Reinforcing Character in Conservation Areas - Public Realm

Vision, flair and commitment to reinforcing those qualities that make a place distinctive will ensure local places are enhanced and not diminished by change

Sensitive masterplanning in Nottingham

Summary: The potential for a public space between the Lace Market and Fletcher Gate, a place of unique historic significance, was identified in the 1990s. By responding to the character of an historic area, new contextual development has extended and complemented the urban fabric.

Stemming from a well-specified masterplan, the design of the new buildings, the square and the associated pedestrian way draws on the materials palette and architectural massing characteristic of the Lace Market, extending it to the frontages of Fletcher Gate.

The new buildings have improved the vitality and viability of the conservation area and the project has received a commendation in the 2009 Lord Mayor's Award, recognising the value of good contextual urban design in historic areas.

"It very successfully uses the space available, reflecting the character of the Lace Market and the Adams Building, while interpreting the area's past in a contemporary way." Hillary Silvester, Chair, Nottingham Civic Society

Adams Building cental Nottingham

The historic Adams Building, standing in the new square, framed by the canyon-like Adams Walk, echoing the distinctive character of the Lace Market, Nottingham.
© English Heritage

Placemaking on a grand scale in Sheffield

Summary: Sheffield's growth, from medieval market town to modern conurbation, has not always been sensitive to earlier periods. The combined result of the Blitz, post-war industrial decline and 1960s planning was a city known more for bleakness than beauty.

By 2000 a city-centre masterplan had been developed which included a focus on the historic core, most of which is the City Centre Conservation Area. Good new public realm was at the heart of the vision, and, since 1999, no fewer than six major new public spaces, including Sheaf Square and the Peace Gardens, have been crated.

The result has reconnected the city, created new vistas and made the urban fabric more coherent. A pedestrianisation scheme has helped create the Gold Route, which links the railway with the retail heart of the city and traverses two conservation areas.

Projects have been guided by an 'Urban Design Compendium' and a Sustainable Development and Design Panel, supported by representatives with specialist design and conservation interests. Interventions have been achieved with care and sensitivity, creating new public realm that is bold and innovative yet acknowledges the character, history and traditions of the city.

"The Gold Route is the glue that bonds things together, from the Park Hill Estate to the cathedral. It has transformed the image of our city, attracting people and investment. The council went for quality craftsmanship, and the city will see the benefits of this for years to come." Simon Gedye, Chair, Sheffield Civic Trust

Peace Gardens, Sheffield

Peace Gardens forms an elegant setting for Sheffield's Grade I listed Town Hall.
© English Heritage

A monument at risk in Towcester is saved

Summary: Bury Mount, an 11th-century castle motte, is at the centre of the market town of Towcester but has for many decades been in a poor state of repair. It was placed on the Heritage at Risk register in 2001. In 2005 it was brought into public ownership and is now being made the centrepiece of a regenerated area, Moat Lane, and a new public park.

The water meadows adjacent to the Mount have also been acquired and integrated into plans. Towcester is to be the site of some 2,700 new homes and this new public space will make an important additon to the town.

All this would have been impossible had the town not been in the West Northamptonshire growth area and able to attract significant public funding investment. The project has turned a neglected archaeological site into a major public asset of use to the town as a whole and its presence will help attract further inward investment.

"This is a good example of the restoration of an ancient monument, using it as the centrepiece for the expansion of a town centre." Councillor John Townsend, portfolio holder for Environmental Policy, South Northamptonshire District Council

Aerial view of Bury Mount, Towcester, Northamptonshire

Bury Mount sits at the core of Towcester: Easton Neston park lies to one side and Watling Street runs on the other, forming London Road, the town's high street. The project was completed in 2010.
© English Heritage

Demolishing an office block in Peterborough has unlocked a major new public space

Summary: In 2005 the urban regeneration company Opportunity Peterborough was created. They chose Cathedral Square as their first flagship project, a place which has the potential to form a civic heart to the city but which has suffered from poor landscaping and intrusive development.

In the shadow of the cathedral, the square contains a medieval parish church and the distinctive Guildhall. As part of a £6 million project, Cathedral Square has been repaved in natural stone, with new street furniture, seating and water features, providing a setting for civic and public events.

The demolition of the 1960s Corn Exchange has expanded the public space by 620 square metres and has restored the dominance of the fine historic buildings that sit within it. Selective demolition of buildings that detract from their surroundings can transform a conservation area.

"The decision to buy and demolish this office block eyesore was a major element in the regeneration of our city centre." Marco Cereste, Leader, Peterborough City Council

Cathedral Square, Peterborough

The removal of the Corn Exchange, which had blocked views of Peterborough's medieval parish church and a series of historic buildings nearby, has created a new open space, Cathedral Square.
© James Davies, English Heritage