Creating a sense of place

Ian Humble, Senior Planning Manager for CALA Homes South Home Counties, reflects on the importance of placemaking and its role in creating thriving new communities.

CALA Homes 13 October 2020

The last few months have brought into sharp focus, for many of us, the place we call home. Not just the properties we live in, but the open space on our doorsteps and the community of which we are a part. At CALA, we have seen, at first hand, a shift in the priorities of home buyers, with many looking to move out of towns and cities for a slower pace of life, the ability to work from home and access to green open space. 

There is no doubt that we need to build more new homes in the UK. Current output of around 170,000 per year in England* falls well short of Government targets to build 300,000 new homes per annum by 2025. However, volume should not be the only driver. 

The homes and communities we build today will shape not only the look of our towns, cities and villages in the future, but the way in which we live our lives, the community spirit we foster and even our health, wellbeing and happiness.

Local plans and national planning policy guidelines only go so far. It is up to us, as developers, to put placemaking at the heart of everything we do. 
Ian Humble_Personnel_Cala_Homes_SHC
So what does placemaking mean to CALA South Home Counties? For us, it’s about choosing sustainable locations with good access to local amenities, employment, public transport and road networks. It’s also about the design of our developments; creating a sense of place through thoughtful layouts, public open space, links with existing communities and modern homes that meet the needs of a sustainable lifestyle. 

Of course, a commitment to placemaking does not mean a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Every development is unique, and each setting requires a bespoke approach.

Taking a collaborative approach during the planning process is vitally important in understanding the needs of each local community. Through early consultation, we can understand the specific priorities and concerns of local communities and create a development solution that meets the needs of each local area, both now and in the future. 
At Beckenham in Greater London, CALA is transforming 26 acres of brownfield land into a sustainable new community. The former GlaxoSmithKline site, which consisted of research labs, offices and associated buildings, will become a new community of 280 new apartments and houses, a 100 bedroom care home, community facilities and over 2000 square metres of public open space, including children’s play areas.

Benefitting from a leafy location on the edge of London, the site takes inspiration from the local area, while creating a unique sense of place. The development is designed around existing natural landscape features and incorporates distinct character areas such as mews-style courtyards and crescent-shaped landmark apartment buildings set against a large pond with surrounding boardwalks. 

A complementary palette of materials and elevational treatments create consistency between character areas to achieve a communal sense of place in keeping with the surroundings. The development will also feature public art and a community bandstand.

The development itself will be carbon neutral, thanks to onsite renewable energy generation and a carbon offsetting contribution.

Close collaboration and consultation with local residents groups, Bromley Borough Council and the Greater London Authority was key in bringing forward our development proposal. 

Every CALA development is unique. What remains consistent is our focus on maximising the potential of each new site and going over and above to create a real sense of place. Our aim is to create developments that we are proud to build and where people will be proud to live, creating a lasting legacy for our people, our purchasers and our partners.

*ONS Data