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The challenges that it tackles

Large scale urban design is good at making connections, at supporting economic growth, and resolving competing priorities. Cross boundary working is also highly relevant for environmental issues.

Newcastle and Gateshead

Newcastle and Gateshead: joint working by the two councils has led to dramatic transformation on both sides of the river.

CABE has worked with many of the cross-boundary organisations set up to tackle big scale challenges, whether economic, financial or environmental. Our experience of these sub-regional development bodies, joint planning units and regeneration partnerships suggests that they could usefully adopt a more creative and collaborative approach to planning and delivering change.

Our research showed that their approach could be improved by focusing more on the physical aspects of a place. Indeed, one of the strengths of the new large scale urban design approach is the way that it focuses on improving the quality and distinctiveness of a place by considering social, economic and environmental performance at the same time as its physical characteristics.

Facilitating economic growth

In many places goods manufacturing has been replaced with knowledge-based and service sectors, which rely heavily on access to a skilled workforce. These sectors tend to cluster into specialised centres with strong links and complementary relationships within natural economic areas.

Increasingly, competitiveness of places depends on attracting and retaining the right people, which in turn is dependent on providing a distinctive and high quality living and working environment. Economic performance is also affected by how well the physical structure of the natural wider area is designed to facilitate clustering and linkages between the economic centres within it.

Where areas are failing to thrive because they are poorly connected to facilities and economic opportunities, large scale urban design will identify the most appropriate response.

Using financial resources efficiently

When public budgets are tight and there is limited private finance, it is essential to address competing priorities.

This means that many public services, and most large scale infrastructure, should be considered across boundaries. Whether evaluating or planning the provision of utilities, transport, higher education institutions or hospitals, there are significant efficiencies to be made through involving all parties in a timely way. This is a key benefit from using large scale urban design.

Achieving environmental sustainability

Many environmental challenges – such as water management, flood prevention, increasing biodiversity and generating low carbon energy – can be addressed most effectively by cross-boundary action. These need to be dealt with alongside social and economic issues, for example managing the seemingly insatiable desire for travel and flows of people and goods whilst reducing resource use and facilitating ‘greener’ lifestyles.

Managing large schemes and masterplanning

Large scale urban design can be used to instigate and orchestrate the delivery of developments like big retail and employment centres and large housing developments and transport infrastructure. It ensures each project is considered within a wider spatial, economic and social context. This approach maximises the value of investment and spreads the benefits brought about by the development across the whole area and to all sectors of the population.

Examples of the challenges it tackles best

Next: Six distinctive features of large scale urban design