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 […]

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 […]

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 week: Ciclovia

The streets of Bogota in Colombia are normally as full of noise and traffic fumes as streets in any other world city. But every Sunday they undergo a transformation. From 7am to 2pm, more than 120 kilometres of roads are closed to cars and become places where everyone from grandmothers to toddlers can safely run, […]

Rebalancing the economy – why the North still matters

Given the wealth of half-baked think tank reports out there, it’s always a pleasure to read something by someone who knows what they’re talking about. On that basis Michael Ward’s new report for the Smith Institute, Rebalancing the Economy: Prospects for the North is an important milestone. Admittedly I’m not unbiased here. I’ve worked with […]

Inspiration of the Week: Give a Minute

Give a Minute is a simple and attractive way of using urban crowd sourcing and social media to enable citizens, civic leaders and urban experts to work together to improve their city. The idea is that local leaders pose a question to their entire city through websites and poster advertisements, and solicit answers via the […]

Why ‘here be dragons’ won’t do for our cities

Ancient cartographers had a fine way of dealing with lands beyond their knowledge. They’d write ‘here be dragons’, often accompanied by an appropriate illustration. In a world where every inch is mapped by satellite, every idea (barmy or otherwise) to be found somewhere on the internet, and more information than any of us can ever […]