Link and Exchange

How can policy and policy makers change the outlook of young creatives, encouraging them to remain within, or return to rural areas? This question was recently addressed by Managing Director, Pete Swift, and Standard Practice Maker, Joe Hartley in their keynote presentation at the Great Place Lakes and Dales Conference.

The conference was convened to discuss, debate and understand the role of placemaking and the creative economy in building a sense of place within the Lakes and Dales. It took place at Avalon, a transformative wellbeing centre set in the stunning rural grounds of the Broughton Hall Estate.

Great Place is working to influence changes that mean younger people have a choice; that they don’t feel like their only option is to live in a city in order to have a prosperous career and to own their own home. The concern is that without more diverse, dynamic individuals with new ideas loving and living within these protected landscapes, that the culture, economy and distinctiveness of the area will decline.

An essential shift is needed to ensure a vibrant future of the beautiful Lakes and Dales.

Pete and Joe put forward their propositions for how to ‘fix the big things’ in their collaborative presentation titled ‘Link and Exchange’, considering how policy and policy makers could change the outlook of millennial creatives in rural areas. Their perspectives had been influenced by their backgrounds, but also their subsequent careers that celebrate the connection between design and nature, focusing on craft and making to tie together design and public realm, with an emphasis on social inclusion.

The Propositions

Celebrate the Place

Planit’s extensive regeneration and redevelopment work in Liverpool is inextricably linked to the city’s World Heritage status and how this protection can be strengthened. We continually strive to identify and reinforce its unique characteristics, and consider ‘What makes a world heritage site?’

The Lake District gained World Heritage inscription in the cultural landscape category; shaped by farming, industry, picturesque landscape design and the conservation movement. By contrast, the Yorkshire Dales has several World Heritage Sites within it. The two nati

onal parks are very different but, whilst their distinctive natures should be celebrated, they are geographically adjacent and probably stronger together.

Embrace the Outsiders

Rural communities are not known for their inclusion of ‘outsiders’. A debate with a friend who’d carefully renovated and recently moved their family into a barn in Cornwall, reimagined how rural communities could gain greater benefit, rather than penalising those wanting to actively invest in their rural economy. Could planning conditions could be used to leverage advantage, tapping in to the skills, and experience of those for the benefit of the community they were moving into? Pro-bono training, mentoring, inviting local people to become part of a project may be able to help LINK the local community and the ‘outsider’ through the EXCHANGE of opportunity and experience.

Create A Symbiotic Economy

‘Fun’ working environments seek to improve employee satisfaction and life balance, often introducing nature into urban environments to enhance wellbeing. But what could be more life affirming and invigorating than immersing yourself in nature? Perhaps we should twin city businesses to actual rural environments. Many rural environments have, or are, investing in super fast broadband connections. These would support many forms of work whilst enabling an authentic approach to connecting people to place, nature and exciting outdoor activities.

The Ruralist Index

Monocle rates the global top 25 cities. Whilst the criteria are not known, this is an important index for big businesses currently considering whether staff will be happy and keen to stay with the business if it moves. We asked why there isn’t a rural version. Likewise, we are great fans of ‘The Urbanist’, Monocles podcast guide to making better cities (be it through new technology, state-of-the-art subways or compact apartments), but wonder why there isn’t ‘A Ruralist’.

What are the great towns in a rural setting that give you the quality of life that Monocle looks for within cities. If you want a town that is well run, delivers on life’s essentials and is fun too, which places would be top of the list? We ranked our top 20 in the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District and concluded that Hawkshead provided the best of everything. A population of 519, 0 murders, 1/1% unemployment, 3 public parks, 25 homes built in the last year, 4 pubs, 4 museums and good connectivity through bus and taxi services.

To rank highly there has to be the opportunity to access somewhere to live as well as other great assets. We’ve already acknowledged that trying to gain planning permission for housing in a rural area is incredibly difficult. This purely protectionist and exclusive stance needs to change. Houses will be needed to attract and retain young creatives.

Breed Your Own Champions

It is often cited that the Lake District’s beauty stimulated poets and artists of the romantic movement from the late 18th century and conservationists from the 19th century. The landscape inspired and captivated Wordsworth, Ruskin and Beatrix Potter, but how relevant are they to most people?

Our advice was not to turn away from historic champions but be relevant by breeding contemporary champions.

Joe talked about his working relationship and connectivity with Sam, chef and restaurant start-up owner of ‘Where the Light Gets In’. Sam grew up in Marple on the edge of the Peak District and sources many of his ingredients from the area. He brings rural produce to his restaurant in Stockport and gains experience and ceramics from Joe at the city-based Standard Practice in the heart of Manchester. Together they share, exchange and develop creative solutions. Reviews such as “Not so much new Nordic as new northern, this is a procession of brilliance. Where The Lights Gets In serves the most exciting food I’ve had in years” are unexpected within Stockport – Sam has become a champion who links countryside, town and city.

We continue to develop our propositions, seeking out new ideas. Pete re-presented this Great Place session as part of Planit-IE’s Wednesday morning ‘Rise and Shine’ programme. Challenging preconceptions and sharing knowledge over breakfast is a weekly highlight within our Altrincham studio.