Public London: Creating the best public realm

Design Advisory group

Public London: Creating the best public realm – Authors Peter Murray, Fred Manson
and Pam Alexander with Foreword by Daniel Moylan, Chairman of the Mayor’s Design Advisory Group.

“By 2030 one and a half million people – almost as many as currently live in Birmingham – will be added to the 8.5 million living here in London. Accommodating that growth in a way that allows the city and its people to thrive and prosper will be extraordinarily challenging. Only if we think long term and plan ahead will we make a success of it.

Parliament has placed the Mayor of London squarely at the heart of getting this right, through the Mayor’s statutory strategic responsibilities for the city’s spatial development and its transport and environmental planning. With a new Mayor due to be elected in May 2016 and a new London Plan and other strategies to be produced, this is the moment to build on the work of the past and to shape this great city for its future.

Over the last year, members of the Mayor’s Design Advisory Group, representing a range and diversity of views, have been working on four topics identified as crucial to getting the strategy right. They are Growing London, Public London, Ageing London and Shaping London. Together these reports form the Good Growth Agenda.

This publication – Public London – seeks to identify the right approach to planning and creating the public realm – the spaces around (and sometimes within) buildings in which we can go to and fro, meet people and enjoy the city. London has greatly improved its public realm in recent decades but the demands of a rising population make high quality public space ever more a necessity, rather than a luxury. This publication offers interesting new ideas on how we can meet that need.”

Daniel Moylan.

Issue: Building an alliance of public, private and local interests

Recommendations: To build genuine partnerships to deliver the quality of public space that London needs, the Mayor should:

  1. Set up a Public Realm Task Force for London including leaders from the boroughs, businesses, the welfare sector, cultural organisations, amenity groups and design practitioners to inform future policy and investment and provide advocacy at the highest level.
  2. Support better planning, urban design and place-shaping skills in London’s local authorities (see Good Growth Agenda 4: Shaping London).
  3. Encourage the industry and boroughs to support ‘meanwhile’ uses and improve the
    management of construction in areas of change.
  4. Influence the design and management of indoor as well as outdoor public spaces
    in new developments to ensure these are clearly ‘signposted’, welcoming and truly
    inclusive.
  5. Develop policy on activities in public spaces to be controlled in a transparent and
    democratically accountable way through the use of local byelaws.

“Ultimately, creating great local places in London is crucial to giving every Londoner a decent quality of life.”

Issue: Optimising place and movement

Recommendations: To achieve accessible, healthy and vibrant urban spaces the Mayor should:

  1. Assert the concept of Street Types for London and launch a comprehensive programme of pilot projects to help authorities deliver a cohesive vision on the balance of place and movement needed on any successful street.
  2. Establish the role of an Active Travel Commissioner to bring public transport, walking and cycling together to create a high quality public realm.
  3. Champion smarter use of streets and consider a single system for road charging.

“Bold approaches are required to rebalance and optimise the street, address public space deficiencies and instil a sense of civic pride.”

Issue: Supporting investment and design of public realm in key areas

Recommendations: To make the greatest difference to the quality of life of Londoners within the context of the geography of growth, the Mayor should continue to:

  1. Invest in high streets where there is most potential to enhance all Londoners’ quality
    of daily life.
  2. Invest in the public realm of new central and inner London neighbourhoods where
    the tension between place and movement is at its most acute and development is at its most dense.
  3. Invest in the public realm around new transport infrastructure where there are major benefits to be gained by designing interchange integrated with the grain of local areas and where the highest densities of development are likely.
  4.  Invest in London’s parks, green spaces and waterways that provide a green infrastructure that is essential for the sustainability of the city.
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