Alconbury Weald, a landscape-led development in Cambridgeshire, has been shortlisted for ‘Best Use of Heritage in Placemaking’ as part of the Planning Awards 2020.
A largely brownfield site, the former RAF airfield at Alconbury was bought by master developer Urban&Civic in 2009. Over the next 20 years, their vision is to transform the 1425-acre site into Alconbury Weald; a unique and inspiring place for working, living, learning – a place for everyone to call home.
A project of epic proportions, BMD are solely responsible for delivering all landscape architectural and ecological services for Urban&Civic on-site. Championing design quality throughout, we are a key part of Urban&Civic’s extensive work with stakeholders; supporting their community engagement programme that has established Alconbury Weald within the local area and provides continual feedback that shapes our design proposals.
Urban&Civic has been keen to create a sense of arrival and unique character for Alconbury Weald from day one; encompassing high-quality homes, historically respectful layouts, natural landscaping and inspiring civic buildings. Once complete, it will consist of 6500 homes, an employment Enterprise Campus, schools, sustainable transport links, energy infrastructure and community facilities – integrated with more than 600 acres of green space at its heart.
Key Phase 1, is the start of an exciting journey for Alconbury Weald; a place that has harnessed the power of landscape to transform a dusty airfield into an established community. Inspired by the Site’s rich aerospace history, our landscape design connects the new community to surrounding grasslands, water and ancient woodlands.
Our landscape-led vision for this first phase is underpinned by three pillars – Growing a Pioneer Community, Staged Placemaking and a Multi-Generational Design Approach.
Working collaboratively with Urban&Civic and the wider project team, here’s how we delivered on them to make it a unique place.
- Set within a newly-created ‘urban forest’, we have delivered a sequence of interlinked spaces, each with their own distinct character, that form the heart of a new community.
- We worked with the site’s existing landscape assets and designed ecologically-focused features that provide extensive habitat for wildlife and will deliver a net gain in biodiversity across the development.
- We translocated over 120 mature trees, including a 70-year-old London Plane, using Europe’s largest tree spade and planted new trees raised from seed collected from adjacent ancient woodlands.
- Over 1ha of species rich grassland and woodland have been established, the specification of which has been shaped by trials undertaken on-site.
- People focussed and inclusive, the landscape and public realm draws upon the area’s character and the site’s heritage to deliver a unique and welcoming place.
- Delivering a ‘landscape and social infrastructure first’ approach meant key open spaces, pathways and facilities were open when the first residents moved in; making it feel like home from day one.
- Key Phase 1 delivers ‘instant’ impact landscape – helping Urban&Civic set the tone for the entire development and sell the Alconbury Weald vision to their customers and future residents, resulting in record sales launches for housebuilders.
- Ensuring social and environmental resilience have been at the heart of design thinking and decision making. Facilities and opportunities for all ages are layered to create places that bring people together.
Truly landscape-led masterplanning, detailed design and implementation have created a place with a unique identity that exhibits a real sense of permanence. Drawing on a combination of client, consultant and stakeholder collaboration, bespoke design, technology and expert advice, our approach has opened access to and engagement with landscape for all.
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