed to limit consumption
of land, to support the development of employment in key sectors, to create or
recreate places of quality and to encourage the urban regeneration process.
The increase in absolute value of the residential offer is especially directed
towards those geographical areas in the south of the country that have the highest
concentration of demand and are considered able to take on the impact of new
settlements in a more sustainable way. In 2003, by the document ‘Sustainable
communities: building for the future’ (ODPM 2003), four principal Growth Areas
were designated in the south-eastern region that were considered more prepared to
welcome the load of new settlements in line with desired standards of sustainability.
The four areas,3 where institutions dedicated to following development plans are
already operating, have the potential to accommodate 200,000 inhabitants by 2016:
zmance in the region. By that same date and with similar guarantees of sustainability,
construction of another 180,000 dwellings is expected in 50 Growth Points,4
selected for grassroots nomination from those cities or local partnerships between
This is the latest estimate carried out by the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit (even
this closed in 2010 because of public spending cuts) as reported by the current government (Wilson
2010). The quantities provided for by different sources show some fluctuations, since they are
forecasts based on a non-univocal series of parameters. Barker’s report, for example, fixed different hypotheses depending on the objectives of the housing market’s price regulation: in the event
of a reduction in the price rise equal to 1.1%, 295,000 new dwellings would be required every year
(Barker 2004). The ministerial programme presented in 2007 (CLG 2007a) fixed 2,000 new houses
by 2016 (equal to 240,000 houses per year) and three million by 2020 as an objective, instead.
Barker’s report considers, for the social housing sector, annual housing needs between 17,000 and
26,000 houses; as for the affordable houses, the estimate need is included between 73,000 and
101,000 units per year (Barker 2004: 5–6; 125).
The areas are Ashford; London, Stansted, Cambridge and Peterborough; Milton Keynes and
South Midlands; and Thames Gateway.
The Growth Area and Growth Point idea had already been anticipated by the Urban Task Force in
1999, by suggesting the establishment of Urban Priority Areas on which the settlement development
according to sustainability criteria should be concentrated. The first Growth Points session, in 2005,
admitted 29 nominations and allocated a 40-million-sterling budget destined for infrastructure and
studies (CLG 2006b). The second session, including the last 21 Growth Points, dates back to 2008.
English Partnerships, the Homes and Communities Agency…
Housing Market Renewal Pathfinders
Growth Areas
South East
Growth Areas main foci
Growth Points
North Tyneside
Newcastle &
South East
Growth Points, 2nd round
Tees Valley
Leeds City Region
Central Lancashire
South Yorkshire
West Cheshire
Shrews bury
& Atcham
Sta ord
Sta ordshire
Black Country /
Black Country/
& Solihull
Greater Norwich
King's Lynn
The ord
Ke ering
Bury St Edmunds
Haven Gateway
Ip swic h
Milton Keynes
Luto n
We lwyn Garden City
St Al ba ns
Oxfo rd
Heme l Hemp st ead Ha ield Harlow
West of England
Stra or d
London Riverside
North Kent
Maid stone
Basing stoke
Reigate &
Stev en age
Ayle sb ur y Vale
Exeter and
East Devon
Carrick, Kerrier
and Restormel
Plymouth and
South Hams
Partnership for
Urban South Hampshire
Fig. 3.1 England. Map showing the English government’s main housing policies: Growth Points,
Growth Areas, Housing Market Renewal Pathfinders (Data from CLG and OS OpenData edited
by the author)
municipalities and counties that have declared themselves eligible to build at least
20% more dwellings than that planned by regional schemes, with a minimum
annual rate of 500 units. Growth Areas and Growth Points are managed by the
Homes and Communities Agency in partnership with local bodies drawing from
specific funds for infrastructure and services5 (Fig. 3.1).
Since the expansion of housing stock is based largely on free market homes that
are predominantly intended for sales, the government had to introduce the necessary
The main funds implemented by the programme (sometimes referred to as Housing Growth
Programme) are the Growth Fund, the Community Infrastructure Fund and the Low Carbon
Infrastructure Fund (HCA 2010b).
Stakeholders, Programmes and Strategies
corrective measures to prevent social exclusion and segregation, promoting access
to property for medium-low social classes as well. The Affordable Homes programme presents a vast range of initiatives aimed at curbing sales prices in various
ways by acting both on the costs of supply, through financial contributions and other
financial instruments, and in support of demand (e.g. by the First Time Buyers
Initiative and Key Worker Living6 programmes), in particular through various
schemes to support purchase and through government loans for some essential
professions in specific geographical areas. The identification of areas to be allocated
to residential expansion and the estimated amount by type of access (rent, property,
free market, affordable housing, social housing) are entrusted in compliance with
regulations, the 2010 PPS3 (third edition), to local government, which on the basis
of a larger-scale framework resulting from the regional spatial strategies, prepare a
Strategic Land Availability Assessment and a Strategic Housing Market Assessment
with a forecast timeline of 15 years.
In terms of redevelopment of existing housing stock, the Homes and Communities
Agency is responsible for another large-scale public initiative in the northern regions
and in the West Midlands to support those depopulated and abandoned areas where
the housing market is facing severe crisis. There are nine pilot projects7 in the
Housing Market Renewal (HMR) Pathfinders programme, this too introduced along
with the Growth Areas by the Sustainable Communities document of 2003. In these
areas the aim is to break the vicious circle caused by the low quality of settlements,
which, causing market demand to collapse, lead to depreciation of property and,
consequently, physical degradation, a drain of people and phenomena of social
segregation of entire neighbourhoods. The interventions under way, through integrated redevelopment and in many cases targeted reconstruction of entire portions
of existing settlements, aim to turn the situation around by revitalising the local
market thanks to a radically reformed housing offer. It is important to note that
investments are not only dedicated to improving the architectural and technological
quality of the buildings but equally that of the public realm and other amenities
serving the neighbourhoods, no less fundamental in influencing property values and
stimulating customer demand (Fig. 3.2). The planning and implementation of transformation is again in this case taken care of by partnerships between public agencies
(local, regional and governmental) and private developers. State financing, arranged
through a specific fund,8 is generally invested in purchasing land, the renovation of
accommodation, the creation or redevelopment of infrastructure, services and public
spaces or is granted to developers who support the entrepreneurial risk in those
The key workers category includes, among others, nurses, teachers, civil servants, policemen,
firemen and civil defence operators. The areas to which the subsidy programme is applied are those
of London and the south-eastern counties.
Since 2007, three new areas have been added to the original nine: the Tees Valley, West Cumbria/
Furness and West Yorkshire.
It is the HMR fund that was confirmed also for the 2008–2011 period. In some cases (for instance,
the Manchester Salford Pathfinder) the neighbourhoods’ redevelopment works benefited from
community funds, too.
English Partnerships, the Homes and Communities Agency…
Fig. 3.2 Beswick, Manchester. Masterplan of the regeneration initiative promoted by Manchester
Salford Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder (Courtesy of Manchester City Council)
contexts where market conditions would make such investments impractical. As an
alternative, or in addition, to such contributions – for instance, as for the HMR of
Merseyside NewHeartlands – a sort of local monopoly has been granted to developers as an investment incentive (Biddulph 2010). Due to its invasiveness the programme received as much criticism as support. The risks and complexities associated
with these operations do not always ensure the desired levels of quality, management transparency and democratic participation. Again, the contribution of CABE
proved fundamental. In Liverpool (NewHeartlands), for example, it played a decisive role in the defence of an acceptable planning level and for effective involvement of local communities, while in Sheffield (Transform South Yorkshire), it also
gave rise to a joint programme (Delivering Design Quality) for the quality promotion and control of settlements, even going so far as to introduce a special prize, the
TSY Award (Delivering Design Quality 2012).
Investment in redevelopment works is also aimed at promoting acceptable social
housing through the Descent Homes programme, which commits municipalities
and other social housing administrators to guarantee standards set by the Department
for Communities and Local Government for their housing offer. The standards,
updated in 2006, require houses to comply with the habitability requirements as
indicated by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), be built under
good material conditions and be equipped with modern and effective systems and
services while guaranteeing a satisfactory thermal comfort level (CLG 2006a). To
improve their housing stock, as well as drawing on internal resources, the responsible bodies may also have recourse to alternative instruments such as Private
Stakeholders, Programmes and Strategies
Finance Initiative projects, managing assets through a controlled company or even
transferring them to a housing association.9
National policies for the dissemination of high standards for housing project are
supported by a very rich and varied framework of rules and guidelines. Among
these, Building for Life stands out in particular, a major national award for the best
housing project recently established by the government: since its introduction in
2001, it has become a benchmark standard for the construction of new settlements,
in particular, among others, by the National Housing Federation, which is the main
representative of English non-profit social housing associations. On the basis of
scores resulting from compliance with 20 requirements, the project can be rated
‘very good’, ‘good’, ‘medium’ or ‘poor’, and where it achieves a result of over
14/20 is awarded the Silver Standard (with a score of 14 or 15/20) or the Gold
Standard (16/20 or higher).
Other key reference systems, intended to assess and improve the level of minimum legal requirements provided by building regulations, are the Housing Quality
Indicators, focused mainly on the characteristics of the dwelling, the Lifetime
Homes Standards and Lifetime Neighbourhoods programme, aimed at ensuring
sufficient flexibility and accessibility for the elderly and disabled (CLG et al. 2008),
the Secured by Design requirements, based on the design guidelines for urban safety
set out by Design Out Crime, and especially, on the environmental front, the Code
for Sustainable Homes. The latter, graduated through six rating levels, is a system
to environmentally certify buildings, compulsory since May 2008, which gives a
classification based on nine categories10 among which the materials used and energy
and water saving levels (CLG 2010a).
The feather in the cap of recent English housing policy however, is definitely the
Millennium Communities programme, conceived as early as 1997 by English
Partnerships as a manifesto of the new settings produced by the PPG1. It predicted
the building of 7,000 new homes by 2014 (of which, 1,350 had been realised in
2008) in seven different contexts, conceived and realised in line with strict and
high design parameters as an example and showcase of the highest possible degree
of quality sustainable living in England. Thus, while the homes are built with the
highest level of environmental certification, the settlements – some of them
designed in relation to specific issues, such as public transportation (Hastings), or
social integration through new neighbourhood facilities and public spaces (South
Lynn, Fig. 4.65) or the sophistication of particular design solutions (New Islington
in Manchester) – are characterised by the presence of social housing, parks, public
The housing associations are non-profit bodies regularly accredited at the Tenant Services
Authority, funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government. When the transfer
of residential stock involves over 500 houses, the procedure, to be completed in 2 years, is called
Large Scale Voluntary Transfer (LSVT) and must be approved by the majority of the tenants
through consultation and by the Secretary of State.
These are the nine categories: (1) CO2 energy emission, (2) drinking water savings, (3) materials
used, (4) drain waters treatment, (5) waste, (6) pollution, (7) health and wellness, (8) management
procedures and (9) ecology.
English Partnerships, the Homes and Communities Agency…
Fig. 3.3 Masterplan of Greenwich Millennium Village (Courtesy of Tovatt Erskine Architects and
Planners AB)
and private open spaces (arranged according to the Design Out Crime principles),
Home Zones, accessibility by public transport, walking and cycling, shopping and
other services (EP 2008) (Fig 3.3).
The Millennium Communities constitute the benchmark for numerous other
initiatives developed by other institutions, such as the Low Carbon City programme,
involving the cities of Bristol, Manchester and Leeds, or the One Planet Living
private initiative, a guide of construction principles based on eco-sustainability
(Francis and Wheeler 2006). The latter is a joint project of WWF and BioRegional, a
charity established in 1992 to promote entrepreneurial collaborations based on sustainable criteria, such as at Bedzed in London, their national headquarters’ office.
In addition to the increasing number of initiatives, there is also a growing political
and institutional commitment to environmental sustainability. The 2006 Climate
Change and Sustainable Energy Act and the 2008 Climate Change Act dictate the full
achievement of new standards for energy saving and the development of alternative
energy sources aiming to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The legislative
commitment intends to reduce carbon emissions by 80% as at 2050 compared
with levels recorded in 1990 (Climate Change Act 2008: section 1). In 2007, in
particular the government published a supplement to the PPS1 entitled ‘Planning and
Stakeholders, Programmes and Strategies
Fig. 3.4 Rendered picture of the new settlement planned in Hanham Hall as part of the Carbon
Challenge programme (Courtesy of Barrat Homes)
Climate Change’, which, considering above all the possible regional impact of
housing crisis,11 introduced new criteria and objectives for environmental protection, the promotion of alternative energy and the adoption of design and planning
solutions for the reduction of carbon emissions in the regional and local planning
system (CLG 2007c).
That same year saw the launch, by English Partnerships, of the Carbon
Challenge campaign to urge the construction industry to meet the new standards
required by the Code for Sustainable Homes (Fig. 3.4). Carbon Challenge, through
the construction of two experimental sites in Bristol and Peterborough,12 aims to
test the very highest standards provided by the new system (level 6: zero carbon
emissions) by reconciling performance with low production costs – at least one
third will be affordable housing – deriving from new prefabrication techniques
The 2007 PPS1 supplement refers to the objectives stated by the Planning White Paper ‘Planning
for a Sustainable Future’, published that same year by the Department for Communities and Local
Government (CLG 2007b). The document puts forward further reforms of the planning system
needed to face the scenarios described in Kate Barker’s (housing need) and Rod Eddington’s
(transport national system) reports (Eddington 2006).
The two experimental settlements are Hanham Hall in Bristol (195 dwellings) that is in progress and
South Bank Phase 1 in Peterborough (350 dwellings), still to be developed (HCA 2010c, 2011).
English Partnerships, the Homes and Communities Agency…
Fig. 3.5 Oxley Park, Milton Keynes. View of the building site of one of the award-winner schemes
of the Design for Manufacture competition (Courtesy of HCA)
introduced with the national Design for Manufacture competition. The latter,
already promoted by the government in 2005 and also managed by English
Partnerships, provided that the competing projects, in addition to being applicable
in any context, should meet both the design requirements of the ‘Urban Design
Compendium’ and the maximum BREEAM score (a system of environmental
certification prior to the Code for Sustainable Homes) with a construction cost not
exceeding £60,000 for dwellings of about 80 m2. Each of the ten selected developers
in the second stage of the competition was allocated an area for the construction
of the proposed projects, and six settlements have now been delivered (CLG and
HCA 2008) (Fig. 3.5).
So while on the one hand lies experimental architecture and environmentally
friendly communities that are energy self-contained – including the now famous
Bedzed district (Beddington Zero Energy Development) near London – or live/work
housing schemes, to reduce commuting,13 on the other hand, on the basis of the
stimulus provided by the 1998 ministerial publication ‘Rethinking Construction’,
research and the adoption of new manufacturing technologies are promoted, defined
MMC (Modern Methods of Construction), which can reduce production and maintenance costs, such as the Innovate for Homes programme from the Home Builders
An example of this type is the Cube in the Cultural Industries Quarter of Sheffield or the Bohouse
in the new creative quarter Boho Zone in Middlesbrough, too.
Stakeholders, Programmes and Strategies
Millennium Communities
Design for Manufacture
Carbon Challenge
upon Tyne
Ecotowns: pilot projects
Potential Ecotowns
New Islington
South Lynn
North West
Milton Keynes
Hannam Hall
St Austell (China Clay)
Fig. 3.6 Map showing the British government’s main policies supporting the quality and sustainability of new housing schemes: Millennium Communities, Carbon Challenge, Eco-Towns, Design
for Manufacture (Data from HCA and OS OpenData edited by the author)
More recently, by the 2009 supplement to the PPS1 and the advice of the
Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), an additional standard has
been promoted for the sustainability of new settlements, introducing, through
four pilot projects,14 the concept of the Eco-Town (CLG 2009) (Fig. 3.6). It is a
new programme for cities that have a forecast of at least 5,000 dwellings, designed
on a large scale sticking to the Millennium Communities model, according to the
The four areas selected by a call for bid and specified in the same PPS1 supplement (Annex A)
are Whitehill-Bordon, Rackheath, North-West Bicester and St Austell (China Clay Community).
English Partnerships, the Homes and Communities Agency…
Fig. 3.7 Spatial vision diagram of the Whitehill & Bordon Eco-town (Whitehill & Bordon Ecotown Delivery Board, 2012: 14. Courtesy of Whitehill & Bordon Eco-town team)
most advanced principles in the field of eco-friendliness and energy saving,
which is to provide:
– Zero carbon emissions
– Level four of the Code for Sustainable Homes and the Silver Standard of Building
for Life for homes, of which at least 30% must be affordable
– A forecast for alternative transport to cars, equal to 50–60% of trips generated
– A job for every house, accessible on foot, by bike or public transport
– An adequate number of services
– Green surfaces equal to 40% of the area, of which at least half are public
– Maximum commitment to enhancing the landscape, protecting and developing
biodiversity (Fig. 3.7)
Although most programmes require the use of greenfield areas, of the nearly
three million new housing units estimated for 2020, it is forecast that 60% will be
carried out on brownfield land. The latter are therefore subject to a close annual
monitoring by the Homes and Communities Agency: the National Land Use
Database, publicly available via the Web, recorded 63,750 ha of potentially reusable
urbanised areas in 2008 (HCA 2010a). The recovery of the land sees the institution
engaged on several fronts:
– Management: monitoring, in addition to brownfield areas, potentially usable
public land (Surplus Public Sector Land) and streamlining the time and procedure for completion of projects thanks to the already described Planning
Performance Agreements
Stakeholders, Programmes and Strategies
– Organisation: implementing by the Land Restoration Trust the reclamation of
former industrial and mining areas (National Coalfields Programme15 and Land
Stabilisation Programme) and supporting local authorities in reconversion plans
– Finance: especially using the powers of the Compulsory Purchase Order to
enable the consolidation and restoration of degraded or underutilised properties
Despite this, the use of greenfield land, sometimes even stealing from protected
green belts, is not only still widespread but finds unexpected supporters even from
the academic world: Sir Peter Hall, who collaborated on the Urban Task Force studies, has distanced himself from what he called the ‘Land Fetish’ (Urban Task Force
2005:19), or rather, according to the scholar, excessive alarm about land use that is
unjustified and above all counterproductive to the potentially negative impact that
such a ‘protectionist’ policy might cause to the housing market.
The residential conversion of brownfield areas is implemented in particular by
the major cities whose housing policies plan to reverse a long-standing centrifugal
trend by keeping inhabitants in or drawing them back to the heart of metropolitan
and urban areas, where the widespread presence of former industrial plants has
made available several wide areas. The rates of internal migration leaving major
cities were in fact particularly high during the 1980s and consisted largely of the
middle and wealthier classes (ODPM 2006). In 1999, a national survey showed that
more than two out of three families lived in suburban or rural settlements (Todorovic
and Wellington 2000). Only since the late 1990s, thanks to programmes such as
Living Over The Shop (LOTS)16 and other new residential policies in favour of
inner and central urban areas, there has been a change in the phenomenon, in some
contexts such as Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and Birmingham even seeing a
reversal of the trend.
On several occasions this return to the city was designated ‘city living’ to indicate not only a demographic and topographic factor but above all a lifestyle marked
by that urban living culture that is at the roots of the current renaissance. The opportunity to enjoy this rich and complex vitality in the city neighbourhoods, to enjoy
the variety of choice, special amenities and services offered by metropolitan centres
and to regain a sense of identity, including connections with the past, in the fabric of
places given new life, constitute a very strong appeal for a growing number of
inhabitants.17 The real estate market of central areas is often monitored by many city
councils, as, for instance, in the case of the City Living in Leeds campaign of biennial surveys carried out by the municipality in collaboration with universities and
the main local developers (Leeds City Council 2010). By keeping their finger on the
Through Network Space Ltd, a partnership with the developer Langtree Group plc, the agency
develops new working areas for the tertiary and manufacturing sectors in former mining areas.
The programme aims to recover, for housing purposes, generally vacant spaces on the upper floor
of many shops situated in the historical centres of the cities. It was adopted, for instance, during the
redevelopment of Grainger Town in Newcastle (Newcastle City Council 2005).
The phrase ‘city living’ or ‘city centre living’ is also frequently used by developers while promoting flats in urban areas, such as in the new Southreef building in Nottingham (Southreef
Properties Ltd 2008).
The Urban Regeneration Companies and the Local Partnerships
pulse of local market, many cities attempt both to better calibrate their urban policies
and to raise interest among developers and potential home buyers to attract private
investments. The objective of these strategies is twofold: on the one hand, the residents,
especially in central areas, are a complementary element to tertiary and service
functions, indispensable to ensure the necessary vitality of the contexts and to
generate useful economies of scale that can support the labour market in strategic
sectors, as well as the costs of public transport and other basic community services.
On the other hand, by incentivising economically diverse and properly distributed
housing offer, the authorities are trying to promote or at least maintain the social
complexity of the districts and to contribute to the spread of a better quality of life
among different social classes in the population. Actually, the entrepreneurial risk
related to the redevelopment of degraded areas in state of particular decay18 and the
strong bargaining power in the hands of private developers to whom urban regeneration is entrusted – as is already seen in the case of the Housing Market Renewal
Pathfinders – in fact make it virtually impossible for the government to constrain the
type of offer that is so completely geared to poorly differentiated market demand.
The Urban Regeneration Companies and the Local
The residential policies and the economic development issues related to urban
regeneration are addressed by the municipalities through strategic planning documents, carried out in several cases with the help of public-private partnerships
inspired by the Urban Development Companies introduced by the conservative government of the 1980s. Taking up a suggestion of the Urban Task Force, English
Partnerships created and sponsored in 1999 the first three pilot Urban Regeneration
Companies: Liverpool Vision, New East Manchester and Sheffield One. These are
organisations with mixed participation, founded by the most important local public
bodies and the Regional Development Agencies to implement, in a period of 10 or
15 years, a masterplan or strategic plan aimed at the sustainable regeneration of
particular areas affected by economic and social decline. The Homes and
Communities Agency, as well as providing advice for the establishment of the
Urban Regeneration Companies and contributing to the preparatory stage of their
strategic plans, subsidises the purchase and the remediation of brownfield sites for
future developments. The partnership does not have, directly, any binding or
financial power: its mandate is restricted only to the coordination and promotion of
public and private interventions in their respective areas of competence. It also
added in 2007 a new mandate – at first called Economic City Company (CDC) and
then Economic Development Company (EDC) – to indicate forms of partnership
As regards the Holbeck Urban Village in Leeds, for example, the affordable houses in the quarter
only represent 5% of the whole residential area. Such a small quantity, agreed upon with the developers CTP-St. James and the city council, is to be considered as a sort of compensation for the high
financial risks connected with the renewal.
Stakeholders, Programmes and Strategies
Core Cities
Economic Development Companies/
City Development Companies
Active Urban Regeneration Companies (until 2011)
New castle
Closed Urban Regeneration Companies (until 2011)
Other similar forms of management
Newcastle Gateshead
Sunderland Arc
Tees Valley
Renaissance Towns
and Cities Programme
Liverpool Vision
Regenerate Bradford Centre
New East Leeds
Hull City Council
(già Hull Forward)
Telford Ltd
Dev. Company
Regeneartion Ltd
North Northants
Development Company
Reg. Company
Black Country
Consortium Ltd
1st East
Forward Swindon
Sea space
Plymouth City Council
(già Plymouth Development Company)
Fig. 3.8 England. Map of major organisations aimed at urban regeneration: URC, EDC/CDC,
Core Cities. Elaboration of the author on data by HCA and OS OpenData
similar to the URC but geographically related to larger areas (the entire city, or even
a group of municipalities) to deal with more general economic development tasks as
well as urban regeneration projects. In reality, however, the difference between the
two types is quite nuanced, and moreover, different URCs also operate at supramunicipal (or subregional) levels as in the case of 1st East (two municipalities) or Tees
Valley Regeneration (five municipalities). Since the date of their introduction, the
number of URCs has grown to 18. Some of these have subsequently shifted to the
status of EDC, while others have recently been closed due to the cut in state funds
and the suppression of the Regional Development Agencies. In these cases, generally, the strategic plans and often parts of the original teams have been subsumed
into the city councils, as, for instance, in Salford or Liverpool.
This model of intervention is, however, only one of the several widespread
forms of partnership in place between different agencies, along with an equally
large number of special programmes aimed at regenerating the country (Fig. 3.8).
The Urban Regeneration Companies and the Local Partnerships
Another important body operating on a large scale was ‘The Northern Way’, a
partnership of three Regional Development Agencies formed in 2004 to provide a
joint strategy of economic development for the regions of the north (Northern
Way Steering Group 2004). In the north, the same coordination policies and
guidelines were also conducted at a smaller scale by the four municipalities of the
Black Country,19 while a similar initiative in the south of the country has produced
the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire (PUSH). Another notable initiative
working at a regional level was the Renaissance Towns and Cities Programme
(RCTP) directed by Yorkshire Forward. From 2001, this Regional Development
Agency, through aid and loans, has encouraged local processes of rebirth in
about 30 urban areas, establishing working groups for the interdisciplinary
preparation of strategic plans, almost all now under implementation or completion (EP and HC 2007: 29). The same agency had also undertaken, between 2002
and 2009, a similar project, called the Renaissance Market Towns Programme,
which was geographically complementary to the other and aimed at supporting
rural centres. Through this scheme, the agency, in addition to having achieved good
results, managed to give impetus to further intervention programmes (Yorkshire
Forward 2010).
There are also partnerships that, rather than on a territorial basis, were formed
according to topics or specific redevelopment projects. This applies to the Living
Places Partnership, an unusual consortium of five major British cultural institutions20 that together with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the
Department for Communities and Local Government is committed to a programme
for the promotion of culture and sport at national, regional and local levels. These
activities, along with their related facilities, are proposed as qualifying elements in
urban regeneration interventions, especially in new urban expansions. The partnership, through the five steps of the Living Places Toolkit (a design tool developed
jointly with the Town and Country Planning Association), a large group of case
studies and five indicative interventions in five pilot sites, known as ‘priority
places’, aims to help local communities develop two basic qualities of the built
environment: the identity and the ability to act (agency) (The Living Places
Partnership 2009). In line with this perspective, Sport England, once again with the
support of CABE, has also promoted the concept of Active Design. It is a design
approach that pays particular emphasis on the incentive to perform physical
activity resulting from a good and widespread provision of sports facilities and
from daily routes which are easily accessible and attractive to both pedestrians
and cyclists (Sport England 2007).
The Black Country Consortium is formed by the towns of Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall and
Sandwell. The two studies in 2003 and 2006 (‘Looking Forward: the Black Country in 2033’ and
‘the Black Country Study’) were followed by a Core Strategy for the next 30 years, adopted in
February 2011.
In addition to CABE, there are Arts Council England; English Heritage; the Museums, Libraries
and Archives Council; and Sport England.
Stakeholders, Programmes and Strategies
Fig. 3.9 Sheffield. National Centre for Popular Music. Example of a Millennium Project. It currently hosts the Students’ Union Hallam University after the Music Centre closed in 2000. Photo
by Stuart Reeves
Investment in public spaces, public facilities and cultural works is at the heart
also of the initiative Sea Change, which was also promoted and directed by CABE21
and aimed specifically at supporting the tourism economy and the quality of living
of the communities in seaside towns. The Heritage Lottery Fund, through the
Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI), is a further aid to the cultural and physical
regeneration of places. It helps rehabilitate historical buildings and sites falling in
conservation areas and supports projects to enhance the identity and memory of
local communities (Heritage Lottery Fund 2010). Similarly, the Millennium
Commission, a government agency that was active between 1994 and 2006, has
directed the National Lottery proceeds – more than two billion pounds – to cultural
programmes, projects for urban regeneration and environmental protection, festivals, infrastructure, new buildings and public facilities. Many of the most recent and
famous tourist attractions that have been produced by the municipalities as a contribution to enhance their city centres and other blighted areas were financed by this
special fund and are thus called Millennium Projects. These particular facilities,
such as the ‘Centre for Life’ complex in Newcastle or the ‘The Deep’ aquarium in
Hull, are quite often designed with shapes which are conceived to make them
emerge from the urban landscape as landmarks or, more often, iconic buildings, in
an attempt to emulate the so-called Bilbao effect (Fig. 3.9).
Through a study conducted in 2003, ‘Shifting Sands’, the CABE (with English Heritage)
had demonstrated the positive results of the investments on the historical, artistic and cultural
heritage and of those directed towards the improvement of public spaces (CABE and English
Heritage 2003).
The Urban Regeneration Companies and the Local Partnerships
Another important form of collaboration between public institutions aimed at
supporting the urban renaissance policies is among the so-called Core Cities, which
are the eight largest metropolitan cities of England, excluding London: Birmingham,
Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool, Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield and Nottingham.
Through the comparison of experiences, the group, which started its activities in
1995, intends to promote research, exchange and dissemination of good practices
among the different stakeholders who, in various ways and with specific skills, are
working to strengthen the sociocultural and economic role of the cities and the
sustainable development of their metropolitan regions. Since 1999, the Core Cities
have met annually to discuss their results and draw guidelines for future engagement. The main points for action identified to strengthen the international competitiveness are:
The communication and transport networks
The increase of local expertise
Governance and leadership
Investment in public assets
Strategic spatial plans
The system of relations between cities and regions
Implementation and financing
Economic connections with London
The comparison with other European countries
The last two themes are also the basic objectives of the initiatives for economic development. On the one hand, there is the attempt to rebalance the
resources and the weight of the eight city regions compared to the overbearing
role of the London agglomeration. On the other hand there is the aspiration to
achieve the same level of competitiveness with continental metropolises of equal
rank, almost always taken as reference points (ODPM 2004). According to data
published in the Cushman & Wakefield’s ‘European Cities Monitor’, one of the
most cited annual surveys about the level of competitiveness of European cities,
the only British cities mentioned in the list of the best places for investment by
1990, apart from London (always leading the overall ranking), were Manchester
and Glasgow. Since 2006, Birmingham and Leeds have also appeared on the list,
getting high marks especially on the availability and quality of offices (Cushman
and Wakefield 2006).
In addition to involving public authorities, the organisations committed to urban
regeneration in some cases also include partnerships with the private sector (defined
in this case PPP: Public Private Partnership) directly involved in the implementation of interventions. The English Cities Fund, which brings together the Home and
Communities Agency, the Muse Developments real estate group (formerly AMEC)
and the Legal and General financial services company, is currently developing five
schemes in economically disadvantaged areas; these ‘assisted areas’ were selected
in agreement with the European Union to receive grants by the central government
in support of local businesses. The regeneration projects are all on brownfield sites
Stakeholders, Programmes and Strategies
and are planned to ensure a mix of functions providing offices, housing, shops and
leisure facilities (HCA 2010d). The Home and Communities Agency is also involved
in two other important partnerships with similar objectives. It participates with the
Royal Bank of Scotland in the company Priority Sites, which is specialised in the construction of office buildings and industrial premises in collaboration with local
agencies and owners, contributing to the regeneration of areas where the market is weak
and the private sector is reluctant to invest (Priority Sites Ltd 2008). At a regional scale,
the Homes and Community Agency also helps to carry out renewal interventions in
cities across the East Midlands22 through its developer Blueprint. This public-private
partnership, which was originally shared also by the East Midlands Development
Agency (EMDA), involves the Igloo pension fund managed by the Aviva group, a
private company which is committed by statute to urban regeneration projects.
Strategic Plans for the Urban Renaissance:
Objectives and Constraints
Most of the strategic plans developed in the mid-1990s by the Core Cities and other
British cities, particularly those who have given birth to economic development
companies or Urban Regeneration Companies, are focused primarily on redevelopment and revitalisation of central areas, that is, the ‘urban magnet’ – already highlighted by Ebenezer Howard in his time – whose power of attraction has gone
astray during the twentieth century and particularly since World War II, undermined, inter alia, by the degeneration of Howard’s ‘garden city’ model itself.23
After decades of suburban sprawl, the British government now intends to give
strength to a model of urban life that has been indicated not only as more sustainable but also more favourable for strengthening the competitiveness of the territory. The councils’ planning documents, stimulated also by the guidance given by
the ministries and the Urban Task Force, stress repeatedly that the centre in many
cases constitute the main engine of local and regional economies. By virtue of its
accessibility – actual or potential – and of its historic and civic heritage, it is considered the natural place to develop new infrastructure to support post-Fordist
economy, as well as to strengthen the identity and sense of belonging of local communities through a renewed image of the urban landscape. The Local Development
Framework defines how the opportunities for redevelopment and transformation
offered by the city contribute to achieving the strategic goals of an overall enhancement both of the built environment and of the quality of life, often proving the
existence of a close link between urban design and economic project. Planning
policies proposed for the central areas, as well as supporting the return of residents,
The East Midlands Development Agency was initially responsible for half of the public investments of Blueprint. After that it has been closed, its share has been taken fully by HCA.
See the comprehensive description of the evolutionary parable of ‘suburbia’ and the severe
judgement of Lewis Mumford (1961).
Strategic Plans for the Urban Renaissance: Objectives and Constraints
Fig. 3.10 Newcastle and
Gateshead. Diagram of the
regeneration strategy for the
NewcastleGateshead CDC
(1NG 2010: 9. Courtesy of
Newcastle City Council)
as we have seen, by stimulating the housing supply, almost everywhere aims at
creating a market for modern offices, retail development and leisure and business
(i.e. mostly related to business travels, trade fairs and conferences) tourism, to
stimulate the emergence of innovative clusters of firms and activities in the socalled creative industries and related scientific research. Liverpool’s Strategic
Regeneration Framework 2000 – prepared by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill on
behalf of Liverpool Vision – after having identified 12 strategic goals for the physical, economic, social and cultural improvement of the city24 and analysed the
potential of functional and morphological characteristics of the centre, condenses
the goals into 5 ‘supporting themes’ (capital of culture, connectivity, community
engagement, reinforcing city communities, business development) and divides the
city centre into 7 action areas, which are given specific design guidelines in
response to the framework of the objectives (Liverpool Vision 2000).
The same approach is shared by many other cities such as Birmingham,
Newcastle and Salford, whose clear economic and spatial strategies are opportunely
subdivided into objectives and actions (Fig. 3.10), while a number of homogeneous
The 12 goals of the Strategic Regeneration Framework are: a high-quality safe urban environment and the enhancement of city centre’s historic character, the development of a twenty-first
century economy contributing to sustainable growth, an effective implementation mechanism,
becoming a benchmark for other cities, becoming a world class tourist destination, becoming a
shopping destination at the regional scale, allowing quality and attractive lifestyles, be welcoming
to visitors, encouraging opportunities for educational growth and employment and confirming the
identity of Liverpool as a premier European city.
Stakeholders, Programmes and Strategies
urban areas – business or shopping districts, leisure and evening economy activities,
university precincts, cultural and ‘creative’ quarters – are planned to serve as
elements of a complex but unitary project. Another good example is provided by
Sheffield. The City Centre Masterplan by Koetter Kim studio, published in 2000
for the Urban Regeneration Company Sheffield One, had identified some priority
projects – the ‘Magnificent Seven’ – selected on the basis of four themes: building
a new high-technology-based economy; creating a vibrant city as a centre for
learning, culture, retail, business, leisure and living; improving accessibility to the
city centre by all modes of transport and the urban area; and celebrating the public
realm (Gillespies 2004). Eight years later, a new City Centre Masterplan is
prepared in line with what has been indicated in the first document: it is conceived
as the spatial counterpart of the ‘Sheffield Economic Masterplan’25 (Creative
Sheffield 2008) (Fig. 3.11) and completes the guidelines set out by the ‘Urban
Design Compendium’ of 2004 (Gillespies 2004) and the various action plans. The
City Centre Masterplan, capitalising on the results achieved by the previous plan,
adjusts the shot focusing on culture and leisure facilities, on pedestrian accessibility and traffic reduction, on green areas and on a greater cohesion among the different quarters to reinforce their complementary roles. It then identifies five primary
works: three major developments (the Sevenstone shopping district, the digital
campus, the new business district)26 and two routes (the steel route and the river
route). These, like a string of pearls, are responsible to give spatial continuity to the
pattern of the places in transition (Sheffield City Council 2008) (Fig. 3.12).
Although widely used, this kind of organic framework made of correlated parts
is not always adopted. There are situations, as in Bristol, where the relationship
between targets and character areas is less stringent, or there are cities, like
Manchester or Leeds, which do not seem to offer a similar coherent planning framework and image of their central quarters but choose rather to develop a widespread
urban quality through the maximisation of each quarter and development opportunity, ensuring that all the different parts are interconnected and easily accessible.
Sometimes the search for specific traits which distinguish themselves from other
places can take the city councils to establish somewhat forced goals. This is the
case, for example, of Gateshead, that among the methods of revitalising the city
centre – with the slogan ‘Gateshead City: New, Creative and Green’ – includes the
ambition to become the greenest urban heart of England. This planning policy, apart
from not being particularly significant in strategic terms, is clearly intended to be
complementary, and therefore subordinate to some extent, with respect to the more
The City Centre Masterplan of 2000 had in turn its roots in a previous strategic document –
‘Remaking the Heart of the City’ (Sheffield City Council 1995) – published in 1995 on the basis
of the study ‘A New City Sheffield’s City Centre Strategy’ (Sheffield City Council 1994) produced
in October 1994 by the City Centre Liaison Committee, which had indicated a regeneration plan
based on 11 districts (Webster and Howard 1996).
The economic crisis has jeopardised at least two of the three major projects: Sevenstone was axed
by the recent budget review of the government (CLG 2010b), while one of the major developers
involved in building the business district – the Castlemore Securities Ltd – went bankrupt in 2009.
Fig. 3.11 Sheffield Economic Masterplan. Summary of the urban regeneration strategy (Creative
Sheffield 2008: 104. Courtesy of Creative Sheffield)
Fig. 3.12 Sheffield City Centre Masterplan 2008. Summary of actions and projects planned for
the redevelopment of the city centre, including the ‘Magnificent Seven’ projects (Sheffield City
Council 2008: 56. Courtesy of EDAW/Sheffield City Council)
Stakeholders, Programmes and Strategies
Fig. 3.13 Newcastle and Gateshead. Arc of knowledge and creativity (1NG 2010: 79. Courtesy of
Newcastle City Council)
effective development strategy of the neighbouring Newcastle (Gateshead City
Council 2008).
In redefining the current workplaces in the light of new strategies informed by
post-Fordist economic development, the regeneration plans for the central areas most
of the time invest on three categories: business districts in support of the service
economy; science parks, and their variants, to support new technologies and technology
transfer between research and industry; and creative quarters for the spread of business activities related to ‘creative’ sectors and digital innovation (Fig. 3.13).
The business districts suggested by these strategies are often planned and managed
so as to accomplish a dual task: to deliver an internationally competitive supply of
modern office space provided with the highest standards (often called class A offices)
and to offer a better alternative to suburban business parks, taking advantage of the
quality of public spaces and the proximity to the most vital and attractive areas of the
city centre. The famous case of Brindleyplace in Birmingham or the new Spinningfields
development in Manchester show also by virtue of their market success, the critical
role that these areas can play in attracting investment and, more generally, in giving a
substantial contribution to urban regeneration plans, particularly when they are
designed in relation to shopping areas, cultural facilities and leisure activities.
Although in England the overall investment in research is not among the highest
in the OECD area, the increasing interest in science parks as a means to promote
scientific research and technology transfer found a formal support in December 2004,
as the British government accepted the indications emerging from the study by
Strategic Plans for the Urban Renaissance: Objectives and Constraints
Fig. 3.14 Newcastle and Gateshead. Strategic framework illustrating the main urban regeneration
interventions (1NG 2010: 77. Courtesy of Newcastle City Council)
Richard Lambert on the relationship between business and research (Lambert 2003)
and promoted the 10-year programme ‘Science and Innovation Investment Framework
2004–2014’. The first cities to be honoured with the title of ‘Science City’ were
Newcastle, York and Manchester, which received by ‘The Northern Way’ partnership a contribution of 100 million pounds over a 6-year period. The following year
the government has indicated three other Science Cities: Birmingham, Bristol and
Nottingham. Having the ‘Science City York’ organisation, founded in 1998, as its
prototype, the new initiative gave impetus to the formation of partnerships between
academia, government agencies and private companies, producing different programmes aimed at the development of links between business and research. This
approach is based on the so-called ‘triple helix’ vision, aimed at the mutual support
of university, industry and public sector. In addition to pursuing this primary goal,
these new organisations are also committed to spreading and promoting scientific
culture by organising public activities, symposia and festivals. Under the umbrella of
‘Science City’, the various institutions of education and research sometimes contribute substantially, as in Newcastle, also to the physical regeneration of the city
(Fig. 3.14). Research institutes in fact, traditionally settled in suburban areas or grown
as enclaves in the city centre, are increasingly appointed by the spatial strategies as a
resource to be integrated with the rest of the city both for their cultural impact and
for the presence of students. The latter, especially, is a clear double advantage.
Stakeholders, Programmes and Strategies
Besides being the future workforce supporting the leading technology and service
sectors, students also provide a significant positive impact in economic (housing, utilities, services) and social (evening and night-time economy, cultural vitality, social
complexity) terms. In several cases, however, that presence was overwhelming and has
led to phenomena of ghettoisation, as it altered completely, through a highly homogeneous demand, the housing market and the type of services offered in the areas near
the university campus. For this phenomenon, which is increasingly spreading, some
scholars have proposed the term ‘studentification’ (Unsworth and Smales 2010: 74).
Sheffield, though not one of the six Science Cities, offers two excellent examples
of the possible consequences, largely positive, of the relationship between the university and its urban context. The Devonshire Quarter, marked by the proximity to
the city’s two universities (University of Sheffield and Hallam University) and
opportunely regulated by means of a specific Area Action Plan,27 is also indicated by
CABE as a great example of an urban village full of vitality and character, mainly
due to the strong presence of the student population (CABE 2011), while the
Cultural Industries Quarter managed by the Economic Development Company
Creative Sheffield, albeit with some limitations, is one of the first British integrated
schemes between universities and creative business activities.
The presence of this type of quarters has spread nationwide. These places are
very often denoted by more or less interchangeable expressions such as ‘cultural
quarter’, ‘creative quarter’, ‘digital quarter’, ‘learning quarter’ or their further variants, often related to branding strategies pursued by city marketing agencies or by
local entities managing and promoting events in these districts. In particular, when
the term ‘cultural’ refers to artistic disciplines, it is almost always accompanied by
the adjective ‘creative’ to denote a set of professional activities not necessarily
related to the direct use of tourists, spectators or visitors – as in the case of museums, theatres and galleries – but still connected in various ways to the world of art:
architecture, graphic design, music and film production, dance schools, etc.
It is common, when planning these places, that the strategies must mediate
between the market return and the social value of arts and culture. The former,
though, usually ends to spoil the latter. The forms of expression born out of private
and spontaneous initiative in fact survive originally thanks to the low rents that
derive from locating in marginal and degraded areas or in derelict buildings (typically
industrial structures) which are due for demolition. The physical and economic
regeneration process carried out by the city councils and similar institutions, by
seeking both to transform this cultural milieu into a business community and to take
advantage of its presence to increase urban tourism, easily leads to the expulsion of
those activities that are not necessarily less significant but simply weaker or hardly
reducible to a market logic based on the relationship between supply and demand.
This Darwinian selection process is somewhat similar to that which, in many shopping streets, led to the predominance of an anonymous international franchising at
the expense of local, often long-standing, activities and crafts (Roodhouse 2006).
In defence of the special nature of this quarter, the action plan has set up incentives for ‘independent’ shops (i.e. non-franchise) and a ceiling of 30% for the presence of pubs (Sheffield City
Council 2000).
Strategic Plans for the Urban Renaissance: Objectives and Constraints
The same type of conflict permeates more generally all the urban regeneration
economic strategies undertaken until now. The policies for the development of leading business sectors conducted in accordance with global market trends in fact contribute to shaping the social patterns of cities according to a process of gentrification.
Most of the weakest segments of the local population remain or are likely to remain
at the fringes of new job opportunities and related workplaces specifically created
with the aid of substantial public resources. A first attempt to redistribute the benefits
of the new interventions often consists in spreading initiatives to help unemployed
people from the local neighbourhoods to apply for the jobs created. The ‘Shop for
Jobs’ service in the West End of Newcastle, for example, is responsible for giving
training to local residents wishing to be employed as clerks in the city centre, where
the increase in tourism induced by the ongoing regeneration process is boosting the
retail sector (Newcastle City Council 2007). Two agencies in the Greenwich
Millennium Village (Employment Service Greenwich and Greenwich Local Labour
and Business) have the mandate to report on job opportunities to unemployed people living in the area (EP 2004). The City Corridor Partnership in Manchester,
responsible for new investments in the university quarter to the south of the city,
joined a local employment partnership (LEP) with Job Centre Plus, a departmental
employment service. This partnership set up specific programmes aimed at people
living in the area to give unemployed and young people looking for work the opportunity to benefit from the jobs generated locally by the hospitals trust and the universities (Manchester City South Partnership 2009; Corridor Manchester 2012).
The identification of the most deprived neighbourhoods and of those places most
at risk of decline which could benefit from similar rebalancing policies is therefore a
fundamental operation almost always conducted by Local Development Frameworks
or other strategic plans. To this end, the Department for Communities and Local
Government introduced in 2004 (updated in 2007) a specific instrument – the Index
of Multiple Deprivation (IMD). The index, which analyses the national territory
dividing it into 32,482 small homogeneous areas of 1,000–3,000 inhabitants (LSOAs:
Lower Layer Super Output Areas), consists of 38 indicators relating to seven thematic ‘domains’: income, employment, health deprivation and disability, education
skills and training, barriers to housing and services, living environment and crime
(Area Based Analysis Unit 2009). The fine grain of detection and the wide range of
parameters allow for the planning of far-reaching interventions in urban areas with
an almost surgical precision. This type of approach based on integrated programmes
aimed at particular geographical areas, called Area Based Initiatives (ABI), has a
30-year tradition in England.28 In addition to the renewal of funding for the Single
Regeneration Budget programme – the main public financial support, by competitive
bid, for local regeneration initiatives – the Labour government introduced further
initiatives based on early indications provided by the Social Exclusion Unit through
its report ‘Bringing Britain Together’ (SEU 1998). Among these were the integrated
programme New Deal for Communities, with particular emphasis on the involvement
and empowerment of local communities, as well as other sectorial projects such as
‘Sure Start’, aimed at ensuring the presence in every neighbourhood of childcare and
The first intervention of this kind was the urban programme in 1978 (Tallon 2010).
Stakeholders, Programmes and Strategies
Fig. 3.15 Lower Don Valley, Sheffield. Summary of the five Core Strategies (Urban Strategies
Inc., 2004: 50. Courtesy of Urban Strategies Inc, British Land, Sheffield City Council)
family support services, or ‘Action Zones’ for the creation of local partnerships and
joint initiatives in employment (Employment Action Zones), education (Education
Action Zones) or health (Health Action Zones).
Basically, spatial strategies are following two different approaches to ensure that
the redevelopment opportunities provide greater social balance and widespread
accessibility. Firstly, after enlivening the driving role of the city centre, local
regeneration plans have also started focusing more on other decaying neighbourhoods,
trying to extend to these areas some of the benefits gained from the centre in terms
of visibility, attractiveness and urban quality. This is the case, for example, of the
strategies adopted for New East Manchester (Fig. 4.8), the West End of Newcastle,
the Don Valley in Sheffield and the Aire Valley in Leeds. The role of these areas is
in most cases seen as complementary to that of the city centre: both in terms of
housing – with a relatively diversified distribution of dwelling types reflecting more
suburban lifestyles and labour markets – and in terms of business activities. The
planning frameworks for the Upper and Lower Don Valley in Sheffield, for example,
have identified some preferential areas for the relocation of manufactures that are
expected to move out of the old industrial quarters of Castlegate and Central
Riverside, which are becoming the new central business districts of the city (Sheffield
City Council 2008: 26) (Figs. 3.15 and 3.16).
Strategic Plans for the Urban Renaissance: Objectives and Constraints
Fig. 3.16 Lower Don Valley, Sheffield. Illustrative Masterplan synthesising the 20 key initiatives
proposed (Urban Strategies Inc. 2004: VI. Courtesy of Urban Strategies Inc, British Land, Sheffield
City Council)
Secondly, some strategies have also begun to pose the problem both of how to
make widely accessible, physically and socially, the new spaces, services and
employment opportunities generated in the city centre and how to harness its urban
quality to trigger regeneration processes and attract investments even in the wider
inner area. Leeds, in particular, is working on a specific strategy aimed at improving
several areas contained in the Rim, an intermediate ring between the city centre and
the wider city characterised by the overwhelming presence of roads and railway
infrastructures and a high degree of fragmentation. The purpose of the strategy is to
reconnect the neighbourhoods caged in the Rim both internally to the central area –
which is the subject of an ambitious regeneration strategy – and externally to other
neighbourhoods governed by Area Action Plans or experiencing further regeneration initiatives (Leeds City Council 2009).
The ongoing urban renaissance process in many towns and cities is often just at
the beginning, and much effort is still required, particularly in light of the recent
cuts in public spending. Despite the intentions, for example, the public transport
policies, which are fundamental in ensuring equal opportunities for access to new
developments and regenerated areas, are in many cases weak and poorly financed
(Punter 2010). Many important improvements and extensions planned for the
Stakeholders, Programmes and Strategies
development of the transport facilities, as in Liverpool or Leeds, have thus
remained on paper. Similarly, the attempts to open up the new central quarters to
larger categories of residents – especially families with children – and wider social
groups have had a very limited impact. The affordable homes, as already noted,
are currently in small numbers, while the presence of housing types, parks and
other services that make the city living compatible with the needs of families is
still very low.
1NG (2010) 1Plan. An economic and spatial strategy for NewcastleGateshead. 1NG, Gateshead,
online pdf. http://www.1ng.org.uk/about-1ng/the-1plan. Viewed 9 Feb 2011
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Office for National Statistics, online pdf. http://www.statistics.gov.uk/RegionalTrends41/.
Viewed 4 Feb 2011
Barker K (2004) Review of housing supply. Delivering stability: securing our future housing needs.
Final report. HM Treasury, London
Biddulph M (2010) Liverpool 2008: Liverpool’s vision and the decade of cranes. In Punter, 2010:
pp 100–114
CABE [Commission for Architecture and Built Environment] (2011) The Devonshire Quarter. CABE,
web page. http://www.cabe.org.uk/case-studies/the-devonshire-quarter. Viewed 3 Feb 2011
CABE and English Heritage (2003) Shifting Sands. Design and the changing image of the English
Seaside Towns. English Heritage/CABE, London
CLG [department for Communities and Local Government] (2006a) A decent home: definition
and guidance for implementation. CLG, London
CLG (2006b) New growth points. Partnership for growth with government. CLG, London
CLG (2007a) Homes for the future: more affordable, more sustainable. TSO, London
CLG (2007b) Planning for a sustainable future white paper. TSO, London
CLG (2007c) Planning policy statement: planning and climate change. Supplement to planning
policy statement 1. TSO, London
CLG (2009) Planning policy statement: eco-towns. A supplement to planning policy statement 1.
HMSO, London
CLG (2010a) Code for sustainable homes. Technical guide. November 2010. CLG, London.
CLG (2010b) Scrapping regional bureaucracy will save millions, 17 June. CLG, web page. http://
www.communities.gov.uk/newsstories/newsroom/1618027. Viewed 2 Feb 2011
CLG, HCA [Homes and Communities Agency] (2008) Design for manufacture competition. HCA,
web page. http://www.designformanufacture.info/. Viewed 1 Feb 2011
CLG, DH [Department of Health], DWP [Department for Work and Pensions] (2008) Lifetime
homes. Lifetime neighbourhoods. A national strategy for housing in an ageing society. CLG,
Corridor Manchester (2012) Employment & Skills, Corrdior Manchester, web page. http://www.
corridormanchester.com/on-the-corridor/employment-skills. Viewed 19 Nov 2012
Creative Sheffield (2008) Sheffield economic masterplan. Creative Sheffield, Sheffield
Cushman & Wakefield (2006) European cities monitor 2006. Cushman & Wakefield, London
Delivering Design Quality (2012) TSY design awards 2009, Transform South Yorkshire, Sheffield,
web page. http://www.ddq.org.uk/awards09_overview.html. Viewed 3 Feb 2011
Eddington R (2006) The Eddington transport study. The case for action: Sir Rod Eddington’s
advice to Government. HMSO, London
EP [English Partnerships] (2004) Greenwich peninsula. English Partnerships, London
EP (2008) Millennium communities programme, 23 November, The National Archives, web page.
millcomms.htm. Viewed 3 Feb 2010
EP and HC [Housing Corporation] (2007) Delivering quality places. Urban design compendium 2.
English Partnerships, London
Francis A, Wheeler J (2006) One planet living in the suburbs, WWF-UK, Godalming, online pdf. http://
www.bioregional.com/news-views/publications/oplinthesuburbsnov06/. Viewed 4 Feb 2011
Gateshead City Council (2008) Fit for a city. Gateshead centre regeneration delivery strategy.
Gateshead City Council, Gateshead
Gillespies (2004) Sheffield city centre urban design compendium. Sheffield City Council,
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http://www.homesandcommunities.co.uk/brownfield_land. Viewed 12 Feb 2011
HCA (2010b) Growth, 13 May. HCA, web page. http://www.homesandcommunities.co.uk/growth.
Viewed 3 Feb 2011
HCA (2010c) Hanham Hall, Bristol, 29 June. HCA, web page. http://www.homesandcommunities.
co.uk/hanham-hall.htm. Viewed 11 Feb 2011
HCA (2010d) Joint Ventures, 11 May. HCA, web page. http://www.homesandcommunities.co.uk/
joint_ventures. Viewed 3 Feb 2011
HCA (2011) Carbon Challenge, 4 January. HCA, web page. http://www.homesandcommunities.
co.uk/carbon_challenge. Viewed 3 Feb 2011
Heritage Lottery Fund (2010) Townscape heritage initiative. Heritage Lottery Fund, web page.
Viewed 3 Feb 2011
Lambert R (2003) Lambert review of business-university collaboration. Final report. HMSO,
Leeds City Council (2009) Core strategy. Leeds local development framework. Development plan
document. Preferred approach. October–December 2009. Leeds City Council, Leeds
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gov.uk/Business/Planning/Planning_policy/City_Living_in_Leeds.aspx. Viewed 3 Feb 2011
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Chapter 4
Elements of Design Strategy
The ‘Quarterisation’ of the City
The design of places, together with and through that complex network of subjects,
instruments and policies described so far, in most cases has confirmed its paramount
importance in interpreting and linking together coherently the great amount of
development opportunities and needs arising from the fabric of the cities. It helped
to coordinate within clear strategic frameworks the huge investments made by the
private sector – supported by a particularly positive economic climate during the
years that preceded the present global downturn – as well as the interventions
promoted by the government and other public bodies. Very often different cities
share common objectives, both because their urban regeneration policies face
very similar situations and necessities and because many regional and national
guidelines narrow the range of planning priorities and options. Thus, it is possible
to define some recurrent design issues and trajectories – although variously interpreted by each Core Strategy and its more specific supplementary guidance – giving
a description of the way they induced, during the last decade, even some radical
changes in the British urban landscape.
The outlook of many city centres, before the renaissance strategy recommended
by the Urban Task Force took place,1 had been moulded keenly by the modernist
and engineering orthodoxy which led the post-war reconstruction and the development process in the period between the 1950s and 1970s of the last century. This
trend frequently went along with a relaxed approach towards clearing and renewal
policies carried out by the real estate market and by perhaps too zealous local
authorities. Reconstruction plans and new housing estates, supporting the widespread
predilection towards suburban low-density homes, often got rid of buildings and
whole neighbourhoods of good architectural quality that were still in good condition.
That of Birmingham is an emblematic albeit somewhat extreme example: until just
It is worth noticing actually, that in some contexts – like in Birmingham or Manchester – a
transformation process had already started before the Urban Task Force’s report was published.
F. Vescovi, Designing the Urban Renaissance: Sustainable and Competitive
Place Making in England, DOI 10.1007/978-94-007-5631-1_4,
© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.1 Birmingham.
Sketch of the quarters
of the city centre (Tibbalds
Colbourne Karski Williams
1990: 50. Courtesy
of Birmingham City
a few years ago, the city centre, hosting mainly offices and commercial activities,
was spotted with few fragments of its historical fabric scattered among large
monofunctional blocks and derelict lots, served by vast car parks and multilevel
highway infrastructures.
The metropolis of the West Midlands was, not accidentally, among the first cities
to experience an urban design and architectural renaissance as a means for economic
development. The 1987 City Centre Strategy had previously indicated the fundamental
planning moves whose principles would later be endorsed by the central government
at a national scale, and that would become a standard for the following regeneration
strategies of almost all other English cities. Basically, these moves were meant
to enliven the city centre and improve its image by attracting new commercial,
residential and retail activities. The design strategy consisted essentially in
overturning radically those 1950s’ design principles implemented until that time.
The rigid subdivisions caused by zoning policies were replaced by a mix of uses and
complementary functions. The pervasive car accessibility was strongly reduced
giving priority to pedestrians in squares and streets. Finally, through recognising
and protecting the local character of quarters, the city council tried to improve the
low architectural quality of the built environment that had often been marked by a
complete indifference of many new buildings for their environment.
The latter approach especially set a new benchmark for nearly all the strategies
developed so far. It consists in a mix of zoning and neighbourhood unit design principles and is sometimes defined as ‘quarterisation’ or ‘districting’ (Holyoak 2010;
Madanipour 2010) (Fig. 4.1). The quarter, along with its architectural, formal and
functional character and its network of public spaces, lends itself perfectly as an ideal
basic unit to enhance the local identity and, above all, to coordinate every development opportunity according to a design framework that is both coherent internally
and connected to the surroundings. Although a certain amount of functional mixture
The ‘Quarterisation’ of the City
Fig. 4.2 Liverpool. Example of a regeneration strategy for the city centre developed through
integrated urban quarters (Liverpool Vision 2000: IV-2. Courtesy of Liverpool Vision)
is generally kept, the development of strong agglomeration economies improving the
competitiveness of the city centre entails conceiving the quarters in relation to specific
clusters of activities, according to their singular vocation, potential or tradition, such
as services, housing, leisure and culture, retail, research or manufacturing and creative
businesses. The examples of Carnaby Street in London, Temple Bar in Dublin or the
‘new’ Ropewalks quarter in Liverpool, to name a few, show how this approach can
also be used as a tool for promoting places within city marketing strategies. In some
cities, like Liverpool or Sheffield, the role of each quarter or cluster is planned in an
integrated manner to constitute an organic whole, like wheels in a clockwork mechanism. In these cases, the design of both the public realm system and the streets network is pivotal in knitting together and linking all the various parts of the city centre
(Fig. 4.2). Elsewhere, as in Manchester, the planning schemes aim rather to develop
each area more independently; still they ensure that all the quarters contribute at their
best to a widespread quality across the centre and to its attractiveness.
The strategic plan analyses and divides the city centre into homogeneous
areas according to their main functions and morphological characteristics. In a
second phase, these areas are studied in more detail through Area Action Plans
and Supplementary Planning Documents. These highlight the quarters’ structure
and specific features and often divide them even further into basic units which
help to define the requisites and the most suitable uses for potential interventions.
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.3 Bristol. Development Framework of Nelson Street showing the subdivision of the area into
smaller development sites (Colin Buchanan and Atisreal 2006: 38. Courtesy of Bristol City Council)
Consequently, almost every building lot is considered according to its contribution
within the whole scheme. The character and grain of the guidelines can vary even
substantially according to the level of flexibility required: in some cases, like
Nottingham, these documents consist mainly of laconically written rules, but most
of the time they are enriched by a large number of thematic maps, featuring
diagrams and design outlines. Bristol’s ‘Nelson Street Regeneration Framework’,
for instance – edited by Colin Buchanan and Atisreal in 2006 for the City Council –
focuses on a narrow yet important transition zone between the Broadmead retail
quarter and the pedestrian spine of the Centre Promenade which marks the entrance
to the waterfront’s attractions. The document analyses this area in detail and proposes a masterplan which splits it into eight development sites connected with four
main public spaces (Fig. 4.3). Each site, not exceeding the size of a block, is further
studied through a more specific design brief. The framework is intended not just to
advise the council officers but mainly to give the developers an idea of the potentiality of their investments, if they manage them according to the proposed synergies (Colin Buchanan and AtisReal 2006). Leeds offers another interesting example
highlighting the economic advantages deriving to private investors who organise
their developments in relation to clear planning objectives. Here four developers
autonomously decided to set up a company (the West End Partnership) to coordinate
their different interventions in the West End area relying on a shared scheme for the
future quarter consisting of independent yet correlated places.
The ‘Quarterisation’ of the City
Among the different quarters that make up the city centres, a particular care is
given almost everywhere to the districts characterised by the presence of retail
activities, that is, the part of the city which, following the ex PPG6 and PPS6
guidelines, should be addressed by the plans as ‘primary shopping areas’. Besides,
since the retail quarters attract people towards the inner areas from all over the
city and the metropolitan region, they often have the chance to create important
economic connections with the neighbouring sites. The strategies, in this case, tend
to be twofold. Firstly, they aim to improve the quality of the public realm and
its pedestrian utilisation by removing or reducing car traffic, by controlling the
architectural quality of shops, materials and amenities and sometimes by using
management schemes to coordinate all the different interventions – like those
experienced in the Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) or in the Town Centre
Management (TCM)2 initiatives. Grainger Town in Newcastle upon Tyne is possibly
the most renowned example of this approach, which has long become a quite
widespread practice.3 The improvement project produced a 60% increase in retail
activities and a 38% increase in office rents already in the first 4 of the 6-year period
(from 1997 to 2003) scheduled for the implementation programme (CABE 2011d;
Newcastle City Council 2005).
Secondly, in addition to improving the environment and the forms of access and
thanks also to the important contribution of the ‘sequential approach’ policy
introduced by PPG6, the regeneration process is implemented by placing purposefully
built new shopping centres in carefully studied sites of the inner retail quarters
with the role of anchor stores. In addition to improving the retail quarter and
strengthening its attractiveness by adding new shopping and leisure destinations,
these urban magnets are often planned to shift the centre of gravity of the pedestrian
network inside the inner area and act as new powerful links between different
parts of the city.
The strategy to enhance the shopping heart of Leicester, for instance, was carried
out in a coordinated manner working both on an extensive improvement of the design
of the street network – through the ‘Streets and Spaces’ project – and on the
extension and strengthening of retail and leisure spaces towards the western boundary
of the precinct by doubling the existing shopping centre, now called Highcross
Leicester. This westwards expansion, named Shires West, is also aimed strategically
at overcoming the physical division caused by the inner ring road and reconnecting
the city centre to the waterfront, which had been indicated by the masterplan of the
These are two quite well-known types of approach carried out by local partnerships for managing
urban shopping districts. Thanks to the contribution of the retailers involved and the coordination
of different initiatives, the Town Centre Management schemes allow to enhance the quality of the
built environment and the overall income of the businesses falling inside the area of intervention.
The BID, particularly, which has been imported from the United States, is a method of improving
shopping precincts based on the self-taxation of shopkeepers, landlords and property owners to
implement requalification programmes and actions in the focus area (ATCM, n.d.; ODPM 2005).
CABE published also two specific documents about this topic: the already mentioned ‘Paving the
Way. How We Achieve Clean, Safe and Attractive Streets’ (CABE and ODPM 2002) and ‘Paved
with Gold. The Real Value of Good Street Design’ (CABE 2007a).
4 Elements of Design Strategy
local regeneration company as one of the five main redevelopment opportunities
(Leicester Regeneration Company 2002).
The Oracle shopping centre in Reading (Fig. 4.19) or the much celebrated
Bullring in Birmingham are two other good models to consider for the role and
the economic spillover that these premises will develop once they are designed
to merge perfectly with the existing network of the retail quarter’s public spaces.
The influence over pedestrian flows induced through the controlled design of
the access points and the distribution, density and type of sales activities can
generate, if properly orchestrated, positive externalities which would be otherwise difficult to obtain. Gateshead’s degraded urban core, in contrast, gives evidence of how negative and irreversible can be the effects of a large indoor
shopping mall (in this case the Metro Centre) on the fringes of the inner area, as
it attracts and draws out of the centre almost all the existing demand. Thus, the
council’s strategic plan cannot find anything better for the retail upgrading of
the centre than proposing to develop what it calls ‘creative retailing’, which
consists in the selling of goods and services directly by local independent producers, making also use of informal or unwanted places such as squares and
other public spaces, ground floors of office and residential buildings (Gateshead
City Council 2008).
The Bullring in Birmingham, besides being a model for its role as an urban
magnet, stands out also as an example of the second aspect of the adopted strategy:
together with the Martineau Place shopping centre, it is the result of the combined
action of three important developers joining together in the ‘Birmingham Alliance’.
Following a strategy similar to that carried out by Leeds’s West End Partnership,
Hammerson PLC, Henderson Global Investors Ltd. and Future Fund planned the
distinct phases and sites of the retail expansion of the city centre in such a way that
they could avoid unbalances between the demand and supply sides and, on the
contrary, could take advantage of profitable economies of scale. The same principle also underpins others which could be named ‘second-generation’ shopping
developments (or even ‘third generation’, when the novelty of the return to the city
centre is considered), like Broad Marsh in Nottingham, Broadmead in Bristol,
Eastgate and Trinity Quarters in Leeds, Sevenstone in Sheffield and, above all,
Liverpool One in Liverpool. While in Manchester the recent reconstruction of the
Millennium Quarter has been dominated by a couple of shopping malls of large
dimensions, the layout of these new retail premises is organised around a cluster of
blocks merging with the existing urban fabric. This approach, strongly supported
also by CABE in its Design Reviews (CABE 2004), besides permitting the phasing
strategy mentioned above, offers further advantages: the highly permeable plot
allows the easing and growth of the pedestrian circulation in continuity with the
surroundings. Moreover, by increasing the number and the overall external ‘specific
surface’ of the buildings, the scheme allows a greater architectural variety and
more complex interpretations of its connections with the rest of the city and the
public realm (Fig. 4.4). All these qualities have won the Liverpool One project,
designed by Building Design Partnership, various awards and the participation in
the final round of the 2009 Stirling Prize. Moreover, and even more significantly,
The ‘Quarterisation’ of the City
Fig. 4.4 Liverpool. Liverpool One shopping centre: plan of ground floor (Courtesy of BDP)
this design approach was preferred to the solution previously proposed by no less
than Philip Johnson (together with the English BAAD studio), who designed a
large, highly elaborated space covered by a huge ribbon-like canopy. The proposal
of the American master was considered as being excessively introverted and
difficult to integrate with the context, although it certainly offered a much more
striking appearance: the preferred solution is perhaps less iconic but undoubtedly
more urban and place sensitive (Fig. 4.5).
The incremental strategy carried out by these retail schemes is sometimes
also adopted by the quarterisation approach itself. Along with the advantages
already described, at a larger scale, this method in fact allows, with proper planning,
to distribute all the interventions among the different quarters so that the local
regeneration processes can induce spillover effects in the surrounding districts. From
a design perspective, this process is carried out by means of two basic operations:
the creation of outposts, if no local hubs are already present, and, above all and most
obviously, the connection between the scattered parts.
The outposts are generally urban nodes characterised by a high functional density,
used as starting points and supports for spawning further activities. Sometimes,
they may consist of just one building which, because of its prominence and
functions (especially in the case of business incubators), acts as a foothold for
the development of brownfield sites and derelict areas. This role has been assumed,
for instance, by the Millennium Point within Birmingham’s planned Learning
Quarter (Fig. 4.32), or by the National Space Centre within the masterplan for the
Abby Meadows’ Science and Technology Park in Leicester or by the Matchworks
complex in Liverpool for the development of a new business park near Speke
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.5 Liverpool. 3D rendering of the Liverpool One shopping centre in the heart of the city’s
shopping district (Courtesy of BDP)
The connections can be ensured not only by the public transport but also by the
continuity of the urban fabric, once all barriers and gaps are removed, and by the
pattern of public spaces, reinforcing the permeability, mostly pedestrian, between
the blocks. The demolition of the Inner Ring Road flyover at Masshouse in
Birmingham, which has been replaced by a treed boulevard, was a prerequisite
condition to reconnect the future Eastside extension to the centre. The upgrading
of the Bridge Street axis in Middlesbrough Fig. (4.6), which has allowed for better
utilisation by pedestrians and cyclists, is an integral part of ‘Riverside One’, the
regeneration project of the vast brownfield site of Middlehaven north-east of the
city, designed by Studio Egret West (Fig. 4.7). The street links the current outpost
of Middlesbrough College, threshold and pivot of the whole scheme, with the
Boho Zone business incubator centre, just north of the city centre. This complex
in turn serves as the forefront for the new creative quarter under development.
It lies in a key position between the eastern extension of Middlehaven and the
University of Teesside, which is located in the retail and business heart of the city.
The continuity with the neighbouring quarters is a central requisite also for the
scheme of New Islington in Manchester, where Old Mill Street – designed as a
home zone area by Grant Associates studio, who are also the authors of Bridge
Street in Middlesbrough – has been conceived as the main vital axis connecting
the new Millennium Community to the Cardroom council estate at Miles Platting
(Figs. 4.15 and 4.67).
The ‘Quarterisation’ of the City
Fig. 4.6 Middlehaven Docks,
Middlesbrough. Example of a
street improvement designed
to increase pedestrian and
cycle accessibility and act as
a link between new
developments and existing
parts of cities. View of
Bridge Street between the
new development of
Middlehaven and Boho Zone
creative quarter (Photo of
Jim Brodie)
Fig. 4.7 Middlesbrough.
3D rendering of Middlehaven
development (Courtesy of
Studio Egret West)
More generally, the whole design strategy adopted by the New East Manchester
Urban Regeneration Company, where New Islington, along with Ancoats, offers
one of the main opportunities to link the large eastern area with the centre, provides
a notable example of the intervention policies usually carried out in the deprived
quarters of the inner area. The goal is to balance three factors which are strictly
correlated: a healthy labour market in different and growing sectors; a demographically stable population, diverse and socially cohesive; and high-quality public
and private facilities (especially schools), disseminated and highly accessible. Each
of these three factors, according to the market-oriented approach underpinning
the intervention, constitutes at the same time the supply and demand needed to
consolidate the other two.
In consideration also of the delicate complexity of the incremental mechanism
involved, the effects of the regeneration policies undertaken by New East
Manchester are subjected by the company, since the beginning of its work, to a
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.8 Manchester. Summary of the economic development strategy for New East Manchester
(NEM 2008: 10. Courtesy of New East Manchester)
constant audit based on a conspicuous set of key performance indicators (slightly
modified in the course of time) about social (crime, antisocial behaviours, school
attendance, teenage pregnancy rates, etc.), economic (new businesses, employment
rate, labour skills, etc.) and physical factors (new dwellings, average price of
homes, green spaces, etc.). According to the 2001 Strategic Regeneration
Framework (NEM 2001), the renovation of the area depends upon three main new
urban attractions, distributed along a north–south axis: a business park to the north
(Park Central), provided specifically with facilities to accommodate digital and
creative businesses (the Sharp Project); the Sportcity quarter (Eastlands) for sport
and leisure activities, developed in a pivotal position around the Commonwealth
Games Stadium which had been completed in 2002; and the renovated Manchester
College of Arts and Technology (Mancat) further south (Fig. 4.8). All these premises make a complementary contribution to the regeneration of the eastern part of
the city by developing new business branches that were barely present in the area,
new facilities of high relevance for the entire city and the metropolitan region and a
high-profile educational service. Once this primary framework has been defined,
the New East Manchester’s strategy, which has been further developed in the following 2008 document (NEM 2008), proposes a secondary network of manufacturing and business places – mainly clustered at the fringes of the north–south axis
of the Alan Turing Way and eastwards along the new lines under construction of the
light rail system (Metrolink). The plan proposes also the renewal of several residential quarters, also through consistent redevelopment schemes, in an attempt to
4.2 The Industrial Legacy: Urban Villages and Waterfronts
foster a greater social mixture. The area managed by the Urban Regeneration
Company is part of the Manchester Salford Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder.
The scheme is complemented by the improvement of the green areas network –
running principally westwards along the spine of the River Medlock – and by local
regeneration activities concerning several quarters of this area. The planned interventions will bring new facilities (like the primary school of the Sure Start programme in Miles Platting), new social hubs (mainly dedicated to retail spaces),
new public spaces and connections for cyclists and pedestrians to the surrounding
This last part of the programme usually constitutes the Core Strategy of
many other urban regeneration schemes, particularly in the absence of attractions
as strong as those offered by the New East Manchester’s strategic plans, as, for
example, in Newcastle’s West End (Newcastle City Council 2007b). In these cases
the attention to a widespread urban quality as a precondition for the sustainability
of places relies on the same few but effective elements which have just been
described: better connections, improved network of public spaces, new facilities
and neighbourhood centres, housing renewal and mixed developments. All these
elements are designed to increase and strengthen, besides job and educational
opportunities, the social networks of the local communities and those places that
make them possible.
The Industrial Legacy: Urban Villages and Waterfronts
The same pursuit of identity which underpins the quarterisation strategy, obtained
by defending and fostering the local characteristics of places, has also provided a
stimulus to several restoration works and the reuse of important premises inherited from the industrial past, in line with a growing planning sensibility in England
towards the historic environment, also thanks to several campaigns promoted
especially by English Heritage and CABE (English Heritage 2005; English
Heritage and CABE 2001).
A terrific example, and one of the first and most consistent interventions of this
kind, is the regeneration of Albert Dock in Liverpool, started in the early 1980s by
a partnership between the Merseyside Development Corporation and the developer
Arrowcroft. The large complex of warehouses, built in cast iron and bricks around
a rectangular basin, has been converted following different phases to host many new
public attractions (several museums, including the Tate Liverpool), bars and restaurants, shops, offices and luxury apartments (Fig. 4.9). The building, beautifully
restored, has been used as an outpost to revitalise the waterfront, and it still plays a
central role in the renaissance strategy of Liverpool: besides being highly attractive
to tourists, because of its amazing mix and density of activities, it works also as a
pivotal connection between the neighbouring waterfront spaces, recently redeveloped, of King’s Dock and Pier Head and between these and the new central retail
precinct of Liverpool One.
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.9 Liverpool, Albert Docks (Photo by Man Vyi (Wikipedia))
More often, however, as the survival of large complexes like Albert Dock is
usually more an exception than a rule, especially in major cities, the conservation
projects inevitably go along with contamination strategies through the inclusion
of new buildings and features. According to their type and quantity, the buildings of
historic interest or industrial archaeology are generally interpreted by the planning
documents as landmarks or nodes within the new urban fabric or alternatively as the
main architectural features which characterise the image of the whole quarter.
The latter is the case, for instance, of the conservation areas of the Jewellery Quarter
in Birmingham and especially of Castlefield in Manchester, a city for which Marketing
Manchester, the local city marketing agency, has in fact coined the slogan ‘Original
Modern’ precisely because of the mix of old and new that characterises its aspect.
Castlefield, a conservation area since 1979, was designated in 1983 by the city as the
first British Urban Heritage Park. The patterns of industrial canals and railway viaducts
dominate its urban landscape, characterised by the widespread presence of Victorian
industrial architectures, converted or dialectically taken as a reference, for their masses
and materials (especially brick and steel), by the design of the new buildings which
often surround them (Fig. 4.10). The improvement works of the area were managed by
the Central Manchester Development Corporation according to the 1982 ‘City Centre
Local Plan’. The quarter, fulfilling all the plan’s expectations, has become one of the
most visited places in the city and since 1992, is administrated by the not-for-profit
4.2 The Industrial Legacy: Urban Villages and Waterfronts
Fig. 4.10 Castlefield, Manchester. View of Rochdale Canal and Beetham Tower (Photo by Gene
Hunt. (Cc by 2.0) Some rights reserved)
organisation Castlefield Management Company. The conspicuous amount of public
funds involved in the regeneration process has levered many private investments in the
area, developing over time residential as well as commercial activities which have all
contributed to enrich the mix of activities4 and uses (CABE 2011c). The Museum of
Science and Industry, located in a nineteenth-century railway station, has become a
very attractive urban node, while the Castlefield Outdoor Events Arena, a pedestrian
square designed to host open-air events, works as a second hub (Fig. 4.11). This space,
not far from the museum, is also the main gateway from the north to the network of
pedestrian public spaces that are built around the canal system. These routes, squares
and green spaces are animated, all day long, by the presence of houses, workplaces,
pubs and restaurants, contributing considerably to the strong appeal of the quarter.
The design of the open spaces has also been a central issue in the regeneration
strategy of Ancoats Urban Village, another of the many conservation areas of
Manchester. As for Castlefield, the goal was to preserve the fundamental historic
character of the quarter, while making it a tourist attraction and a place to live and
Castlefield hosts the headquarters of the developer Urban Splash, one of the largest English
enterprises that are investing in regeneration projects of great complexity.
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.11 Manchester, Castlefield Outdoor Events Arena (Photo of Catherine Tranmer)
work which could appeal to private investors.5 Following a regeneration plan published in 1999, two documents were then edited by Camlin Lonsdale: a Public
Realm Strategy and a Public Realm Implementation Plan. A Public Realm Team
has also been appointed to implement and manage the improvement works of
the public spaces. It includes, among others, an artist, Dan Dubowitz, who is
responsible for the cultural masterplan relating to Ancoats’ urban regeneration.
The strategy, which involves the restoration of the old street network of the quarter
and the creation of two new public squares, describes also the role, character
and materials of each street according to the transformations proposed by the
Supplementary Planning Guidance and sets out the various degrees of pedestrian
accessibility, which in any case is planned to have priority over all other kinds of
movement. The area has been thus conceived as a large Home Zone which is subject
to a 20-mph speed limit, designed according to the best traffic calming experiences
from Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden (Figs. 4.12 and 4.13).6
The quarter was already experiencing a period of decay since the 1970s, when the manufactures of
the area gradually began to close down. It received its final blow during the next 20 years, as bids of
Manchester for the Olympic Games in the late 1980s fuelled a real estate bubble which suddenly
evaporated some years later when the city’s attempts proved unsuccessful. Many buildings (nearly
80% during the late 1990s), after being abandoned by their occupants, remained empty and in decline,
further increasing the urban blight and the consequent depopulation of the area (NWDA 2007).
The Public Realm Strategy of Ancoats won several prizes, among which, particularly, the 2009
edition of the Landscape Institute’s Urban Design and Master Planning Award. The scheme has
been studied to be implemented through eight phases, seven of which have been already completed. The NWDA Regional Agency subsidised the project, using also money from the European
Regional Development Fund (CABE 2011b).
4.2 The Industrial Legacy: Urban Villages and Waterfronts
Fig. 4.12 Ancoats, Manchester. Public Realm Strategy for Ancoats Urban Village proposing new
public spaces and the restoration of the original street network (Courtesy of Camlins)
The regeneration scheme of Holbeck Urban Village (HUV) in Leeds offers a further example of how the presence and quality of public spaces is considered crucial
for attracting investments. The 2006 Planning Framework, which organises the
developments across the quarter, not only requires that the developers allocate one
fifth of their areas as public open spaces but obliges them also to give a financial
contribute to build and maintain the public realm in relation to the future uses of
buildings. The assumption is that as the quality of the public spaces adds value to the
real estate investments, those who benefit from it have to share the related costs
(Leeds City Council 2006a). But while the improvement plans in the conservation
areas of Manchester and Birmingham are confirming the existing urban shape by
gradually replacing or introducing new buildings in specific sites, the ‘Holbeck
Urban Village Planning Framework’, highlighting a rather thin network of few
landmarks, proposes an almost completely renovated infill framework to be built
in place of the existing fabric. The quarter is divided by the planning framework into
five sectors; the subdivision, in this circumstance, has not been studied for a better
definition of specific local features, as it is the case with the eight character areas
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.13 Ancoats, Manchester. View of Anita Street (Photo by Gene Hunt)
which make up the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham (Birmingham City Council
2002), but rather in order to organise and coordinate the interventions of various
developers and partnerships, like those already carried out in Granary Wharf along
the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The planning strategy in Holbeck provided a catalytic
feature having a role similar to that of the museum in Castlefield, but in this case, being
located in a pivotal position inside the quarter, it has also the fundamental function of
producing transformations in the neighbouring areas. The entire operation was
focused around the recovery of the Round Foundry, a complex made of seven selfcontained, cosy buildings converted to several uses: residential, retail, commercial
and leisure (Fig. 4.14). The Building Design Partnership is the author both of the
project and of the whole masterplan. The intervention, funded by a partnership of
two developers (CTP and St. James) with the financial support of the Yorkshire
Forward regional agency and the European Regional Funds, won numerous awards.
The cluster of buildings has at its heart the Round Foundry Media Centre, conceived
as the economic navel of the whole quarter. It hosts a business incubator for advanced
sectors from the digital and creative fields and a Business Support Office, a tutoring
service intended to attract new enterprises. Unlike the previous examples, the Urban
Village of Leeds, which had been taken as a model for another similar intervention
in the Lower Ouseburn Valley in Newcastle, has sought to develop a local business
community based on service sectors rather than tourism.
4.2 The Industrial Legacy: Urban Villages and Waterfronts
Fig. 4.14 Holbeck Urban Village, Leeds. View of the Round Foundry Media Centre (Courtesy of
David Barbour/BDP)
The improvement and enhancement of many conservation areas in most cases
overlap and merge with the interventions aimed at the creation of urban villages.7
According to the definition given in 1992 by the Urban Village Group, these are
settlements with a high degree of urbanity characterised by a mix of uses, a good
architectural quality and inhabited by a socially cohesive community of residents
(Aldous 1992). The definition, whose manifesto is the Poundbury village extension
promoted by Prince Charles (Fig. 4.40), was initially used mostly to indicate new
interventions on greenfield sites. Its meaning, when the urban village concept was
officially endorsed by the central government with the 1997 Planning Policy
Guidance note 1 as a model of sustainability, has since shifted to include mainly
those quarters inside already urbanised contexts and brownfield areas. Thus, the
‘urban village’ suffix, variously and not always orthodoxly interpreted, has been used
in many circumstances to indicate historic quarters in improved conservation areas.
It also mixes with the analogous concepts of ‘cultural quarter’ and ‘creative quarter’
which share several characteristics.
The primary role held by the improvement and provision of public spaces in the
development of this kind of quarters stands out clearly in all the strategies described
so far, in which streets, squares and pedestrian areas are planned to achieve the
For an in-depth analysis of the urban village concept, see the essays of Franklin and Tait (2002)
and Peter Neal (2003).
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.15 Ancoats, Manchester. View of Cutting Room Square (Photo by Luke Butcher MA)
dual task of contributing to the overall quality, complexity and best use of the neighbourhood’s built environment and of establishing places of reference for the local
communities and other city users. This is the case for instance also of both the future
Golden Square inside Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter8 and of the Cutting Room
Square in Ancoats, which were especially designed to host public events and become
the main hubs of their respective quarters (Fig. 4.15). Sometimes, these nodes
built inside the urban fabric can complement other landmark buildings of public
interest, as demonstrated by the cases of Castlefield and Holbeck.
Another shared aspect of the brownfield redevelopment strategies – which in
Sir Patrick Geddes’ words could also sometimes be called ‘conservative surgery’
interventions – is the leading position of an agency, which is mainly a public
partnership, created specifically to deal with the implementation of the scheme.
These institutions operate on the basis of accurate planning documents aimed at
defining not only the type of interventions needed but also the objectives and
means of regeneration. The indispensable analysis of the characteristics and architectural landmarks of a place (the area character appraisal) are usually reinforced
by additional Supplementary Planning Documents, such as the Development
Frameworks, aimed at setting the regeneration process in the wider urban and
The project for the new square is the result of an international competition held in 2009 and won
by a partnership of architects led by Capita Lovejoy (The Golden Square 2010).
4.2 The Industrial Legacy: Urban Villages and Waterfronts
planning context, and the Design Frameworks, which provide more detailed information for the developers about particular design issues. Finally, many councils
often provide also very specific, in-depth documents such as the Streetscape Design
Guides or the Public Realm Strategies.9
The extensive network of canals and waterways which were once used by the
manufactures holds an important role in the enhancement of the local historic heritage
inside the old industrial quarters, becoming in most cases a dominant feature of
the urban landscape and, as such, the subject of specific design guidance and
improvement schemes. British Waterways, the public body in charge of managing
and maintaining the English inner navigation system, is the main promoter of this
kind of intervention in association with the local authorities and also through private
partnerships. The attention towards the qualitative and economic contribution of
this kind of infrastructure to the improvement of the built environment grew during
the 1990s, until finally in 2000, with the publication of the document ‘Waterways
for Tomorrow’, the government formally announced its intention to support the
restoration and enhancement of the canal system within its urban regeneration
policies (DEFRA 2000). Since then, many towns and cities have produced planning
documents and design guidelines aimed specifically at improving, transforming and
promoting their local waterway network.
Birmingham in 2002 was among the first English cities to publish a dedicated,
albeit relatively short, Supplementary Planning Guidance on its canal system.
The ‘City Centre Canal Corridor Development Framework’ bases its planning and
design strategies on some recent developments that have occurred along the canal
waterfront between Brindleyplace and the Gas Street Basin (Fig. 4.16). In this urban
sector, there are several elements similar to those already seen in Castlefield: walkways and pedestrian areas along the canal edges, refurbished historic buildings and
industrial archaeology, and a mixture of old and new and functional complexity,
marked by a strong presence of leisure activities. The success of these developments, and especially of Brindleyplace, was such as to win the city in 1995 the Top
Honour Award for Best Regenerated Waterfront (Birmingham City Council and
British Waterways 2002). In many aspects, the Supplementary Planning Guidance
interprets the waterway system as a chance to extend the city centre’s qualities and
connections to the outer quarters. The regeneration scheme is thus designed
accordingly, identifying along the canal network, like in a sort of linear urban village, the local landmarks and a coherent framework of potential development sites
which can form homogeneous areas of intervention.
The series of documents produced for the Jewellery Quarter Urban Village in Birmingham is a
good example of this system. The first document is the ‘Urban Framework Plan’ adopted as
Supplementary Planning Guidance in 1998 (‘Jewellery Quarter Urban Village Framework Plan’).
Four years later, a ‘Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan’ was published to support
the Framework’s objectives coherently with the character of the conservation area (designated
between 1971 and 1980). In the meantime (1999), English Heritage carried out a meticulous survey of the conservation area’s built heritage: ‘The Jewellery Quarter Urban Village. An Architectural
Survey of the Manufactories 1760–1999’. Finally, the last planning guidance has been published
in 2005: the ‘Jewellery Quarter Design Guide’.
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.16 Birmingham, Gas Street Basin (Photo by Dave Hamster)
A similar strategy has been followed by the Central Salford Urban Regeneration
Company with its Irwell Corridor project, which is an integral part of the city centre
regeneration strategy adopted in 2006 (Central Salford 2006).10 The delivery of the
Irwell River Park, which has been planned according to four character zones, will
provide a diverse and highly articulated network of public spaces and activities
along the river, from the Salford University to the old industrial quays. A walkway
will link several key sites and particularly the three main planned business districts:
the Quays – which includes the Lowry Centre and MediaCityUK – the Salford
Central Station and Exchange Greengate. The strategy intends not only to upgrade
and bring back to life the old industrial riverside but even to make it the backbone
of the entire regeneration process (Fig. 4.17).
Also the riverside area, which falls inside Sheffield’s city centre11 defined by the
Core Strategy as ‘transitional’ because of its current shift from manufacture to service-oriented activities, is considered by the local plans as one of the main resources
of the undergoing urban renaissance. It is addressed by the ‘Central Riverside
Regeneration Strategy’ by means of three action plans, each relating to a different
Salford Central was closed in 2011, but the city council has decided to assume its mandate and
create a special development team to manage the project.
The Core Strategy has identified the entire riverside as a corridor for the development of productive
activities. In addition to the central area, the council has also adopted two regeneration projects for
the areas of the Upper and Lower Don Valley, already included in the South Yorkshire Technology
Corridor (Taylor Young et al. 2006; Urban Strategies Inc. 2004).
4.2 The Industrial Legacy: Urban Villages and Waterfronts
Fig. 4.17 Salford. Summary of the redevelopments planned along the Irwell Corridor (Central
Salford 2006: 59. Courtesy of Salford City Council)
quarter. The spaces along the river, rich in brownfield sites and development opportunities (some of which are already in progress or completed), are connected by a
long walkway: the ‘Blue Route’ – this is the name given by the City Centre
Masterplan – delineates, along with the ‘Gold Route’ and the ‘Steel Route’, the
primary network of public spaces running through the city core (Fig. 3.12).
The ‘Waterfront Strategy’ of Leeds instead considers the River Aire mostly as an
important urban infrastructure and a primary public asset rather than an opportunity
to unlock development initiatives. Consequently, it focuses mainly on the landscape
features of the quarters traversed by the watercourse, on the renewal of the public
realm along it (highlighting also those places most suitable for major public
events), on the different kinds of access and uses – including narrow boats – and
on the connections and interchanges with both the local transport system and the
bicycle and pedestrian network, existing and planned (Leeds City Council 2006b).
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Some outstanding mixed-use complexes have developed from the framework of
opportunities produced by this strategy, offering very attractive and carefully
designed public spaces, as illustrated by Brewery Wharf and, particularly, Clarence
Docks, designed by Carey Jones Architects.
The Trent River Park Partnership of Nottingham, established in 2000, is in
charge of the implementation of another interesting project coordinated along a
watercourse. In this case, the river has been conceived, according to a study made
by EDAW in 2000, as a metropolitan water backbone that interconnects natural
areas, existing facilities and amenities – mainly sport and leisure activities – and
new quarters to be built on brownfield sites. Thanks to the branch canal of
Beeston, the riverside linear park is linked also to the Big Track, a circular walkway for bicycle and pedestrians running through the city centre along the banks
of the canal system. The Big Track is in turn part of the wider metropolitan public transport’s integrated system, denominated the Big Wheel (EDAW/AECOM
Canals and waterfronts can assume several roles inside these regeneration strategies.
At an urban scale, in all these last cases, the waterways act as means of continuity
in terms of space, connecting and merging different areas lengthways; in terms of
form, providing a coherent design framework for all the individual regeneration
opportunities; and in terms of time, integrating the historical memory of the local
industrial heritage and water landscape. As already indicated in the case of Leeds,
the refurbishment of the canal system has also been designed for navigation by the
characteristic and popular British narrow boats. In Liverpool, the redevelopment
of the waterfront has been enriched by the opening of a new branch of the LeedsLiverpool canal – one of the most extensive canals of England – between Princess
Dock and King’s Dock. Here the water space has been conceived as an extension of
the uses and forms of the public realm. It provides an alternative access to the renovated pedestrian areas of the waterfront and a new amenity to enhance the experience
of the public space, especially in the improved square in front of the Pier Head
(Fig. 4.18).
The integrated design of open spaces and canals in the redevelopment and restoration of old docks and other industrial premises offers a wide range of solutions,
especially for the creation of public places dominated by shopping and leisure
activities. There are numerous examples, also internationally, of this type of facilities,
many of which emulate the renowned John Rouse’s model of Baltimore’s Inner
Harbor Festival Marketplace. Among the British cities that followed this example
are Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester Salford and NewcastleGateshead. Besides
these more complex schemes, there are many smaller, yet no less interesting, single
interventions. The Oracle shopping centre in Reading, already mentioned, stands
out as one of the most successful. Designed by Haskoll studio and built in 1999 on
a brownfield site, the shape of the large complex has been ingeniously adapted to
the context along the River Kennett. The waterfront has been designed as the openair food court and offers the city a stunning public open space for meeting and
eating (Fig. 4.19). Nottingham gives a further example of the relationship between
water and architecture: here the offices and shopping complex of Castle Wharf,
4.2 The Industrial Legacy: Urban Villages and Waterfronts
Fig. 4.18 Liverpool. New public space along the Pier Head. The square is dominated by the new
extension of Leeds-Liverpool canal. In the background stands the new Museum of Liverpool
(Copyright, AECOM. Photography by David Lloyd)
Fig. 4.19 Reading. The Oracle shopping centre designed in continuity with the urban fabric
of the city centre. View of the main public open spaces along the River Kennet (Photo by
Daniela Farioli)
built on a design brief of the early 1990s, have transformed the open spaces along
the Beeston Canal into an economic success,12 winning several awards.
Castle Wharf is one of the case studies analysed by CABE in its study about the economic return
on the investments in good urban design (CABE and DETR 2001).
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.20 Coventry. 3D rendering of the main avenue of the new masterplan for the city centre
(Courtesy of The Jerde Partnership)
The presence of water is also often considered a qualifying feature in the design
of housing and office estates, where it is adopted as an external economy for its
important impact on the landscape and identity of places, highlighting the link
with their industrial past. The central area of the Riverside Business District in
Sheffield has been planned by the council to supply a new concentration of offices
and service activities along the Blue Route, acknowledging the commercial
success of some early developments, such as Exchange Riverside, which could
take advantage, in design terms, of the presence of water and of the renovation of
industrial archaeology. A similar project is currently planned in Birmingham at
Eastside Locks, while many other interventions of this kind are particularly
visible in Manchester, where often new and refurbished buildings face a canal
(Britannia Basin, Potato Wharf, Chips and Islington Wharf) or are arranged around
old water basins to form inner courts (Piccadilly Basin, Barbirolli Square, Murray’s
Mill in Ancoats).
It is also worth recalling some more extreme plans that suggest to reopen old
watercourses that were covered during the industrial or post-war period. The
‘Cultural Industries Quarter Action Plan’ of the new Sheffield Digital Campus/Sheaf
Valley creative and knowledge cluster recommends to uncover and restore the Porter
Brook – a major local river – to enhance the biodiversity, create new footpaths and
promote new landscaping along its banks (Sheffield City Council 2000). The new
masterplan for Coventry’s city centre, designed by the American studio Jerde
Partnership, considers the underground flow of the River Sherbourne – to be partly
uncovered – as the main pedestrian spine of the future urban fabric, lined by a mix
of shops, housing, leisure and cultural services (Fig. 4.20).
4.3 The Knowledge Clusters
Alternatively, the underground watercourses are brought back to the surface only
in effigy as their patterns are used by public art works to enhance the design of some
public spaces. This is the case, for example, of the water sculpture designed by
Martha Schwarz in Exchange Square in Manchester, of the streetscape features in
Grainger Town promoted by the Hidden River initiative in Newcastle or, also, of the
decorated pavement of Millennium Place in Coventry.
Sometimes, their attractiveness is considered so high that water basins or canals
are introduced as major landscape features or natural amenities even where they
were not originally present.13 Nottingham offers in this sense a couple of very interesting
case studies,14 both designed by Michael Hopkins and Partners. The first is Eastside
City, a planned mixed-use intervention whose layout is centred mainly around
a new purposely planned drop-shaped branch of the Beeston Canal; the pond,
coupled by a new park, has been conceived as the public heart of the future quarter.
The second is the new Jubilee Campus of the University of Nottingham, whose
faculty buildings and services have been arranged along the bank of a purpose-built
lake on a brownfield site, west of the city centre. The highly expressive conic spiral
of the library (Learning Resource Centre) emerges from the water and dominates
the complex as the university’s main feature (Fig. 4.21). Also in the New Islington
Millennium Community in Manchester, the presence of a new small boating lake
provided with serviced moorings, derived from the Ashton and Rochdale canals,
constitutes currently a central feature of the Cotton Field ‘ecopark’ which will be
framed by the main buildings planned by Will Alsop.
The Knowledge Clusters
Faced with the dissolving of their industrial landscape along with its workplaces, with
previously productive areas redeveloped for other uses or partly restored as relics of
the past inside new commercial or residential districts, nearly all towns mention in
their planning documents the need to give more space to sectors of the knowledge
economy, such as scientific research, new technologies and the so-called ‘creative’
activities. The efforts to consolidate this kind of economy combine thus almost
everywhere with the improvement and creation of cultural and leisure facilities in
order to achieve two main results: firstly, to make the cities more interesting and
In some schemes, as in the ongoing Hanham Hall ‘Carbon Challenge’ development, purposely
built new ponds can also have the double task of providing both a major landscape amenity and a
device for Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDS), which is a more natural and ecological
method for processing the water cycle in urban developments (Fig. 3.4).
Nottingham offers further examples of housing estates designed with a strong connection
to water, as the notable Southreef Estate – provided with shops at the ground floor – in the
Southside regeneration area and the new luxury apartments of the River Crescent complex,
along the Trent, which stood out for one of the highest selling prices of the whole city.
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.21 Jubilee Campus, University of Nottingham. The library building stands in the foreground (Photo by Matt Buck)
attractive to those much needed workforces from the service and knowledge sectors
and secondly, to give impulse to the local tourism and induced activities, drawing
national and foreign visitors to the city centres, as well as people from all around the
metropolitan region.
The policies aimed at developing leading sectors, following an approach which
has now internationally spread, are based mainly on economies of agglomeration
which facilitate the formation and expansion of clusters of activities belonging to
the same field. So, among the tasks of the urban spatial strategies, there is that of
concentrating and correlating different clusters, organising thresholds, landmarks,
continuities and making the most of the affinities between distinct activities, often
promoting cultural facilities and uses to act as intermediaries between those associated with leisure and those related to the knowledge economy. This is the case,
among many others, of NewcastleGateshead,15 which, on account of both potentials
and constraints to its strategic framework, offers a good example of this kind of
Although Newcastle upon Tyne and Gateshead form two parts of a single conurbation crossed by
the River Tyne, administratively they are, quite surprisingly, two different and independent municipalities, which produce distinct planning documents. The recent partnership between the cities,
commenced at the beginning of this century, consolidated officially only in 2009 with the creation
of the Economic Development Company 1NG NewcastleGateshead, whose mission was to coordinate the urban regeneration initiatives on both sides of the river. The company, following the
same fate of similar structures everywhere in the country, has been closed in November 2011 while
its tasks have been assumed by the city council.
4.3 The Knowledge Clusters
Fig. 4.22 NewcastleGateshead. City centre clusters. Graphic elaboration made by the author,
(From Newcastle City Council 2007a)
approach (Fig. 4.22). The last economic plan adopted by Newcastle, drawn up in
response to the suggestions given in 2006 by a report of OECD on the economics of
the city, has chosen to invest in four sectors regarded as strategically relevant: research
on stem cells, research on aging, industrial design, and renewable energies (Newcastle
City Council 2007a). Each of these sectors has been planned to develop in a specific
area in the city centre where it is expected to make connections with the neighbouring quarters. This strategy, released in 2007, follows a series of regeneration policies
undertaken in the previous decade to create highly attractive places, such as the
International Centre for Life, the Grainger Town shopping and leisure district and the
East Quayside waterfront in Newcastle. The highest degree of media visibility has
then been achieved by the city, thanks to a couple of important buildings – the Baltic
Arts Centre and the Sage musical centre – built in Gateshead between 2002 and 2004
on the south bank of the River Tyne. Erected within 300 m of each other, together they
form a cultural hub of regional and national importance, which is going to expand
further in the coming years with the addition, right between the two buildings, of the
International Conference and Exhibition Centre (ICEC) (Fig. 4.23).16
The masterplan has been prepared by RJMJ on behalf of One North East Regional Development
Agency. The new scheme will replace a large project promoted in 2006 by Kier Property (GQ2:
Gateshead Quays 2) which had actually never started.
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.23 Gateshead. View of the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art and of the Sage music
centre (Photo by Tony Hisgett)
Just behind the cultural hub the Baltic Business Park is being developed a
commercial cluster hosting, among others, new facilities for the Gateshead
College, the Open University’s regional headquarters and the One North East’s
Design Centre for the North. While the Gateshead College has a pivotal role both
functionally and physically between the business park and the cultural precinct,
the Design Centre, in the middle of the new quarter, acts as the southern outpost
of the Design Corridor, a large area straddling the river on the eastern side of the
city centre. Its cluster of activities in Newcastle already includes the Centre for
Design Research of Northumbria University and some companies which have
moved into restored manufacturing premises inside the Ouseburn Valley Urban
Village. According to the regeneration strategy of Gateshead, published in
December 2008, the city centre should expand its commercial and retail activities
towards east and north, merging both with the Baltic Business Park – thanks also
to the conversion of the A184 elevated road into a treed boulevard – and with the
cultural precinct (Gateshead City Council 2008). The Millennium Bridge, a highly
iconic pedestrian structure, links this area to East Quayside on the northern bank
of the Tyne. From here, a network of streets, refurbished with new materials and
partly pedestrianised, leads to Grainger Town, the historical and shopping heart
of Newcastle. Its western fringe, near the new Waterloo Square and the renovated
St. James Boulevard (formerly Blenheim Street), is intertwined with a large area
named Discovery Quarter, a new district comprising some relevant features,
already existing or planned:
– Science Central is a large brownfield site bound to become a place for firms
and scientific institutions involved in sustainable activities and research projects.
A portion of the site is already under construction: the Downing Plaza mixed-use
development, designed by Ian Simpson Architects, will bring offices, student
accommodations, a hotel and shops.
4.3 The Knowledge Clusters
– Newcastle College, the new campus, made of several buildings, designed by
RMJM, shares some of its services (such as the Lifetime Academy) with the
local communities.
– International Centre for Life, one of the Millennium Projects designed by Terry
Farrell and Partners, hosts a permanent exhibition for the scientific education of
young people and laboratories for biomedical research specialised in stem cells.
Science Central and the International Centre for Life are two of the three pillars
sustaining the scientific research promoted by Newcastle Science City, the local
partnership committed to facilitate investments and technology transfer between
university and industry. The third pillar consists in research on aging people, carried
out by the Institute for Ageing and Health, in the west side of the Discovery Quarter
near the General Hospital. According to the current plans, the new Campus for
Ageing and Vitality, designed by Smith Smalley Architects, will be built as an
expansion of the existing precinct around a public central space. The campus, rather
unusually, will be connected through a covered passage to a new gateway building
facing Westgate Road and containing shops, bars, restaurants and other public facilities.
Both its position and functions are designed to link the new development to the
southern neighbourhoods.
While the overall strategy of NewcastleGateshead is exemplary for how the
different knowledge clusters (cultural, scientific, creative) interact and integrate,
it also pays the consequences of a tardy and late coordination of the regeneration
policies carried out by the two councils. The design of the cultural hub, built as
the physical and ideal core of both cities, seems actually to have ignored its central role. It lacks a highly significant public space linking together the two premises and the waterfront: Baltic Square – the existing plaza – acts more as a
self-standing, hollow and desolated space rather than the place full of relations that
its name would suggest. The residential and commercial buildings which have
been constructed nearby, besides offering a low-quality architecture, do not contribute to the functional complexity of the site, looking rather as heterogeneous,
dull and decontextualised objects. In particular, the typological and stylistic
choice made by ID Partnership Group, which designed the housing blocks imitating the architectural characters of the neighbouring Baltic Centre, was inappropriate, as it irremediably spoiled the landmark role of the industrial building
within the waterfront landscape. East Quayside, on the other side of the river,
gives an equally weak contribution, particularly when considering the huge
potential given by the presence of the Millennium Bridge. A sequence of open
spaces flanks the waterfront aimlessly, deserted of any of those activities – with
the valuable exception of the ‘Pitcher and Piano’ bar – which could transform this
part of the waterfront into an attractive and vital place. The overall treatment
makes it a missed opportunity, especially when considering how other functions
which probably would have made a significant contribution to the existing cultural cluster – such as the excellent and much awarded new City Library designed
by Ryder Architecture Studio, the Dance City Centre and the Newcastle Arts
Centre – have been left displaced elsewhere.
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.24 Glasgow. Cultural and creative cluster by Pacific Quay along Clyde’s waterfront
(© 2011 Google and © 2011 Infoterra Ltd. and Bluesky)
The way cultural premises, once grouped into clusters to interconnect mutually and
with the rest of the city, can give an actual contribution in (re)founding urban places
is an increasingly recurring issue today, in times of strong antagonism between metropolitan cities. The same constraint which was evident in the case of Newcastle
Gateshead can be also found in what could probably be considered as the model or
prototype for this kind of cultural clustering in the United Kingdom: the city of Glasgow.
Here, from a functional point of view, the clustering of important public facilities
along the River Clyde generated, as expected, a strong attraction capacity. Nevertheless,
it contributed scarcely or by no means to the urbanity of the context. The buildings
have been designed in close proximity to each other but, in urban design terms, lack
any dialogical tension, and the public space between them looks too wide and unwelcoming (Fig. 4.24). To this respect, the masterplan for Glasgow Harbour, which has
been planned nearby, offers a better solution by integrating its cultural central core,
dominated by the Riverside Museum, within a rich network of public spaces, resulting
in a varied but quite organic framework (Clyde Waterfront, n.d.).
The Imperial War Museum North, the Lowry Centre and the MediaCityUK
complex in Salford share a similar situation. The concentration and the mutual relation of the three sites specialised in culture, leisure and ICT activities have been quite
well conceived – apart from the connection with the museum, on the southern edge –
although the clustered buildings currently form an enclave completely isolated from
the rest of the city (Fig. 4.25). The Salford Quays and Irwell Corridor schemes
planned by the Central Salford Urban Regeneration Company should help break this
isolation, as we have seen, linking this knowledge cluster with the other development
sites along the river and reknitting it with the rest of the city, thanks to a dense network of new neighbourhoods and public spaces (Central Salford 2006) (Fig. 4.17).
4.3 The Knowledge Clusters
Fig. 4.25 Salford. View of the knowledge cluster along the waterfront: The Lowry Centre (right),
MediaCityUK (above) and The Imperial War Museum (left) (Courtesy of Salford City Council)
Positive examples in this regard are provided from Birmingham, Sheffield and
Liverpool. In the first of them, at Brindleyplace, the high concentration of cultural,
commercial and leisure activities of regional and national relevance – such as the
National Indoor Arena, the National Sea Life Centre, the International Conference
Centre, the Symphony Hall and many others – is arranged along the same urban
axis. The linear cluster, through an uninterrupted network of pedestrian streets and
squares, is in turn connected to the old canal system and to the central retail district,
where it ends in St. Martin’s Square at the new Bullring shopping and leisure
The cultural and leisure facilities of Sheffield, variously combined, make an
extraordinary contribution to the central urban system. Its cornerstone is the
renovated, highly central Tudor Square, the main cultural hub of the city. The space
is bounded by two theatres, the Central Library and the Millennium Galleries,
mediated by the vaulted gallery of the spectacular Winter Garden. The square and
the Winter Garden are also parts of a wider network of pedestrian open spaces – the
Gold Route – leading from the new Sheaf Square in front of the central station
to Devonshire Green’s public park, on the edge of the western university quarter,
passing through the Cultural Industries Quarter and flanking the shopping district
of Sevenstone (Figs. 4.26 and 4.71).
Liverpool, Capital of Culture in 2008, has probably made the most out of the best
experiences carried out by other cities: its waterfront, contrary to what was made in
Glasgow, has been enriched by a series of very well-interlinked episodes which are
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.26 Sheffield. Cultural and scientific cluster in the city centre (© 2011 Infoterra Ltd. and
also connected to the central shopping district Liverpool One through a strong and
clear network of public spaces. The Echo Arena and the BT Convention Centre
complex dominate King’s Dock; Albert Dock hosts that amazing concentration of
museums, shops and public premises which has been previously described; and the
brand new Museum of Liverpool faces the Pier Head, whose open spaces have been
renovated including the new prosecution of the Leeds-Liverpool canal (Fig. 4.27).
Concentration and diffusion are two complementary strategies in the design of
knowledge clusters. The creation of landmarks and hubs, like in the previous
cases, is frequently combined with planning guidelines aimed at developing urban
quarters characterised by the widespread presence, actual or just potential, of
scientific, cultural or creative activities. Most of the time, since these places
coincide with the older industrial parts of the city, the regeneration and management modes are similar to those described for the urban villages, with which in
fact they get very often mixed up. This ambiguity has many causes. For typological and economic reasons, the industrial buildings characterising these particular
quarters, once their original use has been dismantled, lend themselves perfectly,
according to both spontaneous and planned processes, to accommodate ateliers
and professional studios, as evidenced by many cases around the world. Moreover,
because of their environmental character and their proximity to the vital activities
offered by the city centre, these urban sectors easily attract a population made up
mainly of young, often single, professionals, fostering the creation of a quite
homogeneous local community. Finally, many place names which include the
‘urban village’ or ‘creative quarter’ definitions are given mainly for branding reasons by city marketing agencies or other bodies promoting these quarters and the
events hosted by them.
4.3 The Knowledge Clusters
Fig. 4.27 Liverpool. Knowledge Quarter’s boundaries and city centre’s main attractions (Urbed
2008a. Courtesy of Urbed)
Temple Bar in Dublin, like Glasgow, is a well-known model for many policies
aimed at developing cultural quarters.17 During the 1990s in this formerly industrial
area along the River Liffey, the Group 91 architects consortium18 – following a
design competition – drove a design-led approach, coordinated by Temple Bar
Properties Ltd. (the company in charge of the redevelopment of the quarter), which
helped formalise and take control over a spontaneous functional conversion already
in place. The strategy is as we have said very similar to that adopted for urban villages: a mix of old and new obtained by the conversion of historic buildings and the
insertion of new ones, incentives for mixed-use developments with active ground
floors, insertion of new housing, and a pedestrian public realm network. The peculiarity of the intervention obviously consists in maintaining and fostering cultural
and artistic activities and also making use of new expressly dedicated spaces, like
the Project Arts Centre or the Music Centre. Besides hosting many activities disseminated along the fabric, the quarter presents some opportunely planned architectural and functional hubs, like Meeting House Square. The square, designed by Paul
The bibliography on Temple Bar has increasingly improved during the last years. A brief summary
of its story can be found on the website of the Reflecting Cities Team (2008). For a critical perspective
on the urban planning strategies, see especially the work of John Montgomery (1995, 2004).
The Group 91 consortium was featuring, among others, Yvonen Farrell, Shelley Mc Namara and
Derek Tynan.
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.28 Temple Bar, Dublin. Meeting House Square (Courtesy of Temple Bar Cultural Trust)
Keogh Architects on an old vacant plot used previously as a car park, has been
conceived as a large public hall in the open air for watching theatrical or cinematographic events connected directly with the cultural activities housed in the four
surrounding buildings (Fig. 4.28). The Ark, a cultural centre for children, is provided with a stage which can also be opened outwards onto the square, while the
Photographic Archive and the Gallery of Photography/Irish Film Centre complex
are used respectively as projection room and screen for watching movies in the open
air. These hubs are clearly aimed at creating one or more social hearts through
the quarter, sometimes characterised by specific activities. Thus, in Temple Bar, the
presence and role of Meeting House Square are counterbalanced by a second
space – Temple Bar Square – designed by Grafton Architects to offer a pause and a
place for resting along the Fleet Street/Essex Street axis.
In addition to these hubs and sometimes merging with them, especially in the
creative quarters, there can be some elements acting as catalysts. If in fact the economic clusters which the adopted plans intend to develop are not going to grow out
of existing local sectors, then some business incubators and specialised hubs must
be provided to facilitate the creation and the settlement of the desired activities.
Besides the Holbeck Urban Village in Leeds, where the Round Foundry Media
Centre acts both as a catalyst and an urban outpost (Fig. 4.14), there are many quarters containing especially designed buildings meant exclusively for creative companies, offering wired, flexible offices provided with collective spaces and services
such as meeting rooms, informal chill out areas and exhibition spaces. Quite often
incubators and hubs are built inside refurbished industrial premises and/or distinguish
4.3 The Knowledge Clusters
Fig. 4.29 Liverpool. View
of Fleet Street in Ropewalks:
in the foreground appears
the entrance to the Tea
Factory (Photo by Joe D.
Miles (Image Capture))
themselves with a certain formal affectation: in both cases, their architecture is
endowed with a symbolic value whether to mean the continuity with an industrial
past, frequently referred to as glorious, or to represent and stimulate the much
desired tension towards good design and modernity. The former family of buildings comprises, for example, the Toffee Factory in the Ouseburn Valley Urban
Village in Newcastle or the ‘Vanilla Factory’ and the ‘Tea Factory’ inside the
Ropewalks quarter in Liverpool – both built by the developer Urban Splash
(Fig. 4.29). The latter group includes such buildings as ‘The Terrace’, right in the
middle of Lincoln Cultural Quarter (Fig. 4.30); the Leicester Creative Business
Depot and Phoenix Square, inside the Cultural Quarter of Leicester; and Boho One
in Middlesbrough, the main feature of the DigitalCity project for the creation of the
‘digital media, digital technologies and creative industries quarter’ Boho Zone.19
The centre was partly funded by RDA One North East and sustained by the Institute of Digital
Innovation of the University of Teesside and by DigitalCity Business (One North East 2009).
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.30 Lincoln. View of The Terrace, incubator for creative business in the heart of Lincoln’s
Cultural Quarter (Photo by Ben Abel)
The quest for an appealing image to ‘creative’ workers can assume occasionally
quite extreme expressions, as in Sheffield, where the Electric Works – the hub of the
new office development Sheffield Digital Campus – is provided with an inner helterskelter to connect the upper floors directly with the entrance hall.
There are also cases of cultural quarters which have been conceived almost or
completely from scratch. One of the five urban regeneration areas indicated by the
strategic framework of Forward Swindon Economic Development Company for the
city centre is going to become the new civic and cultural quarter ‘The Promenade’,
designed on the basis of a specific Supplementary Planning Document adopted in
2006. As its name, or better its brand, suggests, the new quarter, designed by
Broadway Malyan architects, will develop linearly along a north–south axis between
a pedestrian street and a boulevard. Besides refurbishing and pedestrianising the
open spaces, integrated by a Public Art Strategy, the masterplan provides new
features: civic facilities (a court and public offices), housing, a hotel (marking the
northern entrance to the quarter), cultural/creative activities (the existing new
library will be neighboured by the new Wyvern Theatre, offices and studios, a
cultural centre with winter gardens, a cinema) and retail spaces (shops, cafes,
restaurants) (Broadway Malyan 2006) (Fig. 4.31).
This plan for Swindon allows us to focus on another issue regarding the design
of knowledge clusters: the relation between specialisation and contamination.
While some quarters, such as Ropewalks or the Baltic Triangle in Liverpool or, to
a certain degree, Temple Bar itself, are planned to develop as some sort of homo-
4.3 The Knowledge Clusters
Fig. 4.31 Swindon. Rendering of The Promenade cultural quarter (Broadway Malyan 2006: 30.
Courtesy of Swindon Borough Council)
geneous enclaves, although supported by a basic mix of functions (typically homes,
shops and bars), other strategies, like those of Newcastle and Swindon, try to
improve the places mixing quite different yet interrelating presences. The plans for
the Eastside in Birmingham in their first versions originally proposed to use the
formerly industrial precinct as an intermediate buffer zone where two local clusters
could expand and overlap: the existing science and technology activities from
the ‘Aston University and Science Park’ on the northern edge of the area and the
emerging artistic and creative sectors in the southern industrial area of Digbeth.
The first masterplan for the ‘Eastside Learning Quarter’ provided the area with new
university and learning precincts, a technology park and laboratories for creative
activities, residential urban villages, student accommodation and commercial and
civic functions, like the Magistrates’ Court. The Millennium Point,20 already in
place, and the planned new Central Library would have provided a couple of hubs
at a municipal and metropolitan level, while the planned central green spine – the
City Park – will act as the primary open space connecting the different clusters
(Birmingham City Council 2001) (Fig. 4.32). The subsequent evolutions of the
The Millennium Point, as its name suggests, is one of the Millennium Projects: it hosts various
activities among which the Think Tank (a scientific museum), an Imax cinema and the Faculty of
Technology, Engineering and the Environment (TEE) of the Birmingham City University.
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.32 Eastside, Birmingham. Sketch of the central green spine (Birmingham City Council
2003: 17. Courtesy of Birmingham City Council)
plan, the financial constraints due to the economic downturn and the proposal for a
new high-speed station in the area led to a reduction and revision of many of the
original proposals. The most controversial change, which can be seen as a missed
opportunity, is the return of the new Central Library to the western side of the city
centre to reinforce the existing cluster around Centenary Square,21 just a few
dozen metres from the current location (Fig. 4.33). While its contribution to this
already consolidated cultural hub will be completely superfluous, its functional
and architectural pivotal position formerly planned at the entrance of the Eastside
area would have probably helped to extend eastwards the city’s cultural offer,
corroborating the contamination strategy started by the Millennium Point as well
as merging new and existing clusters through the central pedestrian network of
squares and shopping streets.
The mix of university and creative clusters which founded Eastside’s original
design strategies is also the cornerstone of another well-known case study: Sheffield’s
Creative Industries Quarter (CIQ). Set in 1988, it has been possibly one of the first
English quarters to adopt the adjective ‘creative’. Relying on the presence of the
Hallam University and of other cultural organisations already existing in the area,
like the Leadmill Arts Centre and the Yorkshire Artspace Society, the council’s
The displacement of the library was very much controversial also because a project was already
available for the Eastside location. It had been prepared by Richard Rogers Partnership, who won
an official design competition in 2002. Some financial constraints had initially caused the work to
be axed, but lately, the works for a new and much more expensive building (designed by Mecanoo
Architecten) started in Centenary Square (Holyoak 2010).
4.3 The Knowledge Clusters
Fig. 4.33 Birmingham. Rendering of the new Central Library and of the proposed solution for the
fronting space of Centenary Square (Courtesy of Mecanoo Architecten)
policies nurtured the creation of new activities in the old industrial district targeted
at cultural production and consumption. The last stage of this evolution has seen the
extension in the area of some university premises and the creation, along the northern
edge, of the Sheffield Digital Campus, a catalyst hub for incubating and supporting
firms from the digital, creative and technological sectors. Unfortunately the Area
Action Plan for the quarter, published in 2000, is still far from complete, especially
where it regarded as fundamental two key and complementary objectives: a better
quality, permeability and accessibility of the public realm and the foundation of a
highly attractive public core (Sheffield City Council 2000). With respect to the last
point, the failure of the National Centre for Popular Music, which was closed down in
2000, sounds sensational. Designed by Nigel Coates in an area between the creative
and the scientific/technological clusters, the complex, one of the Millennium Projects,
was originally bound to become the quarter’s main attraction and landmark (Fig. 3.9).
Since the structure, the year after its inauguration, was dismantled and converted into
Hallam University’s Students’ Union, the quarter has been left without a collective
core. Many vacant spaces, which such a magnet could have probably help redevelop,
are still abandoned or used as parking lots, while the Gold Route, which passes
nearby on the northern edge, exerts paradoxically a negative consequence on the
vitality of the area as it channels the pedestrian flows from the station directly to the
city centre and vice versa.
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.34 Leeds. Millennium Square Concept model (Photo by Clifford Stead)
A last case in Leeds is a good example of how the interactions and connections
between different clusters can be organised positively around a common core.
Millennium Square became in 2001, the year of its implementation, the primary
and pivotal public place in the middle of relatively specialised urban sectors.
The neighbouring quarters, as well as the buildings that define it, host important
civic institutions (the city council and the university hospital), scientific facilities
(the university quarter and the new conference building of Leeds Metropolitan
University) and cultural activities (Leeds City Museum and The Carriageworks
Theatre) (CABE 2011h) (Fig. 4.34). The composite space of the square, which was
expressly studied to accommodate public events, mixes many different usages and
at the same time acts as the spatial and functional complement to the surrounding
clusters, a role which the forthcoming City Arena, under construction a few blocks
away, will probably contribute to strengthen.
Universities and colleges, as these last examples help demonstrate, often play a
key role within the knowledge cluster strategies and can provide an irreplaceable
contribution to the urban renaissance. There are even cases in which the creation
from scratch of a new campus in the city centre or in major redevelopment areas
represents the central event of the whole regeneration scheme. In Hastings, both the
University of Brighton and the Sussex Coast College gave a fundamental support
to the urban regeneration strategy ‘Making Waves’, adopted by Sea Space, the
Economic Development Corporation for Hastings and Bexhill. The strategy approach
is based on small disseminated actions intended as catalysts for the incremental
regeneration process (RUDI, n.d.). The new campuses and the Creative Media Centre
4.3 The Knowledge Clusters
Fig. 4.35 Masterplan of Walsall GigaPort (Courtesy of Mott MacDonald)
in fact have brought learning services and creative activities into the city centre
(Station Plaza and Priory Quarter) and in the new developing areas (Ore Valley),
strictly connected to the Millennium Community’s transport strategy based on the
new metro line and intermodal exchange system. Also, the strategic framework of
the town of Walsall proposes a new college in the city centre as part of a larger
transformation plan: the Business and Learning Campus Walsall First. Walsall First
is a joint venture between Walsall College, Tesco and the city council. The mixed-use
development comprises also an innovation centre, offices and a shopping mall, and
it will be in turn the central piece of the GigaPort project. This is a very challenging
scheme planned near the pedestrian city core aimed at delivering new commercial
buildings served by new-generation broadband connections, a data centre (Walsall
Hub), a Business Innovation Centre, incubators, a hotel, a gym, some shops and
live/work units (Walsall Council 2012) (Fig. 4.35).
Several city councils and educational institutes are producing masterplans
and specific Supplementary Planning Documents to improve, expand and better
integrate the college and university quarters within the urban context. On one hand,
many national and local policies driven by an entrepreneurial approach lead the
public administrations to acknowledge their learning and research institutions not
only as cultural and social assets (as well as invaluable urban landmarks) but also as
an enormous potential catalyst for the economic development of the city and the
region. On the other hand, the increasing competition in the educational sector,
the seeking of partnerships with private companies and the synergies with other
local services and urban districts lead many colleges and especially universities to
4 Elements of Design Strategy
reorganise their structures and to adopt strategies aimed to open up and better
connect to the rest of the city.
In Liverpool, for instance, the cultural quarter which was in the first instance
identified by the Strategic Regeneration Framework in 2000 has been lately
replaced by a much larger and more complex Knowledge Quarter, characterised by
the presence of colleges, universities, research institutes, cultural organisations and
a quite rich legacy of listed buildings. The Knowledge Quarter, considered of
paramount importance for the economic improvement of the city, was also the
subject of an ‘Urban Design Framework & Public Realm Implementation Plan’
whose purpose was to organise the development opportunities within a comprehensive framework and to plan the refurbishment of the public realm (Urbed
2008a) (Fig. 4.27). Together with this Supplementary Planning Document, the
URBED cooperative has also released the masterplan for the renewal of the
University of Liverpool – the quarter’s main feature in terms of space and prominence – the design of which is an integrated and inseparable part of the overall
strategy (Urbed 2008b).
The case of Manchester is even more extreme. The three universities in the southern end of the city centre, in a quarter extending along the axis of Oxford Street,
have formed a partnership with the city council – the formerly City South Partnership,
recently named ‘The Corridor’ – to manage and coordinate the general improvement of the area. The project should be carried out according to five issues: giving
the area a sense of place; planning a sustainable transport; transforming the environment and infrastructures; strengthening research and innovation; and increasing
employment, business and skills in the area. The regeneration plans stress also the
fundamental importance of a better and stronger link with the neighbouring districts
which can also make the area more attractive and accessible for the surrounding
communities (Corridor Manchester 2010).
The operations aimed at expanding and promoting the physical renovation of the
university campuses, often coupled with important administrative changes, try
generally to pursue the following recurrent goals:
– A better integration with the urban context
– The creation of landmark buildings and the adoption of sustainable technologies
as a marketing vehicle for the institution
– The delivery of further services for teachers and students, new facilities for
learning, research and business incubation
When the institute is situated in an inner part of the city, the regeneration projects
are often meant to open up the academic enclave outwards using some design
tactics: making the precinct more accessible and in continuity with the urban
fabric, highlighting or creating thresholds towards the adjacent quarters or clusters,
improving the quality and accessibility of the open spaces or sharing some services
with the neighbourhood or the city.
The University of Bristol, for example, in 2006 produced a masterplan to
refurbish the university precinct, whose facilities, grown piecemeal over time, have
been recently valued unfit for the needs of the increased number of students and in
4.3 The Knowledge Clusters
Fig. 4.36 University of Bristol. Diagram of the ‘ten strategic moves’ for the campus improvement
(Bristol City Council and University of Bristol 2006: 55. Courtesy of Bristol City Council)
many cases were also isolated and scattered around the campus area. By proposing
ten strategic moves, the masterplan principally aims to provide the public realm
with a stronger identity and make it more permeable and easily available to bikers
and pedestrians. It also proposes as fundamental the creation of a social heart for the
entire campus, providing new facilities and meeting spaces for the students. Another
objective is the erection of some landmark buildings (the new Department of Life
Sciences and the new Learning & Resource Centre): the proposal of the skyscraper
is inspired by similar architectures characterising the campus (Bristol City Council
and University of Bristol 2006) (Fig. 4.36).
The use of landmarks has in this context the dual purpose of promoting internally
a distinguishable identity for the institution and of increasing at the same time its
visibility to the outside in the urban and suburban landscape. A notable (and much
awarded) example is the new De Grey Court of York St. John University, next to the
city centre. The building has been designed by Rivington Street Studio to act at the
same time as a modern urban landmark which is highly sensitive to its historic
context, as well as a new permeable threshold between the university quarter and
the city centre, and as a new gateway to the campus (Fig. 4.37). The architectural
choices made by the University of Nottingham for the Jubilee Campus and the
neighbouring Innovation Park, designed by Make Architects, reflect instead the
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.37 De Grey Court, York St John University. Design by Rivington Street Studio (Courtesy
of York St John University)
more suburban location of these premises. While the campus, as we have seen, uses
water as a main spectacular feature and amenity to emphasise both the faculty buildings and the site itself, the Innovation Park, in a quest for a similar iconic solution,
has been conceived with such shapes and colours that it cannot remain unnoticed in
its quite plain context.
Among the improvements carried out by the majority of the institutes, the
scientific parks or other similar structures emerge because of their strategic importance and are meant primarily to foster the interaction between universities and
private companies. Two recurrent kinds of settlements, very similar to those just described, can be found again: a more suburban science park, having its strength in its
proximity to highways or airports or to other university premises (like, for instance,
again in Nottingham, the already mentioned Innovation Park and the Medipark,
close to the university hospital) and an urban type which on the contrary, as in
Liverpool or Sheffield, takes advantage of the city centre vitality and its sophisticated
network of activities and opportunities. As for the creative quarters, the original
nucleus inside the scientific parks and technology transfer structures generally consists of business incubators, accelerators and hubs offering meeting places and many
other services and facilities to developing companies (Fig. 4.38). They are the indispensable basic cell which is bound to multiply and germinate new companies,
particularly where innovative clusters are expected to develop from scratch. In a few
years, BioCity Nottingham, a new bioscience incubator funded by the local universities and the Regional Development Agency, has grown from its original nucleus to
a large complex made up of four buildings. Regeneris Consulting, which has been
engaged by Nottingham Regeneration Ltd. to prepare a ‘Nottingham Science City
4.4 The Role of Housing: City Living, Communities and Places
Fig. 4.38 University of York. Cluster layout of Heslington East Campus (left), rendering
(right, above) and artistic impression of the Ron Cooke Hub (right below) (Courtesy of University
of York)
property implementation plan’, has even suggested to plan for this activity a new
dedicated quarter: ‘Bioquarter’ or ‘BioDistrict’. In their recommendations, the
consultants stressed the importance of place making as the central design policy for
a new masterplan. Besides, they also remarked how the incubator has effectively
contributed to develop a new economic sector which was previously completely
absent, meeting a demand for facilities and services on which no private enterprises
would have ever invested (Regeneris Consulting Ltd. 2007).
4.4 The Role of Housing: City Living,
Communities and Places
The renewal of the built environment is a key component of the urbanrenaissance
process. It focuses mainly on the housing sector, as we have seen, both in terms of
quantity and quality. Precisely because of its strategic contribution on a national
scale, the housing issue is tackled extensively and with exemplary vision as an
inseparable part of a more complex view of the quality of life. The approach of the
government does not separate the architectural project – considered in its typological,
economic, technological and aesthetic aspects – from the overall design of places
and the social context of local communities.
The Policy Planning Statement 3, which has transposed the urban design
principles of the Planning Policy Statement 1 to the residential field, contains the
4 Elements of Design Strategy
government’s main guidance about housing. It gives advice about design quality
and standards, house types and tenure mix, density and land-saving measures,
site selection criteria and administrative tools (CLG 2010c). The PPS3 indicates as
a useful reference manual also the ministerial document ‘Better Places to Live By
Design’, which was realised as the companion guide to the old PPG3. This publication clarifies the housing planning principles through examples and case studies and
illustrates 14 design criteria set by the government.22 Of these criteria, however,
only a couple apply strictly to the architectural and typological layout of dwellings
(CABE and DTLR 2001). Similarly, also the housing national standard developed
on those principles – Building for Life – which has since become one of the most
authoritative benchmarks for housing, proposes relatively few requisites that are
purely architectural. The overall assessment is carried out from a much wider
perspective and is based on 20 criteria divided into 4 topics:
The general character of places
Streets, parking and pedestrianisation
Design and construction
Environment and community
In support of the idea of place and community that, according to the much
reiterated recommendations, should be at the heart of every neighbourhood, Building
for Life places a great emphasis on the layout of public spaces, their character and
the way they connect to the context, from the design of the street network and access
modes to the relations between public and private spaces and the mix of people and
functions (CABE 2008). The Park Central residential quarter in Birmingham, one
of the winners of the Building for Life 2005 edition, is a good example of the
outcomes of this approach. The regeneration of the quarter took place after the city
council, legitimated by a positive consultation with the inhabitants, transferred its
estates to Optima Community Association, a not-for-profit association which started
a vast series of works to improve and redevelop the site in collaboration with the
developer Crest Nicholson. The new dwellings, built beside and between the
existing blocks, offer a great variety of typologies and tenures – free market,
affordable houses, assisted home ownership – to generate higher densities and
social complexity. The new layout is designed around a central public green space
which is surrounded by the tallest buildings of the scheme, whose height is aimed at
creating a sort of protected core. In fact, the inner park has been conceived and
designed as the heart of the whole neighbourhood: a series of pedestrian paths
link this main space to all the different parts of the quarter. The project paid much
attention to integrate the new buildings with those along the external perimeter
of the area. Here the new heights and activities – housing, shops or services – are
planned according to the character of the street and the existing building typologies
(CABE 2011j) (Fig. 4.39).
The 14 criteria are movement, mix, community, structure, layout, place, amenity, parking, safety,
space, adaptability, maintenance, sustainability and detail.
4.4 The Role of Housing: City Living, Communities and Places
Fig. 4.39 Birmingham. View of the central green space of Park Central, Golden Standard of the
2005 edition of Building for Life (Photo by Michael Perregaard)
The picture emerging from the numerous national design awards for housing23 – a
very useful instrument which helps to enhance the quality of the products and to
take stock of the current planning culture and building industry – shows a quite wide
range of solutions. The evaluation criteria focus primarily on the compliance with
design principles and quality standards, leaving aside the age-old argument of the
battle of styles. This is why most rewarded projects and developments, often
advocated as case studies, are marked by a significant dissimilarity in styles and
forms between the various urban design and architectural approaches. Interestingly,
on many occasions, both critics and residents consciously acknowledge a juxtaposition of categories, if not an actual schizophrenia, between ‘contemporary’ and
‘traditional’ projects. The British vernacular architecture, that is, the classical
detached or terraced houses with bay windows (already Nikolaus Pevsner noted
how ‘…the English have at no time been happy without bay windows’ (1943: 305)),
still finds in a large part of the English public – and Prince Charles in the first
place – die-hard supporters (Fig. 4.40).
In most cases, this difference depends on the typology chosen, which in turn is
influenced by the degree of density planned and by the structure of the context.
Apartment blocks prevail especially in central urban areas, where the buildings are
In addition to the prestigious Building for Life, among the many awards that exist today is to
remember especially the first initiative of this kind: the Housing Design Awards, established in 1947
to reward the best public housing developments. For a review of the English architecture awards
and an assessment of their scope in the national design culture, see Biddulph et al. (2004).
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.40 Poundbury. View of a street of the new urban extension sponsored by Prince Charles
(Photo by Marilyn Peddle)
taller and the volumes are consequently greater. Usually they are characterised by
particular modulations of colour and volume or make increasing use of diverse,
recyclable and not traditional materials in the design of facades, like timber or steel.
This trend towards more sophisticated architectural forms, whose outcomes are not
always felicitous, while responding to the need to tone down the strong visual
impact of usually massive constructions and adapt them to the context, attempts also
to present a modern and attractive image of city living, moving away as much as
possible from the gloomy image of the high-density system-built blocks erected in
the 1960s in the inner areas.
A striking example of this effort is the rehabilitation of the Park Hill residential
complex in Sheffield, a well-known brutalist council estate built in the early 1960s.
It consists of four long deck access prefabricated buildings made of concrete.
As opposed to other similar cases, like Hulme in Manchester and Quarry Hill
in Leeds, where the buildings have been completely demolished, despite many
social and physical problems, the estate was Grade II listed in 1998. In 2007,
following a partial privatisation, the developer Urban Splash – not new to this kind
of enterprise – started a restoration scheme, still under way, in partnership with
several public bodies, among which English Partnerships and English Heritage.
The project was managed by three studios – Egret West, Hawkins Brown and Grant
Associates. The layout of the flats has been modified: the typical structural framework
4.4 The Role of Housing: City Living, Communities and Places
Fig. 4.41 Park Hill, Sheffield. View of the refurbishment of the Park Hill housing estate (Photo of
yellow book ltd.)
of the buildings was kept, while the facades, designed in a quite sophisticated
manner, have been partly renovated adopting new coloured anodised aluminium
panels and windows (Fig. 4.41). On the urban design side, the intervention also
proposes the upgrading of the public realm according to a greater variety and
complexity of uses, enriched by the presence of further activities and new buildings
provided with shops and neighbourhood facilities (Urban Splash 2011).
A similar use of colours can also be found in many recent developments, where
it is often introduced to couple and emphasise the variation of materials and
volumes. The building massing and the elevations of the residential tower of
Cranfields Mill in Ipswich,24 for instance, and of the housing blocks of the Greenwich
Millennium Village have been designed by the architects to give great relevance to
projecting and recessed balconies, adopted alternately as plastic and rhythmic
components (Figs. 4.42, 4.43 and 4.44). The highly expressive usage of these
architectural elements in housing schemes, until not long ago a weak presence in
England and almost alien to local traditions, has become more and more frequent in
recent years, as well as the employment of glass as the main or even only material
for the design of the facades in housing buildings. The extensive use of balconies,
sometimes even suggested by the design guidelines of the city councils, besides
proposing an urban surrogate of the typical suburban back yard, is clearly conceived
to let the dwellers enjoy the urban landscape, as it is expressly explained by the
The project, by John Lyall Architects, is indicated as best practice by CABE, which supported
him since the first proposals (CABE 2011g).
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Figs. 4.42– 4.43– 4.44 Examples of variation in colour and massing of recent high-density
residential projects: Ipswich, Cranfields Mill (left) (Photo by Dave Riseborough); London,
Adelaide Wharf (right) (Photo by arch. James Lumb); Greenwich Millennium Village (below)
(Photo by Martin Pearce)
advertising materials of the developers.25 Some residential estates like Abito and
Timber Wharf in Manchester are designed to support and emphasise the ‘city living’ aesthetic dimension (Fig. 4.45).
Occasionally this formalistic trend shifts towards an ostentatious modernity at
times ironic, provocative and at the edge of kitsch. The ‘Chips’ residential building
designed by Will Alsop in New Islington – which, according to its author, is inspired
by three overlapping French fries – is a good example of this (Fig. 4.46), as well as
the clumsy ‘Ciac Building’ designed by FAT studio for the Riverside One scheme in
On the brochure of the Castle Wharf residential complex at Finzells Reach in Bristol, for example,
you can read: ‘Views over the open space of Castle Park and the Floating Harbour, further across
the city centre and out into the countryside beyond – that’s what you see from Castle Wharf. […]
Private balconies and a network of landscaped gardens and secluded courtyards across the 5.7 acre
site link your personal space with the outside world, beautifully integrating Castle Wharf with the
city environment it occupies’ (Adventis Group plc 2007: 9).
4.4 The Role of Housing: City Living, Communities and Places
Fig. 4.45 Manchester. High-density residential Abito building. An example of the use of floor to
ceiling glazing in residential buildings (Courtesy of David Barbour/BDP)
Middlesbrough, masterplanned by Will Alsop. Such paroxysms are probably also
due to market reasons. As already mentioned, the majority of these new dwellings
are one- or two-bedroom apartments meant especially for single professionals and
young couples who are offered a ‘city living’ kind of lifestyle. The architectural
image consistent with this model is usually more international than traditional, but
there are sometimes also developers who try to overcome their competitors by
increasing the visibility of the buildings through a dramatic and sharp discontinuity
from the surrounding landscape, selling to potential residents a sense of distinction
and identity (Fig. 4.47). This also helps to explain the remarkable commercial
success obtained by Urban Splash in Birmingham by converting the Rotunda – one of
the most renowned and iconic 1960s landmarks located in the very city centre –
into apartments. The project, designed by Glenn Howells Architects, delivered 234
flats overlooking the city provided with floor to ceiling glazing. The old cylindrical
tower, once an office building, has now become a stylish architectural device to look
from and at. The new apartments were fully booked and sold within a few hours
(Loat 2005; Glenn Howells Architects, n.d.).
The tendency described culminates in the emergent supply of residential
skyscrapers in some major cities. The English developer Beetham Organization, for
example, has built mixed-use and fully residential (mostly luxury apartments)
skyscrapers in Manchester, Liverpool, London and Birmingham – also known as
‘Beetham Towers’. The heart of Birmingham, according to the council’s plans, will
host also a 51-storey residential building – the V Building – as part of the Arena
Central regeneration scheme.
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Figs. 4.46–4.47 Examples of residential buildings marked by the aesthetics of city living: New
Islington, Manchester, Chips (above) (Photo by David Jones); Birmingham, the Cube (below)
(Photo by Ell Brown)
4.4 The Role of Housing: City Living, Communities and Places
The urban and housing renewal is currently especially improving the inner areas
of the cities. Thanks also to the impulse given by the Housing Market Renewal
Pathfinders programmes, the replacement of the post-war social housing quarters – a
policy started in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s – has been developed further.
The restoration of Park Hill in Sheffield, as previously mentioned, is an exception.
From the Quarry Hill quarter in Leeds (already demolished in 1987) to the four
Hulme Crescents in Manchester (torn down in the middle 1990s) and a great
number of more or less extensive interventions, like Norfolk Park in Sheffield or
the Divis Flats complex in Belfast, the enhancement of the most deprived areas
frequently required the demolishment of large settlements made of system-built
residential tower blocks or deck access estates that proliferated in the 1960s.
The complete – or nearly complete – renewal of the housing supply is also quite
often developed together with a rebranding strategy. The real estate promotional
campaigns require the toponyms to change in order to help get rid of the negative
perception accumulated over the years and to highlight the renovation programmes
in progress. Park Central in Birmingham, for instance, was once known with the
seedy name of Lee Bank (CABE 2011j), while the 1960s Cruddas Park tower blocks
in the degraded Newcastle West End, following a radical improvement of the
interior layout and of the external appearance of the complex, have been renamed
Riverside Dene (Centre West, n.d.). These rebranding strategies aimed at rehabilitating entire quarters are also parts of the more usual marketing initiatives put in
place by the developers who generally try also to advertise their real estate products
by giving them some impressive or evocative names.
As already seen, many interventions, especially those conducted under the Housing
Market Renewal Pathfinder programmes, aim often to mix old and new structures.
Even where the most blighted and degrading estates are demolished – principally in
those areas affected by very high vacancy rates – some buildings are usually kept
and, whenever possible, refurbished, as for instance the terrace houses in Weybridge
Road inside the New Islington Millennium Community (Great Places Housing
Group, n.d.). These schemes in many cases try to prevent or fix gaps between new
and existing neighbourhoods introducing lower housing densities similar to those
commonly experienced in suburban quarters. Terraced or semi-detached houses
are then built to replace massive estates, harmonising the redeveloped areas with the
prevailing typologies of the context. Besides improving the local market feedback,
this housing homogeneity attempts also to create a much more sustainable social and
income mix, developing so-called ‘tenure blind’ schemes that prevent the residents’
status from being identified by the type of dwelling. This particular design approach
has also been acknowledged by the private developers involved in mix tenured projects as a key factor to make these kinds of interventions commercially viable, since
the usual highly recognisable self-contained clusters of social housing can seriously
hinder the sales across the whole neighbourhood (Rowlands et al. 2006).
Despite some evident formal similarities, however, a rather more rational and
compact layout than the traditional suburbs helps many of these renovated quarters
reach overall higher housing densities and a better quality of the built environment
(Fig. 4.48). In addition to the large estates mentioned before, the typical and dispersive
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.48 CABE. Examples of guidance to get a better quality in the design of neighbourhoods
and a higher score according to the principles of Building for Life (CABE 2010b: 11. Courtesy of
enclosed cul-de-sac layouts are also being increasingly abandoned as well as those
based on the Radburn model, which impose a radical distinction between roads and
pedestrian paths, thus often producing scarcely frequented, isolated and unsafe
spaces (Fig. 4.48). Some prominent examples of this emerging design approach,
highlighted also by CABE (2011e, m), are St. Ann’s ward in Nottingham and Grove
Village (formerly Plymouth Grove) in Ardwick, Manchester, one of the first
interventions funded and managed by a private finance initiative (PFI) partnership.
The layout of St. Ann’s has been studied and remodelled by the city council with the
highly specialised advice of Space Syntax. The fronts and the backs of the houses
have been redesigned and sometimes even inverted to create direct access from
streets that were previously framed only by the blind walls of private gardens.
The regeneration strategy carried out in Grove Village by the Consortium faced
quite similar problems but had a much stronger physical impact as the adopted
masterplan required also to redevelop entire parts of the quarter. The outcome of
these interventions, in both cases, has been considered a success in social terms,
especially because of the involvement of local communities in the design process.
However, this favourable opinion does not seem to take into due consideration
the evident defeat in terms of overall urban quality. Large public green areas have
been in most cases fragmented, fenced and turned into private gardens, introducing
private see-through transition spaces here and there in front of some houses and new
streets provided with parking spaces. The provision of more defensible places, which
4.4 The Role of Housing: City Living, Communities and Places
in these kinds of neighbourhoods has become an absolute priority, has been almost
always achieved either by sacrificing (often privatising) large portions of public
space or by shrinking significantly its previous social and physical accessibility.
Antisocial behaviours – effective and potential – have been thus reduced at the cost
of an overall impoverishment of the actual usages and of the social potential of the
original spaces.
The habitual extensive patterns of green spaces and houses derived from the
garden city schemes have been replaced, in the innovative interpretations of the
original model, by a clearer and hierarchically defined structure of open spaces,
almost invariably combined with a neighbourhood layout made of compact
urban blocks. This outcome can be considered as an attempt to mediate between
urban and suburban design qualities. Housing typologies may vary according to
local specific densities – in the context of the Millennium Communities, for instance,
the amount of dwellings per hectare is higher in the Greenwich Village and much
lower in Allerton Bywater. Generally, though, the layouts of many new suburban
settlements are increasingly similar to those in the city centre as they have begun
to embrace basic design principles typical of the old urban quarters in line with the
new standards set by the government, the Planning Policy Guidance notes 1 and 3
and related manuals. These new neighbourhoods, besides providing new hubs
with community facilities, are carefully planned with a permeable built fabric, a
modulated transition between public, collective and private spaces and a defensible
public realm. Besides, the street network is quite often designed to incorporate
Home Zones.
These recent and more frequent similarities between new suburban and city centre
quarters, though, do not seem to have any influence on the type of new homes
delivered. The housing supply is still polarised, as the two contexts remain antithetical
and, to some extent, complementary: the dwellings built in the city centre over the
last years are mainly studio flats and one bedroom apartments – Park Central in
Birmingham being more the exception rather than the rule – while families with
children still prefer to live in low-density suburbs. This kind of neighbourhood is thus
structurally constrained by the market to supply standard typologies like terraced
and semi-detached houses. Yet there are two main factors that, as mentioned before,
open up these places to a wide range of architectural styles. While a traditional and
conservative demand, on one hand, makes the market offer vernacular styles, the
recent technological innovations, on the other hand, in their quest for more affordable
and ecological building systems, introduce new and increasingly appreciated
materials, dwelling layouts and design solutions, as for example those developed by
the Design for Manufacture and Carbon Challenge programmes. The outcomes of
the Design for Manufacture competition particularly testify to the range of possible
stylistic solutions deriving from the dynamic balance between market needs and
new building methods. The styles offered in the nine development sites across
England span from more common, ‘mimetic’ forms delivered, for example, in
Hastings to more experimental and courageous proposals like that carried out
in Oxley Park near Milton Keynes, where the new technical solutions designed to
increase energy efficiency – insulation materials, prefabricated components,
4 Elements of Design Strategy
air-recycling systems and solar panels – have been emphasised by the authors
(Richard Rogers Partnership and the developer Taylor Wimpey) through radically
new building shapes and colourful elevations (Fig. 3.5).
New Characters of the Urban Fabric
Analysing various strategic planning documents, especially the Urban Design
Frameworks, one can notice how often many urban design choices are deeply
influenced by, or sometimes even almost mechanistically derived from, the control
over visual aspects and landscape features of the built environment. Many Design
Statements, as already seen, are introduced by surveys that summarise theoretical
contributions from Kevin Lynch’s concept of urban imageability, Gordon Cullen’s
visual coherence and Jan Gehl’s studies on the structure of the public space. Even in
those documents that do not make any explicit references to these notable authors,
their design principles are frequently assumed indirectly from the ministerial
manuals and guidelines which are based on them. Therefore, the studies on the form
and massing of the urban blocks and the architectural guidelines set out in these
Supplementary Planning Documents are frequently supported by analytical and
normative frameworks that treat generally the following elements:
Visual perspectives to be ensured or reinforced
Heights of buildings
Existing and potential landmarks and gateways
Barriers to movement and most suitable routes
Hierarchy, architectural character and volumetric relationships of open spaces
Distribution of active frontages
The design approach based on the appearance and visual enjoyment of the
urban scene is rooted in the Anglo-Saxon planning culture of the last century,
from the City Beautiful movement of late 1800s to the Townscape Movement of
the 1960s (Porta 2002). Today, this particular attention to the aesthetical dimension
of planning has grown even further in England and has become a significant part
of the current urban renaissance policies. In fact, especially when compared to the
historical core of most European cities, the English city centres are frequently
disadvantaged by a dull and sometimes chaotic image, which is partly both a
cause and an effect of the post-war suburban trends. As already mentioned, the
ravages of the Second World War bombings, which have heavily impaired almost
everywhere the original compactness and clearness of the urban form, have been
followed and worsened by the damages created by the modernist and technicist
euphoria in the second half of the twentieth century. The reconstruction works
often rejected any continuities with the past and were marked by the overarching
presence of highways and car parks or huge modernist estates lacking any relationship with the context (Fig. 4.49).
4.5 New Characters of the Urban Fabric
Fig. 4.49 Hulme, Manchester. Aerial view of the crescents, demolished in the early 1990s
(Courtesy of www.exhulme.co.uk)
The aesthetic enhancement of the central areas, consequently, has the definition
of a new urban fabric as its fundamental premise. More than a Design Framework,
drawing a comparison between pre- and post-war urban tissues suggests, in the
first place, to repair or recover – also by demolishing some more recent constructions – the densities and boundaries of the ancient urban blocks, which are currently
dominated by large underused plots and isolated modern buildings without any
active frontages on the streets (Fig. 4.50). The frequent return to architectural
types and urban patterns characterised by an enclosed spatiality is among the
main and most evident outcomes of this approach. It is stimulated not only by the
restoration of the old pre-war urban form but also by a great number of ministerial
guidelines and design principles that are widely assumed through the manuals and
kept to the forefront, thanks to CABE’s informative work and advice (Figs. 4.51
and 4.52). The reasons behind the assumption of this particular morphological
solution – partially exposed in the previous descriptions – can be summarised in
four main topics:
– Streets and squares, which in many occasions are recommended as the foremost
elements of the urban design strategies, can be designed with highly recognisable
forms. Enclosed spaces allow also a better modulation and a clearer relationship
between public (external) and private (inner) spaces and their accesses.
– The layout of the urban spaces can be shaped more easily to create visual corridors,
gateways and edges that enhance the legibility of the context.
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.50 Hulme, Manchester. Evolution of the form and density of the urban blocks (Hulme
Regeneration Ltd. 1994: 16. Courtesy of MBLA Architects + Urbanists)
Fig. 4.51 Example drawn from the information contained in the 1999 report of the Urban Task
Force illustrating the relationship between density and form of settlements (Urban Task Force
1999: 62. Courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners)
4.5 New Characters of the Urban Fabric
Fig. 4.52 Example drawn from the information contained in the 1999 research report of the
Urban Task Force with the exemplification of design principles for the design of neighbourhoods
(Urban Task Force, 1999: 63. Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners)
– The public realm can be bordered by active frontages that, according also to the
context, help provide both more vital places and more defensible spaces which
are also easy to control informally, as recommended by the Design Out Crime
– Finally, the housing density can be amplified to meet the new standards set by the
national guidelines, increasing, at the same time, the permeability of the urban
fabric and improving the freedom and rapidity of movement that foster walking
and cycling.
The architects give different design interpretations of this return to an enclosed
spatiality of the urban blocks. Some of them, backward-looking and influenced
by the New Urbanism movement, propose a nostalgic and picturesque approach
reproducing directly urban layouts and architectural styles of the nineteenth century,
as, for example, in the famous and controversial case of Poundbury masterplanned
by Leon Krier (Fig. 4.40). At the other extreme instead, the example of the famous
BedZED housing development (Beddington Zero Energy Development) in London
shows some limitations of the design orthodoxy derived from the most modern
principles of energy efficiency. The pattern of new houses, arranged in parallel rows
facing south to maximise the thermal and energetic benefits of the sunlight, is almost
entirely independent of the architectural and morphological characters of the area
(such as the axis of London Road). The complex was designed in the abstract to
experiment a kind of urban fabric sample that could be theoretically replicated
everywhere, but the strong physical discontinuity with the context and the kind of
introverted urbanity that it proposes makes it actually almost a self-contained
enclave within the neighbourhood.
Many architects, though, have a much more balanced position. Without proposing
mechanistically architectural forms from the past, they try to keep and interpret
anew, using a contemporary language, some ancient yet everlasting design values
that can still give a new sense to places and that, in addition, can help respond to
some sustainability issues of our times.
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.53 Sheffield. Devonshire Quarter Action Plan 2000: Design Framework of the block
which will contain the West One building (Sheffield City Council 2000: 86. Courtesy of Sheffield
City Council)
The relationship between buildings and public or collective spaces in particular is
receiving a growing and more widespread attention both from architects and developers, thanks also to the extremely useful analysis of the potential layout of places
carried out at urban and neighbourhood scales by the city councils’ Supplementary
Planning Guidance (Fig. 4.53). The best architectural interventions characterised by
this particular care are generally, and not incidentally, the outcomes of comprehensive schemes regulated by a masterplan. A notable example, among many,26 is the
already mentioned Brewery Wharf development in Leeds. The multiuse complex
designed by the DLA Design Group, supported by a clear Urban Design Framework
prepared by the same authors, was conceived in close connection with the public realm
(Landscape Institute 2012). The street is enriched by two active ground floors and
defined by a continuous frontage; the waterfront footway on the opposite side of the
complex gives also public but controlled access to a couple of raised private gardens inside the collective courts of the houses. The inner core of the development
hosts two pedestrian public squares, the larger of which is shaped and enveloped by
the curve of a two-storey commercial building provided with bars, cafes, restaurants,
shops and spa. This square is also linked to the northern bank of the river through a
pedestrian bridge and has already become an important community hub both for the
neighbourhood and the whole city. It is one of the four main public spaces along the
River Aire that host the annual public events of the Leeds Waterfront Festival.
Interventions with a similar approach have been conducted, for example, also by cities such as
Manchester (Albion Mills; One Piccadilly Gardens), Nottingham (Lace Market Square; Trent
Basin), Newcastle (Waterloo Square; Times Square) and Liverpool (East Village).
4.5 New Characters of the Urban Fabric
Fig. 4.54 Sheffield. A view of public space in the courtyard of West One residential building.
Photo by Patrick Linsley
Design skills and circumstances, though, cannot always guarantee such good
control of the thresholds and an equally rich and diverse relationship between forms,
uses and access levels to open spaces. These urban design relations very often get
mechanistically simplified or made banal. In some less elaborate layouts, the courts
inside the blocks have passages and openings that create public yet intimate places
or sometimes even out-of-sight spaces, like in Sheffield’s West One complex
(Fig. 4.54), the Greenwich Millennium Village or in Birmingham’s Jupiter
Apartments. In some other cases, on the contrary (and also in the most recent developments), the enclosed spatiality is harnessed to deliver a rigid segregation between
public and private areas forming social enclaves quite similar to gated communities.
In Birmingham, for instance, the housing complexes of Symphony Court, King
Edwards Wharf and Liberty Place are made up of urban blocks that are completely
surrounded by a continuous and impenetrable frontage separating the street from
the inaccessible inner private space.
Among the various architectural consequences of this renovated design sensibility
towards the public space, one of the most symptomatic is the frequent adoption of
arcades, which are used sometimes to enrich the edges of shopping streets and
squares, sometimes to emphasise particular routes and sometimes to give the facades
a rhythmic continuity or to modulate the threshold between inner and external
spaces (Fig. 4.55). Alternatively, or in addition to colonnades, this kind of spatial
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.55 Exeter. View of the new central square and of a building of the Princesshay shopping
and leisure complex. Like in many other new buildings, the perimeter of the open public space is
defined by a colonnade (Photo by Paul Curtin, Panter Hudspith Architects)
transition is obtained using glass transparencies. The growing use of glazed ground
floors is also the result of the ‘active frontage’ policy of many planning guidelines.
This particular relationship with the public realm has sometimes been stressed to the
point that it has allowed or even imposed, like in Manchester’s Millennium Quarter,
to break up the usual inward character of the big-box stores, providing shops also
along the external perimeter of huge blocks.
The ancient vertical subdivision of uses, generally with flats and offices above
shops or public premises on the ground floor, is another recurring aspect of many
new developments. The planning guidelines of the city councils’ Local Development
Frameworks, promoting active frontage and a mix of uses, have encouraged some
developers, such as Urban Splash, Isis, Downing and Artisan Property Group, to
gradually specialise in these kind of interventions that, up until recently, were scarcely
appreciated by the real estate market (Coupland 1997). The commercial success of
some almost pioneering developments like the Mailbox complex in Birmingham,
which has now become a quite prominent case study, has highlighted the potential
benefits, including economic, of concentrating more activities in the same urban
area or even the same building. Along with some rare and more extreme cases like the
new complex The Cube – built a few metres from the Mailbox – where shops, bars,
restaurants, residential units, offices and a boutique hotel are all accommodated
4.5 New Characters of the Urban Fabric
inside one single block (Fig. 4.47), there is a growing interest, among architects and
developers, about the way the functional complexity can contribute to the urbanity
of places.
This trend can be also read as the outcome of the densification of the urban fabric
recommended by the government. The mounting quantity of dwelling units per
hectare and a subsequent tendency to urban development which is more vertical than
horizontal automatically intensifies the spatial proximity of related facilities, services
and other possible uses, as well as supporting the creation of suitable economies
of scale that make this mix economically viable. Higher housing densities, on the
other hand, might also be deleterious to the urban systems, for both their social and
mobility effects,27 if they were not diluted and made sustainable through a carefully
balanced distribution of functions within the quarters. This is why many planning
policies promoting sustainable mixed-use neighbourhoods, besides defending and
fostering the vitality of places, try to support a development model based on the urban
village concept, that is, as we have seen, an urban community where homes, workplaces, shops, services and public spaces are close enough and smartly disseminated
so as to be easily and rapidly accessible by foot or cycle.
Sometimes, the sharp contrast between old and new dense urban tissues, emphasised by their close proximity inside the compact pattern of enclosed 1800s style
city blocks, can be particularly jarring. This is a further reason why the control over
the heights and massing of buildings, which are generally analysed by the Urban
Design Frameworks, is primarily tackled, as mentioned before, from a landscape
perspective and according to the legibility of the context. The location of prominent
buildings, which are usually assigned gateway or landmark roles, is planned in
relation to existing or potential views (Fig. 4.56). CABE, together with English
Heritage, on a couple of occasions has also briefly made some considerations and
given advice about high-rise buildings in central areas. The two public bodies do not
seem to have any reservations or prejudices about their presence; indeed, this is
accepted as the necessary consequence of the higher densities requested by the
government. Rather, their attention focuses on the architectural and technological
quality of the buildings, on their connections with the public transport system and
the context, especially when they are expected to be built next to some conservation
areas (CABE and English Heritage 2003, 2007). Many local authorities have also
adopted specific design guidelines, but in fact, it is not infrequent for the prescriptions of the Supplementary Planning Documents to be disregarded both by developers and council officers. In Birmingham, for example, the ‘103 Colmore Row’ new
office skyscraper designed by Hamiltons for British Land will replace an existing
brutalist tower block in one of the 30 conservation areas of the city: that site,
obviously, was not even mentioned by the specific local guidance on tall buildings
‘High Places’ (Birmingham City Council 2003). The rules given by the city councils
on high-rise buildings can be sometimes too fragile and easily overwhelmed by real
estate market forces. The design guidance of Leeds on skyscrapers, for instance,
See, for example, the studies by Ferguson and Woods (2010) and Bramley et al. (2010).
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.56 Sheffield. City Centre Urban Design Compendium: example of urban landscape analysis
for the location of areas suitable to accommodate high buildings (Image courtesy of Gillespies.
gives a retroactive assent to some existing high-rise buildings, justifying them on the
basis of a quite shaky design strategy (Unsworth and Smales 2010). The bargaining
power of the developers is increased by the considerable economic returns to the
city and the favourable image derived generally from this kind of interventions.
Skyscrapers are in fact among those iconic constructions often considered as indispensable requisites by every major city around the world. Their unquestionable impact
on media is deemed so important that many local authorities are not prepared to do
without, even when it means, sometimes, turning more than a blind eye to the correct
implementation of the planning guidance and permitting the construction of these
types of buildings in sensitive character areas, as in the case, for example, of the
Beetham Tower in Manchester.
In many English urban regeneration strategies, iconic buildings are often proposed
as abstract, a priori design categories without specifying their nature and character.
The presence, the position and the urban design role of these architectural freaks are
suggested theoretically, and sometimes even without any real ideas about their uses,
4.5 New Characters of the Urban Fabric
to act as a kind of super-landmark – a highly attractive hub inside the urban pattern.
In some cases, which are often taken as models, the peculiar architectural form of
an iconic building has actually captured the public imagination and that of the
citizens, contributing to the touristic and commercial success of an area or of a
whole city, like the Bullring mall in Birmingham, the Lowry cultural centre in
Salford or the Sage music centre in Gateshead. Nevertheless, there are also many
cases where this strategy has had limited or no success at all. The failures are generally
due to the excessive ambition of these schemes, whose sophisticated eccentricities
have sometimes such high construction and maintenance costs that it is either impossible to build them or to keep them in activity without a suitable amount of customers
(usually visitors). Will Alsop’s mixed-use iconic building ‘the Cloud’ should have
originally added a landmark on the Liverpool Pier Head. The scheme won a 2002
architectural competition to build the so-called Fourth Grace beside the three existing
monumental listed buildings along the waterfront, but it was then cancelled in
2004 as it became too expensive. A subsequent scheme detached the museum from
the residential and commercial functions, splitting the originally planned multiuse
construction into four distinct buildings.28 Even though the current development has
squandered the potential of the site29 rejecting the great opportunity to complete the
waterfront with a fourth single landmark building of strong symbolic value, this last
solution looks, notwithstanding its numerous limits, a little less alien to the context
than the previous.
Similarly, in Southampton, the three sail-shaped high-rise buildings planned by
Terry Farrell and Partners for Watermark West Quay – which still survive in the logo
of the local partnership ‘Southampton Connect’ – have been abandoned in favour of
a much simpler hotel tower designed by Foreign Office Architects (Fig. 2.5).
In Leeds, the financial impossibility of developing the Spiracle Tower planned by
Make architects has also made worthless, retrospectively, the sacrifice of the highly
accessible central public pool, which had been relocated near to the South Leeds
Stadium expressly to make space for the new skyscraper.
The failures of Sheffield’s National Centre for Popular Music designed by Nigel
Coates, closed down only 1 year after its inauguration (Fig. 3.9), and of ‘The Public’
cultural centre designed by Will Alsop in West Bromwich also show how it is pernicious
to rely on these oases in the desert assuming that they will suffice, especially by virtue
of their showy or odd appearance, in improving the condition of a place or an entire
quarter. From this point of view, a more interesting and appropriate use of iconic
structures, such as large sculptures or bridges, is that meant to make evident and
denote a positive change occurring also in less central urban areas. The new Hulme
Arch Bridge in Manchester on Princess Road, for example, has given visibility to the
The Mann Island Apartments have been designed by Broadway Malyan for Neptune Developments
and Countryside Properties. The Danish firm 3XN are the authors of the Museum of Liverpool.
Wayne Colquhoun, spokesman of the Liverpool Preservation Trust, expressed a severe opinion
about this scheme: ‘This is the biggest risk to Liverpool’s skyline since Goering sent the Luftwaffe
over in 1943’ (Coslett 2006).
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.57 Hulme, Manchester. View of two iconic landmarks: the Beetham Tower in the background;
in the foreground stands the Hulme Arch Bridge over Birchall Way (Photo by Richard Holden)
‘City Challenge’ regeneration process30 of Hulme developed during the 1990s. This
iconic bridge, opened in 1997, is characterised by a huge and highly visible supporting arch that marks, with its presence, the restoration of Stretford Road, the quarter’s
main street brought back to its original vitality (Fig. 4.57). Finally, there are some
strategies, like that of Newcastle, that are well aware of the limited capacities of
iconic structures and that, on the contrary, stress the importance of a minimum quality standard for all places: ‘iconic structures can be powerful tools for branding and
changing a place’s image. More attention needs to be given to the places in-between,
the ordinary places where daily life and business happen’ (1NG 2010: 90). It is in
Britain’s ordinary places – observes CABE (2010c) – that the consequences from a
shrinking public purse, climate change and weak civic engagement will be most
keenly felt. The solutions to these problems will also come from ordinary places.
The solutions do not need to be spectacular or eye-catching. They need to be
pragmatic, sensible and place-based. If they are, they can work.
City Challenge was a national regeneration scheme based on a competitive bidding process.
It began in 1991 and introduced a new season in the English regeneration policies after the property led initiatives of the 1980s (Tallon 2010). The programme in Hulme was implemented by the
public-private partnership Hulme Regeneration Ltd which prepared a masterplan and a development design guide, edited by Urbed (Hulme Regeneration Ltd 1994). The physical character of the
quarter has been transformed radically, especially by replacing the four huge infamous crescents
with a new network of public spaces and a pattern of enclosed urban blocks.
4.6 Urbanity of Places and Public Realm
Urbanity of Places and Public Realm
The design of the public realm has become a central issue of the ongoing renaissance
process. Both in the recovery of the existing urban fabric and in the development of
new quarters or settlements, the central role of public spaces is possibly one of the
clearest and most visible effects of the British new season in urban policies which
has been dominating the last decade. Its importance has been acknowledged at
almost all levels, ranging from the wider urban framework down to the single private smaller development. The main role played by the public realm within the
transformation strategies of some cultural quarters has already been stressed, as
well as its fundamental contribution to the redevelopment of industrial waterfronts
and central retail districts.
The high interest aroused by this topic explains the increasing concern about the
good design of streets, squares and parks shown by almost all local authorities in their
planning documents – from Urban Strategic Frameworks to Area Action Plans – as
well as the frequent adoption of Supplementary Planning Documents meant especially to define the structure and character of open spaces. As already mentioned, in
addition to the widespread Urban Design Guides and Urban Design Frameworks,
some even more specific kinds of documents are frequently prepared, like the Public
Realm Strategy or the Streetscape Strategy, which focus in detail on the taxonomy,
forms, uses, dimensions, features, materials, managing and maintenance methods of
streets and squares (Fig. 4.58).
Fig. 4.58 An example of Public Realm Strategy: an analysis of pedestrian routes and spaces in
Liverpool’s city centre (Liverpool Vision 2005: 11. Courtesy of Liverpool Vision)
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.59 Nottingham. Overview of the public realm network of the centre with the programmed
interventions (Nottingham City Council 2005: 10. Courtesy of Nottingham City Council)
Together with the renewal of existing squares and streets, sometimes already
converted into pedestrian areas like Greater Williamson Square in Liverpool or Old
Market Square in Nottingham, the creation of new public spaces has by now become
a recurring and almost unavoidable element in many urban regeneration projects.
Nottingham’s City Centre Masterplan, for instance, has planned the creation and
enhancement of 22 squares, in addition to the 9 previously delivered (Fig. 4.59).
Many larger developments, planned to build most visible and attractive places,
integrate the design of the public realm with the architectural layout of new buildings, as in the Pierhead and Kings Dock waterfronts in Liverpool, in Manchester’s
Millennium Quarter or the recent initiatives in Salford at MediaCityUK and
Greengate. Squares and open spaces, in the best examples, are not only, or simply,
designed to complement or connect with their surroundings. Their role is no less
important than that of the buildings they come with. The attractiveness of some
major functions is often not enough, by itself, to create vital and viable places if
4.6 Urbanity of Places and Public Realm
Fig. 4.60 Millennium Square, Bristol (Photo by Matt Buck)
those uses are not combined with open spaces which are equally able to become
important relational hubs. Open spaces are emphasised as protagonists, or at least as
co-stars, of the developments, as many Millennium Projects can demonstrate, such
as Times Square at the International Centre for Life in Newcastle or the Millennium
Squares outside Explore@Bristol Museum in Bristol (Fig. 4.60) and the Millennium
Gallery in Sheffield.
New squares are provided not only within the most important developments in
the city centre but are often also disseminated in the urban fabric, through many
minor interventions, to create more foci. Concert Square in Liverpool shows how a
well-designed public space can bring economic benefits even to ordinary real estate
investments. It is a private open space of quite limited dimensions created in 1995
on a small brownfield site by the developer Urban Splash, who abstained from
building on a part of the available parcel. The new square, which soon became a
highly frequented public space, not only allowed to make the whole site and the
overall investment more valuable,31 but it has also been taken as a model by the
municipality when they started to plan the refurbishment of the entire Ropewalk
Urban Village (Biddulph 2010) (Fig. 4.61).
The demand for public spaces supporting the growing diffusion of squares and the
high importance attached by real estate and city marketing sectors to the image of
quality deriving from a well-designed public realm are sometimes so overwhelming
The scheme won, among others, the 1996 RIBA Award for Architecture and the 1997 BURA
(British Urban Regeneration Association) Best Practice Award in Urban Regeneration Association
(Urban Splash 2008).
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.61 Concert Square, Liverpool. An example of a public space delivered by a private developer
(Photo by Sean Robertson)
as to cause a sort of glut of projects, worried more about the quantity and aesthetical
appearance of offer than about their real contribution to the overall urbanity of
places. By paving and redesigning even just small open spaces saved from car
traffic or carved out of the dense fabric of blocks, embellished with the aid of new
materials and street furniture, what are actually marginal, low-profile places are thus
promoted, and as such advertised, to the status of ‘public realm’. Many examples
can testify to this trend, such as Hewitt Place and Ropewalks’ eponymous square in
Liverpool, or the refurbished roundabout in Newcastle dominated by the 55 Degrees
North residential building, which resulted from the profitable conversion of an old
commercial estate,32 or the three squares designed by Terry Farrell in East Quayside
without any actual connection with the rest of the city.
The quality of the public realm – as the World Squares for All33 programme promoted by the Government Office for London had well summarised as early as
The public realm has been carefully designed by Colour: Urban Design Ltd studio, who has
created a square – privately owned but freely accessible – animated by a bar and other activities
hosted at the ground floor of the building. This renewal, which involved also the use of sculptures,
gave a major and almost essential contribution to the success of the whole real estate investment
(CABE 2011a).
The programme had been initially divided into three phases. After pedestrianising Trafalgar
Square, completed in 2003 according to Foster and Partners’ plans, the renewal works have never
continued because of the missed re-election of Mayor Ken Livingstone who originally supported
the initiative (GLA 2008; Henley 2008).
4.6 Urbanity of Places and Public Realm
1996 – represents one of the most significant subjects where the competitiveness
and sustainability strategies of the government converge. While adding up
successfully to the general attractiveness of cities and their internally and externally
perceived image, by virtue of its public dimension, it contributes to the quality of
life and the sense of belonging of all citizens. The multidimensional role of public
spaces has been also put at the heart of the ‘liveability’ concept proposed by the
government in 2003, following the document ‘Sustainable communities: building for
the future’ (ODPM 2003), through the Liveability Fund which helped local authorities with the maintenance and improvement of the public realm.34
The conflict between the degrading predominance of transports and the complex
richness of possible improvements on the vitality of places is a crucial question in
present regeneration projects. Stimulated also by CABE (CABE and ODPM 2002)
and the last manuals covering these topics35 – often looking at the best examples
from north Europe – the work carried out during these years, where it did not
provide, in specific cases, the complete removal of vehicular traffic from public
spaces, has often tended to rebalance the presence of different kinds of usages,
giving priority to pedestrians. The regeneration of Grainger Town, the central retail
and commercial quarter of Newcastle, adopted some new and less usual traffic
calming measures, requiring a quite complex coordination between many departments, while Maid Marian Way in Nottingham, which was voted in 2002 one of
Britain’s worst streets (CABE 2011i), has undergone an exemplar improvement
with a greater attention to the presence of pedestrians and the appearance of the
public realm.36
Redesigned according to this approach, streets and squares are enhanced through
the provision of different materials and the enlargement of pedestrian surfaces,
saved from the car traffic, and are often enriched by the presence of benches, trees
and sometimes even sculptures. The renewal of some significant places inside
Liverpool’s Knowledge Quarter, carried out during the preparatory works for the
European Capital of Culture 2008, gives a good example of this renovated attention
to the design and role of streets and squares (CABE 2011f). The pavements of Hope
Street, wherever possible, have been enlarged and repaved, and some particular
tracts – such as the entrance to the Philharmonic Hall or the intersection with Mount
Street – have been carefully conceived by the designers of Camlins studio as resting
places for people passing by (Fig. 4.62). The university precinct, at the northern end
Later, with ‘The State of the English Cities’ report (ODPM 2006), liveability has then been
measured trying to sum up a series of parameters taken from the large and articulate national
monitoring system. This index, made of 13 indicators, is aimed mainly at defining the quality of
places, variously interpreted in their environmental, physical, functional and social aspects.
‘Places, Streets and Movement’ published in 1998 (DETR 1998) and the more recent ‘Manual
for Streets’ published in 2007 (DfT 2007) are among the most important manuals distributed by
the government. In addition to ‘Paving the Way’, CABE has also realised a couple of brief guides:
‘Transforming Our Streets’ (CABE 2006b) and ‘This Way to Better Streets’ (CABE 2007b).
This intervention is one of CABE’s online case studies, also available in ‘This Way to Better
Streets’ (CABE 2007b).
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.62 Hope Street, Liverpool. In the foreground stands the John King’s installation/sculpture
A Case History dedicated to famous citizens and artists who lived in Liverpool (Courtesy of
of Hope Street, has been provided with a new pedestrian square at its heart (University
Square), linking the new pedestrian spine of Bedford St. North with that of Ashton
Street. A further square (Hope Square), which will provide a primary urban hub and
a welcoming gateway to the University of Liverpool from Hope Street, is planned
also in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral, where the present junction should be
redesigned, widening the pedestrian surfaces, improving the streetscape and reducing the amount of traffic.
The benefits to the environmental sustainability brought by the presence of public
spaces are quite evident and direct when the public realm framework, considered as
a network of mostly or fully pedestrian places, is part of an urban mobility strategy
aimed at reducing car traffic in favour of a well-connected public transit system.
The intention of becoming wholly ‘walkable’, ‘cycle friendly’ or just transforming
accordingly considerable parts of the city centre – apart from the shopping precincts
which are generally already free from car traffic – has been expressed more or less
directly by various cities, as Birmingham, Leeds37 or Nottingham (Fig. 4.63). The
In Leeds, the public realm regeneration programme for the city centre, aimed at contrasting the
competition from suburban shopping malls, had started back in the 1990s through the Landmark
Leeds programme edited by Faulkner Browns Architects. Recently, a free map has been realised
for those who want to move on foot through the city centre (City Centre Leeds, n.d.).
4.6 Urbanity of Places and Public Realm
Fig. 4.63 Birmingham. Map of the existing and planned infrastructures intended to make the city
‘walkable’ (Birmingham City Council 2010: 28–29. Courtesy of Birmingham City Council)
latter in particular has quite recently planned its mobility policies by integrating a
couple of initiatives. In 2005, the municipality launched the first phase of the Turning
Point programme, a project aimed at rationalising and reducing the access of cars to
the city centre in favour of pedestrians and public transport (Nottingham City
Council 2010). At the metropolitan level of Greater Nottingham, the council has
adopted a sustainable mobility plan – The Big Wheel – which draws together, in a
coordinated strategy, different manners of transport alternatives to the private car.
It is also noteworthy that the ‘Transport Strategy’ of the city, in an attempt to treat
this issue with the necessary complexity, has also included a chapter on the ‘quality
of life’ in which, significantly, the importance of a good-quality public realm has
been stressed and linked also to other planning policies concerning urban safety and
access to primary services (Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County
Council 2006).
A similar attempt to plan mobility and accessibility comprehensively, considering
the transport system from a wider design perspective, was also made by Bristol in
4 Elements of Design Strategy
late 1990s, with the Bristol Legible City initiative. Following that kind of visual
approach in planning that has already been described, the city council prepared one
of the first comprehensive and integrated strategies to improve the visual experience
of a city centre (Kelly 2001). The City ID design studio, who collaborated on this
project and drew together urbanists, information planners and designers, has developed a specific expertise in this field taking further commissions from other English
cities. Many other local authorities in fact, following the example of Bristol, have
commissioned special studies and projects to improve the legibility of the city form
and help citizens and tourists find their way easily, encouraging people to walk and
use public transport.
The recovery of the urbanity and the relational capacity of places are carried out
inevitably, especially in the inner areas, by dismantling in the first place the worst
results of engineers’ town planning orthodoxies of the 1960s. In many cases, the
actions already implemented and planned not only have the purpose of reducing
the overwhelming presence of cars but also of attempting, in so doing, to improve
the appearance of the urban landscape inherited from those years. This is generally
strongly marked by a technological emphasis in the design of infrastructures, with
a strict separation between pedestrians – pushed down into dark subways or up
onto footbridges – and cars. The streets, reduced to the simple role of traffic
channels running through the city core, have often been built on different levels or
converted into motorway junctions. Queen Square in Bristol, an excellent typical
Georgian square of the eighteenth century, represents an emblematic case of this
kind of renewal. It was disfigured in 1936 when a part of the inner ring road had
been driven diagonally through the green space, literally cutting it into two different
parts. Only in 1997 did the council start to restore its original integrity, making it
one of the most characteristic places of the city (CABE 2011l) (Fig. 4.64). Castle
Square in Sheffield has also undergone a similar renewal after being converted
during the 1970s to a roundabout hosting an underground mall. Thanks to the new
design of the public realm, crossed by the new Supertram, the square, originally a
marketplace, has again become a central node of the pedestrian pattern which dominates the street network in this part of the city centre. The aforementioned demolition of the Masshouse Circus in Birmingham, and its replacement with a treed
boulevard, is perhaps one of the most representative interventions of this radical
change in street design conception and was taken as an example by neighbouring
Coventry.38 Similarly sensational is, in Bristol, the Redcliffe Urban Village project. Its
masterplan, published in 2006 as a Supplementary Planning Document, has planned
This example has been followed by Coventry in two cases: the redesign of the Northern Ringway
(originally planned in the 1999 ‘Urban Design Study’ but never implemented (Urban Initiatives
1999)) and the redevelopment of Friargate, presently dominated by a two-level junction which is
planned to be demolished to better connect this area to the city centre through green and pedestrian
routes. It is noteworthy that the description of the intervention on the developer’s website mentions
‘…vibrant streets with retail/restaurant/bar units’ (Cannon Kirk Homes, n.d.): a level of urbanity
which is increasingly used in advertising new developments.
4.6 Urbanity of Places and Public Realm
Fig. 4.64 Queen Square, Bristol. View of the ancient square, which until recently was split by a
major traffic road: today, it has been restored to its original integrity (Photo by Sophie Penney)
to recreate the ancient medieval pattern of the area by narrowing back to their
original width some old streets which had been broadened after the Second
World War to accommodate heavy traffic39 (Bristol City Council 2006). Many
urban voids scattered through the city centre, previously used for parking, are experiencing a similar conversion, becoming pedestrian squares. It is the case, for example, of Tudor Square in Sheffield or Royal Armouries Square and Millennium
Square in Leeds.
From a social sustainability perspective, there is a widespread awareness of how
the presence and quality of the public realm, acting as a cohesion driver, can help
the civil coexistence of people, especially when it is planned following an inclusive
design approach, a subject that has been treated in several publications also edited
by CABE (2006a).40 The inclusive design focuses on the accessibility of disabled
This is the case of the Finzels Reach development designed by Sheppard Robson for HDG
Mansur Properties, Inc. and of Redcliffe Village, currently under construction, developed by
Carlyle. In this case, there were also some arguments because some of the agreements between the
developer and the local community (Redcliffe Futures Group) set out in black and white in the
2006 masterplan have not been respected (Rcoulter 2009).
See also Rita Newton and Marcus Ormerod (2007); TCPA and CLG (2009) and LDA (2010).
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.65 South Lynn Millennium Community. Plan of the settlement: the sequence of buildings,
services and public spaces which help connect the old quarter with the new has been put in evidence
(Courtesy of Morston Assets e LSI Architects)
people and, more generally, has the objective of removing any physical or social
obstacles which hamper the free and complete enjoyment of public spaces, making
it more accessible to people from any age, race or status. The already mentioned
example of South Lynn Millennium Community, near King’s Lynn, stresses particularly the role of the public realm – a park and playfield areas for children – delivered
with schools and other neighbourhood facilities, in helping to create new foci in the
suburbs where none existed and relational hubs where existing and new communities
can meet (Fig. 4.65). The strengthening of a sense of community can bring a further
implication, concerning the participation policies. According to the Telford
Millennium Village programme, for instance, the management of the new public
spaces has been put under the control of the Telford Millennium Community Trust,
a local association of residents created especially for this purpose. This approach is
becoming quite a new trend in England: a study made by CABE and the Asset
4.6 Urbanity of Places and Public Realm
Transfer Unit41 has revealed that several local authorities have already transferred
parts of their public space assets to local groups while many others are considering
to do the same (CABE 2010a). These local communities are often organised as
Development Trusts, not-for-profit organisations of residents committed to the
social, economic and cultural improvement of their neighbourhoods (Wilcox 1998;
Locality 2011).
Mostly spread across wide suburban districts, the presence of parks is often quite
poor in the central areas of major cities, where the public realm, even when newly
introduced, has more mineral than vegetal characteristics. Actually, while well-designed
pedestrian squares and streets are relatively easy to promote even in private initiatives,
as in some urban shopping malls, the delivery of good-quality green spaces – with the
considerable exception of Liverpool One – is almost always left to the public sector, the
only one which can bear the high maintenance costs and put together the larger surfaces
required than those generally available in single private developments.
Park City, a part of Birmingham’s Eastside project, is one of the few projects
promoted by a Core City to plan a park of a certain consistence in the central area,
conceived as the main spine of the new settlement. It is highly significant though
that, since the first proposals, the green area, which had been the subject of an
international design competition in 2006, has gradually shrunk (Fig. 4.32). It is also
worth noting that the need for this park, indicated as the larger green space in the
city centre since the last 125 years, is justified by the city council not in ecological
terms but rather for its economic and social return, highlighting how its presence,
which is expected to attract many citizens and tourists, will help improve the image of
the city and attract investments, residents and jobs (Birmingham City Council 2012).
Parks are in many cases acknowledged a social value which is no less important
than their environmental contribution. Green spaces, as Sheffield’s City Centre
Masterplan acknowledges by stressing their paucity, are considered by the ‘city
living’ policies as fundamental facilities to meet important family needs and, as
such, are essential to making the housing market more sustainable and extending
the residential offer to a wider range of dwellers.
Moreover, the quality of the public realm, no less than that of buildings and of
other amenities offered by the city, clearly gives evidence of both the renewal taking
place in those areas, subject to regeneration processes, and the management capacity
of local authorities. On many occasions, the investments made to improve the public
spaces contributed also to the economic sustainability and competitiveness of the
whole project. For Millennium Square in Leeds, for instance, research has estimated
that the redevelopment cost of £12m paid by the council together with the Millennium
Commission has generated a £150m investment from the public and private sectors
(Renaissance Leeds 2006). Similarly, the already mentioned research works carried
out by CABE on the value of urban design have proved the greater economic
The Asset Transfer Unit helps local groups to build and manage their own community spaces.
The organisation is directed and managed by Locality – the national network for community-led
organisations – in association with Community Matters and the Local Government Association. It is
funded by Communities and Local Government.
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.66 Birmingham, Brindleyplace. Photo of brindleyplace square at the heart of the regenerated
brownfield site. Photo of Craig Spivey)
desirability of developments characterised by a particular attention to the public
realm, such as Barbirolli Square in Manchester or Brindleyplace in Birmingham
(CABE and DETR 2001) (Fig. 4.66). In the latter case, in particular, the central
square of the new quarter, built together with the neighbouring National Indoor
Arena and the International Conference Centre in advance of the commercial
buildings which now frame it, had been used as an extraordinary promotional tool
to market the whole real estate operation, which has in fact become a well-known
case study (Latham and Swenarton 1999).
The use of the public realm as a means for adding value often implies phasing
strategies where the creation or renewal of squares and streets come before anything else. This choice has been made, for example, also in the case of Manchester’s
two neighbouring quarters of New Islington and Ancoats. In New Islington, Old
Mill Street, which until a decade ago was just an anonymous secondary distribution road, has been improved using new materials and providing new seats.
Designed as a hybrid between square and street, it is going to be flanked by retail
premises and other services. Together with the new Cotton Field Park, opened in
2011, Old Mill Street has been conceived as the main public space aimed at nurturing the Millennium Community, setting a new focus – like in South Lynn – also for
the neighbouring quarters, to which it helps connect (Fig. 4.67).42 The park and
The works have been managed and sponsored by English Partnerships, which also made use of
money coming from the European Regional Development Fund.
4.6 Urbanity of Places and Public Realm
Fig. 4.67 Old Mill Street in Manchester between New Islington and Miles Platting (Photo by
Campbell Mitchell)
square, which have been delivered before any other large interventions, between
2005 and 2008 hosted the New Islington Urban Folk Festival. Ancoats Urban
Village’s Canal Square, designed by Camlins studio according to the Public Realm
Strategy edited in 2001 by the same authors, marks one of the entrances to the
quarter with the intention of making clear, to those passing through the busy Great
Ancoats Street, the type and quality of the ongoing renewal. Because of its marketing role, the renovation of this space has been set as a priority within the
overall regeneration strategy of the area. The emphasis placed on the design of this
space, principally adorned with quite elaborated seats, seems to clash with its evident marginal position. Cutting Room Square, on the contrary, obtained by demolishing some old buildings at the heart of the quarter, stood out quickly as Ancoats’
main square, although in this case, it has also been delivered in advance of those
buildings and activities which should make it a vital place. Its inauguration, which
was largely supported by the local community, has been a much followed event
and surely an efficient means of communication of the renewal which is taking
place in the area (Fig. 4.15).
The idea that the public realm can act as an important visiting card for the city
to investors, tourists and local visitors is also at the basis of the renovation of some
important urban gateways, that is, the main roads leading to the city centre and the
railway stations. While the street networks of shopping districts, urban villages and
cultural quarters are designed mostly or exclusively for pedestrian enjoyment and
4 Elements of Design Strategy
to enhance, through their form and materials, the architectural character of the
context, the intervention planned, or already implemented, on motorways like
Jennens Road in Birmingham, St. James Boulevard in Newcastle or the already
mentioned Maid Marian Way in Nottingham aims firstly to domesticate those kind
of infrastructures bringing them back from their metropolitan dimension to a more
measured urbanity. Wider pavements, tree rows, more pedestrian crossings, less
invasive signs and removal of flyovers are generally new design elements for this
kind of roads.
Liverpool’s 2000 Strategic Regeneration Framework recommended some
interventions for the Lime Street Station area both to reconfigure the junction
with Churchill Way, where the flyovers should be removed, and to renovate the
entrance to the station (Liverpool Vision 2000). The redesign of the latter proceeded by demolishing, also in this circumstance, some features from the 1960s
which have been disfiguring this place for years – a residential block with a retail
appendix at the ground floor. The beautiful Victorian façade, formerly hidden
behind the low retail premises, has been restored, and the station opens now onto
a pedestrian public space, studied by Glenn Howels Architects. Ramps and stairs
bridge the gap between the entrance level and the street, merging the new square
with St. George’s Plateau (Fig. 4.68). The renewal of Sheaf Square in Sheffield
was just as dramatic. The square, formerly a roundabout and parking area, has
been converted into a pedestrian space dominated by the cascades of a large
fountain, which also links different ground levels. A long ribbon-like sculpture
made of stainless steel (named Cutting Edge), besides celebrating with its form
and material the city’s industrial past, has been placed to protect the square from
the heavy traffic of the nearby road (Fig. 4.69). The latter has been redesigned
using a traffic calming approach which, in addition to enhancing its aesthetic
appearance, allowed it to strengthen the pedestrian continuity of the street network which leads to the central quarters. Also, in 2009 Birmingham’s central
station, a massive plate of low architectural quality suspended over a large underground rail yard in the middle of the city centre, after many difficulties succeeded in starting its renovation plan, designed by Foreign Office Architects.
The scheme, which is going to radically renovate the external appearance and the
interiors of the huge building, knits together the points of contact between the
station and its surroundings, linking the station to the main pedestrian routes of
the city centre and renovating its pivotal urban role within the city cente.
The improvement of the pedestrian network, besides supporting a sustainable
kind of mobility and increasing the cohesion between different parts of the city,
can also work as a formidable trait d’union between significant urban episodes,
contributing to higher footfalls and to the economic success of a whole district.
Birmingham, by creating a pedestrian spine from east to west from Brindleyplace
to the Bullring shopping mall, already proposed by the American studio LDR at the
Highbury Initiative in 1988, has been among the first cities which offered a
model for regenerating the city centre based on a similar connection between places
(Vescovi 2006) (Figs. 4.70 and 4.71).
4.6 Urbanity of Places and Public Realm
Figs. 4.68–4.69–4.70 Some examples of renewal of railway stations and their external public
spaces. From top: Liverpool Lime Street Station (Photo by Paul McMullin, courtesy of Glenn
Howells Architects); Sheaf Square, Sheffield (Photo by Ken Hawley); Birmingham New Street
Station (rendering) (Courtesy of AZPA)
Sheffield’s urban design strategy, as formerly recalled, has planned three thematic
routes. The existing Gold Route, conceived in 1994 as a connection between the two
university precincts, leads across the city centre from east – the new station square – to
the University of Sheffield’s Devonshire Green in the west, linking together all
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.71 Sheffield. Plan of the Gold Route and of the main public spaces linked by the pedestrian
route (Courtesy of Sheffield City Council)
the most significant places. The Steel Route should strengthen the north–south
series of public spaces from the new southern commercial district at The Moor to
the northern quarters of Burngreave and Sharrow across the river. And the Blue
Route, as already seen, will be part of the restoration strategy for the industrial
waterways. Similarly, the Brunel Mile in Bristol has been designed to link several
significant public spaces through the city centre from east to west, from the railway
station to the new activities hosted by the renovated Harbourside. The renewal of
Nelson Street, which is going to enhance the pedestrian accessibility, will have a
strategic role in ensuring a connection between the regenerating harbour
(Harbourside), the ancient medieval heart and the Broadmead retail quarter, which
has just been improved with new paving and completed with the new Cabot Circus
shopping mall.
The Phoenix Initiative in Coventry is perhaps among the most interesting
experiences of this kind of strategy. Besides creating new jobs and contributing to
spur investments from the private sector, it stands presently as a reference for a
further upgrading of the town centre. It is possibly the first phase of a series of other
urban regeneration initiatives, comprising the extension of the university campus,
and the ambitious Swanswell Initiative – a large regeneration scheme which included
the second phase of the Phoenix Initiative – as well as the whole reconfiguration of
a large area of the retail core. The project, implemented in three phases between
1997 and 2004 following the masterplan studied by MacCormac Jamieson Prichard,
consists of a sequence of public spaces conceived metaphorically as a journey from
the past to the future of the city, from the cathedral’s place – enhanced also by a new
square before the new wing of the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum – to the Garden
of International Friendship. The four gardens and two squares flow one into the
4.6 Urbanity of Places and Public Realm
Fig. 4.72 Priory Place, Coventry. View of the new square (Photo by Joe D. Miles (Image Capture))
other without interruption by means of a long pedestrian causeway and the recurring
presence of sculptures and white stone chippings. Millennium Place, the larger
public space, has been designed to host major urban events, while Priory Place, built
in place of a multi-storey car park, is framed by a complex of buildings hosting,
besides offices and shops at the ground floor, the first residential units ever built in the
city centre since its reconstruction. The new gardens,43 which present a quite elaborate
layout, have been designed as places for remembrance and meditation. Meanwhile,
the public realm framework has promoted the integration between urban design and
public art, under the supervision of the Public Art Commission Agency (PACA),
which was responsible for the Public Arts Strategy (CABE 2011k).
The enrichment of the public realm through an artistic approach is a major
element also in Leicester’s Cultural Quarter. In this case, the pavements, on the
basis of the CQart programme, have been studied so as to embed descriptions
and thread icons designed by the people of Leicester through community- and
school-based workshops (Leicester Print Workshop) held in 2007 with the collaboration of some artists. The overall objective of the CQart programme was the creation
of a coherent and recognisable space with its own identity. Besides working with the
pavements, the strategy has promoted artistic installations – some of them were also
in this case the result of workshops with residents and children – in specific places
of the quarter (Leicester City Council, n.d.) (Figs. 4.72 and 4.73).
Priory Gardens; Priory Cloister; Lady Herbert’s Garden; Garden of International Friendship.
4 Elements of Design Strategy
Fig. 4.73 Gateshead. The
Angel of the North, gigantic
sculpture by Antony Gormley
(Photo by Tony Hisgett)
The use of sculpture and public art to renovate the public realm intermingles
very often with the renewal strategies of many places. The cooperation of local
artists and craftsmen in designing public places has become through time an
increasingly consolidated practice based on the idea that the urban regeneration
should also celebrate the place’s identity and the local culture. Antony Gormley’s
gigantic statue of the Angel of the North, erected in Gateshead between 1994 and
1998, quickly became the most famous landmark of the whole region and is one
the most cited examples of this approach. Its success helped strengthen a series of
policies aimed to support art and culture and their adoption also in the design of the
public realm. For 10 years since its foundation in 1999, Commissions North, a
regional expression of Arts Council England,44 has been busy promoting the work
of artists in architecture (Art at the Heart) and in urban design projects. Among
these, the Tees Valley of Giants project stands out for its ambition and amount of
funds. In order to give more visibility to its regeneration projects, URC Tees Valley
Regeneration, the promoter of this initiative, has commissioned from the world
famous artist Anish Kapoor some large installations which are to be built in those
places that are being redeveloped by the company, like Temenos, erected in
Middlesbrough’s regeneration area of Middlehaven. The work of Arts Council
England, thanks also to its regional branches, has prompted collaborations with
many national and local institutions, fostering initiatives in favour of the arts in
several contexts, like for instance, in addition to the Tees Valley of Giants project,
Arts Council England is the national agency for the developing and promotion of arts. It is part
of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and is supported with the financial aid of the
National Lottery.
4.6 Urbanity of Places and Public Realm
the already mentioned Living Places programme and the Art for Places in
Merseyside. Moreover, this kind of policy is complementary to the creation of
cultural quarters: without developing the arts, the number of artists and events
which help spread its appreciation among people, it would be more difficult to
keep open those galleries, music halls and all other places dedicated to art which
are a structural part of many regeneration and place marketing strategies.
In several occasions, these forms of collaboration are requested expressly by
public bids, as, for example, in the competition for Victoria Square in Birmingham
(Corbett 2004: 136), already completed in 1993, or in that for Millennium Square in
Sheffield in 2003. Sometimes, the involvement of artists is also promoted locally by
private or non-institutional initiatives, although in some cases, the dullness of its
results gives the idea that this kind of enrichment of the urban scene is considered
more a sort of compliance with new real estate marketing standards. Following a
rather unusual approach, the ‘Peoples Republic of Stokes Croft’ – the local community of artists of Stokes Croft cultural quarter in Bristol – has planned ‘from
below’ the renewal of the quarter according to the slogan ‘don’t redevelop Stokes
Croft: let it develop’ (Shaftoe and Tallon 2010: 123). The proposed intervention
consists mainly in painting graffiti and transforming informal spaces into public
places (Peoples Republic of Stokes Croft 2008). Albeit excessively low-profile
and quite far from achieving that kind of urban quality which is a fundamental part
of the regeneration programmes of other cultural districts, the vision of the local
community would probably respect more the local cultural identity and avoid those
gentrification processes which have sometimes distorted, like in Dublin’s Temple
Bar, the original character of the quarter.
Another significant experience has been in Manchester’s Ancoats Urban Village
by Dan Dubowitz/Civic Works, an artist member of the Public Realm Team created
by the Ancoats Urban Village Company. The design of the public realm has been
complemented by what its author defined as the ‘cultural masterplan’ of the area, an
artistic project aimed at strengthening the physical regeneration through a cultural
perspective and new meanings for the renovated places. The photographic campaign
Presence of Absence, a quest to find the hidden relics of the quarter’s industrial past,
led Dubowitz to integrate in the design of the public space of the new Cutting Room
Square five panels of concrete carrying large pictures of survived fragments of the
vanished landscape. Eventually the whole quarter became the subject of a similar
installation, entitled ‘The Peeps’, literarily incorporated and hidden inside the
renovated urban fabric (Dubowitz 2010).
Lyn Fenton, chief executive of the Ancoats Urban Village Company, described
the centrality of public spaces within the urban renaissance strategies, stressing the
ethic aspect deriving from the sense of belonging and identity attached to the presence and quality of the public realm. Indicating as a model the central role of this
element in the physical and moral regeneration of Barcelona, she described as her
inhabitants, according to her direct impression, ‘…walked at least two inches taller
as a result of the pride they had and the joy they felt just being out on the streets of
their city’ (Fenton 2010: 10).
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Chapter 5
Conclusions: Short Notes
on the English Lesson
The new English planning system has been able to plan lucidly its development
policies in the context of the global market economy. On the one hand, it has
strengthened those control levels which fit the new territorial dimension of the
knowledge economy, that is, the metro-regional and local level, by introducing new
mechanisms, bodies and management tools aimed at achieving practical, safe and
timely results. The central government has thus been partly devolved within a renovated hierarchy of powers and skills more related to the local scale – now even
more reinforced by the recent actions of the Liberal Democrat Coalition – and to
hybrid public-private bodies, widely promoted and disseminated at various levels
and in different fields.
On the other hand, the reform aimed to give a clear interpretation of the transformation processes in place, so that it could balance and reconcile the global market
both with the protection of national and local identities and with the enhancement of
environmental, social, economic and cultural resources. The new administrative and
institutional structure arose from the ashes of the neoliberal policies carried out by the
Conservative governments from the early 1980s, when the market forces and the
private sector took precedence over everything, in the opinion that, if properly supported, they could drive the wealth creation of the whole country by virtue of a natural
self-balancing ability of the system. The reform introduced by the New Labour government however did not lead to a radical change of direction with respect to this
setting but rather tried to correct it. The sustainability and quality of life issues that are
at the heart of the new development policies were meant to give a soul to a control
instrument that is actually planned to compete internationally as a real war machine.
Thus, beyond its results in design terms, the example of the British case lies
mainly in this aspect: having set the theme of sustainability, with uncommon
seriousness and a sense of responsibility, at the centre of the government’s agenda,
whose policies for the quality and protection of the environment, and in particular
of the cities, are a direct, inevitable and logical consequence. The introduction of
policies, tools, programmes and design guidelines to address the housing issue at
the national level and the establishment of government agencies such as English
F. Vescovi, Designing the Urban Renaissance: Sustainable and Competitive
Place Making in England, DOI 10.1007/978-94-007-5631-1_5,
© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013
Conclusions: Short Notes on the English Lesson
Partnerships and the Homes and Communities Agency to manage urban and
territorial transformations or to address the quality of architectural and urban design
as CABE make the English experience an indispensable reference for any countries
whose identity and wealth are based chiefly on the environmental quality of their
land and their cities.
Although certainly far-sighted and courageous, the synthesis of the economic,
social and environmental issues attempted by the reform, however, seems to have
been addressed perhaps too optimistically. The perception that some of the new topdown control systems, such as the Regional Development Agencies, were actually
dealing with influential economic questions in complete independence from the
local and bottom-up more transparent forms of governance, which are evidently
more congenial to the British tradition, led British citizens almost to reject this form
of regional administration. The overwhelming economic and social dynamics
influenced by globalisation will test the actual degree of self-determination of the
local communities, while these bottom-up partnerships will have to prove their
effectiveness in dealing with strategic decisions that require a large-scale territorial
knowledge and coordination. Without supramunicipal planning guidance such as
that provided by the Regional Spatial Strategies, how will it be possible, for example, to prevent the search for competitiveness of individual places from resulting in
a zero sum game? Also the limitation of the local phenomena of gentrification and
the more equitable distribution of the wealth generated, which are currently a major
concern with the neoliberal approach used so far, would seem to require the presence or at least the contribution of a higher planning and policy level. Similarly, the
greatly reduced role of an advisory body as the CABE, sunk for budgetary reasons,
raises uncertainties, especially in light of the brilliant results achieved until now,
about the possible development of the relationship between public necessities and
private interests in determining the quality of the built environment. Besides, several
studies have shed light, as, for example, in the case of Sheffield, on how the substantial resources devoted to the creation and upgrading of public spaces have fostered
many investments by developers and private firms, with the further benefit, in addition to the immediate economic results, of having helped to improve and enliven a
real collective good such as the city centre.
From an architectural point of view, many developments currently accomplished
or planned, some of which were reported as case studies in this work, are certainly
not masterpieces. The strong enthusiasm shown by many schemes striving for a
sophisticated quality and designed to make manifest and celebrate the ongoing
urban renaissance (as in the remarkable example of Coventry’s Phoenix Initiative)
does not always present a design maturity that is up to the task. Confusing excellence with exception or excess, contemporary style with fashion and the search for
identity with media appeal, many interventions conform to the architectural trends
of the moment or, in compliance with real estate and city marketing strategies, are
characterised by over the top design attitudes, concerned more with getting visibility than with delivering good architecture and quality places. Or, conversely, the
application of the design principles defended and extolled by the Ministerial publications, CABE and the Urban Task Force sometimes generates low profile works, if
Conclusions: Short Notes on the English Lesson
it is interpreted blandly and passively just to conform to a required standard.
In several cases, however, even where the results can be considered disappointing
and are below expectations or actual potential, we must still acknowledge the absolute goodness of the intentions and of the strategic goals from which they are
derived: the praiseworthy policies for the promotion of public art are a good example of this admirable effort. Overall, pruned of certain paroxysms – partly justifiable
as uncertainties, experimentations and a clumsy euphoria related to the aftermath of
the long torpor of planning and design disciplines – the experiences thus far conducted, well documented by CABE, offer a large number of positive examples,
which can be taken on many occasions as international or at least European benchmark cases.
Thanks also to the efforts of scholars and professionals of the calibre of Richard
Rogers or those of the Urban Design Group, the previous gap between town planning and urban design has begun to narrow in order to achieve shorter implementation times and higher quality standards. In fact, with the new system, planning and
design, in the current English practice, have been integrated into one single process.
Urban transformations are neither governed by strict planning regulations nor by
sector plans but are shaped, up to the architectural details of places, by synthetic
guidelines consistent with the strategies planned. While the plans need to control the
quality of the urban development up to its physical definition and also respond to the
growing need to communicate the visual outcome of the planning choices to an
increasingly diverse audience of stakeholders, the architectural project which
intends to give a substantial contribution to the whole process, for its part, is called
necessarily from the earliest stages to deal with variables that influence the decision
making as well as the financial and management process of the entire operation. The
Planning Performance Agreement that has been recently introduced in the planning
system is also from this point of view a valuable example of a smart instrument to
control the negotiation process while managing planning applications. The greater
flexibility required by the development process needs a strong ability to coherently
control all the factors involved and an appropriate expertise about design tools and
goals. The stronger bargaining power of the public administration against private
developers comes along with an equally great responsibility to ensure high-quality
places, particularly in response to a growing awareness by local communities of the
rights to the quality of their environment.
Many regeneration projects of the British urban renaissance affect mainly the
inner areas. The specificity of the Anglo-Saxon urban structures, where the most
degraded sites which can generally be seen in the urban peripheries of many
European cities concentrate often in the heart of UK cities, makes several UK examples less easy to translate into other situations. Many of the retail-led, urban village
and cultural quarter regeneration schemes that have been illustrated benefit most
from the potential accessibility, relational density and symbolic value, structurally
characterising, for morphological and historical reasons, the city centre. The fact
remains however that, although some strategies may not be immediately replicated
in other contexts, nevertheless several of the criteria on which they are based, such
as the attention to the network and continuity of public spaces or the creation of new
Conclusions: Short Notes on the English Lesson
urban hubs, provide excellent ideas on which to design the most appropriate
solutions to other places. Furthermore, the overall organisational framework and the
design-led approach of these strategies still offer important lessons of method and
The proactive role of the central government and local authorities in spreading
not only a sustainable, updated design culture among municipal officers and professionals but also, more deeply and more generally, the awareness among the entire
population of the importance of well-designed places for the quality of life and
competitiveness can be considered a democratically mature model to follow.
In this regard, the wise method of the design statement, which is a clear declaration of the design principles and quality criteria that are used to evaluate development proposals, is another notable example that could be applied in any country. Of
course, this also involves the establishment, as has happened in England, of some
theoretical references against which to compare the terms of the negotiation between
public and private sectors. In this respect, the British government would seem to
have found a solid basis to underpin the new system. The focus of judgement has in
fact shifted away from the quality of architectural surface – mainly understood in
terms of composition and style and therefore easily exposed to the arbitrariness of
subjectivity – to the compliance with the design principles laid down at a central
level and hinged upon the fundamental objectives of sustainability and competitiveness of urban places. A targeted research in town planning and urban design together
with long-standing experiences and debates in these fields have improved over time
the British planning system and allowed it, to a certain extent, to define objective
principles of morphological control in response to particular planning needs
(Vignozzi 1997). For example, the design guidelines derived from the ‘design out
crime’ Research Centre have become recommended best practices. Similarly, the
control of densities, of functional mixes and of development locations is related
structurally to the mobility and public transport policies. After all, from a certain
point of view, the axiomatic definition of quantitative standards, which underpins,
for example, the Italian planning system, is not conceptually far from, and more
legitimate than, the promulgation of basic qualitative criteria. The qualitative
approach based on design principles would also help strengthen the correlation
between political programmes and spatial plans through a clear exposition of objectives and priorities against which to compare the performance requirements of the
projects proposed to public administrations.
Unfortunately, the inevitable tendency towards greater flexibility in planning,
demanded in many countries around the world by both the real estate market and the
increasing inter-metropolitan competition, is not always matched by, symmetrically,
an enhancement of the tools aimed to control the urban and architectural qualities of
the developments. A laissez-faire approach and a general lack of strategic perspective about the form and the benefits of the urban environment make several local
authorities reject any possible virtuous collaboration with the developers, based on
the opinion that the duty of the public administration is merely to cultivate the tree
(collective services and public spaces), leaving all its fruits (urban rent) to the private
sector (Consonni 2011). The English case study, on the contrary, despite presenting
some conspicuous limitations and some unresolved questions, proves with concrete
examples that strengthening the powers of the public sector, so that it can condition
or even share the work of designers and builders on the basis of clear principles and
strategies, contributes to raising the overall level of urbanity of the cities and brings
benefits, even of economic kind, to most citizens.
Consonni G (2011) Pgt, il pubblico cura l’albero il privato coglie i frutti in Repubblica/Milano, 18
February, p 1
Vignozzi A (1997) Urbanistica e qualità estetica. La lezione della Gran Bretagna. Franco Angeli,
Ashford, 44
Baltimore, Inner Harbor, 94
Belfast, Divis Flats, 125
Bexhill, 112
Bilbao, 58
Beetham Tower, 85, 123,
136, 138
Brindleyplace, 6, 64, 91, 103,
150, 152
Bullring shopping centre,
103, 152
Centenary Square, 110, 111
Central Library, 103, 109–111
103 Colmore Row, 135
The Cube, 124, 134
Eastside Locks, 96
Eastside regeneration project, 80, 109,
110, 149
Gas Street Basin, 91, 92
Jennens Road, 152
Jewellery Quarter, 84, 88, 90
Jupiter Apartments, 133
King Edwards Wharf, 133
Learning Quarter, 79, 109
Liberty Place, 133
Magistrates’ Court, 109
The Mailbox, 134
Martineau Place, 78
Masshouse Circus, 146
Millennium Point, 79, 109, 110
New Street Station, 153
Park Central, 118, 119, 125, 127
Rotunda, 123
Symphony Court, 133
Victoria Square, 157
Black Country (Wolverhampton, Dudley,
Walsall and Sandwell), 57
Bristol Legible City, 146
Broadmead, 76, 78, 154
Brunel Mile, 154
Cabot Circus, 154
Castle Wharf, Finzells Reach, 122
Centre Promenade, 76
Explore@Bristol, 141
Hanham Hall (Carbon Challenge),
50, 97
Low Carbon City, 49
Nelson Street Regeneration
Framework, 76
Queen Square, 146, 147
Redcliffe urban village, 146
Stokes Croft cultural quarter, 157
University of Bristol, 114, 115
Cambridge, 44
Friargate, 146
Garden of International Friendship,
154, 155
Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, 154
Millennium Place, 97, 155
Northern Ringway, 146
Phoenix Initiative, 154, 164
Swanswell Initiative, 154
F. Vescovi, Designing the Urban Renaissance: Sustainable and Competitive
Place Making in England, DOI 10.1007/978-94-007-5631-1,
© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013
The Ark, 106
Gallery of Photography/Irish Film
Centre complex, 106
Meeting House Square, 105, 106
Music Centre, 105
Photographic Archive, 106
Project Arts Centre, 105
Temple Bar, 75, 105, 106,
108, 157
Temple Bar Square, 106
East Midlands, 60
Exeter, Princesshay shopping centre, 134
Angel of the North, 156
Baltic Arts Centre, 99
Baltic Business Park, 100
Baltic Square, 101
Design Centre for the North, 100
Gateshead College, 100
ICEC: International Conference and
Exhibition Centre, 99, 103, 150
Metro Centre, 78
New creative and green, 62
Sage music centre, 100, 137
Glasgow Harbour, 102
Riverside Museum, 102
Creative Media Centre, 112
Ore Valley, 113
Priory Quarter, 113
Station Plaza, 113
Hull, The Deep, 58
Ipswich, Cranfields Mill, 121, 122
King’s Lynn, South Lynn (Millennium
Community), 148
Aire Valley, 68
Allerton Bywater (Millennium
Community), 127
Brewery Wharf, 94, 132
The Carriageworks Theatre
City Arena, 112
Eastgate Quarters, 78
Holbeck (Urban Village), 55, 87, 89, 106
Leeds City Museum, 112
Leeds Metropolitan University, 112
Low Carbon City, 49
Millennium Square, 112, 147, 149
Quarry Hill, 120, 125
Round Foundry, 88, 89, 106
Royal Armouries Square, 147
South Leeds Stadium, 137
Spiracle Tower, 137
Trinity Quarters, 78
West End, 68, 76, 78, 125
Abby Meadows, Science
and Technology Park, 79
Cultural Quarter, 107, 155
Highcross Leicester, 77
Leicester Creative Business
Depot, 107
Phoenix Square, 107
Leipzig (Charter), xv
Lincoln, The Terrace, Lincoln
Cultural Quarter, 107
Lisbon (strategy), xv
Albert Docks, 83, 84
Baltic Triangle, 108
Beetham Tower, 123
BT Convention Centre, 104
the Cloud (aka The Fourth Grace), 137
Concert Square, 141, 142
Design Liverpool, 22
East Village, 132
Echo Arena, 104
English Cities Fund, 59
Greater Williamson Square, 140
Hewitt Place, 142
HMR NewHeartlands, 47
Hope Street, 143, 144
Kings Dock, 140
Knowledge Quarter, 105, 114, 143
Lime Street Station, 152, 153
Liverpool 50, 22
Liverpool One, 78–80, 83, 104, 149
Matchworks complex, 79
Metropolitan Cathedral, 144
Pier Head, 83, 94, 95, 104,
137, 140
Princess Dock, 94
Ropewalks, 75, 107, 108,
141, 142
Science Park, 64, 109, 116
St. George’s Plateau, 152
Tea Factory, 107
University Square, 144
Vanilla Factory, 107
Adelaide Wharf, 122
Beddington Zero Energy Development
(Bedzed), 49, 51, 131
Beetham Tower, 123
Carnaby Street, 75
Docklands, 32
Greenwich Millennium Village, 49, 67,
121, 122, 133
Trafalgar Square, 142
Abito building, 123
Alan Turing Way, 82
Albion Mills, 132
Ancoats (Urban Village), 6, 81, 85–88, 90,
96, 150, 151, 157
Ardwick, Grove Village (formerly
Plymouth Grove), 126
Barbirolli Square, 96, 150
Beetham Tower, 85, 123, 136, 138
Beswick, 47
Britannia Basin, 96
Canal Square, 151
Castlefield, 84, 85, 88, 90, 91
Castlefield Outdoor Events Arena,
85, 86
Central Park, 82
Chips, 96, 122, 124
the Corridor, 114
Cotton Field ecopark, 97, 150
Cutting Room Square, 90, 151, 157
Exchange Square (Millennium
Quarter), 97
Hulme, 120, 125, 129, 130, 137, 138
Hulme Arch Bridge, 137, 138
Islington Wharf, 96
Manchester College of Arts and
Technology (Mancat), 82
Manchester Salford HMR Pathfinder,
46, 47, 83
Miles Platting, 80, 83, 151
Millennium Quarter, 78, 134, 140
Murray’s Mill, 96
Museum of Science and Industry, 85
New East Manchester, 55, 68, 81–83
New Islington (Millennium Community),
48, 80, 81, 97, 122, 124, 125,
150, 151
Old Mill Street (New Islington),
80, 150, 151
Piccadilly Basin, 96
Piccadilly One, 132
Potato Wharf, 96
the Sharp Project, 82
Spinningfields, 64
Sportcity, 82
Timber Wharf, 122
Merseyside, 47, 83, 157
Boho One, 107
Boho Zone Creative Quarter, 51, 81
Bridge Street, 80, 81
Ciac Building, 122
Middlehaven, Riverside One, 80
Middlesbrough College, 80
University of Teesside, 80, 107
Milton Keynes, Oxley Park (Design
for Manufacture), 51, 127
Newcastle upon Tyne
Centre for Design Research, 100
City Library, 101
Dance City, 101
55 Degrees North, 142
Discovery Quarter, 100, 101
East Quayside, 99–101, 142
Grainger Town, 54, 77, 97, 99,
100, 143
Institute for Ageing and Health, 101
International Centre for Life,
99, 101, 141
Lower Ouseburn Valley, 88
Millennium Bridge, 100, 101
Newcastle Arts Centre, 101
Newcastle College, 101
Riverside Dene (formerly
Cruddas Park), 125
Science Central, 100, 101
St. James Boulevard, 100, 152
Newcastle upon Tyne (cont.)
Times Square, 132, 141
Waterloo Square, 100, 132
West End, 67, 68, 76, 83, 125
Westgate Road, 101
Northern Ireland, 5
North-West Bicester (ecotown), 52
big wheel, 94, 145
biocity, 116
Broad Marsh, 78
Castle Wharf, 94, 95, 122
Eastside City, 97
Innovation Park, 115, 116
Jubilee Campus, 97, 98, 115
Lace Market Square, 132
Maid Marian Way, 143, 152
Medipark, 116
Old Market Square, 140
River Crescent, 97
River Trent Partnership, 94
Science Park, 116
Southreef, 54, 97
St. Ann’s Neighbourhood, 126
Turning Point, 145
Urban Design Guide, 38, 139
Peterborough, Carbon Challenge (South Bank
phase 1), 50
Plymouth, 126
Poundbury, 89, 120, 131
Rackheath (ecotown), 52
Reading, Oracle Shopping centre,
78, 94, 95
Exchange Greengate, 92
Irwell Corridor, 92, 93, 102
the Lowry centre, 92, 102, 103
MediaCityUK, 92, 102, 103, 140
The Quays, 92
Salford Central Station, 92
Salford University, 92
Scotland, 5, 60
Burngreave, 154
Castlegate, 68
Castle Square, 146
Central Riverside, 68, 92
Cube (live/work unit), 51
Cultural Industries Quarter (CIQ),
51, 66, 96, 103
Delivering Design Quality, 22, 47
Devonshire Quarter (or Devonshire Green),
66, 103, 132, 153
Digital Campus, 62, 96, 108, 111
Don Valley, 68, 69, 92
Electric works, 108
Hallam University, 58, 66, 110, 111
Leadmill Arts Centre, 110
Millennium Gallery, 141
Millennium Square, 141, 147, 157
The Moor, 154
National Centre for Popular Music,
58, 111, 137
New Business District, 62
Norfolk Park, 125
Park Hill, 120, 121, 125
Riverside Business District, 96
Sevenstone, 62, 78, 103
Sharrow, 154
Sheaf Square, 103, 152, 153
Tudor Square, 103, 147
University of Sheffield, 66, 153
West One complex, 133
Winter Garden, 103, 108
Yorkshire Artspace Society, 110
Urban Design Strategy, 34, 35
West Quay, 36, 37, 137
South Midlands, 44
South Yorkshire Technology
Corridor, 92
Stansted, 44
St Austell (China Clay Community)
(ecotown), 52
The Promenade Cultural
Quarter, 109
Wyvern Theatre, 108
Tees Valley, 46, 156
Telford (Millennium Village), 148
Thames Gateway, 44
Wakefield, 59
Wales, 5
Business and Learning Campus Walsall
First, 113
Gigaport project, 113
Walsall Hub, 113
West Bromwich, The Public cultural centre, 137
West Cumbria, Furness, 46
West Midlands, 46, 74
Whitehill-Bordon (ecotown), 52, 53
De Grey Court, York St John University,
115, 116
Heslington East Campus, University
of York, 117
Ron Cooke Hub, University
of York, 117
Yorkshire, 46, 47, 57, 88, 92, 110