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Design, integrity and place-making: research findings from our Greenwich Peninsula forum

Attendees found our research round tables at our September forum extremely useful both for learning purposes and networking.

Lewisham Council, Tower Hamlets Council, Redbridge Council, Amber Infrastructure, Stride Treglown Architects, master-panning consultancy David Lock Associates and leading international architectural firm Roger Stirk Harbour, were among the organisations that took part in our forum looking at station place-making and retail, joined up planning in mobility and housing and the regeneration of town centres.

Key questions posed to our attendees were around good practice in creating new sustainable districts and regenerating existing town centres. The workshop also looked at the UK government's 'Building beautiful, building better' campaign and whether the term 'beauty' is helpful when considering the standard of design in our built environment and the challenge of creating space around high-density living.

Among the findings was the assertion from one table member that 'connectivity' in place is key and should be secured through design, while other participants remarked that neither planning or design can in itself deliver a concept of 'beauty' in our cities and that a wider look at the 'integrity' of place' was important. Additionally, it was suggested that some home builders do not retain a long term interest in land, therefore designing high quality green space in and around housing developments, is seen as a liability.

Participants from the round table workshop were asked to form a feedback panel at the end of the forum (pictured above) and London Borough of Tower Hamlets' infrastructure planning manager, Matthew Pullen recording from his round table that:

'Connectivity across development projects is absolutely key, but also creating community and not just being taken up with practical issues of waste management and utilities planning. Our table talked about public spaces and density and difficulties of creating open space when living at Hong Kong style densities. It's therefore very important to consider examples from around the world which could help us.'

Tim Jeffery of Jeffery Associates Architecture, added: 'The Building Beautiful issue answer was all about the long term view. We discussed places which were planned well but suffered through poor stewardship - like Byker Wall in Newcastle. The failure to look after our environment is a key thing we must never forget. Alongside that, what makes retail and high streets work best is partly community. It's important not to let the 'great master plan' take away the interest and individuality of a place. How you plan for richness and allow for serendipity in settlements should be incorporated.'

Karen Pugh, Partner at David Lock Associates commented that: 'Perhaps we can look at the term 'integrity' rather than 'beauty' which has subjective, different meanings depending on whether you are homeless or a middle class person living in a leafy suburb. We are better at designing green spaces now, but there are different perspectives depending on whether you are a developer or a long term owner. The town centre question made for interesting discussions - at the core these are places for exchanges, meeting our needs as social animals.

As we were holding the forum on the Greenwich Peninsula our workshop groups looked at ways of improving the design for children and older people around river and dock space, using water as an important amenity, getting buy-in from water bodies.

Read more of our forum research and workshop findings in our post event report to be published shortly.

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