Event Cancelled – A Manifesto for Towns

Unfortunately we have had to cancel this event.  Our next Hatch event will be in June, please look out for future DCFW events.

Our next event is an evening talk and discussion open to all as well as our Hatch network.

Following refreshments we will have a presentation and discussion with Will Brett, Director of Communications at the New Economics Foundation, the people-powered think tank.

Will is co-author of a report, published in October last year, called Cities and Towns: the 2017 General Election and the social divisions of place. This report demonstrated the increasing electoral divide between our largest cities and smaller conurbations, and presented the bare bones of a policy agenda to support the flourishing of towns. He will speak about the findings of the report and set out his latest thinking on a policy agenda for towns. There will be time to discuss the findings of the report and consider the implications for the town in which we live and work.

Will’s career has spanned journalism, politics, campaigning and policy research. He has worked for a number of high-profile politicians (Tessa Jowell, Stella Creasy, Ed Miliband), campaigning organisations (the Electoral Reform Society) and academics (Prof Andrew Gamble). Will appears regularly on national broadcast media and has written for a wide range of newspapers, magazines and journals including the New Statesman, Prospect, the Daily Telegraph and Political Quarterly.

This event is open to all so please feel free to invite others who you think might like to attend.

There is a £5 booking fee for this event.


Hatch Programme 2018

Here you can download a programme of Hatch events for the first half of this year so you can put the dates in your diaries.  Details of site visits and speakers will be announced when confirmed.

Please note that some Hatch events will now have an attendance fee as indicated on the programme.  This is to help cover costs and will help us to bring in speakers and to visit places that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.  This will be kept to a minimum with most events costing just £5 and others will remain free.


Hatch: Digital Placemaking

Join us for a co-hosted event by the Landscape Institute Wales and Hatch (DCfW) on Digital Placemaking.
Dr Jo Morrison will launch Calvium’s Ideascape: Digital Placemaking for Porth Teigr Report; a six month research project supported by the Porth Teigr Community Fund and sustainable developers Igloo. Its ambition is to inspire local communities to imagine how the creative use of digital technologies in the public spaces of Porth Teigr might foster new and engaging experiences for all those who spend time there. The event will explore how digital technologies can be used to support urban innovation and people’s experiences of the public realm. It will focus on regeneration and use the ‘Ideascape: Digital Placemaking for Porth Teigr’ project to illustrate how digital placemaking can enable rich social experiences in public spaces, help local economic activity to thrive and celebrate cultural heritage. After the presentation, the audience will be invited to have an open discussion with Jo and other members of the panel which has been specially convened for the evening.


Hatch: Effective Engagement

Hatch, Thursday 1st September

Effective Engagement

By Wendy Maden


A recent change to the requirements for pre-application consultation with the community and other stakeholders in the planning application process has highlighted the need for to think about how to engage. Can we avoid ticking yet another box and going through the motions? Can we add value through engagement and participation and if so how? September’s HATCH network meeting considered these issues and the challenges and opportunities presented by consultation and engagement.  Three built environment professionals were invited to share their experience and thoughts on the subject and stimulate debate.


Action & testing

Ruth Essex shared her experiences of working with people through a ‘tactical urbanism’ approach. Ruth is a regeneration consultant and creative producer who currently manages the Arts Council of Wales’ Ideas-People-Places programme. She began by challenging the language of ‘engagement’ and ‘consultation’ by instead suggesting that describing the activity as ‘working with people’ or ‘co-production’ can create a different dynamic that can be more productive. Ruth described tactical urbanism as ‘DIY urbanism’ which allows people to quickly change their environment instead of spending time talking about possible changes. She explained that, from her experience, this method of working with communities to change their built environment has been more productive than the classic model of consultation-then-action. It allows ‘quick wins’ which are motivating for communities as they see instant change and are given agency to change their environment. This direct approach can be more exciting for people than looking at plans for a potential project – it essentially minimises planning and maximises activity.

Ruth noted that as well as better engaging people, tactical urbanism can also be used to test different ideas before possibly settling on a more permanent intervention.  Ruth noted how conventional planning processes emphasise the need for perfect results, following lengthy consultation, without room for testing, and learning from the testing process.  Therefore the tactical urbanism method can allow for trial and error whilst preventing costly changes if a project is unsuccessful. An example might be wasted or unused space in towns and cities, awaiting development, that provide opportunities for tactical urbanism to allow ideas to be implemented and tested early. Part of this testing, she noted, is the ability to observe how people use the space and any newly installed hardware, which can help inform future action in the area.

A number of examples from around the world were highlighted by Ruth to demonstrate how this concept had been used in practise. A well-known example was Times Square in New York where a sequence of interventions were successful in leading to pedestrianising the area. Examples from central Europe and the UK demonstrated a range of projects of different scales. 72 Hour Urban Action is a unique architectural competition whereby eight teams are given a different public space in one city and they must design and build a project in three days and three nights. Ruth described this as a successful model for engaging and motivating the community and creating almost instantaneous action in public spaces.


Develop a relationship

Following Ruth, Owen Davies discussed his recent experience of community engagement on the Arts and Minds project by Arts Council in Wales. Owen is director of Owen Davies Consulting Ltd, a regeneration and planning practice focusing on making places more liveable, memorable and viable. Owen began by defining ‘consulting’ as the action of seeking advice or information, as opposed to ‘engaging’ which is to occupy attention, meaning that engagement should be viewed as a long term interaction with a community.

Catching people’s attention

Owen described his involvement in a particular project which provides valuable lessons for successful engagement. The example was an estate improvement project St George’s Court in Tredegar, South Wales. The team had developed a ‘yellow brick road’ idea and in order to catch people’s attention, prior to organised consultation, they painted a yellow strip through a well-used car park on the estate. This served to signal change and stimulate curiosity amongst the community. In terms of organised consultation sessions, Owen stated that the intention was to make the community feel comfortable coming to the team to talk about their area, so hot water bottles and an abundance of tea and cake were available at the sessions. Although small gestures, they made people feel welcome and ‘warm’ during these events which naturally aided discussion and engagement. Following the event all of the written material was left in situ, to allow residents to view the content and as a reminder that change will happen.

Establishing a welcoming, regular presence

In order to develop a long term relationship with the community, Owen described how the team used a vacant flat on the estate as their project base. This was open every Wednesday for the community to pop in and discuss the project or any other issues relating to the estate. This open house approach led to discussions with the residents about their real day to day concerns, one of which was a concern about front doors being replaced for safety reasons. In order to address this concern the resident artist started to photograph every door in the estate as a record and these images were subsequently displayed on the estate. The process of doing this not only made the project personal to each resident, but also facilitated a reason for one to one contact with and between residents.

Owen concluded that this level of attention and time given to engagement with the community led to a better understanding of their concerns and how the project could help improve their wellbeing. However he noted that the provision of funding from the Arts Council meant this process could be facilitated, whereas in the case of other projects this close and lengthy contact may be less possible.

Like Ruth’s description of tactical urbanism, the observation was made that the success of this engagement could be the punctuation of a long term process with physical interventions and activities. In this instance the social regeneration was most important and this engagement created a sense of ownership and legacy that would outlive the project itself.


The value of creativity

Emma Price is Director of EMP Projects, an arts consultancy which works in brokering curatorial partnerships specialising in the planning of small to large-scale creative and cultural developments. Emma began by reiterating the distinction between consultation and engagement and the many different terms used to describe this process, both within the development and art ‘worlds’. In specific relation to her work Emma explained the value of having an artist on a design team, not necessarily to create a piece of art work but rather to provide a different perspective and alternative method of engagement. Examples she cited were artist Rick Lowe’s What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation from Project Row Houses, Houston, Texas, 2006 and The Blue House, a durational art project initiated in the Netherlands by artist Jeanne van Heeswijk in 2005, which was an example of creating space within a development for creative interaction and exchange of ideas. This example demonstrated the benefits of having artists’ in residence within a city and for new development.

Artist Rick Lowe - Project Row Houses, Houston, Texas
Artist Rick Lowe – Project Row Houses, Houston, Texas

Emma also provided some examples of working with artists as creative place-makers and art for the community which is about peoples’ experience of a place, such as the ‘art of getting lost’, whereby participants were directed around a town in such a way that led them to discover a part of their area with which they were unfamiliar.

Emma had a positive outlook on the changes to consultation requirements and saw these as an opportunity rather than a burden.  She has experience of working with developers on the type and scale of projects that will be affected by the new consultation requirements. She works on projects where a portion of the arts budget from private sector developments, via section 106 agreements, is allocated towards arts and creative projects which may have no physical presence. This included national house builders and the challenges of engaging with not only new residents, but existing ones. Emma noted the example of Hafod care home in Barry where funding was allocated for an artist in residence, Heloise Godfrey-Talbot who welcomed new residents as they moved in and gathered stories about them and the place.  Another example was the commissioning of artists Owen Griffiths and Fern Thomas to work with the community on a project based around ecology at a Barrett Homes development in Wick.

The concluding remarks from Emma were that effective engagement through art and design can be about talking with and listening to people and developing a dialogue to allow ideas and creativity to flow. She has found that action attracts a wider range of people, not just objectors, and so can be more effective in creatively engaging a community. Emma recommends that, where a 1% section 106 agreement is allocated for public art, clients and design teams should make the most of it and that in practice she is seeing more developers engaging with this creative process because they see the value of it, rather than out of necessity.

Several examples demonstrated the value of creativity and of tailoring engagement to different projects to yield effective results. The speakers in their different roles documented varying methods to engage more usefully and purposefully with communities, but there was a clear consensus that long term engagement is very different to one-off consultation and that participants will be better engaged with creative change rather than formal consultation.

Sifting the comments from the speakers and the debate, and reflecting on the event I thought that the typical ‘classic consultation event’ is insufficient to truly engage a community on the issues that affect them and will ultimately mean a significant change to their built environment.

How we approach engagement on different schemes and proposals will require creativity with regard to the type of development, the location and the local demographic. As we’ve learnt from the speakers, these creative ideas could vary from tactical interventions, to resident artists, to tonnes of cake! Tailoring ideas to suit the specific project and community will be invaluable. I don’t think that a different form of engagement needs to take a huge amount of time or resources. Even if there is only the time and budget for one consultation event, a little more innovation and forethought can make events different and more engaging and can really make the difference.

From my perspective as a planner, the new consultation requirements can be seen as an opportunity to engage earlier and more usefully with a community and with Statutory and non-statutory Consultees. If the design and development team enters into the process as a creative, stimulating exercise, rather than as a necessary box ticking exercise, great value can be added.

The statutory requirement is for details of consultation to be recorded and regarded within a Pre-Application Consultation report, to be submitted with an application. However if consultation is inadequate and the community and stakeholders are not properly engaged it will be difficult to demonstrate a worthwhile process that improved the quality of the proposals. So this early consultation is only likely to be useful and meaningful if the form and methodology of the engagement is genuine, innovative and creative. If not all participants and design team will fall into old habits and fail to discover fresh, value adding opportunities.

Comment Hatch

Developing Cardiff Bay: Hatch Review

The latest Hatch event involved a walk around Cardiff Bay, guided by urban designer Dr Mike Biddulph, from the Place Making team at Cardiff Council.  To reflect the range of built environment disciplines represented in the Hatch network we have collated the perspective of an urban designer, arts consultant, public engagement and experience design consultant and an energy and building physics engineer to see how their views on the event varied.



Emma Price, Arts Consultant reflects on an illumination of Cardiff Bay and the common aspects of seemingly different disciplines.

I was not sure what to expect at the latest Hatch event as I am not an urban designer, landscape architect, planner, or architect. So when it was my time to introduce myself, I hesitated, before revealing that I am an arts consultant working predominantly in commissioning art in the built environment. It is my professional experience in this field which therefore framed my interaction with the workshop.

The walk and talk brought together a range of designers and innovators working in the city. Mike set out the challenges of urbanisation and the creative potential of speculative design. We collectively examined the constraints and areas for potential development; exploring the physical factors that can affect development prospects, and the potential for urban design solutions for an ever evolving Cardiff Bay

I learned that urban design is a particular form of enquiry into the nature of our city, its form and function.  We all seek to understand the city as a place of human coexistence and to contribute to the creation of strategies and projects that inform its future development.  This struck me as similar to the new and innovative ways that artists are approaching working in the public realm.

We were encouraged to look for and explore new ideas around the design decisions faced by Mike and his colleagues when developing an urban space that works for a wide section of the local population and visiting community.

During our walk we explored and reimagined the Bay through its physical landscape and its role in cultural regeneration. The discussions reminded me of the Situationists and their interpretation of psychogeography. This is something that I have long been interested in, but until now, only from the perspective of working with artists to investigate the experiential and physical elements of place making. But in fact we are all, in some way, psychogeographers.

Psychogeography and the dérive

…The Situationists’ desire to become psychogeographers, with an understanding of the ‘precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals’, was intended to cultivate an awareness of the ways in which everyday life is presently conditioned and controlled, the ways in which this manipulation can be exposed and subverted, and the possibilities for chosen forms of constructed situations in the post-spectacular world. Only an awareness of the influences of the existing environment can encourage the critique of the present conditions of daily life, and yet it is precisely this concern with the environment, which we live, which is ignored.

(Source: Plant, S. (1992) The most radical gesture: The Situationist International in a postmodern age’ P58: Routledge.)

Mike enthused us as to the benefits of walking through a place with eyes wide open, and the need to truly address and represent contemporary urbanism in future plans.  Mike also brought home to us the challenge in resolving complex issues facing transport, public space (including streets and land use), and building typologies through creative design plans.

The group’s critical contribution throughout the walk paid homage to the importance of cross-sector consultation, mirroring Mike’s generous, site-specific explanation of the work of urban designers in creating our streets, buildings and transport routes that consider both people and place.

Although I had worked in the Bay for several years, I was now seeing the Bay’s streetscapes in a new light. Perhaps we are so tuned out and focused on travelling through places for practical reasons that we don’t pay sufficient attention to our journeys – on foot, via varying modes of transport, or via our creative imagination. The workshop highlighted that fully engaging our senses and emotional awareness on something as basic as a short walk can be used to positively influence place.

As the site-responsive workshop progressed I felt increasingly at ease with the contributions I could make when discussing potential opportunities in line with the cultural heritage and future aspirations for this part of the city. This comes from working with artists, many of whom, through the context of their practice, research place, people and the cultural offerings of a particular site and whose work directly or indirectly offers creative development opportunities. So, not too dissimilar to that of an urban designer.



John Lloyd, Energy and Building Physics Engineer, enjoys the bigger picture offered by urban design.

Coming from an engineering background, I must admit to being a little in the dark as to exactly what Mike’s line of work as an Urban Designer entailed, so before arriving did a little internet search, turning up the following:

Urban design is about making connections between people and places, movement and urban form, nature and the built fabric. Urban design draws together the many strands of place-making, environmental stewardship, social equity and economic viability into the creation of places with distinct beauty and identity. Urban design is derived from but transcends planning and transportation policy, architectural design, development economics, engineering and landscape. It draws these and other strands together creating a vision for an area and then deploying the resources and skills needed to bring the vision to life.

(Source –

As interesting as that sounded, I still was still a little vague on the specifics so went along with an open mind and no preconceptions. To all of our surprise, Mike Biddulph chose to focus on the area of the Bay where Lloyd George Avenue connects Bute Street and Roald Dahl Plas. Hatch members in attendance initially struggled to visualise the development of a site, which on face value, appeared to be an area of the city that was already “complete”, modern and a significant part of the local road network. After some encouragement or perhaps coercion, we all came to agree that while the area may not require redevelopment, it is underutilised space in a prime location and the focus of the evening’s conversation therefore centred on how it might be improved.

This is one of the parts of Cardiff that has seen substantial change over recent decades, but there is scope to think about it differently if infrastructure projects such as a South Wales Metro system extends down to the Bay. Routes can be found to better link Cardiff Bay to other areas of the city and one of a number of routes could bring a tramline through the road network around Craft in the Bay and the Red Dragon Centre. If this were to go ahead then the significant construction work required would in itself bring opportunities to redesign and make better use of the spaces around this area; most of which is currently uninviting to pedestrians and therefore arguably a poor use of such large open public space.

While the Hatch group is made up of a fairly diverse set of disciplines, all of which demand a degree of creativity, I think it’s fair to say that most of us rarely need to operate on the scale and with the lack of restriction that Mike’s job demands. As an Energy and Building Physics Engineer, I’m usually focussed on small details and technical calculations and personally found the lack of constraints on Mike’s current work as quite liberating, if perhaps a little overwhelming!

From our starting point at the Millennium Centre, we walked along an old footpath behind buildings facing onto Bute Street, leading to the old derelict train station building. Mike chatted though how he would think about such an area, including ideas for how this listed building could be brought back to life and how, on the back of this, the Council could try to influence further development of this area.

We walked along Bute Street to discuss the importance of the Loudon Square development, how Bute Street could potentially be opened up to allow access across to the Lloyd George Avenue area and the benefits this could bring to the Butetown community. Finally, heading back towards Bute Place for a closing conversation bringing together all that had been discussed, Mike worked through one possible vision for how this part of our city could look in the future.

One of Mike’s opening lines at the start of the evening was that he thought that his was the best job in world. By the end of the evening and now with a better understanding the full scale of the positive influence someone in his position could have on the future of our city and its communities, I think he might have a point!



Peter Trevitt, Public Engagement and Experience Design Consultant, on the importance of someone looking at the bigger picture.

Gathering outside the Wales Millennium Centre (WMC), Mike set out to provide a flavour of what his work as an urban designer in the local authority is all about, by taking us on a journey around his mind, as well as the Bay.  He then surprised us when he asked us which part of the bay we thought he was thinking about at the moment. We all assumed it would be one of the obviously run down or under-used areas, but in fact his focus is on the relatively well-kept area between Lloyd George Avenue and Roald Dahl Plas.

Mike explained that his work involved thinking long term about the big picture, and that it was a fluid process of exploring how even quite radical changes and options might work and being prepared to reconsider them as often as necessary. It was as if in his mind he has a big pencil and eraser does endless sketches of road layouts, development blocks and landmark features, using his skills to find interesting configurations. He works with other specialists at the Council to provoke wider discussion and consultation, long before a scheme is formally defined.

This strategic approach felt very appealing, but also very necessary – if no one is considering our environment in this way, how can we be sure that the best solutions are being found at an early enough stage?

Continuing our walk there were more surprises in store. We quickly found ourselves on a long footpath following the line of the old dock boundary that most of us had never seen before, and provided a new angle on very familiar sights. We looked at the old Bay Station building and then explored more of Bute Street, as far as the potential cross-route to the south of Loudoun Square. Mike explained that if a tramline comes to Cardiff Bay, this could become a key point to provide a new east-west route in Butetown. We began to appreciate better how his mind worked now, always looking for the links and connections that were key to opening up the city and attracting investment.

This fascinating walk ended back near the WMC drawing tram stations on a large piece of paper on the floor, and debating the merits or otherwise of whether high rise development could even be accommodated in this area or not. Mike had said he loved his job, and it was not difficult to see why.



Lindsey Brown, Urban Designer reminds us of the importance of ‘looking beyond’ ourselves and our everyday, and to future legacies.

As an urban designer it is almost impossible not to stand in a public space or on a street and refrain from analysing the urban fabric, watch what people do or wonder why all the seating has been positioned on the shaded side of the street. We’re never off duty!  So when the invitation arrived to join Hatch’s latest event exploring development and placemaking around the Bay, it went straight in my diary!

Meeting outside the Wales Millennium Centre Mike began the workshop by asking us what we thought of the space around us.  There was a suggestion it was the culmination of the Bay’s transformation; once a redundant and inaccessible dockland, now a popular destination for visitors and residents of Cardiff.  There was discussion too on the connection between the city and the Bay, focusing on Lloyd George Avenue, its poor level of use and disjointed links to the city centre.  Mike immediately turned this on its head and asked us whether this is really the burning issue for the future development of the Bay?  His assertion being that Lloyd George Avenue exists and people do use it to walk, cycle and drive between the city centre and the Bay.  Instead he posed a different question; what connections and opportunities in the Bay have not yet been realised?  And so the tone for the evening’s workshop was set – where is the potential in the Bay and how, as designers, can we shape its development?

We focused on ‘The Flourish’, the rather large traffic island home to a Grade II listed building housing Craft in the Bay.  Mike led us along a narrow path, edged by original dockland railings.  It forms one of the many north–south linear routes in this part of the Bay, but it was the opportunity to introduce east-west connections and bring together the dotted collection of galleries and art spaces that appealed to Mike.

Heading further north talk of unrealised opportunity went up a level.  We gathered on Bute Street and Mike asked ‘What about punching a hole through this wall?’  The wall in question being an 8ft stone wall bounding the railway track.  Whilst eyebrows were raised, eyes also lit up!

We walked through Cardiff Bay railway station and Mike mentioned the possibility of a tram and the opportunity to extend the line to the Flourish.  An opportunity to not only create a sense of arrival befitting of the Bay but improve connectivity for everyday passengers and visitors alike.

Stretching alongside the railway line we touched on Lloyd George Avenue and how introducing a tram line would create opportunity for new building lines and streets that would add layers to the Avenue rather than erode people’s patterns of movement.

Our final stop brought us to the traffic island in the centre of the Flourish and it was here that a blank plan was cast on the floor in typical urban designer style.  Thoughts and ideas from the discussion were quickly sketched, bringing to life the opportunities and potential we had spotted during our walk.  For me it was an inspiring and somehow reassuring experience.  We are all familiar with plans and drawings but so often we don’t get to see the journey of how we have arrived at the design on the plan.

The event came with the brief ‘to be prepared to look and talk’.  This reminded me of an urban design phrase I often use when exploring the built environment, ‘look up, around and along’.  For me Mike’s workshop has added a fourth dimension to this: ‘look beyond’.   To remember that as designers we are not just here to celebrate the good and undo the bad but to realise the potential.


Samuel Utting, Architect welcomes the opportunity to think more strategically.

From an architect’s perspective, the workshop was an opportunity to better understand the thinking processes and frames of reference of urban designers, who generally operate at a more strategic level and within longer timescales.

As we were gathering in Roald Dahl Plass to start our workshop, Mike asked what we thought of the space. Although it is a place quite familiar to us all, it wasn’t easy to pinpoint why we weren’t instinctively in love with the space. The solutions to transforming it into a successful public square became clearer as we walked through the area with our guide, reorganising it and solving its issues in a piecemeal way. Talking and walking around Butetown and Cardiff Bay was a welcome reminder of the principles behind successful urban spaces that the likes of Jane Jacobs, Jan Gehl and William H Whyte introduced to us in architecture school. It was good to see these principles in the future vision of Butetown and Cardiff Bay… at last.


Thank you to all of our contributors.

Events Hatch

Hatch: Developing Cardiff Bay

For our next Hatch event we hope to make the most of the light evenings and (hopefully) nice weather and get outside.  Mike Biddulph will to lead a workshop looking at development and place-making in Cardiff Bay.

In this on-site workshop we will explore and discuss the area of Cardiff where Bute Street and Lloyd George Avenue become Roald Dahl Plas. We will explore the heritage, look for development opportunities and consider the key constraints and opportunities for anything that could happen here in the future. In addition we will reflect on the role of various actors in bringing forward improvements to this well-known bit of city.

Be prepared to look and talk.

Dr Mike Biddulph was Senior Lecturer in Urban Design at Cardiff University and now works in the Place Making Team at Cardiff Council.

We will meet at 6pm outside the Wales Millennium Centre.  If you arrive a little late you should be able to find us around that area.  If you can hang around for a bit longer we will also go for a drink somewhere in the bay after the workshop.  On the off chance it’s raining we will meet at our office instead.

Click here to find out more about our Hatch Network and how you can join


Place-Making in the New Wales

Landscape Architect and DCFW Hatch member, Mark Lawton reviews the Landscape Institute Wales’ Conference which took place on Wednesday 13th January 2016 in Cardiff Bay

The conference was organised and hosted by Dr Ruth Williams, Policy Consultant for Landscape Institute Wales (LIW).  The catalyst for the event was the opening of the LIW’s bi-lingual exhibition, ‘Re-thinking the Urban Landscape’ in the Senedd and launched by Jenny Rathbone AM and Noel Farrer, President of the LI.

Showcasing some of the UK’s most powerful, contemporary landscape projects, including the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and the Olympic Park, alongside smaller community-led schemes, the inspiring exhibition highlights best practice, quality design and the importance of investing in landscape and green infrastructure in shaping our cities so they become better, healthier and safer places to live.

The conference aimed to highlight the role of landscape architects and to discuss the practical opportunities in implementing policy following the recent release of legislation in Wales, particularly the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act 2015.  The event featured speakers from the Landscape Institute, Natural Resources Wales and Welsh Government with attendance from a wide range of professionals and organisations which made for some interesting debate.  A thought provoking presentation was given by Wendy Richards, formerly of the Design Commission for Wales (DCFW), twice LIW Chair and now Design Director at The Urbanists. Workshops were held by landscape professionals from Monmouthshire and Torfaen Councils and Chris Jones Regeneration.

Some of the main points raised by speakers were:

  • Higher densities for new housing is needed to reduce the pressure to build on agricultural land
  • Politicians should more strongly promote the need for quality in new development. Often architects and landscape architects are not involved in the design of residential areas, leading to unsustainable, car dependent communities that do not respond to their locale.
  • Landscape is not contained within a red line – new development should consider the bigger picture
  • Landscapes should be multifunctional and should be designed around their required uses e.g. biodiversity & floodwater retention
  • An ecosystem services approach means analysing and working with the complex resources within the landscape to balance their value against the demands that we place upon them in new development
  • Get the fundamentals of policy and design right and the rest will follow
  • Policy needs to be clear with indicators as to what the outcome should be

Many of the issues raised overlapped with themes discussed in the DCFW’s LandMarks events and publication, particularly the need for a multidisciplinary approach to positively shaping and managing the landscapes of Wales to add value and avoid the need for mitigation.

The event was inspiring, whilst also raising a number of challenges for the industry. I was particularly inspired by:

  • The Wellbeing and Future Generations Act 2015 – improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of Wales through a “sustainable development principle” which places requirements on public bodies which relate to seven well-being goals
  • The simple but effective concept of One House, One Tree – a policy proposal for house builders to have a minimum tree planting requirement in new development
  • The achievement of the High Line project in New York – two local residents took the lead in saving the structure and repurposing it as a high quality park whose environmental and economic benefits have driven wider regeneration of the city
  • Monmouthshire Green Infrastructure Supplementary Planning Guidance – The SPG is a first for Wales, and provides guidance for developers and planners and helps encourage better quality and consideration in planning applications.

Some challenges we must address as design professionals and decision/policy makers are:

  • Policy is necessary to guide new development. However, too much policy to wade through can be counter-productive. Guidance should be concise with clear aspirations
  • Design professionals are rarely given sufficient time by clients to design and consult – something which is encouraged by DCFW which promotes early consultation and pre-application discussion involving and integrated design team
  • Local authority boundaries are not physically legible within the landscape, so collaborative working and cross-boundary policies should be encouraged

The intention expressed is to explore more ways to strengthen the agenda of landscape design and better place-making in Wales, so watch this space!

The LIW, as the professional body for landscape designers and practitioners, set out its pre-election suggestions for the development of a ‘Landscape Vision for Wales’, a Cabinet position on place-making, and maximisation of the benefits for society from every development through place-making and green infrastructure. These are all initiatives which would be supported by the Design Commission for Wales and could be explored by the Hatch network.

The LI exhibition ‘Rethinking the Urban Landscape’ is at the Senedd, Cardiff Bay from 11th-29th January 2016.

Mark Lawton is a Landscape Architect with HLM and a member of DCFW’s Hatch network for fresh-thinking shapers of the built environment in Wales.


What Makes A Sustainable City?

DCFW Hatch member, James Stroud reflects on ICE Wales’ event which took place in Cardiff on 13th January 2016

Guilt weighed heavily upon me as, running late, I drove my petrol guzzling car hastily across the city, heading to What Makes a Sustainable City’, a lecture by Kirsten Hensen of KLH Sustainability, hosted by ICE Cymru and Sustain Wales.

Parking a few yards away from the venue in the pouring rain, I was reminded how lucky, in some ways, those of us who live in Cardiff, a relatively small city, are when it comes to how easy it is to just jump in your own car to get around. This is something that, given the growth expected in Cardiff over the coming years, is likely to become an unsustainable luxury.

Less than five minutes in to a well attended event, it was clear to me that the main draw was Kirsten, not the sandwiches, as she began a broad and interesting talk about her beliefs in the benefits of ‘Green Spaces’ and in particular their role in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and at the Favelas of Rio.

Hensen, who trained as a Civil Engineer, opened with some interesting facts – reporting that, in an age where sustainability should be at the forefront of all our minds, the construction industry is a key sector that needs change. The industry uses 400 million tonnes of material each year, with a staggering 13% of materials delivered to site going unused. We have known this for many years but the pace of change still seems glacial.

Hensen also endorsed early contractor involvement which, at the Olympic Park, provided, she said, significant savings, such as avoiding the need to export 2.5m tonnes of waste by reusing site-won materials for gabions, and adding value by reducing the need for importation of similar quantities, something with which I whole heartedly agree.

The lecture, however, quickly broadened out; “It’s about more than climate change,” Kirsten exclaimed. She spoke of the notion of ‘place–keeping’ rather than ‘place–making’, specifically in relation to the often socially challenging areas to which her projects had taken her. Speaking again of her role at the Olympic Park, staggeringly, Hensen said that for every tube stop on the Jubilee line between Westminster in central London and Stratford, an adult male loses one year of life expectancy. She stressed the need for community engagement, understanding and respecting the context, recognising that whilst not everyone wants to shop in a Westfield and live in a zero-carbon home, the former offers employment which alongside other measures to retain and enhance the existing culture will lead to social regeneration and ‘place-keeping’. Interestingly, Hensen told us how the residents of the Rio Favelas had been commissioned by the Rio Olympic committee to make 45,000 ‘athletes cushions’ following engagement with the entrepreneurial community. She spoke of the project involving the 40 Knowledge Hubs being created on the outskirts of the Favelas where people from the surrounding, more developed communities, can interact and together fill the skills gap that exists, leading to, hopefully, a better future and greater social integration.

Finally and particularly relevant, Hensen gave examples of the importance of the concept of ‘soft failure’, an interesting idea, citing the recent UK flooding as an example – if we are to admit that flooding is going to happen, she said, then why not embrace the idea of a soft failure, that is, plan our cities, town and villages with anticipation of such floods, meaning that we identify the low impact areas that could be flooded, spaces such as football pitches, parkland etc? This would be far less of a danger than flooding of people’s homes, schools and hospitals or aiming to stem immensely powerful water flow with inadequate barriers.

I didn’t mind being distracted from the sandwiches as Kirsten Hensen provided plenty of food for thought in a thoroughly interesting hour!

James Stroud is a Project Designer at Loyn & Co Architects and an active member of DCFW’s Hatch network for fresh-thinking shapers of the built environment in Wales.

Events Hatch

Hatch Event: Housing in Wales

Housing is a key issue and focus for DCFW in 2016.  We will be holding a series of Hatch events on this theme ahead of our annual international autumn conference.  The Hatch events will allow you to contribute to and help us shape and the conference.

This initial discussion will be introduced by Professor John Punter.  John is part-time professor in urban design at Cardiff University and sits on the DCFW design review panel.  His introduction will consider the Welsh housing crisis and provide a perspective on recent and emerging residential development in Wales.

After this thought provoking introduction the floor will be open for discussion.  We are interested in hearing your perspective and experience of the challenges and opportunities facing the delivery of quality housing in Wales.  Feel free to bring along examples and share ideas.  Even if you don’t have much experience of housing projects, we still value you input as a shaper of the built environment.  This initial discussion is about teasing out the issues that will help us to frame future debate, seminars and our autumn conference.

If you have not attended a Hatch event before please have a look at what the network is about here and if you think it is for you please join us.

Refreshments on arrival.


What could designers of the built environment be doing in Wales to tackle flooding?

Lindsey Brown, urban designer at Sustrans and DCFW Hatch member considers flood risk and how our approach to street design can help.

To help us tackle flooding we need to use our urban designers better and change the way in which we view and approach street design.  Streets and roads should not be designed only as channels for movement, but as places in their own right.  Designed well, streets can be multi-functional, not only helping us to manage the flow of water at a local level, but to be attractive, social spaces that encourage interaction and activity.  Properly considered Sustainable Urban Drainage (SUDS) – rain gardens, permeable paving and other forms of attenuation – can slow water run-off, helping to reduce flood risk, assist traffic calming and create a more attractive street scene for visitors and residents to enjoy.

Sustrans Green Streets Lambeth

Green Streets, Lambeth: Sustrans community-led street design. Image courtesy of Sustrans

So how do we change the approach to street design here in Wales and create streets that can help us tackle flooding? The Active Travel Act (Wales) 2013, introduced in November 2013, is a world-first in terms of legislation, aiming to get more of us walking and cycling for everyday journeys.  Part of the approach is linked to building better infrastructure, including homezones and shared spaces.  Interventions such as these not only create more opportunities for walking and cycling, but also for urban green infrastructure like rain gardens, filter beds and tree planting.  They provide an opportunity to counter the very real problem of hard surface run-off, endemic to most urban areas.  Even better, the principles can be applied in both retrofit and new development scenarios.

Taking a holistic design approach alongside smaller urban interventions can work alongside larger flood prevention schemes.  SUDS can form part of a system that will not only help us to manage water better, but help create a sense of place and improve our wellbeing.

Lindsey Brown has an MA in Urban Design and is Area Manager (Cities) at Sustrans Cymru.  She is actively involved in DCFW’s Hatch network for fresh-thinking shapers of the built environment in Wales.