Poor landscape planning warning

Institute cites classic movie as it calls on developers to properly consider landscape in projects.

Thamesmead: London estate
Thamesmead: London estate

The backdrop to Stanley Kubrik's 1971 crime dystopia movie A Clockwork Orange shows what happens when landscape is not properly considered, an event heard last week.

The 150ha Thamesmead estate was discussed at the launch of Landscape Institute publication Profitable Places, held at the New London Architecture building.

It aims to convince property developers of the value of landscape and public realm by showing them how it can boost profits, using existing examples and the testimony of leading developers.

The Thamesmead housing estate worked better as the setting for A Clockwork Orange than as a good place to live and is now being transformed into a 7,000-home garden suburb by Peabody.

Landscape Institute president Noel Farrer said if projects are not designed right now, they will be demolished in 30 years' time. "Quality isn't just a nice thing to do. We have to convince developers that landscape is fundamental," he added.

But he said things are changing and architects can no longer brush landscape off by putting a few shrubs in at the end of projects. "There's a lot of stuff involved, about green, about blue. It's a tough battle, even large organisations are only just getting it."

With three billion more people expected to live in UK cities by 2050 it is a battle that must be won, he added, insisting: "In cities, we can live sustainably."

Deputy mayor for housing, land and property Richard Blakeway said the Thamesmead design had been ambitious. "Part of the challenge isn't that you could put a big lake there and it will work. There was no real human interaction between the buildings. It wasn't that it wasn't thought about but that it didn't conform to human behaviour.

HTA Design head of landscape James Lord, who worked on the reimagining of the Aylesbury Estate in Walworth, south-east London, pointed out that when the estate was designed in the 1970s planners had overlaid the existing street network with their own layout.

"The first thing we did was map the trees that were there before to find the old road network," he said. The new design follows the old community map. "We are creating a liveable, workable estate," he added.

Long-term management of the landscape was also acknowledged. "When the developers go it's got to be monitored," said Blakeway. "Thinking about maintenance and ensuring that the area continues to be a beatifically place are really crucial."

Green belt land Appropriate development

The touchy subject of building on green belt land was also discussed at the Profitable Places launch. The publication points out that Trumpington Meadows in Cambridgeshire, which was built on green belt land, relied on good landscape design to get through planning.

Landscape Insititute president Noel Farrer and deputy mayor Richard Blakeway both said London's population growth should be provided for within the city itself. Farrer added that in the north of England developers are "stealing green fields" for housing while town centres are allowed to atrophy.

He was not impressed with garden city pledges made by Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg in their party conference speeches. Rather than building garden cities around London, the capital itself should become a garden city, said Farrer.

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