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LDA Design - Taking on the UK's Grand Challenges

20 May 2019
Reading Time: 3 mins



Economic growth is inextricably linked with sustainable places







Charles Crawford, Director at LDA Design


“We all have our own definition of what makes a place sustainable. I would advocate that, first and foremost, this has to be about design quality with a strong people emphasis, so connecting people, place and, critically, landscape.

How this gels with our economic aspirations is another question. Consider the Oxford Cambridge Arc, already one of the most innovative and economically successful areas of the UK, it boasts stellar growth projections over the next 30 years, based on entrepreneurialism, hi-tech innovation and economic growth. It is also the proposed location for one million new homes.

Millennials and, coming right behind them, a generation of Climate-savvy youngsters, are increasingly seeking sustainable lifestyles. They want to be ethically comfortable with where and how they live. The new communities we create over the next few decades will be their communities and will be rightly judged for their sustainability credentials. The two critical reports published by the UN in the last month, on Climate Change and Biodiversity respectively, together deliver a sobering blow but one that must be a clarion call for delivery of the very best sustainable places.

We have to create these great, sustainable places, based around landscape-led development and focusing on green-blue infrastructure. A significant number of the new homes proposed across the Arc will be in the form of new settlements, ideally garden communities embracing their ethos of accessibility, sustainability and community. My firm, LDA Design, has masterplanned Waterbeach new settlement on behalf of RLW Estates. The settlement will eventually include 11,000 new homes, schools, surgeries, shops, transport – a series of communities. As local planning authority, South Cambridgeshire District Council is to be commended for its insistence on challenging today’s assumptions about place-making and building in flexibility for the future.

Concept design for Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire for RLW Estates.

This is a fine example of how great place-making can be done but, nationwide, it needs leadership to drive government buy-in at every level, from National Government, Local Authorities, District, Town and Parish Councils. Not enough is being done and sadly there are very few examples of really good development, demonstrating best practice.

The Arc is off to a good start; the area is blessed with two areas of outstanding natural beauty. It has two world renowned Universities based in historic cities, in addition to a number of very attractive market towns. But is this enough? To continue to grow and ultimately deliver anywhere near the number of homes and jobs to which the Government aspires, the Arc must attract and retain those entrepreneurs and investors who could locate anywhere in the world – Silicon Valley, Sydney, Singapore. This isn’t just about creating a profitable business base, it is about attracting the business owners and the talented staff they need to a quality of lifestyle and quality of environment, to which they will happily bring their families and create a new life. Economic growth is inextricably linked with sustainable places.

On a brighter note, the UK has started to tackle two of our biggest CO2 contributors, energy generation and transport. The Government has strongly indicated that any new development will soon be required to demonstrate a Biodiversity net gain, going beyond self-regulation and guidance and, in time, broadening its scope to require Environmental net gain. LDA Design holds true to a single mission; to create great places and shape the world around us for the better, focusing on the needs and hopes of the people affected. By leading with the landscape and by putting people first, we create better connected, healthier and happier places where lives can easily overlap. These initiatives are fundamentally important if we are to meet our own sustainable growth aspirations. They should be the norm, not the exception that is currently proving the rule. The quality of the places we create must compete with anywhere in the world but ensuring we give, more than we take.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]