Squalor plus philanthropy: no recipe for healthy parks

In the squalor of Victorian Britain, the creation of the first great public parks was a beacon of humanity and hope. Philanthropists and civic leaders understood that greenery, a place to breathe and somewhere to walk and play were the least that could be done to lighten the nasty, brutish and short lives the Industrial […]

Book review: The Metropolitan Revolution

Will a ‘metropolitan revolution’ bring new life to the US and Britain? There are plenty of city leaders who’d like to think so. In this review for the journal People, Place and Policy we take a look at the popular recipe retailed by the Brookings Institution in Washington, and raise a few questions. You can read the full […]

Why we need urban development heretics

When shopping centre developer Hammerson walked away from Sheffield’s much-vaunted New Retail Quarter last year, it could have been a blessing in disguise. Here was an opportunity to radically rethink the ‘mall without walls’ template for city centre regeneration. Sheffield City Council’s chief executive, John Mothersole, has been quoted as saying that the next iteration of the […]

The people-centred city

We’ve recently visited Sri Lanka as a keynote speaker the University of Moratuwa’s conference on Cities, People and Places. In a country that is seeking to get to grips with reconciliation and reconstruction after a brutal conflict, creating cities that work for people is a key priority. The text and slides of the keynote have […]

Can Belfast become a city fit for the future?

A few minutes after you leave Belfast City Airport to head into the city centre, a row of fluttering purple flags greets you. They signal that the estate behind the fence is the territory of the Ulster Volunteer Force. Seven months ago they weren’t there. It’s a visible sign of the fragility of Belfast’s recovery […]

Critical creativity and the future of mainstreets

Seeing a new city is always a good way of reflecting on your home town. You look at what’s done differently and wonder why nobody thought of that back home; your eyes are more open to the way people use space and interact with each other. Meeting new people has the same effect. You look […]

The legacy of Alderman Graves, and lessons for regeneration

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to give a lecture at Sheffield University’s Interdisciplinary Centre of the Social Sciences. The talk focused on people-centred approaches to regeneration, and how they could be encouraged in today’s policy context. The full text of the talk and the accompanying slides are here. I also wrote a […]

What makes an asset an asset?

After a summer of report writing, a busy autumn of events is coming up – and nearly a year after the Portas review of the high streets, there’s still huge interest in what should happen in our town and city centres. Last week I was asked to take part in Make:Shift, a two-day workshop organised […]

Ten questions every town team should ask

The recent Portas Review of the high street set out 28 recommendations to revitalise our town centres, number one of which was to set up ‘town teams’ to bring together different stakeholders into a single management team. While Mary Portas described this as ‘getting our town centres running like businesses’, she meant something much bigger […]

Let’s hear it for the Queen of Shops

On a sleety December day in Wakefield or Wigan, Weston-super-Mare or Wisbech, a walk down the high street amid hard-up Christmas shoppers is a long way from most people’s idea of a good time. Today Mary Portas, TV’s Queen of Shops and the retail guru appointed by David Cameron to revive our high streets, is […]