HLM recently hosted a Property Leaders’ Forum roundtable with Insider Magazine which brought industry experts together to share their views on the connections between healthy landscapes, public realm and placemaking.

‘We need to enhance the heart of our communities, encouraging and enabling everyone to thrive through the places and spaces we design’

Led by Associate Director and Landscape Lead, Alethea Ottewell, the group also included Mark Collins, Landscape Architects from HLM, as well as key members from the local area including councils and developers. Each of the featured speakers have one thing in common – a mission to improve our community through creating inclusive, accessible, enjoyable places.

A recurring theme throughout the discussion was the repurposing and reimagining of town centres, which has been accelerated by the pandemic. While the future of the high street remains uncertain and more buildings’ uses are being adapted to match new needs, attendees expressed how the approach to redefining the purpose of the centres needs to be a more holistic approach.

We need to develop spaces that not only meet the needs of people while within the workplace, but also promote a healthier, more vibrant way of life – encompassing outside spaces that increase access to nature and fresh air easily.

Not only that, but we also need to assess the connectivity of spaces within towns and cities. Increased awareness of the effects of our actions on the planet has resulted in more people choosing carbon-neutral methods of transport when accessing centres and workplaces. We therefore need to recognise the developing need for accessibility, storage, and facilities for people who either travel on foot or by bike.

Attendees acknowledged that in creating new public realms, we need to ensure changes made are complementary to the community, and do not risk their identities. We need to enhance the heart of our communities, encouraging and enabling everyone to thrive through the places and spaces we design. A key component to delivering true social value is embedding stakeholder and community engagement throughout the design and development process. Continuous engagement firstly enables the initial development of briefs that reflect communities’ needs and wants, and following this, facilitates evaluation throughout development as to if and how the brief is being realised.

We have entered an era that pivots on flexibility and ‘blended’ approaches to work-life balance and ways of working, and now, the use of buildings and spaces. The desire for mixed-use developments and coworking spaces are increasing; we need to take an integrated approach to placemaking, and ensure we deliver spaces that are fully representative of the people who they are for.

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