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Future High Streets - the architects' view

Above: 81 - 103 King's Road, Chelsea, London (Image courtesy Pilbrow & Partners)

Three leading architects will be taking part in our 'Future High Streets' discussions next week with differing views on how our shopping streets and town centres should be designed for sustainability.

The UK government has just announced further funding to bring derelict high streets and town centres up to scratch, including plans for new residential and connected transport.

BDP, Sheppard Robson and Pilbrow & Partners will be talking about the creation of new towns, hospitals and major healthcare facilities on the high street and plans to turn retail buildings into new office provision. They will be joined by Westminster City Council, Milligan, Redbridge Council, Gloucester City Council, Historic England and economics consultancy Volterra, among other contributors.

BDP's Director, Garry Wilding, works on retail led mixed use developments and regeneration schemes. He leads large teams who conceive and deliver significant and complex projects throughout the UK and internationally. His most recent completed project is The Lexicon in Bracknell, the creation of a new town centre for one of the original New Towns and his team’s refurbishment and reinvention of the internal environment of Meadowhall is due for completion later this year. This will be followed by the next phase of work at Meadowhall which is an extension to transform the external environment and enhance the restaurant and leisure offer.

Garry says:

'Even before the pandemic struck early in 2020, the way we shopped, spent our leisure time and worked was changing, driven predominantly by technology. Like it or not, the pandemic has accelerated and intensified this societal reconfiguration. Arguably, the retail landscape has undergone the most painful and seismic level of change as e-commerce takes centre stage...The question of how retailers maintain a strong connection with, and grow their customer base is still to be answered...Changes to the planning classes will also influence and facilitate more flexibility to adapt to demand, such as allowing Class E conversions from retail to residential through PD rights, which will bring more living accommodation to our urban centres. We must seize this opportunity to make changes that could generate stronger, more active, vibrant, mixed and ultimately sustainable places.'

One new use of vacant shops has been the introduction of health clinics in order that town centre visitors can access tests and health checks more easily. Sheppard Robson is now taking that one stage further by working on a development in Basildon town centre to introduce a new public hospital and healthcare site.

Colin Hockley, Partner at Sheppard Robson, will be explaining more about this exciting project at our discussion event next week, but he is currently using his 25 years of experience in healthcare to help drive the sector forward at the practice.

After studying to be an architect, Colin joined the NHS’s design team. In this role, he explored the impact of space and natural light on recovery and started his long-standing interest in how evidence-based design can benefit clinicians, hospital staff, and patients.

Colin went on to deliver major healthcare projects at architectural practices, both in the UK and internationally. By also leading education and workplace projects he has developed fresh perspectives to address the pertinent issues impacting healthcare, including sustainable design approaches, wellness in the workplace and harnessing modern methods of construction to create engaging architecture. Colin’s specialist knowledge has deepened through health-related research projects and the re-writing of several Department of Health HBN documents as well as a number of advisory roles for the NHS.

Another area of change for the high street has been the conversion of retail into new office space. Founder of Pilbrow & Partners, Fred Pilbrow, will be talking about the decision by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to give the green light to changes to the M&S building on London's King's Road. The development was to see the demolition of the existing four-storey building with retail units pulled down in favour of a new office block and terrace,

Fred says his new scheme has been revised from an earlier one rejected in 2021. He describes the current building dating from the 1980's to be of poor quality and that his accepted proposal carefully preserves the amenity of neighbouring residents living adjacent to the site:

'The King’s Road is one of London’s most iconic shopping thoroughfares. A private Royal street until 1830, it served as the King’s route to the hunting ground at Richmond and Kew. The proposals deliver BREEAM Outstanding and WELL Platinum workspace on three upper floors served by the central core. The floors are set back to preserve neighbouring daylight and sunlight, the resultant terraced profile allows the introduction of landscaped terraces to the mutual benefit of office tenants and neighbouring residents. The terraces create a variety of floorplate sizes and configurations, broadening the range of companies that could be accommodated in the development.

'The building delivers on ground floor a generous, open and lofty space for an anchor food retailer. Drawing the building line back from the King’s Road frontage allows the creation of a broad pavement activated by the proposed ground floor retail units. To the rear, the building sets back from the south and east behind a sequence of richly landscaped terraces.'


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