Two new play parks opened this month at Wintringham

Bradley Murphy Design (BMD) were the lead Landscape Architects coordinating the design and delivery, alongside Jupiter Play, for our client Urban&Civic.

The play areas are inspired by getting close to nature, encouraging active play and active minds. Climb and balance through the orchard lined Ripple Park, run up and down the ripple runners and climb the Bret Park play tower to peek through the pine trees. There is something for everyone in our newly open play parks at Wintringham.

Richard Clarke, Landscape Architect at Bradley Murphy Design (BMD), discusses the two play parks, their features and design inspiration.


The play park contains a meandering play trail either side of the pathway to encourage play on the way, utilising a range of wooden play equipment set amongst rolling landforms and ornamental trees. This play area also includes a bespoke wave form that everyone can run up and down, jump off and sit on, inspiring unique play ideas. Picnic benches and seating overlook the active landscape, whilst naturalistic planting areas and larger trees wrap around the edges creating separation from the roadside.


Nestled amongst large pine trees, the play tower offers many ways to play, climbing to the top of the ladders, ropes or netting gives tree canopy views, while log steppers and ornamental boulders set into undulating landform create more natural play experiences. All set within swaying ornamental grasses, the play area also has seating areas with space for pushchairs with a small fence providing extra separation from the road.

Wintringham was acquired by Urban&Civic in 2017 and Bradley Murphy Design Ltd were commissioned as Landscape Architects responsible for the coordination and delivery of all Green Infrastructure services covering landscape architecture, soil science, arboriculture and ecology.

Wintringham forms part of the overall plan for the St Neots Eastern Expansion. BMD supported Urban and Civic in submitting a hybrid planning application in 2017 for 2,800 residential dwellings, a district centre, two primary schools and associated public open spaces including a design code for the first key phase, which was approved by Huntingdonshire District Council in 2018.

BMD are currently designing the southern extent of Key Phase 1 which will include an exciting play area destination, significant wetland habitat and access to Wintringham Brook.

National Children’s Gardening Week – Importance of gardening for children

BMD Senior Landscape Architect Yu Yang highlights the benefits of children gardening and how as a practice we embed gardening opportunities for children, families and schools as part of our landscape designs.

From 19th May to 6th June is National Children’s Gardening Week 2021. It is an annual festival to promote children’s gardening and celebrates the valuable experiences that gardens bring to children.

Gardening is an effective way to introduce children to the natural world, science and geography. It gives them a fantastic opportunity to observe, explore, and interact with natural elements, to experience the rhythm of nature through seasonal changes, and to understand how plants, animals and climate work together to harvest the beauty we see in our gardens and the food that we eat.

Warm weather and half term make this week the perfect time for getting children to explore the wonderful outdoors and inspiring them to enjoy gardening.  There are plenty of events going on in garden centres across the country and ideas for children to get involved during National Children’s Gardening Week.

Helping Children Grow – the benefits

We are very fortunate to have a small allotment in our garden where my children have planted vegetable seeds, watered, and tended them, and then watched them grow. I remember seeing their exciting faces when they picked up a tomato after weeks of caring. There are no overnight successes in the garden, so as in life. Through gardening, they’ve learnt dedication and patience.

Like many other parents, I do often struggle to maintain their adequate level of vegetable intake.  Interestingly but not surprisingly, children are keen to try the vegetables they’ve grown themselves. Being involved in gardening helps tremendously on fostering their healthy eating habits.

Children are also great sensory learners.  They feel the rich texture of the leaves, taste the sweet fruits/berries, see the colour and pattern, smell the fragrant plants like lavender and listen to plants rustling in the wind.

Gardening involves lots of physical activities. Children need to bend, stretch, dig, weed, lift, plant and water, participating in a wide range of movements that use plenty of their muscles. For the younger kids, using their hands can help them to form strong eye-hand coordination and develop better fine motor skills.

Working in a garden teaches children to categorise, organise and plan ahead – and these skills translate directly into other aspects of life. I was so impressed to see my older son come up with a plan showing the vegetables he wanted to grow this year, and when and where they would be transplanted in the ground. All simply because we did not plan much last year, and had to be really creative in cooking with mountains of courgette and beans…

Gardening can support children’s emotional functions as they express delight or disappointment when plants thrive or struggles.  A few minutes of weeding, digging or just looking at green leaves and flowers, have a significant effect upon the reduction of the level of the stress hormone, cortisol in children. They also feel the pride and confidence when sharing their gardening stories or presenting their products with families, neighbours and friends.

Embedding gardening opportunities in landscape design

Working with children, families and schools to create spaces for various gardening opportunities has always been our approach to connect children with nature. The new primary school at Wintringham Park follows philosophy of ‘Forest Schools’ to encourage and inspire pupils through positive outdoor experiences. Allocated gardening areas have been created to provide opportunities for children to do bug hunts, make mud pies, and grow vegetables and/or fruit. Ever since its implementation, it’s hugely appreciated by the teachers as a valuable resource for improving children’s health and support their overall development. In the recently submitted Marleigh (Phase 2) Reserved Matters Application (RMA), for our client Hill, the overarching principle of bringing nature into the heart of development has been well supported by the council and local community. The scheme offers huge opportunities for children to be active in outdoor spaces.  They can pick up an apple on the way to school, smell the fragrant flowers in local park, or grow their own vegetables on their doorsteps. Children’s interaction will bring families together, nurture a sense of identity and eventually form a strong local community.

It’s widely reported that childhood obesity is a major public health concern in the UK. The primary causes are poor diet and decline in physical activities. The urgency has been recognised in national and local policies with more and more councils setting out requirements for food growing spaces when developing planning policies and supplementary guidance. Wherever it’s formal allotment, community orchard, edible plants in local parks, kitchen gardens in school grounds or vegetable beds on podium gardens, children will harvest a lot when engaging with it. By making creative use of spaces, we can help to make gardening possible, accessible and enjoyable for all the children, enriching their experience with natural world for a more active, happier and healthier life.

Article Written by – Yu Yang (Senior Landscape Architect)

Celebrating International Women’s Day with BMD Director Laura Bradley

It’s been 10 years since Laura Bradley and her business partner Ryan Murphy set up the award-winning landscape practice Bradley Murphy Design (BMD). 10 years which has seen BMD grow from a couple of laptops set up in the kitchen of Laura’s cottage to a thriving team of 38 landscape architects and ecologists.

For International Women’s Day, Laura discusses the decision to set up BMD, how time has changed the lives of women working within the landscape industry and the future of the industry as a whole.

When and why did you decide to set up BMD?

Following redundancy post the 2008 recession I took the opportunity to take the plunge and persuaded my old colleague Ryan to join me. We were stepping in to the unknown, but it was an exciting time and we worked hard to make it pay off. I’m so proud of the team at BMD and what we’ve achieved so far. We’re doing great things. As we enter our tenth year in business, I’m conscious of a greater responsibility too.

Do you think there is genuine equality for women in the property and construction industry today?

I was lucky to grow up with a fabulous role model of a working mum. She made me believe I could do anything and so sitting in meetings as the only female in the room is something I brushed off as ‘normal’ when I was younger. The balance has definitely improved in the last 15 years, but as a working mum myself, I still notice more the passive discrimination against parents (inevitably affecting more women than men): early meetings and late finishes for instance. As a company we’re actively addressing these issues through flexible working arrangements, encouraging people to work from home and championing online meetings wherever possible.

What has been the biggest challenge or difficulty you’ve faced as a woman in your career?

The biggest challenge for me has been coming back from maternity leave and readjusting to work with two children. The compound effect of a year and half away from the business and having two children under two was really hard. The inevitable mum guilt of not being at home added to the guilt related to not being able to fully commit to the business was constant. Although not diagnosed, looking back I was suffering all the symptoms of post-natal depression. Even now, with my youngest at two and a half, I don’t feel quite as mentally sharp as I was before. But, I’ve come to the realization that while I’m not the person I was before, I don’t have to be; I can be different, more empathetic, wiser, better. A silver lining to Covid has been removing the ‘juggle’ from the day. There’s less rushing around and more quality time both for the girls and for work.

What does the future of landscape architecture look like to you?

Landscape architecture has always been important, but the catastrophe of climate change is intensifying attention on our environment. This is vital if we’re going to have a chance of mitigating climate change. We have the tools to make a difference to the future of the planet, so we have a duty to be proactive about working with our clients to help push for more sustainable, greener development. The last year has helped underline for all of us how important accessible green space is to our health and well-being.  From a commercial perspective we can point to the increased value of homes, urban or rural, that have good access to well designed public spaces too. Our role is important, so I’m optimistic.


Highlighting and tackling forest litter in creative ways #LoveYourForest

Earlier this year, one of the BMD team Dorota Grabkowska entered the ‘Love Your Forest’ competition, with her concept ‘The Myr Tree’ being selected as the winning entry.

Dorota created the sculpture for the newly launched recycling campaign run by an environmental charity Hubbub, Suntory Beverage & Food (Ribena, Lucozade, Shwepps) and the Forestry England amongst other organisations.

The purpose of this sculpture was to visualise the passage of time by imitating the tree’s growth rings. Each ring on this tree stump represents how many years the different materials take to biodegrade. For example, one plastic bottle takes around 450 years to decompose in nature – an oak tree would grow up to 2 metres in diameter in that time. The term ‘MYR’ stands for 1 million years – which is how long it takes for glass to biodegrade if left in nature. Also, all litter shown in the MYR tree sculpture was found at the Forest of Dean.

The Myr Tree is now on display at the Beechenhurst visitor centre at the Forest of Dean until November, and will be touring around the Forest of Dean towns and visitor centres over the coming months, so have a look if you’re in the area! Also follow @myr_tree on Instagram to see the process of making it.

Houlton, Rugby, a landscape designed for life, shortlisted for ‘Partnership Working’.

Houlton, Rugby, a landscape designed for life, with biodiversity at its core, shortlisted for ‘Partnership Working’ as part of the Planning Awards 2020.

Houlton is the new 473-hectare large-scale strategic redevelopment of the former ‘Rugby Radio Station’ site. As the lead landscape architects for Houlton, we are responsible for the concept and detailed design, coordination and implementation of all green infrastructure elements of this strategic development that over the next 20 years, will deliver some 6,200 new homes.

The first phases of this joint venture between Urban&Civic and Aviva Investors are well underway with over 300 homes already occupied and a further 600 consented homes in the pipeline. An early primary school has been built and is in its second year of occupation along with the Dollman Farm community hub with café and community centre, a children’s play park and over 1.5km of connected wildlife corridors, a network of footpath/cycleways, and 20 hectares of informal open space.

Our nature-led vision for this first phase is underpinned by the following key pillars:

  1. retention and restoration of inherited assets
  2. integration of nature and communities, and
  3. celebration of Houlton’s local history and surrounding area.

Working collaboratively with Urban&Civic and the wider project team, here’s how we delivered on them to make it a unique place.

  • Our landscape design centres around the creation of an extensive ‘Nature Recovery Network,’ which sensitively integrates connected habitat mosaics with inclusive and accessible movement corridors designed to promote healthy lifestyles with access to nature on the door step.
  • The first residents of Phase 1 have already formed a thriving community, despite being pioneers on an active development site – with a connected and diverse landscape as the catalyst for daily activity.
  • Our design work references and repurposes the historic ridge and furrow landscape found across much of the site and has reintroduced the Wyken Pippin – a rare and local Warwickshire apple variety.
  • We retained existing orchard trees wherever possible and worked with Hillier Nurseries to source and replant salvaged stock from derelict UK orchards.
  • Through the design of the landscape, we’ve helped Urban&Civic create an instant village feel that influenced the ‘Come Home to Houlton’ marketing campaign and helps to sell the ‘Houlton’ lifestyle.
  • We designed and procured a custom suite of street furniture for the site in partnership with a local carpenter.
  • Materials have been selected to provide quality, simplicity and durability and with a sustainable and reliable local supply chain.
  • Selection of native and local plant species and integration with sustainable methods of water management also ensure that the landscape will adapt as it matures.
  • As well as extensive community consultation, we developed and implemented a bespoke wayfinding strategy for Houlton including a series of hand-drawn sketches and fun facts to bring biodiversity to life.

Phase 1 at Houlton is the culmination of over 5 years of collaborative working; bringing together like-minded professionals to create a development that not only meets but significantly exceeds the needs of residents – all whilst protecting and enhancing the natural environment.

For more information about Houlton, Rugby click here.

CREATURE FEATURE: Beyond Bees – making pollinators a priority


Beyond Bees: Making pollinators a priority

As Defra marks Bees’ Needs Week with a coordinated pollinator awareness drive that will see London’s most famous shopping street renamed “Carnabee Street”, Bradley Murphy Design’s (BMD) Ecology Technical Director Helen Miller explains why the buzz around bees shouldn’t distract us from other pollinators, and assesses what can be done to support these vital creatures.

Think of pollinators and, for many of us, honeybees will immediately spring to mind. Yet, according to the Wildlife Trust, honeybees are likely to be responsible for pollinating between just 5 -15% of the UK’s insect-pollinated crops, leaving 85-95% relying on solitary bees, bumblebees and other wild pollinators.  In fact, there are around 1,500 pollinator species in the UK, from hoverflies and wasps, to beetles and butterflies, all playing a crucial part in the lifecycles of plants around them.

Yet, they are under great threat. Three bumblebee species alone have become extinct in recent decades, with almost one in ten species of wild bee facing extinction. The recent European Red List for Bees reported that, over the past 50 years, half the bee, butterfly and moth species studied in the 2013 State of Nature Report have declined, and a global scientific review published early this year in the Biological Conservation journal reported that over 40% of insects are now endangered, threatened or in decline.

Despite this, they continue to play a crucial role in the food chain, with one third of our food being dependent upon pollination and are estimated to be worth approximately £0.6bn to the UK economy.  Therefore, it is vital that planners, land owners, developers, local authorities and the general public – not to mention ourselves as landscape architects and ecologists – take key steps towards helping pollinators thrive once again, recognising responsibility and driving through change.

Under threat

So, let’s start by looking at the specific threats. Firstly, pollinators must have enough trees and flowers to forage and thrive – and, quite simply, changes to how we use our land, such as intensive farming methods and use of pesticides, have caused huge losses to natural habitats. Wildlife charity Plantlife has reported that, since the Second World War, we’ve lost 97% of our wildflower meadows.

Paul Hetherington from invertebrate charity Buglife expanded on the reasons behind this in an inspiring talk given to the BMD team earlier this week. Green spaces are increasingly being removed and replaced with low maintenance options; from homeowners swapping lawns and flowers for tarmac and artificial alternatives, to councils looking to cost save by removing time and labour-intensive grass verges and hedges.  On the flipside, some are maintained too frequently in preference of a more manicured look. Collectively this has resulted in a decline in ‘insect motorways’ which are the essential network pollinators rely on for travelling between habitats.

Climate change is another factor behind the declining population, with changes to the seasons and weather disrupting nesting behaviour, as well as the timing of the flowering of plants pollinators rely on.

But blame doesn’t lie entirely with human behaviour. The second greatest threat to biodiversity comes from invasive species. Conservationists have warned about the arrival of the Asian hornet in the UK, a species capable of killing around 50 bees a day. Similarly, the small hive beetle poses a great threat to honeybee and bumblebee colonies if it were to arrive here.

Beekeepers are ever vigilant about protecting colonies from pests and diseases. The varroa mite is the leading biosecurity threat but fungal diseases can also affect a colony. With honeybee diseases capable of spreading to wild bumblebees, beekeepers have an important role to play in protecting their own hives and, subsequently, wild bees.

Planting the seeds for a bright future

However, it isn’t all doom and gloom. The Government’s intention to mandate biodiversity net gain obliges developers to introduce more species – providing a clear incentive to create the “diverse and high-quality flower-rich habitats” Defra advocates in its National Pollinator Strategy.

This means organisations like Plantlife are more likely to see success from campaigns for local authorities and private land owners to let neatly-mown grass verges become mini-meadows where wildflowers can flourish once again. Developers are also waking up to the win-win potential of such schemes, which can save them time and money in maintenance costs, at the same time as boosting their environmental credentials and meeting government targets.

Consequently, roadside meadows are popping up across the UK, with one eight-mile ‘river of flowers’ recently becoming a social media sensation. Buglife plans to create and restore at least 150,000 hectares of these flower-rich “B-Lines” across the UK – getting farmers, land owners and the local authorities on board to help implement and map a series of insect pathways running across the UK, linking wildlife areas and creating a network of brand new habitats for not only bees and butterflies, but a host of other creatures too.  At BMD, we’re well positioned to help by incorporating pollinator-friendly planting within our landscape design strategies for clients wherever possible.

Working together with Urban&Civic, we’ve already created almost 20 hectares of wildflower meadow and other pollinator-friendly features across their sites at Rugby and Alconbury Weald since work began there, with lots more to come over the lifetime of both projects.  As well as being great for pollinators, this type of planting helps new developments blend into their natural environment and provide attractive splashes of colour in the design.

Wildflower planting at Houlton, Rugby

The solutions don’t stop at grass verges and wildflowers – trees are just as valuable when it comes to helping pollinators thrive. For example, Hawthorns create an ideal habitat for honeybees and lime trees and blackberry bushes will suit honeybees and bumble bees alike.

Of course, this must align with an organic approach, as all good work with planting and trees can be wiped out if they are covered in pesticides or non-organic top soil is used on a development.  Minimising the use of pesticides and specifying homegrown organic soils and plants all helps to address the rise in non-native invasive species, with BMD keen to follow this as best practice and specify organic where possible.

It’s also essential that urban beekeeping isn’t seen to be a quick fix.  By introducing hives of new honeybees, it can put extra pressure on the existing wild pollinator population through increased competition for the same amount of dwindling resources. Therefore, it’s essential to provide additional foraging as well as new homes for them too.  Paul at Buglife recommended Wildlife World and their natural range of bug houses and solitary bee hives which can be supplied for domestic and commercial use.

What’s in it for developers?  

Whilst the use of organic products and implementation of other pollinator-friendly measures inevitably come at additional cost, we encourage developers to see the potential of taking these steps for commercial, as well as environmental reasons.

As the public wakes up to the pollinator plight, customers are increasingly ready to pay a premium for developments seen as environmentally sound – and beautiful to boot. Defra and Government objectives also align with a shifting public mindset, with developers increasingly looking to meet the expectations of a more environmentally aware breed of consumer.  Though common perceptions might previously have considered long grass and wildflowers as messy, aesthetic tastes are moving towards the colourful habitats favoured by bees, butterflies and other flying insects.

It’s also vital to stress that protecting pollinators doesn’t need to come at the expense of well-considered management plans, as savvy developers look to partner with landscape architects to help them better understand how they can adopt a more natural approach, even within more formal settings. Education can also function as a way to add structure to more relaxed landscaped areas – like BMD’s “wayfinding” signage at our Rugby site, pictured below, explaining the motivation behind creating new habitats for pollinators and dispelling common myths that exist.

For BMD, a bright future for pollinators lies in recognising our role and taking responsibility, whether we are masterminding a new project or finding inspiration in our own gardens at home.  Crucially, this doesn’t have to mean making compromises when it comes to aesthetics, or saleability – we pride ourselves on landscapes where the needs of people and pollinators work in harmony. There’s a buzz around saving the bees, and it falls to us to make the most of this, creating environments where all pollinating insects can flourish.

New tertiary signage at Houlton, Rugby promoting the value of pollinators and other species

National award win for major mixed-use landscape development Alconbury Weald

Alconbury Weald

Alconbury Weald, a major landscape-led development in Cambridgeshire, has been awarded the title of Best Mixed-Use Development at the 2019 Planning & Placemaking Awards.

Held at RIBA, London on Tuesday 4 June in association with Planning Magazine, the annual awards recognise excellence in planning-related activities such as placemaking, urban design, economic development, housing and regeneration.

Judges praised the winning entry, led by masterplanners and architects JTP on behalf of Urban&Civic, planning consultancy David Lock Associates, development and infrastructure consultants PBA, now part of Stantec, and landscape architects and ecologists, Bradley Murphy Design (BMD), as a “great example of a master developed approach, producing a great long-term placemaking strategy.”

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 and leisure.

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 5000 homes, an employment Enterprise Campus, schools, sustainable transport links, energy infrastructure and community facilities – integrated with more than 700 acres of green space at its heart.

2019 Planning Awards - Alconbury Weald, winner of the best mixed-use development category

Pictured from left to right: Paul Cutler, Urban & Civic, Diana Fjodorova, JTP, Joe Dawson, Urban&Civic, Ryan Murphy, Bradley Murphy Design, Stephanos Spirakis, JTP, Graeme Phillips, JTP.

Tim Leathes, Development Director at Urban&Civic, said:

“This award recognises our vision and commitment to transform Alconbury Weald into a truly unique and outstanding place to live and work.”

“As a master developer, quality placemaking and design is at the very core of our philosophy; we know getting this right is essential when creating major new communities and embedding them within their local environment.

“We’re very pleased that our work so far, delivered with a strong design team and good relationships with key partners, has been recognised with this prestigious planning award.”

 Graeme Phillips, Partner leading the project at JTP, said:

“We are so proud that Alconbury Weald has been recognised as an exemplar mixed-use neighbourhood in the Planning & Placemaking Awards. Our innovative Staged Placemaking strategy and robust Design Code has established a real sense of place within the neighbourhood already, and we look forward to seeing the vision be delivered over the next 20 years.”

BMD has been solely responsible for all the landscape architecture, soil science, arboriculture and ecology at Alconbury Weald since being commissioned back in 2012.  Inspired by the site’s rich aerospace history, the landscape vision centres on creating ‘Green Runways – providing a lift off for nature’.  Mirroring the former military taxiways and runway, they are designed to bring the new community together; connecting the site to surrounding grasslands, water and ancient woodlands.

After outline consent was granted in 2014, BMD has worked collaboratively with Urban&Civic, JTP and the wider technical team to prepare detailed landscape designs for delivery of the initial Key Phases.  This included prioritising the public realm such as a new communal square and woodland ‘play glades’ to give residents, now and in the future, an exciting taste of what is to come.

Ryan Murphy, Director of Bradley Murphy Design (BMD), said:

“Winning this award is testament to the importance and value of collaboration in landscape architecture.  Alconbury Weald is the epitome of a landscape-led masterplan and is arguably one of the best examples of residential placemaking in the UK where landscape and ecology have genuinely been championed by a developer from the outset.”

For more information about Alconbury Weald, click here.

£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 

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:

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: