£3.3m public space completes in Aylesbury’s first £18m mixed-use town centre regeneration plan

The first phase of a major £18m mixed-use regeneration scheme in Aylesbury town centre has been completed.

The Exchange, a £3.3m, a 2,515 sqm public realm at the heart of Aylesbury Vale District Council’s (AVDC) multi-million-pound town centre masterplan, officially opened to the public on Friday 8 March. The scheme – which incorporates residential, leisure and commercial space – has been supported by Local Growth funding from the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership.

Led by landscape architecture firm Bradley Murphy Design (BMD) and delivered by developer Durkan, the public space will boost connectivity in the town centre, linking key destinations including the Waterside Theatre, Buckinghamshire New University and the area’s canal basin.

Following consultations with Buckinghamshire County Council, Buckinghamshire Disability Service, local businesses, community organisations and representatives from the 2012 Paralympic Flame Festival, the high-spec space is fully accessible, with sloped access routes for pushchairs, wheelchairs and other mobility aids, also providing formal and informal seating – complete with inbuilt power-supplies and versatile street furniture.

Richard Waddell, Senior Associate at BMD and project lead for The Exchange said:

“At The Exchange, we were keen to create a top-quality piece of public realm, with a distinct character and sense of place. Working with key stakeholders, we designed a multifunctional space that ties in with AVDC’s current and future masterplan for improvement and extension of Aylesbury’s town centre, and honours both AVDC’s and BMD’s commitment to community, inclusivity and sustainability.

We are especially proud of the strong community engagement informing our design, with feedback from stakeholders shaping access options across the space to ensure disabled members can remain with their groups when moving through the square, provision of ample cycle parking and a range of seated areas for people to rest and enjoy the space.

We are determined to continue to work with place-makers in local councils and beyond, creating spaces that promote togetherness and shared identity.”

Beyond access, BMD prioritised sustainability, creating a drainage system for the scheme, channelling site run-off into two 9,500-litre harvesting tanks, with the drainage water then used to irrigate the square, including 17 large semi-mature trees.

The Exchange also benefits from energy-efficient infrastructure, providing phone charging points within seating, computer controlled lighting to reduce energy levels beyond closing hours and a range of pop-up power supplies, making the space a prime location for future events.

BMD and AVDC worked closely to develop an art brief for the space, intended specifically to ensure a strong sense of local character. Artists bidding for the commission, were asked to in particular reflect the town’s unique links to Stoke Mandeville, the birthplace of the Paralympics. The concept of ‘I am’ was devised by artist Colin Spofforth, expressed through three large sculptures that serve as focal points within the square. Each sculpture seeks to examine personal achievement and human endeavour.

The concept was extended to encompass the personal identity and self-expression of the Aylesbury community, with local residents, children and community groups providing quotes around what ‘I am’ means to them. These messages were then incorporated into the bespoke street furniture, paving and tree grilles designed by leading metalwork artist and blacksmith Chris Brammall.

Teresa Lane, Assistant Director, Commercial Property and Regeneration at AVDC, said:

“AVDC, BMD and Durkan have joined forces with the aim of honouring Aylesbury’s market town heritage with a high-profile, distinctive, and innovative space, and The Exchange is evidence that this collaboration is a success.

The space is a dynamic and attractive environment for use by people of all ages and communities. The Exchange will function as a centre for entertainment and the arts, bolstered by top-quality facilities – from stylish street-furniture to in-built USB charging points. Over the last ten years, AVDC has invested £110m in regenerating the town centre with a focus on creating new leisure facilities and spaces. The Exchange delivers an exciting new vibrant hub which befits the town’s Garden Town status and will serve  both Aylesbury residents and visitors across the region for years to come.”

Shane Rooney, Commercial Director at Durkan, said:

“The Exchange is a superb development at the heart of an exciting regeneration for Aylesbury.  The apartments provided at its centre are vital to this, and we’re delighted to have provided such a key element.

“The apartments are perfect for those looking to get a foothold on the housing ladder, sitting within commuter distance of London and a stone’s throw from the public spaces and modern amenities The Exchange offers.”

BMD specialises in creating spaces that prioritise how people occupy, interact with and share environments.

The Exchange project draws on the firm’s placemaking and public realm expertise – with recent successes including the redevelopment of Bell Court in the historic town of Stratford-upon-Avon, the new development of Gabriel Square in St Albans and extensive areas of green infrastructure being implemented as part of strategic developments at Waterbeach, Rugby Sustainable Urban Extension and Alconbury Weald.

For more information about The Exchange, visit https://www.aylesburyvaledc.gov.uk/exchange 

Integrate, don’t offset – Biodiversity net gain from the ground up

Philip Hammond announced in last month’s Spring Statement that the forthcoming Environmental Bill will “mandate biodiversity net gain for development in England… ensuring that the delivery of much needed infrastructure and housing is not at the expense of vital biodiversity.”

Following this, a recent CIEEM conference put biodiversity net gain at the top of the agenda. In attendance were BMD biodiversity experts Helen Miller and James Patmore. Here, they comment on the legislative changes and what developers stand to gain moving forward:

Helen Miller, Ecology Technical Director at BMD, commented:

“Biodiversity net gain has always been at the heart of our work!

“The Spring Statement is the welcome culmination of a shifting mind-set at Government level over the past few years. It builds on the work of recently updated National Planning Policy Framework and the 25-year Environmental Plan in recognising and honouring the economic and social benefits of a biodiverse environment. Yet, it doesn’t just stop at environmental benefits, with the CIEEM conference highlighting that biodiversity net gain at planning stages is likely to translate into long-term commercial benefits from natural capital assets down the line. ”

“BMD’s own experience shows that to maximise the potential of this natural capital, collaboration is key: not only must the wider development team be on board from the start, but all disciplines, from ecologists to engineers, master planners to architects, land managers to landscape architects, must work together to preserve and boost environmental assets.”

James Patmore, Director of Ecology at BMD, added:

“Last month’s well-attended CIEEM conference ‘Biodiversity Net Gain From Policy to Practice: A Transformative Tool for Tackling Biodiversity Loss?’ covered a wide range of issues relevant to biodiversity net gain, including using habitat as a measure and the potential shortfalls of the metric approach.”

“Although biodiversity net gain will always face these challenges, its inclusion in the Spring Statement should inspire developers to consider habitat and species requirements in initial design planning – integrating biodiversity into plans from the outset and engaging with ecologists earlier on in the process.”

“New legislation will make effective biodiversity strategy a commercial necessity for businesses, rather than just a nice to have. As a result, Hammond’s statement is an encouraging step towards putting the environment at the centre of property decision-making.”

Meet BMD’s latest graduate landscape architect, Vestina Cizevskaja

Hi Vestina.  Congratulations on graduating and welcome to BMD.  Can you start by telling everyone about yourself including how you got into landscape architecture as a profession and how you came to join the team here at BMD?

I was really interested in art from an early age and by choosing landscape architecture as a profession I knew it would allow me to combine my passion for art with my passion for the environment.  I love the idea of having such a positive, long-lasting impact on people and nature through the landscapes I design.

When I was researching potential practices where I’d like to work, it was really important to find somewhere that shared the same values as me. As well as creating fascinating public spaces for people to enjoy, BMD enhances our fragile ecology and genuinely care about the impact a development has on its environment.  I’m pleased to say I’ve definitely made the right choice!

What do you enjoy most about landscape architecture as a profession?

Landscape architecture is such a broad profession which opens up so many different career paths and opportunities. Personally, I’m drawn to more sustainable and ecological designs – only because I know how much they really benefit the environment.

But landscape architecture isn’t just restricted to that. You can specialise in lots of things such as biophilic design, urban design, resorts, hydrological aspects, plantation and much more.

Vestine joins BMD

What’s your favourite project you’ve worked on so far at BMD?

Radio Station, Rugby is by far the most influential project I’ve worked on at BMD. It’s a great example of how people and nature can mutually benefit at the same time. For example, the orchard and nut trees within the design attract and enhance the wildlife whilst also encouraging people to come together to get a nutritional value from nature. It’s the perfect balance between humans and animals. 

What do you find most challenging about the role? 

I found a few things challenging at first, especially getting to grips with all the different software such as Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop and AutoCAD. Although working within such a supportive team as BMD, switching between different software has quickly become one of my biggest strengths. I’ve learned and developed so many new software skills which I’m getting to apply on live projects on a daily basis.

Vestine joins BMD

What would you say to someone considering a career in landscape architecture?

Landscape architecture is definitely a growing career path.  With all the emphasis on climate change in the news now, it’s becoming more and more important in everyday life.

If you genuinely want to help and improve our health, our air quality, current habitat, express your creativity or generally make a positive impact on our surrounding environment, then landscape architecture is definitely the right career path for you.

If you could spend the day in any landscape around the world, where would it be?

There’re so many landscapes that I love.  It’s really hard to pick just one so I’d have to say anywhere with lots of trees. They have an enormous value to our wellbeing, flood management and also provide a habitat for 80% of the world’s animal species!

BMD is proud to support the Landscape Institute’s #chooselandscape campaign aimed at attracting fresh talent into the landscape architecture industry.  You can find out more about the initiative on their dedicated website: https://www.chooselandscape.org/

We’re always looking for talented landscape architects and ecologists to join the BMD team.  So, whether you’re a graduate or senior practitioner, we’d love to hear from you.  To apply, simply send a cover letter & copy of your CV to: info@bradleymurphydesign.co.uk

‘HALO’: A winning model for healthy infrastructure

In March 2018, Ebbsfleet Development Corporation (EDC) and NHS England launched an international design competition, managed by the Landscape Institute (LI). The brief: to find the best creative and inspiring ideas to help shape the landscape of Ebbsfleet, the first new Garden City of the 21st Century, and the largest of 10 Healthy New Towns being developed in the UK.

Led by Bradley Murphy Design (BMD) in collaboration with JTP and Peter Brett Associates (now part of Stantec), the winning concept ‘HALO’ re-imagines how the green, grey, blue and built infrastructure work together to make new communities inherently healthier, greener and smarter.

With health at the heart of the client’s pioneering vision, early concepts set out to identify and address barriers people face to living a healthier lifestyle.  Following a series of design charettes and workshops, BMD and the wider team concluded that the key to truly unlocking health & wellbeing for Ebbsfleet’s residents requires a multifaceted approach.

‘HALO’ comprises four key design interventions, Hives, Arcs, Links & Organics, that collectively form an interconnected web of healthy infrastructure on residents’ doorsteps: 

  • Hives – providing access to others via social hubs; bringing people and communities together to interact, educate and participate in shared activities.
  • Arcs – reconnecting people to nature via uninterrupted loops that cross roads and railways and connect key parkland destinations.
  • Links – offering a finer grain movement network, ensuring healthy infrastructure is ‘unavoidable’ for Ebbsfleet’s residents.
  • Organics – delivering food and habitat hubs as well as access to foraging routes and engagement with healthy food initiatives such as ‘Edible Ebbsfleet’. 

 

HALO Ebbsfleet BMD

Once shortlisted, the design team were tasked with applying their HALO ideology to the Blue Lake; a natural inherited asset set to become the heart of the new Garden City and one of the site’s seven city parks.

Taking on board the surrounding landscape such as the iconic chalk cliffs, its proximity to Ebbsfleet International railway station and location in relation to the neighbouring residential development, the final winning design response aimed to:

  1. Provide a reason to go there – creating a major leisure destination featuring a floating island adventure park and ‘Be Hive’ beacon built into the chalk cliff face.
  2. Offer a safe way to get there – using the lake as a key stepping stone between the development and its surroundings, connected by a series of uninterrupted arcs.
  3. Create an accessible & legible destination allowing people to walk and cycle to the Blue Lake, whilst the beacon ensures a visual connection to the wider hinterland.
  4. Providing a connection with nature – establishing a chalk habitat mosaic by enhancing cliff faces & lake edges and the creation of floating eco islands.

 

HALO Ebbsfleet BMD

Announced at the LI’s 2018 conference, Valuing Landscape: Connecting People, Place and Nature in September, Dan Cook, CEO of the LI said:

HALO’s winning design stood out for its clarity, and the collaboration of the multidisciplinary team bringing together the best aspects of living in London with those of living in Kent, the Garden of England.”

In the view of the competition’s judges, HALO demonstrated such thorough practicality of thinking that the concept fulfilled exactly what they had hoped for: a design that was radical, but realisable. The panel was also excited by its possibilities, particularly because the design reflected the ‘three magnets’ concept developed by the garden city movement’s founder, Ebenezer Howard. 

HALO Ebbsfleet BMD

Ryan Murphy, Director of BMD said:

“On behalf of the entire project team, we are incredibly proud to have won such a prestigious world-class landscape design competition as Ebbsfleet.  Our winning design HALO is testament to how collaborative masterplanning, with buy-in from all disciplines and stakeholders, can grow sustainable communities.”

The practical application of the HALO interventions to the Blue Lake demonstrates the model’s adaptability, proving its potential to be rolled out across other towns and spaces across the UK – and beyond.

Director of Ebbsfleet’s healthy new towns project Kevin McGeough said:

This exciting and inspiring design exceeded our expectations.  We have been encouraged by the innovation and the wide variety of approaches in this scheme.  The winning design could become one of the country’s most talked about and visited attractions.”

HALO Ebbsfleet BMD