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 […]

How to eat an elephant

‘Before you came over the challenge here looked like eating an elephant – it was just too enormous. Now I feel we know how to eat the elephant.’ We’ve been working with the Cedar Foundation, a small charity that began life in Bulgaria leading the de-institutionalisation of orphanages for disabled children, and is now beginning […]

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 Portas Review, one year on

To mark the first anniversary of the publication of the Portas Review, AMT and Urban Pollinators have brought together a range of collaborators to reflect on town centre progress and problems. High streets and town centres remain firmly on the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments’ agendas. It’s encouraging that so much local action is taking place and […]

From ‘me’ towns to ‘we’ towns: a vision for the future

One year ago, the Portas Review of the high street echoed our vision that the high streets of the future should be ‘multifunctional social centres, not simply competitors for stretched consumers’. The response to the review I coordinated last year was collaborative, and those of us who compiled it believe a positive future for our […]

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 […]

Inspiration of the month: greening the Taff Bargoed valley

‘This is not just an ex-mining valley – it’s an outdoor experience valley,’ says Dave Lewis, community director at Groundwork Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taff in south Wales. Dave is showing off the climbing centre at the heart of the Taff Bargoed valley, in the middle of a site once deemed too polluted and dangerous […]

Can social landlords be agents of local economic change?

A few years ago the Joseph Rowntree Foundation produced a report entitled Person or place-based policies to tackle disadvantage? Not knowing what works. The title was a fitting, if depressing, summary of more than two decades of research and practice. The current government has decided that the answer to this conundrum is to stop looking […]

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