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Placemaking in London; not just a pretty place

Sara Parkinson, Planning and Development Policy Director, London First 

As a global economic hub, it is no wonder our capital attracts the rich diversity of people who call London their home. Whilst it may be the employment opportunities that first draw so many to our capital, it’s the ‘liveability’ of the city that will keep them here. The vibrancy and character from its amazing heritage, historic buildings and architecture, the diverse neighbourhoods, its parks and squares, cultural attractions and thriving nightlife.

But, this is coming increasingly under threat. With the population expected to reach 10 million by 2030, the pressure already placed on London’s public spaces, community and transport infrastructure is reaching a head.

Our report with Gensler, ‘Not just a pretty place’, looks at how we move from simply tackling the space issue to creating better places –places with character and vibrancy – places that people want to live work and visit. Which, in essence is what that commonly used, but often misunderstood term ‘placemaking’ is all about. And there are very few places in London where this is being delivered effectively, and at scale.

Whilst planning policy provides a framework to guide development it doesn’t ensure that there will be consistency in the quality, ‘offer’ and vibrancy of the area. This is partly attributable to the broad range of stakeholders with varying degrees of desire (and commercial imperative) to invest in the long term success of the area.

This report is concerned with the process, rather than the product of placemaking, providing recommendations for the the Mayor and the Boroughs on making effective placemaking happen.

Six key recommendations:

  • Stronger leadership from the Mayor of London to enable better placemaking including clearer policies in the London Plan that promote investment in the public realm as a driver for regeneration and a more flexible range of uses in town centres. This should be underpinned by practical advice and support provided by the regeneration team.
  • London’s boroughs should establish a clear vision for placemaking and co-ordinate activities across existing departments to deliver this such as the dedicated multidisciplinary teams established by Croydon and Westminster.
  • Boroughs should provide a clear direction on how competing local priorities; for example housing and infrastructure vs public realm will be balanced through planning decisions;
  • Business-led organisations, such as BIDs should play a greater role in campaigning for investment and work more closely with all stakeholders involved, including public sector bodies and local communities
  • The Mayor and boroughs should continue to make the case for greater devolved powers to fund and finance placemaking in order to reinvest in local transformation
  • There are a range of ways for the Mayor and Boroughs to deliver cost effective placemaking including low cost or temporary interventions that engage local residents.

With the current political uncertainty, London’s position as a global hub is at risk from its competitors like Paris, Berlin, Madrid just waiting to overtake it. We must continue to invest in London to keep it the attractive, global city that it is.

A pdf is available here.

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