Place10: Towards a new Northern soul

Place10 logoInitially, 2007 was a time of opportunity and growth. The residential market was booming and I was working on several high-rise, high-density developments in the region, writes Broadway Malyan director Danny Crump. Then overnight, these schemes started to slow.

The first project was ‘mothballed’, a new term for me then, and many others followed. Suddenly, the city centre residential sector was toxic.

Luckily, as a multi-sector business, we could refocus. Our workload realigned and we started designing more education and public sector schemes.

These were major projects: masterplanning campuses, city parks and huge new public squares. We worked with local authorities with ambitious regeneration strategies and budgets to match. Regional economic growth was the name of the game, but then the recession started to bite the public sector too.

It was a difficult time in the UK and there was another effect; for developments that could move forward, compromises were made to achieve financial viability. Expectations and standards lowered and a cornerstone philosophy of urban design, placemaking, became, if not ignored, a much lower priority.

Many developments were delivered based on the minimum standards required to obtain planning. True placemaking was an add on, a ‘nice to have’. Instead of quality urban design, the emphasis was on function.

Back to the present day and investment in creating great places has seen a resurgence, with a greater recognition of the economic, social and environmental value that can be realised from high quality place-led development.

There is now global competition between cities, with people choosing places that have an urban soul.

Rightly, there is an increased respect for context and an understanding that our cities should be healthy, sustainable environments that encourage active lifestyles.

In the region, we will need to work to continue delivering better places and the challenge for the next decade is balancing investment and development so that we can all capitalise on the Northern Powerhouse rhetoric.

Transport will be a key pillar of this. With HS2 the main infrastructure project today, transport-orientated development will dominate planning proposals over the coming years. It’s an exciting time, and I’m optimistic about the next decade.

  • To take part in the Place10 series reflecting on the decade since Place North West was first published in August 2007, send your stories and memories to headed ‘10’

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