Economics and GI at Ecobuild

Economics and GI at Ecobuild

“People like living there, 55% of houses sold go to people already living in the village, and property has consistently sold at above the regional average despite the recession.

“Open space and landscape shouldn’t be seen as a burden, they should be seen as an opportunity,” said project director Neville Stebbing from Taylor Wimpey at the LI’s day of seminars at Ecobuild in London. 

Discussing his project Cambourne, he continued, “any major project can benefit hugely from an investment in good landscape design and improvement. The principal objective is to get a premium for the land value.”

Dick Longdin from Randall Thorp, the landscape architects for Cambourne, told visitors “if landscape is seen as a luxury it’s the first thing that gets cut.”

“Two-thirds of the 400-hectare site is open space. Its six hectares of wetlands is now home to Kingfishers, and otters are expected on site in five to ten years. The green network also integrates two allotment sites for food production,” he said.

Longdin has spent the past 21 years working on the pioneering housing project at Cambourne in Cambridgeshire, where an emphasis on quality landscape has had solid financial benefits.

Return on investment

Longdin stressed the financial aspect of good landscape. “Our clients aren’t paying for landscape, they’re investing in landscape, and they don’t just pay for it. Our role is to help them get a return on that investment.”

The site was designed around existing features, for example £80,000 was saved by keeping mature trees, a farmhouse and ponds on the village green. Another £12 million was saved by keeping spoil on site.

Neil Homer who worked in Leeds City Region on a GI strategy stressed the need to appeal to people’s hearts as well as their heads by looking at the non-financial benefits of GI.

Show don’t tell
Johanna Gibbons of landscape architects J&L Gibbons, said that to make a project worthwhile landscape architects need to push clients to give them the time to engage the local community.

This is particularly relevant in diverse and politically charged communities, such as Dalston, London. For the Eastern Curve, part of the project ‘Making Space in Dalston’, J&L Gibbons worked with Objectif to develop graphic visualisations of their schemes, rather than plans, in order to help stakeholders engage with the projects.

A temporary art installation encouraged 12,000 people to visit during its month-long tenure, and gave people an idea of how the landscape could be used.

Gibbons said: “As the current economic climate continues to delay developers, this opens up spaces for temporary initiatives. There is room here for us to be experimental – local authorities are usually happy with this because they are temporary, but it gives us an opportunity to demonstrate what is possible.”

Seeing the benefits

“What does Green Infrastructure look like?” asked Brian McDonald of Natural England. His work on the Thames Gateway Parklands project uses four key descriptors to help people picture the benefits of GI. It provides a landscape and community with: a natural signature, natural resilience, a natural health service and natural connections. â€¨â€¨

While 60 per cent of the Thames Gateway is open space, only 12 per cent was accessible when the project started. As a three year programme comes to an end, McDonald said that 637ha of new green space had been created, 2,013ha of enhanced green space and 95km of new and improved foot and cycle paths.

Tom Lonsdale, co-founder of Camlin Lonsdale and Catherine Higham, highlighted the practice’s regeneration of Bury Mount in Towcester of a project that took an under-used landscape and, by connecting it both to the town and the water meadows behind, is now facing the positive challenge of how to manage a much-used site. â€¨â€¨

The Mount’s commercial role is evident – by giving people access to a good quality landscape, suddenly a local cafe wants to add an outdoor terrace and old building nearby is to be converted for civic use.

Full details of all of the presentations will be available in two weeks time.


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