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Place-making and rail stations

This was an exciting panel discussion about the future possibilities for place-making around stations with Liam Harrison, Market Director from SNC-Lavalin Atkins, TfL Commercial Development's Strategic Planning Adviser Stuart Robinson, Alex Reitman, Principal Project Manager - Master-planning at Old Oak & Park Royal Development Corporation and Richard Marsh, the Director over-seeing development and regeneration at Bristol Temple Quarter.

There were questions asked around how money is clawed back from investment in HS2, whether station buildings are being designed to connect with their immediate communities, how over-station development can work best and how we build a sense of place through siting educational institutions, leisure facilities and parks next to stations?

Liam Harrison from SNC-Lavalin Atkins spoke first warning that debate has to happen very quickly in initial planning stages, as the project moves on and then human-scale place-making can be overlooked. Where HS2 runs into Leeds, he said, there are significant challenges with the historical nature of the site, but there are opportunities to build the fabric of the station into the city, treating it as a new place and opening up the South Bank area. It is a constant challenge, he explained, to think how we can use our stations differently, for instance with concourses and mezzanines - can they become new high streets in the sky?

One important area for Liam's team is building the right collaboration between local authorities, the rail companies, land owners and design and construction teams . Each of these have their concerns and the challenge for Atkins is to create unity in purpose, understanding and process in order for the project to be carried out successfully.

Richard Marsh Director, Bristol Temple Quarter, then went on to discuss the challenges of regeneration around Temple Meads (which is the last of the great Victorian-era stations to be modernised) making the area both a gateway and place. Heritage constraints he said are a concern but also that the station is sited on the edge of the city and therefore somewhat disconnected. A vast number of people - growing from 10 million now to 22 million by 2030 - will use it in the future. Currently the 'way finding' from the station into the city is very poor. The station is partly cut off from both residential and business districts by a cordon of roads and concrete, but there is now a plan to use the 70 hectare Temple Quarter project to open up the St. Philip's Marsh area and re-connect it to the city.

The growth of the west of England could benefit further still from the development of this significant station he continued, but should also operate as a place in its own right with strong retail and residential elements as well as being a place to dwell. However there are constraints around funding. The station is in the public ownership of Network Rail, Bristol City Council and Homes England, however it has been extremely helpful to have a new £300 million University of Bristol enterprise campus sited there to encourage business and innovation.

Alex Reitman described how Old Oak & Park Royal DC has a mandate from the Mayor of London to create 25,000 homes and 65,000 jobs across an area largely composed of logistics sheds, railway land, light industry and brownfield sites. The area will have the only interchange station between High Speed 2 linking Euston with Birmingham and the North, and Crossrail. This will create, Alex said, a new station with the same passenger volumes as Waterloo. Old Oak will completely redraw the geography of how people get in and out of London. It is a once in one hundred year opportunity to show how a major station can be the catalyst for creating new, vibrant neighbourhoods, as well as re-connecting older communities that have been isolated by infrastructure instead of served by it.

Stuart Robinson from TfL remarked that the common thread running through all the projects discussed on the panel was 'how do you integrate stations into a community.?' He said that it had worked extremely well with Argent at King's Cross because of the understanding about the importance of public realm. It was about the successful inter-meshing of urban fabric into the railway infrastructure.

"I also chair the board which oversees the commercial development of stations for HS2 and have seen that the government, which has poured huge amounts into engineering-led infrastructure projects, now wants to extract as much value out of stations as it can - and this creates quite a tension.

'At TfL I am advising on over 80 station sites where we are looking at integrating new housing and making community-based hubs which will help the growth of London into a true poly-centric city. We need to make these stations into places which will attract businesses but also for people to live. It is about getting the right balance between movement and place.'

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