Urban Update 8 October 2015

Download Urban Update 8 October 2015


Design and Value

Design South East Conference explores the links

A century ago East Kent was flourishing.  It had had a major tourist industry with paddle steamers travelling down the Thames taking thousands of visitors to see its coastlines and attractions. Fine Victorian and Edwardian architecture graced elegant seaside resorts. with ballrooms, theatres, pleasure grounds ad winter gardens all supported by hundreds of hotels and guest houses and tens of thousands of jobs.  The First World War saw east Kent become a major military base and transit zone, with extensive and expanding port facilities.  But from the 1960s onwards, with the growth of package holidays to places with guaranteed sunshine there was a steady down turn causing the tourist industry to collapse, and high streets to go into decline, a problem worsened by the creation of major out of town centres.  But East Kent is determined to restore its economy.  And a conference run by Kent Design has explored what can be done. Chaired by Design South East director Chris Lamb, began by considering how developers can capitalize on the attractions of the area in the face of low values.

Tim Ingleton (Head of Inward Investment, Dover District Council)  explained that the area had survived a serious reversal with the closure of a major and new Pfizer facility in 2001 at Richborough.  The site was re-invented as “Discovery Park” with Enterprise zone status, and is currently home to over 120 international science/pharmaceutical firms and support companies, with 2-3 firms arriving every week. 

Abby Raymond (Head of Built Environment, Thanet District Council)  said that Thanet District Council is intending to make more of its coastline and cultural heritage to support the local economy and is considering creating further Enterprize Zones.

Small is beautiful was the key message of Yolande Barnes (Director of World Research, Savills), opening a session examining whether design can be a game changer in East Kent. Offering Austin, Texas as an example, she said that the towns and cities that succeeded in the digital age were those which kept a human scale – a factor which played to the strengths of East Kent’s towns. Highlighting the sustainable urbanism of Canterbury she urged developers to exploit East Kent’s combination of exceptional connections with attractive, people-based towns.

John Letherland (Partner, Farrells) explained what is happening in Folkestone.  By searching for clues (history, natural environment), designers and masterplanners can begin to build new identities that are nevertheless authentic and rooted in a place’s past. Farrells’ masterplan for Folkestone’s seafront was adopting a low-tech approach – extending the creative quarter and existing streets towards the seafront through a plan that mimicked Folkestone’s existing jumble of volumes and colour. 

Summing up the conference, Chris Lamb encouraged delegates to consider how a combination of proactive planning and a recognition of East Kent’s uniqueness can bring about growth, increased values, and a continued focus on place in the region.


For the full report please see.