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Sport as catalyst for health and wellbeing and district regeneration

Plans for Gilston Park development by Harlow in Hertfordshire (MiCA Architects) will include 840 hectares of green spaces, public gardens, sports facilities and play spaces.

Future Cities Forum will be holding its July forum in London to discuss how sport helps to regenerate cities. The forum will also be taking an in-depth look at masterplans for towns and villages that point towards healthier lifestyles.

The National Planning Policy Framework has stated that new development 'must take account of and support local strategies to improve health, social and cultural wellbeing for all'. Questions will be asked:

  1. How can sports stadia and sporting facilities encourage the regeneration of healthier neighbourhoods?

  2. How can the benefits for the local community be quantified?

  3. What is the threat from digital sports initiatives?

  4. How can we design for healthier lifestyles with the masterplans for new towns and villages?

  5. What do architects need to consider in order to design sports grounds that are appropriate for the modern visitor?

In this round table, contributors will be drawn from sports venues, local authorities, developers, planners and architects. Please see below three of the examples of developments that are waiting for or are in planning, which Future Cities Forum will be discussing with our contributors.


As master planners, on behalf of Bellway Homes, Harrow Estates, Moulsham Hall Estate and Landvest, David Lock Associates has recently received approval at Chelmsford City Council’s Cabinet for a Masterplan Framework document to deliver around 950 new homes, 250 specialist elderly dwellings, together with a neighbourhood centre, site for a primary school and a Travelling Show-persons site, all set within a mature landscape setting adjacent to and integrated with the existing village.

The proposed development will help enable a more sustainable settlement overall, with the new neighbourhood centre providing local day to day facilities and opportunities for jobs that are currently very limited in the village; a critical mass of population to further support bus services; a connected network of cycling and pedestrian routes to promote active lifestyles for local trips and health & wellbeing; a site for a primary school to ensure the needs of the growth are provided for; green and blue infrastructure to enhance the mature landscape setting, providing biodiversity net gain and managing surface water run off; and a variety of housing types to include self/custom build homes. All delivered to meet the Building Regulations Future Homes Standard.


Meanwhile, the City of Peterborough has released a Master Plan for the Embankment area along the River Nene, which includes the new Anglia Ruskin University, a research super hub (funding for which was announced in early August 2020), and space for developing a new ground and associated facilities for Peterborough United Football Club (Posh).

The developer for the new ground, Embankment Properties, has said:

'Embankment Properties is interested in creating something bigger than just a football ground for Posh. Yes, we need a state-of-the-art stadium but that is only the jumping off point. Our concept envisions a much broader community gathering place including a fan zone, several dining venues and pubs, a hotel and conference centre, a technology centre and tech incubator, and fitness and activities facilities.

'The stadium itself will be designed around the aspirations of the club, chief among them to bring sustainable, successful Championship-level football back to Peterborough. A key part of achieving that objective is to enhance the club’s ability to grow ancillary income. The new ground will be built with much more than football in mind. We see hosting A-list entertainment spectacles like concerts, and boxing, and UFC events, as well as major football competitions like U-21 internationals. The concept of the new Peterborough United Stadium is inspired by the design and infrastructure of the modern, innovative and attractive Ferencvaros stadium in Hungary where co-owners Jason Neale, Darragh MacAnthony and Stewart Thompson visited during 2019.'


East Herts District Council have granted outline Planning Permission for MICA’s design proposals for a residential led mixed use development comprising of up to 8,500 residential homes, a range of community uses, retail and leisure facilities, business and commercial uses, open space and public realm and infrastructure.

The proposal, to the north of Harlow is part of the East of England Plan to provide new homes, jobs, investment and prosperity to Harlow and the surrounding areas of Essex and Hertfordshire. The illustrative master plan, designed in collaboration with Grimshaw, delivers high quality homes across a spectrum of tenures, while developing only one-third of the available land, sustainably planned to meet identified housing needs, and supporting Harlow’s lasting regeneration.

The design is a sensitive and measured response intimately connected to its place and its landscape heritage.

It is conceived as a series of connected and distinctive villages, each separated by and directly facing onto green space and organised around a central restored historic parkland − Gilston Park. While each village has its own centre and will benefit from individual and differentiated character and identity, all are bound together in one overall landscape vision. Designed in the spirit of a ‘managed estate’, GPE provides substantially increased access to open space and amenity for all.

Gavin Miller, Director commented “We are delighted to see our designs receive outline planning permission. The scheme provides a much-needed solution to today’s housing challenges in a resilient and responsible manner. As the next stages develop, we hope that the design quality within our masterplan is realised."

For more information on the project click here.


The value of sustainable cultural infrastructure to the life and economic wellbeing of cities has been discussed in depth at Future Cities Forum and sports facilities have been an important part of this. Manchester Arena, which hosts boxing and tennis tournaments as well as concerts, is a focal part of the city and architects HOK are re-furbishing and extending it. John Rhodes, Design Principal in HOK's London office is a director of the Sports + Recreation + Entertainment practice and is helping spur urban regeneration and economic development in communities.

John explained - at Future Cities Forum's Manchester discussion last year::

'The arena is 25 years old and this is the right time for refurbishment. Its location in city centre is good particularly as the high street is a challenge. In retail, the big anchors aren't there anymore, so the arena is a place that can drive footfall seven days a week and that is significant. It benefits from good transport and a loyal community. Arenas as proving to be excellent anchors in cities and we have been asked to create new arenas around the world.

'Arena design can drive a distinctive city brand. They are emotional places, where you might remember meeting your future partner for instance. It is in the experience of buildings where you create place. In the stadium that we are designing in Atlanta, a rap artist has his own space. He has become the central character of the building. We need to embrace the environment of the arena in Manchester to help define that place. The lightbulb was actually invented in Gateshead and we need to take these things, embrace them and make them relevant in our modern culture and use it to create content.

'Public realm is fundamental - it lasts longer than individual stadiums - it will be there for hundreds of years and you have to make sure they have the right character with active edges. The challenge is with capacity when you have peak flows and again how the space are working when they are not being used so much - it is an art.'


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