Fishergate, Preston

Fundamental rebalance of the pedestrian/vehicle hierarchy has transformed Preston into an attractive civic centre and dramatically improved the city’s viability as a business location. Welcoming city gateways now greet people arriving at the station and University, drawing you into and across the city.

A palette of subtle, yet sophisticated interventions have replaced the highways dominated layout at the city’s core. Wide footways, broad super-crossings, anchor trees and stone-carved plinths work together to redress the balance between traffic and pedestrians whilst guiding free-flowing movement. Bold streetscape designs have reversed declining retail along Fishergate and boosted the city’s long-term prosperity, spurring plans and funding for subsequent phases of work.

Lotmead Villages, Swindon

Unable to meet its development needs wholly within the existing urban areas, Swindon is breaking the concrete collar that has long constrained the town’s expansion. Development has been tightly bound by the A419 dual carriageway, but the hard suburban edge is set to be breached through an ambitious growth agenda that includes five strategic urban extensions. Planit’s proposals for Lotmead Villages form the first of these, and one of the UK’s largest urban extensions.

A scattering of attractive villages beyond the grip of the A491 boundary formed the starting point for our long-term vision to achieve balanced and inclusive growth. It was these communities that prompted the question ‘What makes a good village?’

We undertook comprehensive research to determine how these conurbations embraced the distinctive assets of the wider rural landscape setting, to identify their unique characteristics and examine their sense of place. The same query was posed within a national and international context, drawing on best practice examples of Urban Design and placemaking across the UK and Europe to draw out common threads. Our conclusions of the Townscape and Precedent Study set out the elements that combine to create a place where people aspire to live, and consequently form the design cues for the Lotmead Villages proposals.

Our research, evidence-based methodology formed the starting point for the two village concept. Each village has its own local centre and a Primary School, and collectively they provide 2,600 homes. We introduced focal points for activity, a walkable (and cycle friendly) network of streets and connections to existing settlement. The proposals were influenced by the landscape context, incorporate innovative and sustainable design, whilst creating distinctive neighbourhoods.

Lotmead Villages are based on the site of an existing farm and pick-your-own business. The business cluster and a Scheduled Ancient Monument created a logical star point for the spatial organization of the village set within a strong rural landscape. A contemporary approach was taken to the creation of Lower Lotmead, utilising best practice urban design principles to create a sensitive urban/rural transition. The proposals have been embraced by the local stakeholders, and are acknowledged as fundamental to supporting the economic growth of Swindon and its sub regional context.

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham

A brand new home is being created for Birmingham Conservatoire, an international music school and part of the Birmingham City University.

Continuing the concept of an angular, defined building carved of rock; the landscape design explores the idea of a quarry reclaimed by nature. Emulation of jagged quarry forms provides a range of visually appealing and distinct spaces, whilst anchoring the building within the landscape and wider public realm. Planters slice through the site to frame views and approaches with dramatic indentations articulating more intimate areas.

Striking ornamental shrub and herbaceous planting softens the arrangement to create a contemplative and relaxing environment. The selection of species that produce timber used in the construction of stringed musical instruments provides a further conceptual overlay to the scheme.

This commission was won through a national design competition in collaboration with Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios.

HAMMERSMITH GROVE, LONDON

Opened in 2012, the Hammersmith Grove public realm project was the first scheme delivered by our London studio.

A green oasis among the surrounding urban landscape, it features a carpet of granite uniting the Hammersmith Grove and Beadon Road sides of the new building, limestone seating, extensive planting and a lush green wall that provides an important organic foil to the development as a whole.

Circle Square

Occupying central Manchester’s former BBC site, this new neighbourhood is strategically located on Corridor Manchester’s Oxford Road to actively promote alliances; capitalising on the value of proximity to stimulate advancement. Circle Square will enable people to converge to create, work and live in an environment that attracts and fosters talented people. Designed to promote collaboration, but also delivered through collaboration, the development is being realised via a partnership between commercially-focused Bruntwood and residential specialist Select Property Group.

The quality of the ‘place’ is set at the heart of Planit-IE and Feilden Clegg Bradley’s joint masterplan. The scheme combines people, location, activity, cultural richness, microclimate and human-scale to form the setting for a diverse and thriving new community. A Place Making Strategy guides proposals that draw on the site’s history to reintroduce its urban grain and reconnect the site to the city, whilst setting an ambitious and innovative vision for the future.

The development surrounds and focuses on a key central space at its epicenter, illustrated by CGIs produced by Virtual Planit. The central ‘green’ is a flexible external area for relaxation, recreation and events throughout the seasons, that provides a canvas of opportunity to bring people together.

 

Poynton, Cheshire

The Poynton Project was commissioned by Cheshire East Council to address issues associated with the intersection of two major routes at the heart of the town – a hostile and congested traffic space, dominated by traffic signals and road markings. Planit worked alongside shared space champion Ben Hamilton-Baillie to simplify and remove all traffic signals, road markings and barriers to create free-flowing, low speed integrated streets. Quickly becoming an exemplar and point of reference for a host of bodies including Transport For London (TFL), Civic Voice and the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Shared space principles underpinned the scheme from the outset with radial streetscape changes, visually narrowed carriageways, bold courtesy crossings and widened footways combining to establish a design speed of around 18 mph.

New paving materials, planting, lighting and street furniture combined to re-establishing a sense of place at the town’s major and minor intersections. This has been reinforced by strong transitional gateway features which reference the area’s industrial heritage.

The completed £4m scheme has now been in operation for over 12 months and the positive impacts of the works include significantly higher levels in foot fall, improved retail performance, better road safety and security, as well as a general uplift in village vitality. The scheme was highly commended through the CIHT 2013 ‘Street’ awards.

An extremely courageous scheme which has succeeded in achieving significant economic and social benefits through the enhancement of ‘place’ whilst continuing to provide a route for significant volumes of traffic.” – CIHT Award Judges

Linen Quarter Vision, Belfast

Planit-IE has been working towards the vision for a significant Conservation Area within Belfast City Centre – the Linen Quarter. The Quarter represents an important area of growth within the City Centre, building on impressive historic built form which is becoming the home for a large number of offices, supported by the introduction of a number of exciting new bars, cafes and hotels. The quarter also represents a key point of arrival for tourists, visitors, city workers and locals – setting the need to guide new development sites and control the reuse of historic buildings towards a common vision for the Quarter which also meets the aspirations of the wider Belfast City Centre.

The Linen Quarter Vision and Guidance document now forms a significant piece of guidance for the City Council to assess development proposals against the vision for the area. The work assesses how to best use the Conservation Area’s current qualities; exploring ways to consolidate and enhance its role as the premier office destination within Belfast and continue to provide a strong sense of arrival. The document also introduces new public spaces; redefines streets and promotes a different street hierarchy; and enhances the area’s important built heritage, and provides guidance relating to new buildings and their associated public realm.

The document is available to view online at: http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/buildingcontrol-environment/regeneration/linenquarter.aspx

Colworth Park Vision, Bedfordshire

The Colworth Estate wraps around the listed Hall and Colworth Science Park, one of the many research facilities operated by Unilever. The classical manor estate and parkland setting has provided a prosperous environment for innovation and business and, fueled by the ripple effect of London’s housing pressure, now offers a unique opportunity to link in the establishment of a distinctive sustainable community that could not be delivered anywhere else in Bedfordshire.

As part of the review of the local plan to 2032, Bedford Borough Council invited submissions from several developers who are promoting new settlement proposals as a means of accommodating future housing growth. Wrenbridge and Unilever jointly commissioned Planit-IE, supported by a comprehensive team of consultants, to produce a future vision that would form the core of their representation to the Council.

The document captures both the Colworth of today and the vision for its future. The development proposal comprises a sustainable new settlement, adjacent to the existing village of Sharnbrook to the north-west of Bedford, with a new rail station providing a 1 hour commute to the City.

Three new villages, each with their own distinctive character, will combine to provide 4,500 dwellings centered around mixed-use hubs. The community focus and facilities will comprise a secondary school; primary schools; retail, leisure and business uses; additional employment land; formal and informal open play space including allotments and playing fields; and new access roads directly on to the A6.

Colworth sits within a strong and well-established green infrastructure framework. This framework defines the landscape character, and shapes views into and out from the site. The close proximity of some of the most beautiful Bedfordshire villages provides an interesting and rich design narrative from which to craft a new place. The development proposals seek to protect and enhance these assets, ensuring the unique identity of Colworth is retained and matures into a robust and sustainable community.

Keybridge House, Vauxhall

Reawakening senses dulled by modern city life, a rich series of pocket parks, gardens, public squares and private courtyards interlink to form an urban haven. Entwined strands of water, planting, light, materials and air create a verdant external environment.

The importance of capturing, attenuating and re-using rainwater threads all elements together as part of a unique rainwater journey. The practicalities of harvesting and irrigation functions are expressed honestly and water is held intentionally on the surface for interaction and enjoyment, before it slips away.

This urban haven is being created as part of the residentially led redevelopment of Vauxhall’s former BT Telephone Exchange. The project provides 415 new homes, a 2-form entry primary school, office space and retail units within the wider ‘Nine Elms’ regeneration scheme.

Manchester Residential Quality Guide

What will Manchester look like in 10 or 20 years time? Given the ambition for the growth of the City and its surrounding towns, it is vital to match that aspiration with where the great majority of the growing population is likely to live; in the centre.

The Manchester Residential Quality Guidance has been developed to help shape the creation of new homes and communities across the Greater Manchester city region, beginning with the centre and its immediate surroundings. Manchester City Council are planning for the delivery of over 25,000 new homes within the decade. This ambitious quantum of development is equally matched by the Council’s desire to achieve quality of development and place.

So how do you guide the big picture, but make sure you follow through to the detail? In our minds, by first researching what are the ‘ingredients’ that contribute to residential quality. The Guidance complements existing policy and legislation; with the overarching aim of ensuring quality is prevalent throughout the design, delivery and use. Whilst setting clear quality benchmarks associated with the planning, design, construction and future management of new residential development, a ‘comply or justify’ approach is adopted to support innovation and new thinking. So, unlike London’s guidance which is all about SPACE standards, Manchester’s is about PLACE standards – you may have a smaller apartment, but it’s levels of daylight and volume, coupled with the view from the bedroom window, make it a better place than perhaps its larger neighbour with poor views and mean windows.

An outward looking and engaged city, Manchester has always drawn on international references in support of its vision to be one of world’s best place to live. Extensive research into other UK and international cities and their guidance informed development of our work -, reinforcing Manchester’s unique fabric and character through the city-specific application of lessons–learnt. Sustainable outcomes that uphold ‘Manchester: A Certain Future’, the City’s climate change action plan, also work towards a low carbon future.

Typical of the Mancunian’s independent nature, the guide steers away from a tick box conformity culture. Addressing considerations missing from precedents, Manchester’s Residential Quality Guide tackles post-planning elements such as construction, value engineering (in its truest sense!) and property management that determine long-term success and value.

The design, delivery and management of new neighbourhoods will influence the character and identity of the city for generations to come but also, and importantly, shape the communities developing within them. This guidance begins by making sure those changing the city fabric have asked themselves the fundamental questions before embarking on the detail.

Through the Steering Group’s links, the guidance is already seeing national recognition through the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The Residential Quality Guide can be found at: http://www.manchester.gov.uk/downloads/download/6682/residential_quality_guide