Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Attention to Urban Spaces in the UK ... and Here

Wow, the UK Government has a national body concerned with the quality of urban public spaces - we don't even have a civic one ! As evidenced by recent developments, such as the "Hey, How Did That Get There, I Didn't Approve That - Did You Approve That, What About You, Who Approved That ?" WRHA Parkade, we have the build something - ANYTHING - approach to design and public spaces.

The original report from the UK's Urban Task Force, Towards an Urban Renaissance, dates back to 1999. It's role was to "recommend practical solutions to bring people back into cities, towns and urban neighbourhoods" and the resulting recommendations covered all the bases from the role of building design to managing land supply and attracting more private investment.

Last week, a follow-up report of sorts entitled World class places: The Government's strategy for improving quality of place was released. A Financial Times (UK) article
on the report notes that it takes particular aim at the slow pace of improvement in public spaces and design:

"There have been improvements in the quality of public space in the UK but the report stresses that it remains inadequate in socially deprived areas. Poor public space can lead to crime, fear and social and economic seclusion. The old, poor, children and disabled are particularly prone to ill-considered public space."

World Class Places announced that new design standards will be introduced for all public projects. The Communities Secretary (that's a great title !) told reporters:

"Badly designed housing estates and low quality neighbourhoods encourage crime, undermine communities, deter investment, spoil the environment and cost a fortune in the long term. If we give up on good design now, we will simply create rundown areas which we will all have to live with once we get beyond this recession - and we'll end up paying for them twice".

Great stuff.

Some of our public spaces like Central Park and Old Market Square are getting facelifts (see my post here) while some other spaces have been put on the backburner ....

Millennium Library Park

... or the city has just washed it's hands of ...

Orioles Community Club

It would be nice if we got serious about designing and maintaining proper public spaces.

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