'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'. 
Illustrative example of nature for Ebbsfleet combining aspects of water and nature

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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Providing a connection with nature - establishing a chalk habitat mosaic by enhancing cliff faces & lake edges and the creation of floating eco islands.
Illustration of the Ebbsfleet garden city, depicting various aspects including the Arc, River Thames, Cycle Paths

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. 

Ariel view of the Ebbsfleet garden village

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."

Date published: 23 Mar 19

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