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Shaping the future

Source: Public Sector Executive Jan/Feb 2013

Two landscape architecture students who won a national design competition as part of a project to regenerate Kirkby town centre in Ashfi eld explain how good design can create dynamic urban spaces that are safe, integrated and have plenty of opportunities to play and interact. Adam Hewitt reports.

OPUN, the better architecture body for the East Midlands, has announced the results of a design competition aimed at revitalising Kirkby town centre in Nottinghamshire.

University of Greenwich architecture students Anna Sieczak and Patricia Paegle were selected by judges from OPUN’s design review panel for their joint proposal to divide the town centre square into six integrated zones, bringing together the entrance, meeting and market areas alongside a cultural, events and recreation space.

Ashfield District Council says the scheme will contribute to its corporate priority of improving the prosperity and shaping the future of town centres as well as revitalising markets.

Council leader Cllr John Knight said: “This particular initiative aims to create a focal public space, make Kirkby more attractive and accessible to visitors and enhance the economic viability of the town. By working with the architecture centre for the East Midlands, OPUN, and design students from across the country, we’ve been able to draw on upand- coming talent to develop fresh ideas for improving the town.

“Kirkby suffered for years from the blight of the former precinct area, but we are starting to see real changes in the town; this is a oncein- a-lifetime opportunity to build a sustainable future for Kirkby.”

Explaining more about their winning design, Sieczak said: “We wanted to create a dynamic urban space that is safe, integrated and has plenty of opportunities to play and interact.

“Water, waves and fl ow were important aspects for us in putting our ideas together, and we spent a lot of time researching, designing and selecting suitable materials.”

Dharmista Patel, head of OPUN’s Design Support Services, said: “Research has shown that good design plays a very important part in creating prosperous places that are sustainable, userfriendly, attractive and fi t-for-purpose. This entry captured all these things. It demonstrates an excellent understanding of the immediate and wider site context, and a well thought out design which will encourage independent businesses to an inviting new space and surrounding streetscape.”

Work on site is due to start later this year.

Design Network launched across England

Eight not-for-profi t design and architecture organisations have come together to form the Design Network.

The move comes as a result of increasing demand for independent, impartial and affordable design advice for local authorities, developers and architects. The new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) that came into effect in April 2012 recommends that design review arrangements should be in place to support the planning system. The Design Network will signpost local authorities, developers and communities to where independent, established design review panels exist across England.

Training, community engagement, economic development, design workshops, advice to local authorities, neighbourhood planning support, and sessions on the new Building for Life 12 standard all form part of the Design Network offer.

The Design Network members are:
• Creating Excellence (South West)
• Kent Architecture Centre (South East)
• IntegreatPLUS (Yorkshire & the Humber)
• MADE (West Midlands)
• North East Design Review & Enabling Service
• OPUN (East Midlands)
• Places Matter! (North West)
• Shape East (East of England) 

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Landscape Institute have backed the move. Alastair McCapra of the Landscape Institute said: ‘‘Design Review is a proven way of ensuring that the landscapes we create are designed in a way that looks elegant and functions successfully. Every aspect of the built environment benefi ts from this process.

“The Network is a great way of ensuring that this service is widely available.”

RIBA CEO Harry Rich added: “The quality of the built environment affects us all. Design Review is a respected method of improving the quality of development by offering constructive, impartial and expert advice.

The RIBA actively supports design review and is pleased to be working with the Design Network.”

OPUN chief executive Julie Tanner (pictured) said: “OPUN is pleased to join the Design Network, it reaffi rms our common goals in offering independent design review to support good-quality housing coming through the planning system in England.”

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