Turning our towns around: five essential placemaking elements

Civic Engineers LogoThis week we announced our appointment, alongside Planit-IE, to develop plans to revitalise and improve Sale town centre, writes Paul Morris of Civic Engineering.

This work in Sale follows our successful work in Altrincham, a town which has become well known for turning its fortunes around; re-establishing itself as a vibrant and attractive town centre.

Through intelligent engineering and a focus on the integrated and environmentally sensitive design of ground, landscape, water and movement, we can shape and change the way our towns are experienced. More importantly, we can also make a positive contribution to the health and wellbeing of those who live, work and visit them.

So, what are the essential elements when it comes to placemaking? Here’s our rundown of the ‘top five’ that need to be achieved within any masterplan:

Every place has its own story – Every town has its own landmarks, character and history. Places are known for different things. A strong image must be created that is distinctive and memorable for that place. It must build on the towns landmarks and seek to enhance its identity and landscape so a strong relationship is generated between people and place.

Functionality is key – The town centre must become a well-functioning environment for business, movement and dwelling.  Space needs to be protected for pedestrians and cyclists and the environment must feel comfortable and safe. Whilst there has to be provision for cars, they must not be the main focus and we should work towards achieving a healthy balance of pollution free movement. Streets must be designed so that they are ‘healthy’ and people’s automatic first choice is to want to walk. Providing accessible, seamless public transport is a central and crucial part of this movement package.

Sustainable and green – Incorporating green spaces and infrastructure into our towns is essential. Providing green areas enhances well-being and encourages communities to be outdoors. Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) help to mitigate extreme weather conditions and relieve local drainage networks of rainwater. They also support urban biodiversity and provide opportunities for education and for communities to get involved in their maintenance, offering them a stake and ownership in their neighbourhoods.

Inclusive – The theme of inclusivity needs to run throughout every aspect of regeneration. Those who live, work and visit the town centre must have the chance to influence, develop and own their plans. Real community engagement should be from the early design stages right through to the maintenance and use for community events, once completed. One of the biggest challenges is to ensure our town centres offer something for everyone and that they encourage people of all ages and interests to slow down and spend time there. The environment must be inviting and accessible for all to enjoy, regardless of age and background.

Above all, it’s got to be Beautiful – The environment needs to be visually appealing and a space that people are proud of, take care of, and enjoy spending time in or passing through. It needs to be timeless, robust and inviting.

This article was originally published in Place Resources

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