Collaborative approach

Ensuring that we develop new urban communities which sustainably serve the needs of all demographics including an ageing population is one of the biggest challenges as well as opportunities that the UK’s construction industry faces. This year’s Ecobuild will be placing a spotlight on some of the aspects of how this goal might be best delivered in its homes-themed conference day which takes place on 8 March 2016. A dedicated session will look at harnessing regeneration projects as a catalyst for delivering sustainable communities in the context of some major urban developments.

Local authorities are facing a perfect storm of huge pressure to develop both public and private housing to meet demand, whilst set against a backdrop of increasingly limited resources. Whilst many see this as a challenge, this is also a massive opportunity for both local authorities and ourselves at Design Council Cabe to work in a more collaborative way across traditional boundaries to develop the housing schemes the UK needs for the future. We are building on our substantial knowledge and experience of design review to enable and support local authority planners to deliver long term regeneration and urban growth. Our role is very much focused on delivery from a strategic perspective. Design Council also looks at service transformation in the context of design of service delivery, including how we think about services and building products.

“Increased devolution in other major multi-authority conurbations is seeing a flowering of local collaborative decision-making against individual priorities”

Joining forces
There are a number of great examples across the country from London to Manchester to Devon, where a collaborative approach to regeneration is working and delivering homes and regeneration.

As one of the world’s great cities, London has had devolved decision making powers which has recently enabled the city to instigate some significant developments such as the Old Oak Park Royal Development Corporation in West London. This is a key location as the entry point of HS2 and will deliver 20,000 homes and 55,000 new jobs. We are working with partners to shape and influence the project at the  very earliest stages, working directly with the Mayor-backed Development Corporation to embed design quality across both policy and delivery. This is critical as the powers of the three local authorities – the London Boroughs of Brent, Ealing and Hammersmith & Fulham – now sit within the Development Corporation and therefore give it the ability to progress development at pace. The scheme, which is three times the size of the Olympic Park, shares the same challenges of density, infrastructure and investment as other major urban projects, and we are working hard to ensure that it reflects all user needs, as it will be creating a whole new city quarter.

Increased devolution in other major multi-authority conurbations, such as Manchester and Liverpool via the Government’s City Deal, is seeing a flowering of local collaborative decision-making against individual priorities, leading to major mixed-use schemes which can regenerate whole districts of cities. Combined authorities present further opportunities to consolidate development powers to expedite planning for schemes while also give the potential to ensure those plans are precisely tailored to local needs. The critical thing is for a local authority to have a robust development plan in place which sets out where housing is to be located, where regeneration will happen and other factors like transport. The Government is very clear that if they do not have these criteria in place by the end of 2017 it will step in and write the plan for them.

Investing in local growth
Regeneration is not a new idea, but the Government is giving it a fresh impetus, including giving local authorities the ability to work together to pool resources and powers. The Autumn 2015 Spending Review doubled the existing spending on regeneration of housing estates to £800m and we are working closely with Government on ideas around remodeling estates. Economic growth is needed to make the regeneration happen however, and that economic growth needs to be retained within the locality. Increasingly devolution means that local authorities can retain much more of their locally generated business rates rather than it going back to the Treasury, which can be used to reinvest in housing stock or create housing companies run by local authorities.

Greater Manchester has a legacy of successful joint working across its nine authorities and Liverpool has seen a lot of investment as part of its 2008 Capital Of Culture status. It’s now a question of how can the extra powers the City Deal has given urban areas, in terms of planning and housing, facilitate greater economic growth and that’s what local leaders are focused on. Several combined authority proposals have been approved by Government so this is a really powerful trend and an opportunity for 2016.

Another great example which sees local authorities not only working together but thinking outside the box is at Cranbrook in East Devon. This is the only new town currently being built in the country and is the result of some brave decision making on the part of local authorities and the County Council. While many schemes require a mix of regeneration and urban extensions , in some situations it is appropriate to look at entirely new settlements.

Working with local partners
Design Council Cabe brings together two major UK organisations focused on ensuring design quality. Cabe is increasingly forging long term strategic relationships with cities and local authorities across the country to support and shape the planning of major developments which includes the championing of design review. We are written into the National Planning Policy Framework and are currently part funded by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Ecobuild has a huge and well-deserved reputation and an important role in bridging the gap between emerging disciplines. This includes using smart cities to assist in planning for future demographics and population flows for resilience and trying to mainstream that thinking across all of the sectors and professions. With smart cities becoming a major driver for the future, with it already influencing modelling of cities as well as how we use data within them, Ecobuild is a crucial opportunity for the whole industry to discover current thinking. It is the place to learn new ways of working, trends and challenges and also learn from places and other professionals about what is working, what isn’t and what could be improved.

[box type=”shadow” width=”400″ ]David Waterhouse will be speaking on the first day of the Ecobuild conference, within the homes conference stream (8 March 2016). He will be speaking in a session titled ‘Street life – city growth through regeneration, a novel approach to urban planning, community and places.’[/box]