Town Centre EV Infrastructure

Charging forward: Innovative solutions for the delivery of town centre EV infrastructure

October 16th, 2023 Posted by All, Sustainability

With just twelve years to go before the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, local councils are under tremendous pressure to deliver the much-needed town centre ev infrastructure for the electric vehicles that will replace them. However, creative regeneration strategies can offer win-win solutions for local authorities: unlocking the future prosperity of town centres whilst also creating opportunity to meet EV charging targets.

With a greater range of vehicles on the market and a looming Government ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles in 2035, the UK’s electric vehicle (EV) market is booming. Data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders reveals almost 22,000 electric vehicles were registered in November 2021, more than double the 10,345 registered in the same month the previous year.

However, the EV revolution could soon find itself veering off course as the availability of public charging infrastructure struggles to keep pace with demand. Local authorities, in particular, will need to play a key role in the delivery of this infrastructure, yet a report by the Local Government Association points to a ‘lack of coherent strategic direction’ on what and where to build. It says that many local authorities feel that they lack the appropriate skills and data to make investment decisions in what is seen as a fast-paced and evolving technological landscape.

At the same time, local authorities are already stretched dealing with the decline of their town centres and the long-term socio-economic impacts of the pandemic on their communities. However, as our work for local authorities in areas such as Lincolnshire proves, creative regeneration strategies can deliver on all fronts, unlocking investment, growth and the future prosperity of our town centres whilst also creating opportunity to meet EV charging targets.

In particular, we were recently appointed to design a scheme in rural Lincolnshire that could have a profound impact on the way local authorities reinvigorate their town centres and deliver much needed EV charging infrastructure at the same time. If successful, the LEP will use the scheme as a benchmark for others to follow in the region.

Taking its inspiration from a German concept trialled back in 2003 called Mobihub, our scheme sees a concentration of community and business activities integrated within an easily accessible transport interchange and will help meet the town’s challenges of an ageing population, low incomes, limited services and poor outward connectivity. In conceiving the design, we considered the future local needs of the town, with a dense collection of public and sustainable transport uses such as buses, a taxi rank, rental vehicles, car-share clubs and EV charging points, alongside small retail kiosks, offices, parcel storage/pick-up, and health service elements.

Designed to be as accessible and welcoming as possible, with plenty of green space and interlinked pedestrian walkways, the scheme can become an attraction in its own right; a place to go to as a shared workspace or to pick-up a parcel, meet friends for coffee and whilst you’re doing all those things, a place to charge your electric vehicle – whether that be car, van, e-bike or scooter.

Importantly, our concept can be scaled to the setting and its multiple uses designed to respond to local need. On larger sites for example, alongside an array of EV charging points, we could offer spaces for F&B pod units and co-working facilities. The mix and type of uses that are put side by side need to be well considered and, as with the scheme in Lincolnshire, uses should be closely linked to – rather than competing with – other projects in the town to deliver holistic local centre regeneration.

It is also solution that can go some way to addressing inequalities in transport and EV charging provision. Whilst the majority of current electric car owners have access to off-street parking, around 6.6 million households do not and will need to rely on a public-charging network.

Locating these chargers is often a headache for local councils, who are already under pressure to install more bus and cycle lanes on limited road space, let alone chargepoint infrastructure. On-street charging can also give rise to civic disputes about car parking space, chargers creating street clutter and making pavements difficult to navigate. It would make far more sense to site EV chargers in a dedicated, easily accessible location that promotes multiple transport modes and other socio-economic activity.

Utilising underused or brownfield town centre sites to create these hubs, as we are doing in Lincolnshire, would be the perfect solution for local authorities, allowing them to clean up the town’s infrastructure, integrate chargers with wider transport plans and create a destination that can bring footfall back into parts of the centre. Further, with the Local Government Association warning that demand for operators is now outstripping supply and that ‘chargepoint operators (are) cherry-picking the best locations’, our idea of a transport-hub style solution, with its mix of transport, community and business uses, can create a critical mass of users to make the location commercially attractive and help local authorities secure charge point operators and electric mobility service providers.

With now less than twelve years to go before the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, it is clear that a massive task lies ahead to ensure the move towards e-mobility is a success. Whilst this move will require a huge investment by local authorities in land and infrastructure, embedding that investment within the context of town centre regeneration presents new opportunities for commercial and community enterprise alongside a balanced, healthy and sustainable transport mix that meets the current and future needs of communities.

Vacancy - Experienced Architect/Senior Technologist (Project Lead)

Experienced Architect/Senior Technologist (Project Lead)

October 3rd, 2023 Posted by All, Vacancies

We are currently seeking talented individuals to join our studio based in the heart of Stamford, Lincolnshire. We work predominantly within the later living, industrial, multi-residential, retail and leisure sectors with project values up to £40m.

We are seeking to expand our workforce to match our increasing workload and are looking for an experienced Architect/Senior Technologist with a proven track record using Revit to join our team. The ideal person will have the right mix of experience, knowledge and technical ability and a proven track record leading a team.

Key responsibilities:

  • Undertake complex projects, manage and lead a team
  • Prepare, manage and review project documents including drawings and specifications
  • Liaise directly with clients and represent Urban Edge in the public forum
  • Manage a team working in both REVIT and AutoCAD
  • Prepare and monitor project programming and costing parameters

Skills and experience:

  • Minimum of 5 years post graduate practical experience in the UK
  • Fluency in REVIT and AutoCAD
  • Highly organised
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills

What we offer:

We provide the opportunity to work alongside an enthusiastic and friendly team and the ideal environment to continue your professional development. At Urban Edge, we are dedicated to our people and offer an extensive benefits package. In return for your hard work you can expect to receive:

  • A competitive salary
  • Company pension scheme
  • Company bonus scheme
  • Gym membership
  • Private medical insurance
  • Life cover

To apply please email your CV to: jobs@urbanedgearchitecture.co.uk outlining what you would bring to the role. Please include a portfolio with samples of your work.

Candidates must be eligible to live and work in the UK. If you require a Certificate of Sponsorship please make this clear as part of your application and include the expiry date.

NO RECRUITMENT AGENCIES

Team Members Promoted to Senior Positions

Four team members promoted to senior positions within Urban Edge

September 20th, 2023 Posted by All, News

We are delighted to announce that four of our talented and dedicated team members have been promoted to senior positions within our architectural practice. These promotions reflect their outstanding contributions to our projects, clients, and culture, as well as their leadership and vision for the future of our practice.

Please join us in congratulating:

Dave Frost, who has been promoted to Director. Having joined us in 2008 in our formative years, Dave has grown along with the practice, closely managing a team of like-minded creative and technical staff. He has an endless passion for contemporary design along with a keen interest in sustainable architecture and construction. Dave has also presented at several conferences and webinars on topics such as sustainability and more recently retail repurposing and has shared his expertise on introducing drive-through restaurants to existing retail parks to help owners maximise the value of their assets.

Dave said: “I am extremely grateful and honoured to be promoted to Director at Urban Edge. Throughout my 15 years at the practice the Directors and my fellow colleagues have mentored me and supported my growth within the business. I am very excited to be taking on my new role and I will continue to ensure that our clients receive the best possible level of service, alongside mentoring the strong pool of talent that we have within the practice so that they too can meet their own career aspirations.”

Alexandros Marcoulides, who has been promoted to Senior Associate Director. Alex joined us in 2013 as an Architect, having previously worked at renowned London practices including John McAslan + Partners, Allies and Morrison and Zaha Hadid Architects. He has successfully managed complex and challenging projects across various sectors, such as Caledonia Park, Gretna, Ampfield Meadows Retirement Community and Purley Way, Croydon. Alex is a highly skilled and reliable member of the team who ensures quality and efficiency throughout the project lifecycle.

Alex said: “I would like to thank the Directors for my recent promotion and look forward to the new challenges and opportunities this new role presents. I am very excited to work closely with the team and will endeavour to continue making a positive impact within Urban Edge. Additionally, I’d like to say a further big thank you to my colleagues and clients who have helped and supported me on this journey.”

Ben Doherty, who has been promoted to Senior Associate Director. Ben joined us in 2021 as an Associate Director and has impressed us with his strong technical capabilities and keen attention to architectural detailing. He has previously worked on the design and delivery of high-end multi-residential schemes, such as the much-heralded 178 apartment Connor building located in Sydney’s Central Park and The Frederick, a 26-storey tower in Sydney’s Green Square. Ben is passionate about the user experience and identity of every new space he creates.

Ben said: “I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to the Directors for my recent promotion to Senior Associate Director. I am honoured to have been given this opportunity and I am excited to continue contributing to the success of our practice. I would also like to thank the members of the architectural and graphics teams for your continued support, guidance, and encouragement. Your expertise and hard work have been invaluable. I look forward to continuing to work with you all in my new role and I assure you that I will do everything in my power to exceed expectations.”

Wioleta Bychawska, who has been promoted to Associate. Wioleta joined us in 2014 as a Designer and has demonstrated her ability and creativity in designing sustainable and attractive buildings. She has previously worked on several of our residential schemes and is responsible for creating the sensitively designed retirement communities at Caddington, Dore and Sonning Common on behalf of Inspired Villages. Wioleta also has substantial experience of conceptual and detailed design in the retail sector gained working on projects such as Nando’s striking ‘eco-restaurant’ in Cambridge, a new-build 160,000 sq.ft retail development in Chelmsford and a series of initiatives at Monks Cross Shopping Park in York.

Wioleta said: “Thank you to the Directors for recognising my hard work and believing I was ready to take on a new role and more responsibility. I am eager to get started and I feel extremely motivated and encouraged by their support. I cannot wait to learn more about my new role in this amazing team.”

We are immensely proud of these four team members and their achievements, and we look forward to their continued growth and success within our practice. We are confident that they will help us continue to deliver exceptional design solutions for our clients and help drive our business forwards. Please join us in celebrating their promotions!

Pictured from left to right: Alexandros Marcoulides, Wioleta Bychawska, Ben Doherty, Dave Frost.

Spotlight on Lucy Pepper

Spotlight on Lucy Pepper

September 13th, 2023 Posted by All, News

During the summer of 2023 we had student Lucy Pepper join us for a week’s insight into the architectural industry and life at Urban Edge. Over the course of the week, Lucy spent time with different members of staff from around the office to understand the different stages within architecture and to see how all their work comes together to create the final result.

A few weeks later we brought Lucy in for a follow-up meeting to offer her portfolio and career advice before she went into her final year at university. Here’s what Lucy thought about her experience:

“As a Part 1 Architecture student, I was looking for the opportunity to undertake some in-practice experience during my studies. Urban Edge offered me a few days earlier this summer to understand the inner workings of an architectural practice.

My time there involved meeting many members of the team, appreciating their specialised roles within the design process and their respective career backgrounds. Not only did I learn how the practice operates, but I was also given the opportunity to play around with new software and learn skills I can now apply back at university.

The Urban Edge team were such a supportive and accommodating group of people who made me feel instantly welcome. What’s more, they were always invested in helping me with the skills I wanted to improve on.

While my university education is crucial for my future career, the industry experience I gained at Urban Edge has proven fundamental too.”

Spotlight on Lucy Pepper caption
Vacancy - Graduates

Part 2 Architectural Assistants required

May 18th, 2023 Posted by All, Vacancies

We are currently seeking talented individuals to join our studio based in the heart of Stamford, Lincolnshire. We work predominantly within the later living, industrial, multi-residential, retail and leisure sectors with project values up to £40m.

We are an architectural studio that provides a complete and professional service including design, masterplanning and delivery. The experience and expertise of our team has enabled us to develop a very strong client base across a diverse range of sectors including retail, logistics and later living.

As an Architectural Assistant (Part II) you will be working both individually and within a team and you will have the opportunity to work on projects from initial concept through to detailed design. This position offers the right candidates the opportunity to build on previous Part I practical experience of the architectural profession and construction industry and to develop and progress their careers.

We are looking for students with the following skills:

  • Self-motivated and highly organised
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Ability to meet deadlines and work under pressure
  • Strong understanding of current construction detailing techniques, regulations and product knowledge
  • Ability to visualise, illustrate and present ideas clearly
  • Proficient in AutoCAD, Photoshop and SketchUp – Experience in BIM/REVIT desirable but not essential

In return you will receive a competitive salary dependent upon experience along with an excellent benefits package including study support. For a chance to join our rapidly expanding studio and gain valuable experience working on live projects please submit a covering letter and your CV, with examples of your work to: jobs@urbanedgearchitecture.co.uk

NO RECRUITMENT AGENCIES

Spotlight on Charlotte Hall

Spotlight on Charlotte Hall

March 7th, 2023 Posted by All, News

International Women’s Day is a day to reflect, embrace and celebrate women around the world. As part of International Women’s Day, we would like to celebrate and showcase some of the women in our office and their creative talents. This week we caught up with Charlotte Hall, a very talented Architectural Assistant who is currently on her university placement with us. Charlotte has gone from strength-to-strength since starting her BArch (Hons) Architecture at Loughborough University. She specialises in the art of CGIs and 3D rendering and recently received the Year 2 Best 3D Visualisation Award.

What made you choose Urban Edge as the company you would like to go on placement with?
“I was interested in Urban Edge as they work on a variety of projects in a variety of sectors so I would and have been able to gain a broad spectrum of knowledge. This has enabled me to distinguish what areas I enjoy the most and where I need further skill development to achieve my professional goals.”

What are your day-to-day responsibilities within Urban Edge?
“I typically work on modelling existing buildings in SketchUp based off 2D CAD plans, designing public spaces and rendering proposed design options in Enscape to submit to the client for review. I am also involved in feasibility studies where I have been able to explore my creative ideas at a professional level by producing a multitude of different design options for projects. I get the chance to work with the whole team every day simply by being involved in so many projects simultaneously! This has enabled me to gain a broad spectrum of knowledge by learning from each of my colleagues.”

What have you learnt so far whilst being with Urban Edge?
“I have learnt new software, the process of work and how to communicate ideas to clients effectively and clearly through observing meetings. I have also gained an understanding of how to communicate a concept via sketches, renders, drawings, and presentations by having an involvement in a variety of projects in different sectors and being able to see how this differs from sector to sector.”

What has been your favourite project to work on and why?
“I recently worked on a project to design a public square which I found really enjoyable because I love creating spaces where communities can come together and enhance neighbourhood relationships through design.”

How has working on live projects improved your practice and knowledge within the industry?
“Working on live projects has allowed me to be exposed to multiple stages of work and begin to understand the role of the Architect vs the contractor and others involved, as well as how they collaborate together.”

Has this placement given you opportunities to meet your learning goals?
“Definitely! I have been exposed to new software that I have had to pick up quickly which will be beneficial when I return for my final year at university as I will be able to utilise a greater range of techniques to communicate my designs. I have also been exposed to client meetings which has enabled me to observe first-hand the level of professionalism that the Architect must achieve when conversing with clients.”

Spotlight on Charlotte Hall

Has this placement helped you to decide if this is the type of work that you wish to pursue?
“Yes, architecture in practice is a lot different to architecture at university so being exposed to live projects has helped me to understand the reality of being an Architect. It has solidified my career path as I now know how much I enjoy working with others in a practice to achieve and exceed the client’s vision.”

What specific knowledge have you learnt or enhanced during this placement?
“I have been able to gain an insight of what is required for each of the RIBA stages of work, helping me understand what is required within an Architect’s role. I have been mostly working in Stages 1-3 so I have an in-depth understanding of what is required within the concept, feasibility and planning stages by being involved in concept design but also the submission of planning applications. I have had the opportunity to be involved in client meetings where I have been able to observe how to communicate an idea clearly to a client which will be a very useful skill to take back to university.”

What practical skills have you applied or further developed during this placement?
“I have been able to develop my 3D rendering skills by using Enscape to produce realistic and well-composed images. I really enjoy utilising this skill as it showcases the full potential of the design to the client and I have found it very rewarding training others in this software, helping them progress with their own professional development whilst moving forward with my own.”

Are there any Architects that have inspired you?
“Daniel Libeskind has inspired me through his ability to celebrate both tradition and innovation particularly in his design for the Royal Ontario Museum which uses the juxtaposition of the old and the new to enhance each other’s features, creating a luminous beacon of tourism.”

What has been your favourite memory so far at Urban Edge?
“The Christmas party is my favourite memory so far as playing Taskmaster was a great team building exercise and it was very enjoyable seeing a different side to everyone, getting to know them outside of the office.”

Is there any advice you would give to future students on placement?
“Throw yourself into the work and get involved in office discussions to make the most out of your experience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and approach work colleagues for advice, they all want to help you and are there for your support.”

  • Spotlight on Charlotte Hall
  • Spotlight on Charlotte Hall
  • Spotlight on Charlotte Hall
  • Spotlight on Charlotte Hall
  • Spotlight on Charlotte Hall
  • Spotlight on Charlotte Hall
Charting a Course Through ISO 14001

Charting a course through ISO 14001

February 9th, 2023 Posted by All, News, Sustainability

Last year, we were thrilled to announce that we had been awarded certification for ISO 14001:2015, the international standard for designing and implementing an Environmental Management System (EMS). This achievement was especially important to us, as sustainability has always been at the heart of our business strategy and fully supports our goal to be a net-zero carbon business in line with Government targets.

At first, the process of gaining ISO 14001 can appear to be a daunting task; the design and implementation of an EMS requires extensive documentation, careful decision making and a considerable time allocation. Fortunately, we had already made a number of key decisions to limit our environmental impact and our prior experience working towards ISO 9001 accreditation for Quality Management had prepared us for the types of processes involved. Nonetheless, the guidance and recommendations provided by the ISO-approved assessor were invaluable.

Creating an Aspect and Impact Register is a crucial part of the ISO 14001:2015 process, identifying environmental impacts and efficiencies created by business activities. By listing all the activities included within the scope of our EMS, we were able to evaluate the significance of each one and consider which we should prioritise and how we might tackle them.

One of our biggest early decisions was to switch energy providers, moving to 100% renewable provision with Corona Energy. Another area we quickly looked at was our office waste streaming. Whilst our main waste collection was already streamed, we decided to be more ambitious with the waste directly inside our studio as well. We have introduced battery and pen recycling and are donating coffee grounds to local allotments. Alongside this, we’re recycling our printer toner and looking to make paper resources go further by reusing as much as we can internally.

Architectural Assistant, Adam Caffrey, who has been instrumental in pushing the practice towards the achievement of ISO 14001 certification, said: “Our sustainability team meet regularly to share ideas and we have lots of things planned for the coming year. It’s been a great start so far and we’ve already implemented some quick wins – but some of these ‘quick wins’ can actually make a big difference. For instance, the change of bins in the studio, which now separates waste, makes you more aware about what can and can’t be recycled.” 

Lydia Coupe, HR and Office Administrator, added: “We’ve approached changes in the office in the best possible way, by making small changes that have a regular impact on improving our environment. For example, we have replaced the existing toilets with dual-flushing systems to reduce our water usage. We also found a free resource to recycle batteries which has proved to be super useful, not only in the office but with colleagues bringing in batteries from home, especially so after the Christmas break. Batteries are often incorrectly thrown into the general waste, which can prove to be dangerous causing fires. It’s a real no brainer, and helps on all levels.”

In the meantime, we have been assessing our current direct and indirect emissions in accordance with Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) requirements to better understand our overall carbon footprint. This not only has benefits for the environment, but can help futureproof us as a business, potentially allowing us to create efficiencies and reduce costs, prepare for future regulations and better meet the procurement demands of clients, who will increasingly require transparent emissions data.

Not only do we now better understand our overall carbon footprint (including an average total per staff member), but in assessing the emissions from different business activities, we can set reduction targets across different areas of our business for the coming financial year. In particular, we want to see a reduction in our electricity and gas usage, as well as water consumption, and evaluate sustainable options for business travel.

We are also committed to strengthening environmental considerations in our design processes, improving staff knowledge with continuing professional development. Last year, for example, members of the team took part in a series of lectures at the University of Lincoln to learn about the latest research into BREEAM and Passivhaus, as well as the whole-life impact of a building.

Director, Tom McNamara, said: “Whilst looking to reduce our carbon footprint is a key objective for us, the influence we can have on our environment as designers is fundamental to our core values. We found the process of working towards ISO 14001 accreditation very enlightening and it made us think hard around challenging further our environmental standards.”

Our industrial and logistics portfolio continues to grow as sector buzzes with activity

Our industrial and logistics portfolio continues to grow as sector buzzes with activity

January 12th, 2023 Posted by All, Industrial, News

Despite the turbulence of the last few years, the industrial and logistics property class has continued to defy the prevailing winds, with take-up figures for the end of last year predicted to match or even surpass the records set by 2021. That 2022 proved to be another record-breaking year for industrial and logistics property is no surprise to us here at Urban Edge, given the volume of enquiries we received from the sector and the number of schemes we have running through planning or on site. Our own projections for the sector into this new year and beyond remain incredibly positive, with a growing number of significant schemes currently on our drawing boards and new enquiries proceeding at pace.

Demand continues to come from a wide range of developers and occupiers, and our current projects cover the spectrum of the industrial sector – from a new 100,000 sq.ft distribution warehouse on the Erdington Industrial Estate in Birmingham, to a multi-million-pound landmark HGV workshop in West Thurrock and two self-storage units in both Skelmersdale and Corby for the Storage Team. We are currently on site at Quarry Wood Industrial Estate overseeing the refurbishment and reconfiguration of light industrial units to meet the current requirements of modern occupiers and support the site’s continued viability as an industrial park. Last year also saw us complete on the redevelopment of a former factory site in Croydon to provide a high-quality Class B development to meet the demands of modern industrial operators

This is on top of numerous projects at feasibility stage in locations as far ranging as the Republic of Ireland, Berkshire, Somerset, East London – within the all-important M25 network – and a zero-carbon industrial scheme on the south coast.

Interestingly, we have seen a rising demand for schemes that better meet Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) benchmarks over the last 12 to 18 months. Our experience designing and delivering net-zero schemes in both this and other sectors has seen us receive a number of enquiries from industrial and logistics owners, developers and operators looking to improve the sustainability of their schemes or to design and deliver net-zero buildings.

Our design for the distribution warehouse on the Erdington Industrial Estate in Birmingham, for example, proposes a number of interventions and initiatives to improve energy performance, reduce air pollution and improve local air quality. Likewise, we were instructed to design and deliver to net-zero a high-quality Class B development of light industrial units on a former factory site in Croydon which achieved BREEAM Excellent and net-zero carbon.

With rising energy costs and impending energy-efficiency legislation exerting yet more pressure on the sector, we expect to see sustainability and net-zero criteria continuing to dominate the agenda and it’s an issue that we recommend clients get to grips with as early as possible. So, too, do we anticipate a growing focus on health and wellbeing provision for occupiers as they compete to attract and retain key personnel. Creating enhanced facilities for staff was a major consideration for a scheme we looked at in the north west recently and included external spaces such as nature walks, running tracks and picnic areas on the perimeter of the site as part of the client’s health and wellbeing agenda.

Our extensive experience in opening up opportunities for asset creation on sometimes challenging sites has seen us deliver a number of high-quality, highly optimised schemes. This is especially important in areas of high demand where availability and cost of land will continue to see a push for the intensification of industrial and logistics buildings, with many developers looking to maximise the opportunities for their sites, even exploring multi-level, multi-use options.

We also perceive that there are fantastic opportunities to re-use and refurbish existing buildings, as proved by our ongoing work at Quarry Wood Industrial Park to reconfigure a number of post-War buildings, largely asbestos clad, to provide light industrial units that can meet modern users’ requirements. As architects and landscape design specialists, we also have a critical role to play in better integrating industrial and logistics development into local communities, mitigating the impact of vehicle movements and making it easy to navigate around schemes.

Dave Frost, Senior Associate Director says: “As evidenced by our own workload and the number of enquiries we have received, the pace of development in the industrial and logistics sector, particularly in the prime south east market and the area around the M25, shows no sign of slowing. Importantly, it is also one of the fastest growing areas of employment in the UK, it’s dynamism offering significant job creation and progression opportunities in all areas of the country.

“However, in an increasingly competitive market, owners, developers and operators require early engagement with experienced architects to maximise the opportunities of their sites at all stages of design and all the way through to a building’s operation. With our growing portfolio of industrial and logistics schemes, we are uniquely positioned to meet the key requirements of clients in the sector, utilising our knowledge and technical know-how to design deliverable schemes that create real commercial value, whilst also ensuring positive environmental, social and economic impact.”

Plans approved for bespoke vehicle repair workshop in West Thurrock

January 3rd, 2023 Posted by All, Industrial, News

Following the submittal of plans to Thurrock Council for a multi-million pound modern landmark workshop in West Thurrock for Spectrum VR, a leader in the maintenance and repair of commercial vehicle body shells, we received a successful planning approval on the 21st December 2022. Our proposal will replace the existing HGV service and repair workshop on the site with a new 1,726 sq.m 7-bay purpose-built facility to accommodate Spectrum VR’s expanding operations and offer them a more visible presence on a busy intersection within the London commuter belt.

We worked with multi-sector specialist contractor, Thomas Sinden, to develop an initial feasibility concept, rationalising the layouts and ensuring the spaces were the best options for the required functions. The main workshop will contain a paint centre with bespoke specialist equipment installations, including a paint oven, for the repair and painting of vehicles. An attached two storey office block will house day-to-day operations, seminar and training rooms, as well as wellness spaces for Spectrum VR staff. The plans will also enhance the landscape buffer separating the service yard from a busy roundabout as well as creating outdoor amenity spaces for staff.

Project Lead, Robert Major, explains: “The building is a bespoke industrial development with specific requirements in the workshop and office space elements, both requiring a good understanding of the client’s operational requirements and technical processes. We were appointed to this project, our first for Thomas Sinden, on a recommendation from a long-standing client who recognised our skill and ability to deliver complex schemes in this sector precisely to the client’s needs. We look forward to continuing onwards with the detailed design and delivery of the project.”

The proposed unit will be contemporary in design, using light grey cladding, contrasted with dark grey windows and sections of feature brickwork on key corners. The workshop bays are defined with half-height brick and contrasting cladding colours between bays. The main entrance to the office is marked with double-height corner glazing, adding definition as well as natural light to the public-facing workspace. A dark grey feature surrounding the glazing and main entrance doors further identifies the main entrance, particularly for visitors.

The project proposes an energy efficient external envelope with high thermal performance and a high air tightness rating. The energy strategy focuses on renewable energy, with the roof space maximised to accommodate a high number of PV panels. The overall development is aiming to be highly energy efficient, which is a key consideration for the client in looking to reduce their ongoing operational costs.

Plans submitted for new retirement community in Dore, Sheffield

Plans submitted for new retirement community in Dore, Sheffield

December 12th, 2022 Posted by All, News, Senior Living

Long-standing client, Inspired Villages, have submitted plans for an Urban Edge designed 125-unit integrated retirement community on the western edge of the village of Dore, Sheffield, close to the edge of the Peak District. It is the latest in a series of successful scheme designs on behalf of Inspired Villages as we continue to assist in driving their development pipeline forwards, whilst building further on our strong track record of creating deliverable later living projects through carefully considered design.

The proposal seeks to redevelop the former Dore Moor Garden Centre to create an integrated retirement community that provides accommodation for the over 65s. Given the site’s location on the periphery of Dore and its close association with the Peak District, our design for the village necessitated a visual identity that is consistent and integrates wholly into its surroundings. This will help to strengthen the site’s response to its context and assist in embedding the proposed development within the milieu of the local village and surrounding landscape.

There are three main types of building found within the scheme, the Village Centre, the Village Apartment buildings and the cottages. A common architectural language has been developed that can be found across all three types and which takes cues from the design principles found within Dore and the wider Peak District. Key materials, such as stone, have been used sparingly, applied to the main façades of key buildings or in locations where elements of buildings terminate key vistas. To the rear of buildings and in areas where façades are less visible, this is replaced by buff brickwork.

Due to the site’s location, Inspired Villages identified a need for additional parking for residents, staff and visitors. Although a constrained site, our masterplan ingeniously seeks to maximise its potential by taking advantage of the substantial level changes, with the Village Centre being reconfigured to provide a level of undercroft parking at its base to accommodate the required number of parking spaces.

Darren Hodgson, Senior Associate Director, says: “We are delighted to have submitted this proposal on behalf of Inspired Villages for what will be a stunning integrated retirement community on the edge of the Peak District. We have conceived a contemporary interpretation of the architectural language and material palette of the Peak District and historic core of the village of Dore to ensure our design proposals are as robust as possible and integrated into the environment. It is our view that this is a well-considered masterplan that makes the most of the site and meets the high demand for older person’s housing within the area. We very much look forward to seeing the scheme delivered.”

In keeping with all Inspired Villages schemes, the proposals for Dore target net-zero carbon (regulated energy) and will feature a hybrid renewable energy solution utilising photovoltaic panels, ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps, in conjunction with careful consideration of the thermal performance of the building fabric. Endeavouring to exceed current Building Regulation Part L 2022 requirements for the levels of insulation and air tightness, the proposed development will incorporate a range of energy-efficient measures such as the installation of high-performance glazing and energy-efficient lighting.

Darren concludes: “As an ISO 14001 accredited business, sustainability is at the heart of our business strategy and forms a part of our everyday thinking, including the design solutions we deliver for clients. It is a privilege to work with forward-thinking clients such as Inspired Villages, who encourage the principles of sustainable design on all of their schemes, including the proposals at Dore and at Millfield Green in Caddington where we continue the delivery onsite of the UK’s first net-zero carbon (regulated energy) integrated retirement community.”

Urban Edge awarded ISO 14001 certification

September 30th, 2022 Posted by All, News, Sustainability

We are pleased to announce that we have been awarded certification for ISO 14001:2015, the international standard for designing and implementing an Environmental  Management System (EMS). Alongside our ISO 9001:2015 accreditation for Quality Management, ISO 14001 accreditation continues our longstanding commitment to reducing our impact on the environment, improving our operational processes and providing the highest quality of service for clients.

Sustainability has always been at the heart of our business strategy and forms a part of our everyday thinking, both in our business operations and the design solutions we deliver for clients. In recent years, we have helped Nando’s design and deliver its first ever 100% eco-friendly restaurant in Cambridge, are working with Inspired Villages to deliver the UK’s first net-zero retirement community in Bedfordshire and have recently completed a BREEAM Excellent industrial scheme for Aberdeen Standard Investments in Croydon.

Adopting ISO 14001 means we will continue to measure and reduce our environmental impact and fully supports our goal to be a net-zero carbon business by 2030.

Director, Tom McNamara, says: “We have held regular Sustainability Group meetings to discuss the practice’s environmental responsibilities for some considerable time and had already implemented a number of processes and measures to improve our environmental performance. Our decision to work towards ISO 14001 accreditation has more clearly defined some of that activity and ensures we now have robust environmental management systems throughout every aspect of the business.

“It’s important that we work together as an industry to limit the impact of our activities on the planet and  we have been privileged to work with many forward-thinking clients who are themselves on the same journey towards net-zero carbon. Our ISO 14001 accreditation is further reassurance that we can consistently meet the rigorous requirements of our clients as we all work towards the same goal.”

As part of the ISO 14001 process we have developed a framework for establishing and reviewing the practice’s environmental targets and objectives, all of which will be embedded at a strategic level. Key objectives include promoting the health and wellbeing of staff, promoting environmental and sustainability policies internally and evaluating sustainable options for business travel. We are also looking to expand our existing recycling measures, as well as ways to reduce water consumption and energy use and have recently switched energy providers, moving to 100% renewable provision with Corona Energy.

We are also committed to strengthening environmental considerations in our design processes, improving staff knowledge with continuing professional development. Earlier this year, for example, members of the team took part in a series of lectures at the University of Lincoln to learn about the latest research into BREEAM and Passivhaus, as well as the whole-life impact of a building.

Tom concludes: “Whilst achieving ISO 14001 certification can present many challenges, we have been particularly delighted by the enthusiasm from all members of staff and, in particular, we would like to thank Adam Caffrey who was instrumental in pushing this forward. Actively reducing our carbon footprint is very important to everybody at Urban Edge, both in terms of our day-to-day operations and in the legacy we leave through the design of our projects.”

Regeneration partnerships: Perspective and vision

September 14th, 2022 Posted by News

As we look to build back better from the effects of the global pandemic, many Local Authorities find themselves in the unenviable position of having to balance the provision of core services whilst delivering the essential housing, facilities and infrastructure that can secure growth and recovery for their towns and cities.

Regeneration schemes need to be implemented as part of a holistic approach, taking into account both social and economic needs. Assembling the right ingredients for these schemes presents a layer of complexity that can be difficult for either public or private organisations to resolve alone. By pooling together the powers, resources, management skills and technical know-how of both sectors, public-private partnerships offer the potential for a genuine focus on local priorities, especially in terms of the end users.

In some cases, longer term partnerships can enable broader measures for successful regeneration to take place as seen in the case of the large-scale and visionary involvement of Argent within the Kings Cross Development. Smaller regional initiatives can also benefit greatly from such long-term partnerships if structured properly.

Arguably, the need for essential housing, facilities and infrastructure is even more pressing in smaller towns and communities if we are to deliver on the ‘levelling up’ agenda. However, Local Authorities in these regions have often not built facilities and infrastructure for decades and will lack teams with enough experience or technical resource to deliver complex regeneration schemes.

As I argued in my previous piece, Regeneration: Perspective and Vision’, this presents opportunities for the private sector to step in and work collaboratively with the public sector, using our expertise and knowledge to deliver quality and successful projects, with placemaking at their heart. That same knowledge could also be used to identify opportunities within the public estate and increase the volume of Local Authority sites being brought forward.

We know that collaborative working can be successful, as our work with Local Authorities on the Government’s Towns Fund initiative has proven. The Towns Fund requires councils to work collaboratively with the private sector and Urban Edge has been involved in drafting up a number of ambitious proposals with Local Authorities, in particular working in close collaboration with Boston District Council where we have been given the opportunity to implement some of our regeneration ideas in line with the council’s forward-thinking vision on a number of strategic sites within the town centre.

However, as we have experienced on projects elsewhere, public-private partnerships can be complex and challenging, even for seemingly simple initiatives. Early engagement and preparation, insight and management are therefore key to successfully bring together the resources, expertise and powers of both sectors.

A structured and carefully controlled process needs to be put in place for these partnerships to be able to succeed and we would make the following core recommendations:

Set the vision from the outset

A robust vision will allow for the long-term relationship to endure through any economic and political changes that may occur over the course of the project. Early engagement with an experienced design team allows for the exploration of ideas and options available. This can ensure unviable options are eliminated from the outset and will avoid costly delays further down the line. On a number of occasions, we have found that, having undertaken initial feasibility studies, we have been able use our skill and experience to unlock sites which were previously deemed undevelopable thus opening up new avenues and opportunities for the Local Authority to explore. In turn, this can allow for early engagement with relevant stakeholders and help avoid potential parcel price uplifts or ransom strips.

Create a comprehensive brief

The crucial elements and boundaries of projects should be fixed from the outset. However, it is our view that an element of flexibility needs to be built into the overarching concept to allow for immediate solutions further in the process should, for example, the socio-economic landscape change or unforeseen opportunities arise such as technological advances. As architects and masterplanners, we have always allowed for and built in an element of flexibility within our proposals, both spatially and functionally in relation to the programme.

Set out the contractual type of any partnership options available

There is no fixed option available and each project will have its own specific requirements and complications, whether the partnership is contractual, corporate, investment or collaborative. As such, each variety of structure needs to be investigated and considered with thorough analysis of the pros and cons of each option.

Undertake studies on the timing and viability of the proposals

The project’s route to market needs to be tested. A series of more detailed and developed options of the proposals will be created by the Design and Management Team in the form of feasibility studies and costings which will allow for a soft market test. This will give the Local Authority, and partnership as a whole, the confidence to commit and move forward. This stage is also important for non-binding dialogue, which will shape the proposals and allow for certain elements to be reconsidered and reevaluated before a formal appointment process begins. This in turn will successfully shape the partnership and ensure fundability.

Make a meaningful start

Making a strong start is important and will set the template for success and pace of delivery. We would suggest agreeing and committing to a ‘first 100 days plan’, setting out a detailed work programme for all parties involved and defining their roles within it.

Management of the partnership whilst works are progressing

Maintaining the momentum set in the initial stages of the project can often be the most challenging aspect of public-private partnerships. However, agreeing to and setting out a series of actions such as a continuous review and revision of KPIs and targets, as well as lessons learned, will help keep the project on track and allow for better outcomes.

Commit to and see the process through to the end

Develop a Continuity and Communications Plan explaining the end of the partnership to ensure that there are no disruptions to services or benefits to the public or other key stakeholders.

A version of this article previously appeared in LocalGov in July 2022.

Alexandros Marcoulides | Associate Director

Plans submitted for visitor destination and education centre within the grounds of historic Harlaxton Manor

September 8th, 2022 Posted by News

We have submitted a planning application to South Kesteven District Council on behalf of Harlaxton College for the restoration of the disused Walled Garden at the historic Harlaxton Manor, near Grantham, to create a stunning and sustainable visitor attraction and educational experience.

As Landscape Architect and Project Lead, we worked in close collaboration with Harlaxton College to create a masterplan for the 56.65ha site and a detailed landscape design focused around the historic Grade II* Listed Walled Garden, which will not only restore the historic fabric, but recreate the original productive function of the garden and introduce opportunities for education and participation. The proposals have been submitted following extensive engagement with stakeholders and with representatives of the community and officers of South Kesteven District Council, Historic England and Lincolnshire County Council.

Andrew Cottage, Head of Landscape Design said: “This is an exceptional project in which we have applied our landscape design skills and understanding of the historic environment to deliver a practical and beautiful scheme that will meet the needs of the College and satisfy the requirements of Historic England and the planning authority. On completion the public will have access to assets of heritage significance which have previously been inaccessible to visitors helping them to understand, appreciate and interpret the past.”

The Walled Garden will be made fully accessible and will be arranged around a series of axial vistas dividing the area into a series of garden rooms, each with a different character. Some areas will focus on the historic roots of the garden, emphasising the production of fruit, vegetables, herbs and cut flowers, with others being themed with specialist planting, such as four seasons, medicinal and sensory gardens. Tall hedges aligned with the axial paths will introduce a sense of intrigue and drama by not allowing the whole garden rooms to be seen at once and will create a sense of arrival in to the next character area.

The scheme includes associated visitor infrastructure such as a new car park; footpath network and play area, whilst a large lawn will create a flexible space for informal gatherings and more formal events such as performances and parties. The listed Gardener’s House is being restored and converted by HP Architects into a new café, visitor facilities and education centre. The two historic vineries will be sensitively replaced and will serve as a café seating area with splendid views across the gardens and an education centre.

Despite the challenges of working with heritage assets, sustainability was a key focus of the design, which included elements such as green roofs, ground source heat pumps and solar panels on the roof of the new energy centre. EV charging points will be included in the car park and the whole project is targeting BREEAM Very Good.

Concludes Andrew: “This is a remarkable opportunity for us to be involved in a very exciting project to restore an historic walled garden and make it relevant in the 21st century, creating opportunities for education, participation and horticultural innovation. It was immensely rewarding to lead and coordinate such a talented multidisciplinary design team to achieve such an impressive outcome.”

Our design is part of an on-going process by Harlaxton College, the overseas study centre of the University of Evansville, in close liaison with Historic England, to restore and preserve the historic features within the estate and remove the Grade II* listed grounds and gardens from Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register.

Urban Edge wins consent for new warehouse scheme on Erdington Industrial Park, Birmingham

August 23rd, 2022 Posted by All, Logistics, News

We have been granted planning permission by Birmingham City Council for a new industrial distribution warehouse at Erdington Industrial Park on behalf of Hermes Fund Managers. The building will potentially be divided into two units of high-end warehouse space, with office space for each at mezzanine level. The scheme will include service yards, car parking and a landscape buffer to reduce the visual impact on surrounding residential areas.

Dave Frost, Senior Associate Director, commented: “This has always been a popular estate due to its central location and convenient access to the M6 and this new facility will help meet the need for high-quality commercial warehouse space in the Midlands, as well as providing employment opportunities for local people during construction and in use. The scheme utilises a brownfield site to add a contemporary industrial/distribution unit to complement the existing industrial park and adds value to an existing asset for our client Hermes Fund Managers. The building has been designed to reflect the scale of the adjacent industrial and distribution buildings, whilst the attractive façade that wraps around all three of the public elevations adds great visual interest and proves not all industrial schemes need be plain boxes. The design provides sufficient internal height to match current distribution demands and enough flexibility to adapt to changing market demand and occupier requirements.”

Our design maximises the site with a single 95,000 sq.ft building, split into two independent units of 40,000 sq.ft and 55,000 sq.ft with, respectively, 2,000 sq.ft and 2,750 sq.ft of office space at mezzanine level. Two sets of parking and service yards, including both level access and sunken loading docks, are separated by fencing. The entrances to the two office areas are situated on opposite sides of the building, with clear lines of sight from the two entrances to ease navigation. This division will also improve safety by keeping pedestrian pathways separate from HGV movements.

The entrances and offices are marked by double-height glazing to maximise natural light, and a dark grey, projecting border of cladding. The main entrance doors will have a light blue frame which highlights the access points. The main body of the warehouse will use contrasting dark, mid and light grey cladding, with a splash of light blue and a horizontal emphasis to break down the elevations.

Although the site is within an established industrial park, the layout offered a few challenges, including a 15m sewer easement located north east of the site boundary which led to the building being relocated to avoid conflicts. A sub-station on the site also required us to rearrange the loading docks’ location for lorry access.

Explains Dave Frost: “Our extensive experience in opening up opportunities for asset creation on sometimes challenging sites has allowed us to develop a quality and deliverable design that can meet all the client’s key requirements. Getting the infrastructure right and making it easy to navigate around the scheme is also a key component of our design and a vital ingredient for both tenants, their customers and the long-term viability of a scheme.”

The design of the scheme also proposes a number of interventions and initiatives to improve energy performance, reduce air pollution and improve local air quality. Available roof space has been fitted with PV technology, whilst car-share spaces are to be included on the site to encourage shared journeys and 12 EV charging bays for electric vehicles. Sheltered cycle parks are also to be proposed to encourage people to cycle to work.

Our design includes a new landscape buffer along the western and northern boundaries which will screen the site and enhance the privacy of the nearby residential houses, as well as reducing any noise pollution. The landscape buffer will be a mix of trees and shrubs and will incorporate SUDS and swales for site drainage.

Industrial strength for net-zero

June 29th, 2022 Posted by All, Logistics, Sustainability

Industrial and logistics is one of the property classes to have emerged stronger than ever from the global pandemic, with increased investor interest in the sector accounting for 27% of all investment into UK real estate in 2021.

However, the investment boom in industrial and logistics arrives at the same time that the United Nations has declared a climate emergency and institutional investors are looking to mitigate the risks to their property portfolios from climate change and deliver better Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) outcomes for all their stakeholders. Developers of industrial and logistics property are coming under increasing pressure to satisfy the ESG criteria of investors and meet the UK Government’s legally binding target of Net-Zero Carbon by 2050.

Owners and developers of industrial and logistics property are also needing to meet the expectations of occupiers, many of whom have their own ESG and net-zero strategies, as well as a requirement to look after the health and wellbeing of their staff. According to Cushman & Wakefield’s recent ‘Industrial Goes Green’ report, over 80 percent of industrial occupiers are asking about sustainable warehouse solutions and 60 percent of them would like their facilities to be green-certified.

Designing and delivering sustainable schemes

For those of us charged with the design and delivery of industrial and logistics property, the rapid influence of these pressures is evident to see, with owners, developers and operators looking to upgrade the sustainability of their schemes. Here at Urban Edge, we’ve received a number of recent enquiries from industrial and logistics clients looking to improve the sustainability of their schemes or to design and deliver net-zero buildings. Where targeting BREEAM Excellent was once a rarity and something to shout about, it’s now rapidly becoming the bare minimum.

Our design for a new 95,000 sq.ft industrial distribution warehouse on the Erdington Industrial Estate in Birmingham, for example, is targeting BREEAM Excellent. Likewise, we have recently completed the redevelopment of a former factory site in Croydon to provide a high quality Class B development for modern industrial operators and have, in the past six months, been directed by our client to design and deliver the scheme to net-zero.

At the same time, we are currently working with industrial and logistics property owners who are looking to decarbonise their existing portfolio of stock, improve their energy efficiency and find ways to achieve net-zero.

Rising energy costs have, of course, had their part to play in some of the decision making, as too has impending legislation. Owners of existing industrial and logistics property will need to keep an eye on the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) which is expected to extend further to non-domestic properties by 2030 and require an EPC grade B or above. This will be of particular concern for landlords with more historic property portfolios as significant retrofit measures may be required to meet the new energy-efficiency regulations. We would advise landlords to futureproof their portfolios against regulatory changes by seeking advice sooner, rather than later, so that a detailed profile of a building or buildings can be undertaken to decide where and what interventions are needed.

The net-zero journey

Whilst net-zero is fast becoming the ‘must have’ for owners and developers seeking finance or looking to attract and retain top-drawer tenants, we must also pause to acknowledge that the industry is at the very start of its net-zero journey, with differing interpretations of net-zero clouding matters further.

In truth, most current net-zero buildings are primarily targeting the elimination of fossil fuels (net-zero energy), but there is a clear distinction between operational carbon and embodied carbon. Put simply, operational carbon emissions are those associated with the energy used to run the building, whilst embodied carbon emissions are those associated with the materials and products used in its construction and across the building’s whole life. A true net-zero carbon building would need to address both of these sources of carbon, without recourse to major offsetting.

Net-zero has proved particularly challenging in the industrial and logistics sector where institutional standards for the specification of buildings have dominated for a long time and many developers and designers have just stuck with what they know. This is gradually starting to change, driven primarily by the demands of modern occupiers who not only want smarter and more efficient space, but also sustainability and wellness initiatives to meet their ESG benchmarks and attract and retain quality employees.

You can see this reflected at our scheme in Erdington, where our design not only maximises the site with a single 95,000 sq.ft building, split into two independent units, but also proposes a number of interventions and initiatives to improve energy performance, reduce air pollution and improve local air quality. Available roof space has been fitted with PV technology, whilst car-share spaces are to be included on the site to encourage shared journeys and 12 EV charging bays are provisioned for electric vehicles.

For the industrial and logistics sector to start delivering fully net-zero carbon buildings, a number of challenges lie ahead, not least tackling the predominant use of steel in construction which has very high embodied carbon. Whilst we’ve spoken to a number of progressive industrial and logistics developers who are exploring the possibilities of timber frame and cladding, insurance hurdles remain due to perceived fire and water risk. Hybrid construction models, such as the use of a concrete core and base as recently proposed by insurance research group RISCAuthority, could provide a way forward to allow for an increased use of timber and other sustainable products whilst mitigating the safety concerns. We will watch with interest how the situation develops.

Early engagement the key to a greener future

Clearly, delivering on commercial expectations, maintaining productivity and profitability, whilst ensuring buildings are highly sustainable or net-zero is an extremely fine balancing act and requires a deep understanding of the industrial and logistics sector’s needs, coupled with experience of sustainable design and technical know-how. Early engagement with experienced architects is key as we can consider sustainability and energy efficiency at all stages of design from site considerations, design and masterplanning, construction and all the way to a building’s operation.

As buildings are currently responsible for approximately 25 percent of UK CO2 emissions, with around 30 percent of those emissions from non-domestic buildings, industrial and logistics real estate has an important role to play in meeting the UK’s overall net-zero Carbon targets. Whilst net-zero is challenging, it also opens up opportunity and will secure a long-term future for companies operating within the sector.

Dave Frost | Senior Associate Director

Darren Hodgson contributes to significant new ARCO Grey Going Green report on net-zero in the integrated retirement community

June 14th, 2022 Posted by All, News, Senior Living, Sustainability

We are delighted to have contributed to ARCO’s Grey Going Green report, published this week, which highlights how the integrated retirement community sector can tackle the net zero carbon challenge.

Drawing on our experience working with Inspired Villages to deliver the UK’s first net zero carbon (regulated energy) retirement community at Millfield Green in the village of Caddington, we set out some of our key learnings on net zero for both parties, the lessons that need to be taken further forward and the important questions clients who haven’t yet embarked on this path need to ask of themselves.

ARCO’s introduction to the report, which has seen members of its expert Advisory Council come together to highlight different areas of the net zero carbon agenda, states that “Integrated retirement communities can’t just have the longevity of older people as their mission. They must also have the longevity of our planet right at their core… the ambition of this report is to help set the integrated retirement community sector on the right track; to provide a strong foundation from which operators of all kinds can draw expertise and put net zero right at the heart of their work.”

Millfield Green and other similar integrated retirement community schemes we are working on in the Inspired Villages portfolio are leading the way on net zero and provide valuable lessons and insight for the sector to take forward.

Darren Hodgson, Senior Associate Director, said: “We are pleased to have contributed to this important report and share our experiences of delivering net zero on real life projects throughout the UK. In sharing this knowledge, the integrated retirement communities sector can work together to ensure that the route to net zero carbon is both practicably and commercially achievable, meeting the needs of investors with an increasing focus on ESG solutions and discerning customers who want homes that are cleaner, greener and healthier.”

ARCO’s Chief Executive, Michael Voges, added: “With over 70,000 homes in integrated retirement communities and the sector set for rapid growth, we’ve got a key role to play in meeting the net zero carbon challenge. Our Advisory Council experts have some great insights on this issue, and we’re delighted they have worked together to produce this extremely timely report.”

If you would like further information on our work on net zero integrated retirement communities, please contact Darren Hodgson at darren.hodgson@urbanedgearchitecture.co.uk

Burger King drive-thru scheme starts on site at Centrepoint Retail Park, Aberdeen

June 6th, 2022 Posted by All, News, Retail

Urban Edge is delighted to announce that Muir Construction has started on site on a new 1800sq ft Burger King drive through unit at the popular Centrepoint Retail Park in Aberdeen. Urban Edge was appointed by RPMI as architect on the £800,000 project, which will also see the reconfiguration of the surrounding car park, taking the scheme from feasibility to planning and onwards to delivery and completion.

Explains Ian Townsend, Associate at Urban Edge: “Many retail park owners are now looking to diversify the range of attractions on their retail parks and drive through F&B retail is a very popular option. It’s great to be working alongside Muir Construction on the delivery of this important scheme and we’re delighted to see it start on-site. The addition of another well-known brand will support Centrepoint Retail Park’s continued viability as a retail and leisure destination and expand employment opportunities for local people during and after completion.”

The appearance and layout of this new Burger King drive through unit has been designed to reflect the brand’s identity and requirements. The exterior mixes cream composite panels that sit on a red brick plinth with timber effect panels that highlight the drive-through windows, as well as provide a background for the operator’s intended signage. Floor-to-ceiling aluminium glazing in the public-facing restaurant provides light and views both into and out of the unit.

“This scheme is the latest in a series of similar schemes we have carried out for well-known F&B retailers. The strong relationships we have forged over the years with all the major F&B operators has given us a deep understanding of their specification and brand requirements and means we can be incredibly efficient in how we deliver their schemes on sometimes challenging sites,” says Ian.

The site layout has been carefully designed with particular consideration given to ensure that any potential queues are contained within the retail park. The proposals have also been carefully planned to ensure that the development does not compromise Aberdeen City Council’s Berryden Corridor Improvement Scheme.

As part of the design, hard landscaping elements are to be softened with planted borders containing eight species of flowering shrubs, which will improve the biodiversity on the urban site, supporting local wildlife, in particular bee and bird populations.

Landscape-Led Urban Regeneration

Landscape-led urban regeneration

May 18th, 2022 Posted by All, Landscape

It’s now a well-established fact that our urban centres are enduring a period of change, brought about by a perfect storm of factors that include climate change, changing consumer habits and the recent Coronavirus pandemic. If our towns and cities are to remain viable and relevant to our lives, they will need to adapt quickly to these changes. Where traditional town centres used to be entirely composed of retail and commercial office space, a shift towards a mix of uses is now required and could include everything from residential to co-working space, leisure to healthcare, as well as community facilities.

We also need to acknowledge that the spaces outside and between these buildings will play a critical part in the revitalisation of our urban centres. The public realm can enhance the building architecture, provide setting and context, and better connect the doors of homes, shops, workspaces and leisure facilities to the outside world. Carefully designed public realm creates spaces that truly work for people and landscape architects should be involved at every stage of the regeneration decision-making process.

As my colleague Alex Marcoulides detailed in his article here, we have recently been working with local authorities as part of the Towns Fund bidding process and have contributed towards formulating some ambitious proposals.

In particular we have been working in close collaboration with Boston District Council where we have been given the opportunity to implement some of our ideas to regenerate the town centre, increase footfall, attract visitors and enhance the look and feel of the area. This includes a programme of works to enhance the town centre by making it more pedestrian friendly and less car dominated; introduce more trees; provide space for the market and introduce gateway garden areas. This would be accompanied by works to bring Boston’s town centre heritage and leisure to life, helping to attract more visitors and increase visitor spend. It’s the perfect encapsulation of landscape design’s role in the delivery of a successful regeneration strategy.

Landscape-Led Urban Regeneration

Concept diagram detailing the important relationship between buildings and landscape

Health, social equity and environmental benefits

Landscape design in town centres is about much more than aesthetic value. For local authorities, improved public realm in urban areas can have a profound impact on public health and the management of health and social care costs. At the same time, it can improve social equity, whilst also helping to meet borough-wide environmental targets.

As acknowledgment of a growing obesity crisis gathers pace, the NHS has recommended we perform at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week, preferably outdoors. Outdoor spaces are also a key factor in maintaining positive mental health, with many healthcare professionals now suggesting that 120 minutes contact with nature per week should be added to the NHS guidance. Well-conceived public space is therefore seen as a critical component in civic health and wellbeing provision.

The first wave of lockdowns that followed the outbreak of COVID-19 highlighted just how many people, particularly in urban areas, value outdoor and green space, with images of packed parks and seafronts blazoned across newspaper and TV news headlines. However, the lockdown period also revealed the ‘green poverty’ that exists in many towns and cities, with many disadvantaged communities having significantly less access to green space within 300 metres of their home, and presenting an even more compelling case for improved urban public realm.

Planting of trees, shrubs and the introduction of sustainable urban drainage systems can, if well designed, not only make our urban spaces more attractive, they can improve biodiversity, mitigate urban heat islands, and provide good drainage solutions to deal with changes in weather patterns and rainfall in a way that doesn’t surcharge our already overstretched drainage systems. Further still, with over 300 local authorities having now declared a climate emergency in their jurisdictions, urban greening can help absorb carbon and contribute towards borough-wide carbon-reduction targets.

Landscape-Led Urban Regeneration

We’re working with Boston District Council to implement some of our ideas to regenerate the town centre

Reclaiming urban spaces for people

The COVID-19 pandemic has also afforded us the opportunity to challenge some of the unsustainable behavioural patterns hardwired into our urban environments, not least the priorities given to cars over pedestrians. As offices and shops closed, people left their cars parked and local authorities looked to improve walkway infrastructure to allow for social distancing; in some instances, entire town and city thoroughfares were pedestrianised to facilitate outdoor socialising, eating and drinking.

Whilst levels of car usage have inevitably increased in recent months, large numbers of people continue to work at least partly from home. The introduction of low emission zones in towns and cities will also see fewer cars entering our urban centres. Fewer cars not only means less pollution, but also less congestion and less requirement for on-street parking and the clutter of road-related signage. We can stop thinking of streets as networks for cars, but rather places for people to live, work and play.

However, the opportunities that this presents can only be successfully realised if properly planned and designed with care and attention. Flexibility is key. Outdoor spaces are rarely static; they can change with the seasons and brim with the unpredictable patterns of life as people pass, meet and overlap. Well-considered, flexible urban space can fulfil a number of different functions throughout the year and help to create a city centre that’s a destination in its own right, providing opportunities to host civic events, annual shows, big-screen sporting events, winter markets or even the introduction of a summer beach.

Good landscape architecture is therefore integral to successful regeneration schemes and can help unlock the opportunities created by building architecture. Attractive, accessible and pedestrian friendly public realm will encourage people to use the space, increase dwell time and ensure returning visits. Done well, it can ensure the long-term socio-economic future of our urban centres by creating vibrant spaces in which some types of retail and other economic activity can thrive once more.

This is an extended version of an article that first appeared in Pro Landscaper magazine in April 2022.

Post-Lockdown Office Refurbishment Now Complete

Post-lockdown ‘agile and flexible’ office refurbishment now complete

May 4th, 2022 Posted by All, News

Like many businesses throughout the world, Urban Edge had to adapt very quickly to the global Coronavirus emergency. Just prior to the pandemic taking its hold, our practice had already started to look at more flexible staff working arrangements and our investment in an IT infrastructure to ensure everybody could work successfully from home paid dividends. It ensured quick response rates and continuity for clients during lockdown, whilst also allowing our teams to collaborate and maintain a consistent level of service, understanding and creativity on projects.

As the vaccination programme gathered pace, Coronavirus replication numbers dropped and economic activity resumed at pace across the country, so we started to plan for the future. As an inclusive and supportive business, it was imperative that staff were fully engaged in the process through a series of group discussions to gauge their thoughts on home-versus-office working and the most effective way of operating moving forward.

Whilst there were inevitably a mix of ideas, it was apparent that most people wanted a return to the office for at least two to three days a week. The main reasons cited related to the social and cultural aspects of office life, as well as the need to more effectively collaborate.

Director, Tom McNamara, explains further: “Although video conferencing through Teams or Zoom proved effective throughout the various lockdown periods, it could never replace face-to-face interaction. Architecture is a collaborative and creative process that benefits greatly from in-person interactions within the design team. We thrive on being able to sit around a table as a team, brainstorming ideas with enthusiasm and reaching the creative conclusions for which we are renowned.”

Taking into account the views expressed by staff, we conducted some remodelling on our current office space to see how it could be rearranged to create the optimal working environment. Whilst health and wellbeing were inevitably key considerations, it was clear that the office should no longer be just a place to sit at a desk, but a space to encourage culture and community, promote collaboration and improve operational efficiencies through the natural communication of information and ideas. Face-to-face interaction within the office environment, unlike an impersonal email or video communication, ensures better clarification and fosters quicker understanding, whilst also helping new staff to learn about the business and understand the way things are done.

“We had appointed some 13 new members of staff during the lockdown period,” continues Tom, “and the shorter-than-usual induction periods and lack of office time necessitated by the ‘Work from Home’ mandate was tough on them. A return to the workspace means we now have the benefit of longer periods of induction in the office for new starters, allowing them to get to know people, understand a little bit more about the company culture and how the office works. Likewise, our younger and graduate staff can learn so much when they’re in the office just listening to conversations and how other people deal with certain situations. So, whilst there are many benefits to working from home, there are also advantages to working in an office, such as building social connections, improved communication and understanding, increased productivity and career progression.”

Post-Lockdown Office Refurbishment Now Complete

Two meeting pods have been installed enabling some privacy in an open office environment

Agile and flexible

During and between the lockdown periods, as staff transitioned to a hybrid form of working, desktop computers were changed to laptops to allow for more agility and flexibility in the face of a constantly evolving situation. These changes have also informed the new office layout, with some of the existing desk space removed from the main studio and given over to collaborative areas. At the same time, two large meeting pods have been installed – these offer acoustic attenuation and enable some privacy and quieter meetings whilst still in an open office environment.

Initially, following the office refurbishment, around half of the existing desk space was removed, but careful analysis of use-pattern data has seen the ratio of desk space increased to two thirds of the original number to ensure maximum efficiency. The desks have been optimised for hot desking, with docking stations and adjustable monitors to allow staff to create their own bespoke workspace. There are also a mix of different workspaces, suitable for particular tasks or workflow that staff can book via their mobile or laptop using an app called WiggleDesk. We are proud to be an early adopter of the innovative desk-booking tool that was devised by former Google data scientist William Wildridge.

“As a forward-thinking practice, we’re thrilled to be trialling technology that harnesses the power of AI and data visualisation to allow us to operate with maximum flexibility and maintain a safe environment,” explains Tom. “The app allows you to see what desks are available on each day, book and unbook the appropriate space for your requirements; it also includes reminders to clean your workstation once you’ve finished, reinforcing all the important hygiene messaging that people expect and understand in this post Covid world.”

From informal to formal

Our second office on the other side of the Scotgate Mews courtyard has also undergone a significant makeover. Previously a more traditional office set up, the new space has been designed purposefully with maximum flexibility in mind, and can be used as both a conference suite and breakout area for staff. Flexible seating and desks can be arranged for more casual interactions or informal meetings, but can easily be adapted to create a more traditional and formal meeting space. The inclusion of a large interactive screen will allow clients or staff working remotely to join design team meetings and allow for more dynamic presentations once clients and other design team members return fully to in-person activity.

The courtyard itself – weather permitting – is also a useful break-out space and can be used for informal staff meetings and events. During the summer, the practice used the courtyard space to gather all staff together in person, discuss the highs and lows of the previous year and update them on the reconfiguration of the offices. Following a year largely working from home, it was also a useful period for staff not only to reacquaint themselves with each other, but get to know some of the new starters.

“After such a long period working remotely, we fully understood that some people might have some anxieties about returning to the office. Having the ability to reconnect everybody outdoors in a socially distanced way – yet also still within the realm of the offices – was a great way to reintroduce staff to each other and help ease any anxieties about returning to the workplace. For new members of staff who joined us during the lockdown period, this was also their first opportunity to meet everybody in person. It proved to be an incredibly positive day.”

Post-Lockdown Office Refurbishment Now Complete

Our second office, ‘The Workshop’, has also undergone a significant makeover

Community benefits

Whilst the practice works nationally, we have always cared passionately about the town and region where our offices are located and have always sought to give something back to the area that has contributed so much to our success. Reaching out to the local community through local social groups and networks, all the surplus fixtures and fittings, including chairs, desks and cabinets, were given new homes locally.

We have also donated the studio’s previous large interactive screen to the Bourne Arts and Community Trust where it will be used at the charity’s base, the Grade II Listed Wake House in Bourne which serves as a Community Centre with a variety of rooms to hire for groups, events and meetings.

Desktop PCs that were replaced by laptops have been offered to staff for a nominal fee, with the proceeds going to the Urban Edge Foundation – a charity set up to raise funds and awareness for established charities such as The Alzheimer’s Society and Prostate Cancer UK.

Where new office furniture has been introduced, every effort has been made to source recycled or upcycled products from local suppliers.

Social and cultural context

There has been much conjecture about the future of the office amongst business leaders and the media alike over the last two years. The reality is that the office is here to stay, but perhaps not in the same way that it existed pre-pandemic. As we have found through our own experiences, an attractive office must now be more than just desks, chair and computers, and as much about social and cultural context.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, there is a lot of positivity around our growing pipeline of work and the growth of the business moving forward,” says Tom. “Our office will play an essential role in the future of Urban Edge, not just as a physical manifestation of the business, but as our cultural heart. A place where we can connect and collaborate, teach and learn, progress and build. A place where a special kind of alchemy occurs to create innovative solutions for clients and personal and professional fulfilment for staff.”

Ben Doherty Appointed Associate Director

Urban Edge introduces Ben Doherty as a new Associate Director

March 16th, 2022 Posted by All, News

Urban Edge is delighted to introduce Ben Doherty as a new Associate Director.

Recently returned from Australia where he was Senior Project Leader for Smart Design Studio in New South Wales, Ben is a specialist in the design and delivery of high-end multi-residential schemes, such as the much-heralded 178 apartment Connor building at the gateway to one of Sydney’s most popular urban precincts. Prior to his time in Australia, Ben worked on a number of large-scale residential schemes in the London studio of Horden Cherry Lee, including Newfoundland, a 58 storey residential tower in Canary Wharf.

Ben’s initial area of focus at Urban Edge is on the later living sector, utilising the knowledge, techniques and methodologies gained from experience on major projects to evolve, develop and improve efficiencies and processes.

“I’ve been really impressed with the enthusiasm and willingness to learn at Urban Edge,” says Ben. “I see a real opportunity to apply some of my skills to the practice, especially on some of the large-scale projects, and introduce some of the processes and ways of working from other studio environments that I know work really well. It’s about introducing something new and fresh, perhaps offering a slightly different way of looking at things and seeing whether that approach can make a difference.”

Moving back to the UK and experiencing the challenges of remotely managing a team on the other side of the world via video communications, Ben’s glad to be back in a thriving studio environment.

We have recently remodelled our current office space to create the optimal working environment for our staff following the upheaval of the restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst health and wellbeing have inevitably been key considerations in the reconfiguration, it was clear that the office should no longer be just a place to sit at a desk, but a space to encourage culture and community, promote collaboration and improve operational efficiencies through the natural communication of information and ideas.

“After the last two years, where many staff have been working from home and there are new faces they’ve never even met, I’m sure it’s like coming into a totally new studio environment,” says Ben. “The ability to work remotely does have some positives, but nothing beats sitting with your team and discussing work holistically. I love being in a studio environment where everyone’s feeding off each other. And when I say studio, I don’t mean a bunch of people sat around desks; a studio for me is all about collaboration, detail paper, sketching, architectural drawings and material samples that you can immerse yourself in. If everything is just digital, it can feel a little removed.”

As someone who has a passion for the visual nature of design, one of the first things Ben has introduced to our studio are magnetic whiteboards where ongoing work will be pinned up and staff will be encouraged to come together to review and analyse as a team. “It’s about collaboration, people coming together to read plans and drawings holistically rather than locally – it’s the perfect mechanism for improving design quickly and efficiently,” explains Ben.

Moving forward, Ben will be looking to apply some of the same efficiencies and processes across all the sectors in which we operate. He also wants to play an active part in encouraging the next generation of architects. “I love mentoring and I spent a lot of time mentoring Part I and II architecture students at my previous practice. I think back to some of those individuals who mentored me early on in my career and helped give me a greater understanding of design, technical detail and delivery and I can think of no greater compliment than being able to pass on that knowledge and everything I’ve learned since.

Retail Park Refurbishment at Campbell's Meadow Retail Park

Start on site for retail park refurbishment at Campbell’s Meadow Retail Park

March 8th, 2022 Posted by All, News, Retail

We are overseeing the start on site of a façade upgrade and modernisation of five retail units at Campbell’s Meadow Retail Park, on the outskirts of historic King’s Lynn in Norfolk.

Whilst a popular retail destination, the units at Campbell’s Meadow Retail Park were starting to look tired and dated and required bringing up to current market expectations with a positive, modern look to improve the experience of customers at the site. Working with client Kames Capital, our team considered several options to create a new façade design that could be delivered within the client’s cost requirement, as well as responding to the market conditions and fulfilling the existing tenants’ needs.

It was also essential that the retail park remain fully operational and the design conceived to be delivered in such a way as to minimise disruption to existing tenants. Drawing on our extensive experience in the successful delivery and upgrade of retail schemes throughout the UK, we devised a ‘light touch’ solution that will be as unobtrusive as possible and allow tenants to keep trading throughout the works programme.

Our final design proposal changes the out-dated cladding for sleek, modern fire-safe composite panels, which will improve the thermal performance of the units as well as the aesthetics of the terrace as a whole. Bold, rectangular signage features emphasise the entrance to each unit and add visual prominence for the retailers from Hardwick Road.

The retail park refurbishment and modernisation has already created the opportunity to secure a national retailer tenant, their unit façade enhanced to provide a significant amount of additional glazing. It is hoped that the upgrade will continue to attract a more diverse retail mix, which will only increase the overall popularity of Campbell’s Meadow Retail Park.

Tom McNamara, Director, comments: “The retail sector is facing a range of challenges as it looks to bounce back from the impact of the pandemic. At Campbell’s Meadow Retail Park we have provided a cost-effective solution to enhance the user experience and create a safer and more welcoming environment that will help speed up the process of bringing footfall levels back up to normal. We are delighted to be working once more with Havercroft Construction in the delivery of this scheme and securing the long-term commercial viability of Campbell’s Meadow Retail Park.”

The retail park refurbishment starts on site on the 14th March 2022 with a 28-week programme of works. Be sure to check our website and social media regularly for updates.

Landscape, Architecture and the Importance of Green Spaces

Landscape, architecture and the importance of green spaces

March 2nd, 2022 Posted by All, Landscape, News

Andrew Cottage, Associate Director and Head of Landscape Design talks about his role here at Urban Edge and the importance of greenspace.

The importance of open spaces and, in particular, greenspace, has never been more important. The recent lockdowns have showed us how vital parks and outdoor spaces are to our physical and mental health and wellbeing. We have become acutely aware of the importance of issues around accessibility and inclusiveness. Good greenspace can encourage participation and interaction and as such contribute to the formation of strong communities. In addition we have seen how, with a little encouragement, wildlife is able to adapt and return to our urban places.

This heightened awareness should emphasise to developers that well designed greenspace will add value to their development by making it more desirable to the end-user. Carefully crafted landscape schemes are a fundamental component of successful placemaking and as such can support the timely passage of a proposed development through the planning process.

Inspiration

I’ve been interested in natural places, gardens and art from an early age and was able to combine my passions by studying Landscape Architecture at Greenwich University under Tom Turner.

When I graduated it was an exciting time and I remember vividly working in Cardiff at a time when it was at the beginning of its renaissance and the Ebbw Vale Garden Festival (1992) took place. This was a hugely significant landscape led project, revitalising the site of the old Corus Group steel and tin works into gardens, plant exhibitions and other visitor attractions. It was hoped it would support the regeneration of Cardiff and surrounding villages by attracting new investment into the area which had been badly hit by the decline of traditional heavy industries. The Garden Festival attracted over 2 million visitors and was the first example I’d seen of how landscape architecture can contribute to effective regeneration and create places that support strong and resilient communities.

Since then, my view that landscape has a crucial role to play in creating successful places hasn’t changed. Working in private practices, many of my projects have been commercial developments where the ability to sell the benefits of good landscape design to a developer has been important. The advantages will vary from scheme to scheme but there are common themes and sound commercial reasons for paying attention to the landscape, such as making a project more acceptable to planners and end-users and getting higher incomes as a result. A well considered landscape scheme can integrate a new development into its surroundings and create developments which are place specific and sympathetic to the local landscape character.

There are also important long-term benefits of a carefully planned and properly integrated landscape design. These include creating positive and usable spaces as well as all the benefits arising from a well thought through planting scheme, such as better air quality, reduced heat gain, provision of nectar, increased biodiversity and carbon capture. As the conversation turns to net-zero development, landscape can play an increasingly valuable role, for example by integrating sustainable drainage schemes into the wider landscape design. I’m not saying we can solve climate change, but we can certainly help!

Seamless integration

Working for Urban Edge immediately appealed to my interest in working as part of a team in the delivery of great schemes. The practice offers a fully integrated service where landscape and architecture work seamlessly, hand-in-hand to create coherent developments where buildings and landscape combine harmoniously and the end product is greater than the sum of its parts.

An integrated team makes it is easier to identify opportunities to enhance the finished scheme. For example, the team can work together to optimise site layouts to maximise the interaction between the buildings and landscape, making a natural flow of spaces and create feelings of openness and engagement. We can identify opportunities to create spaces which are usable and attractive to both people and wildlife.

Urban Edge has been able to develop this integrated approach to architecture and landscape with its clients, particularly Inspired Villages, one of the UK’s most innovative later living specialists. We have an ageing population who spend more time within the developments creating the opportunity for the external spaces to take on an even greater and more valuable role. Landscape becomes an intrinsic element of the overall scheme, providing high quality and very usable green spaces, which offer a range of opportunities for residents to socialise, be active and participate in activities and events. We work closely with the project ecologist to provide plenty of habitat within the development to support local biodiversity, attracting wildlife and increasing contact between the residents and the natural environment. In these ways we can deliver the benefits of the outside for physical and mental wellbeing.

Creativity

I am a Chartered Member of the Landscape Institute and I worked for them for a spell recently, managing an international design competition and helping to organise their online webinar series. This gave me a broader and more in-depth insight, not only on the challenges that my profession is facing, but the great work that the Landscape Institute are doing and the level of excitement and creativity that my fellow landscape architects are bringing to the design table.

For me, my role at Urban Edge only begins with planning, designing and delivering. These are all steps along the way to the finished piece of work but the real excitement is seeing people enjoy the spaces that we create and watching how a client takes the project forward in ways that I, as the designer, may not have anticipated. Our work creates fresh starting points, but the landscape is never complete or static and constantly evolves and looks towards the future.

Landscape architecture is a varied and challenging discipline that can have as much or as little effect on a project as it is allowed to have. It can support mental health, create a feeling of community, settle a new development into its wider context and help in the fight against climate change.

For some sectors, the landscape has always played a role in the finished scheme, whilst in others more commercial elements take priority. Recent Coronavirus lockdowns have highlighted the importance of quality outdoor spaces for the health and wellbeing of all communities. I and the team at Urban Edge are looking forward to sharing that sense of excitement and creativity and ensuring that landscape architecture plays its full role across every sector in the Urban Edge portfolio from residential to retail, leisure to logistics.

Andrew Cottage | Associate Director and Head of Landscape Design

MindSpace Two Years On

MindSpace two years on – A place where people are comfortable to be themselves

February 22nd, 2022 Posted by All, Charity, News

Back in 2019, when Stamford-based mental health charity, MindSpace, was looking for a permanent home from which to deliver its much-needed activities, a team of volunteers from Urban Edge stepped up to help refurbish an unoccupied building on Broad Street in the middle of the town. Two years on, and despite the emergence of a global pandemic, MindSpace is now successfully delivering a range of friendly and safe events from the new Broad Street premises, as well as using it as a space to support people with the skills and confidence to be more comfortable having conversations about mental health issues.

Tom McNamara, Director, comments: “Connecting to the local community and giving something back to the area that has contributed so much to the practice’s success has always been at the forefront of our vision. Helping a local charity such as MindSpace turned out to be a brilliant few days, with everyone just getting stuck in and going for it.”

MindSpace and Urban Edge met at the Stamford Mercury Business Awards earlier in 2019, where MindSpace won ‘Best Social Enterprise’ category and we picked up the prize for ‘Large Business of the Year.’

Reflecting back on it now, Helen Howe at MindSpace, says: “The timing was perfect. Urban Edge approached us as they were looking to help a local charity with a hands-on project and we had this major refurbishment that also needed some expertise on the planning process. Urban Edge worked up some alternative designs for the new frontage and finalised a professional elevation to show to the planners.”

When it came to hands-on work, our team ripped up old flooring, stripped wallpaper, cleared the garden, and redecorated the interior. The design and colour scheme had to deliver a series of flexible spaces to house MindSpace’s range of activities, from training sessions to informal tea and chat to relaxing spaces for one-to-one conversations. The whole space, inside a listed building, had to project feelings of safety and relaxation, welcome and comfort.

Working from the MindSpace members’ brief of ‘everything you wouldn’t expect and not institutional’, our interior design team took inspiration from MindSpace’s logo and the warm brick of the existing exteriors to create a series of rooms, lightly divided with natural timber slat screens, and furnished with comfortable, domestic style furniture. Rich blue highlighted some of the walls, with splashes of deep orange to provide focal points, and soft grey shades connected the interior with the new front and signage.

MindSpace Two Years On

A rich blue highlighted some of the walls, with splashes of deep orange providing focal points

Ian Townsend and Sarah Steinberg were two of our staff who helped over the four days, making good the walls, painting and adding the vibrant colours to make the rooms buzz.

Explains Ian: “The original building décor was a very dismal and worn-out beige, so freshening up all the walls and bringing in the hot colours really made a difference. It was a great experience, doing something different and working with other team members that I didn’t usually get to work with. Whilst it was fun to do, it was also incredibly fulfilling to create something positive for the community.”

Continues Sarah: “Originally I didn’t know much about MindSpace and its work, but helping refurbish the building and talking to the people there brought it home to me how wonderful it was to create a community hub that would be helping so many people in so many ways.”

“The new spaces were an instant hit, providing our members with a constant, familiar, inclusive environment,” confirms MindSpace’s Helen Howe.

With the Broad Street premises now fully operational, MindSpace took the momentous step of signing a full lease of the building in February 2021 and is looking to expand its opening times and put on more activities, as well as opening its doors to other regional health services and organisations to deliver their activities.

Concludes Ian: “I know from my own family experience of mental health issues how important it is to have a place to go where you feel safe and welcome, just to get out of the house, meet people and have someone to listen to you without judgement. It was a very enjoyable few days and in an incredibly short period of time we helped create a community resource that will support others for many years.”

Tom sums up: “As architects and designers we have a set of skills that we can use in any sector, from later living to warehousing, but when we are able to help an active local charity in the vital work they do, it adds an extra level of meaning. Design – interior or exterior – can have a real, positive, impact on the people who use the spaces and it’s exciting to see how MindSpace are taking forward and expanding the help they give the local community.”

For more information about MindSpace and the services it offers, please visit their website.

A Positive Start to 2022

Urban Edge Architecture and Inspired Villages enjoy a positive start to 2022!

January 27th, 2022 Posted by All

Following a brace of good news stories in December, 2022 started with a flourish for Urban Edge and our continued relationship with Inspired Villages. Firstly, our reserved matters submission for the first phase of Inspired Villages’ proposed Integrated Retirement Community (IRC) at Little Mount Farm, Tunbridge Wells, received unanimous approval from the planning committee. After the scheme was initially refused planning, we worked tirelessly with the client and project team to develop updated proposals that responded to the feedback received from the local planning officers and planning committee to guarantee planning would be approved the second time around. We are currently in the process of developing the technical design for the scheme which is targeting a start towards the end of this year.

A Positive Start to 2022

Little Mount Farm Retirement Community, Tunbridge Wells

Our second good news story was the securing of planning approval for our Integrated Retirement Community scheme for Inspired Villages at Sonning Common, South Oxfordshire. Originally submitted back in 2019, the scheme was initially refused; however a subsequent appeal successfully demonstrated the fulfilment of a need for older persons accommodation in West Oxfordshire and that the development was suitable within the context of the Chilterns AONB.  Following the resolution of subsequent legal challenges we look forward to developing the approved scheme in greater detail for a targeted start on site in the fourth quarter of this year.

A Positive Start to 2022

Sonning Common Retirement Community, Oxfordshire

Finally, we have been assisting Inspired Villages with their future development site in Great Leighs which was exchanged just before Christmas. This site will form part of Inspired Villages’ drive to deliver 34 villages for the over 65s in the next ten years. These recent schemes build further on our close working relationship with Inspired Villages as we continue to help drive their development pipeline forwards. We have an exciting 12 months ahead, with new development schemes coming online and the continuing delivery on site of the first Net Zero Carbon (*regulated energy) Integrated Retirement Communities in Millfield Green, Caddington and Ampfield Meadows, Chandlers Ford.

Regeneration: Perspective and Vision

Regeneration: Perspective and Vision

November 22nd, 2021 Posted by All, Mixed-Use, Residential, Retail

Whilst seemingly taking a backseat during the pandemic, ‘levelling up’ appears to be firmly back on the Government’s agenda. The first winners of the Levelling Up Fund were unveiled by the Chancellor in the recent Autumn Budget, whilst the appointment of Michael Gove as Secretary of State for Levelling Up and head of the newly named Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities further cemented the Government’s intent.

Just prior to the pandemic, as part of its commitment to levelling up through area-based regeneration, the Government had launched its Towns Fund for England, a £3.6 billion fund to support local economic growth in ‘struggling’ towns across England. Funding for 101 towns was available, with bids for up to £25 million each on the table.

As part of that bidding process, we have been involved in drafting up a number of proposals with Local Authorities and have contributed towards formulating some ambitious bids. In particular we have been working in close collaboration with Boston District Council where we have been given the opportunity to implement some of our regeneration ideas in line with the council’s forward-thinking vision on a number of strategic sites within the town centre. Our achievement in Boston has led to further commissions elsewhere in Lincolnshire, gaining us invaluable experience in terms of the approach, local requirements and the complex mechanisms and quick turnaround timings involved.

Getting the ingredients right

Regeneration can take place in a multitude of ways. For built-environment professionals, such as architects, regeneration manifests itself through large-scale works; however it is important to understand that such works need to be implemented as part of a holistic approach, taking into account both social and economic needs. We know from experience that just creating attractive houses makes no difference to local people’s lives unless you also look at education, jobs and health. Quality of life, vibrant communities and a strong local economy are intrinsic to the levelling up agenda and the important ingredients for a successful housing market and sustainable recovery.

However, assembling these ingredients, presents a layer of complexity to regeneration schemes and means they tend to be completed over a long timeframe. They require careful planning and a considered programme to be put in place. Local Community participation is essential for success and failure to secure key pieces of the regeneration puzzle, as well as community buy-in, most often results in a wholesale redesign of the proposals, wasting valuable time and resources. From our experience, these discussions should start as soon as a framework emerges.

Even so, the short-term nature of the UK’s local or national electoral cycle can often disrupt local programming and established implementation agreements. The whole process can be reassessed or, in some cases, be discarded completely under a new leadership with a different set of priorities. In an ideal world, it would benefit everyone if regeneration programmes and national policy were devised with cross-party support to outlast governmental changes and mitigate disruption.

Public-private partnership

Land ownership is also an added complication to regeneration. The scale of the projects usually involves the need to utilise both public and private land. Purchasing private land is not always a simple process and often leads to unreasonable expectations by landlords as to the present development value of their land.

Tight and inflexible timescales for the delivery of some of the bid documents has been another considerable obstacle for many Local Authorities. Whilst underutilised public land is generally ideal for regeneration, years of austerity have weakened many councils’ capabilities to evaluate the development opportunities across their assets; the reality is that it can take considerable time for public land to be released for development, extending what is an already prolonged timeframe.

Likewise, some councils may not have the available resources to immediately form a team with enough experience to deliver large, complex regeneration schemes. This presents opportunities for the private sector to step in, and as our work on the Towns Fund bids for several local authorities has proven, we can work collaboratively with the public sector, using our expertise and knowledge to deliver quality and successful projects, with placemaking at their heart. That same knowledge could also be used to identify opportunities within the public estate and increase the volume of local authority sites being brought forward.

The evolution of the town centre

The shift to homeworking, coupled with the growth of internet shopping, throughout the recent coronavirus pandemic has seen some town centres left virtually empty, high street shops vacant and community cohesion fractured. In this regard, the pandemic has created an entirely new dimension to the ‘levelling up’ agenda. Such rapid and dramatic change to the structure of civic society has required those of us charged with town-centre revival to re-think our approaches, particularly the ability to generate footfall, activity and prospects for local people in places where opportunity was already thin on the ground.

First and foremost, high streets and town centres will need to evolve in response to these fresh changes in community demand. Where traditional high streets used to be entirely composed of retail, a shift towards a mix of uses is now required and could include everything from residential to workspace, leisure to healthcare, as well as community facilities. That’s not to say there’s no longer a place for retail. We believe there are still plenty of opportunities for physical retail to prosper – it’s just a case of landlords thinking differently about the spaces they own, and we are currently working with a number of clients to realise the opportunities to be had in converting or redeveloping existing assets into alternative uses.

Regeneration strategies also need to create critical population mass to sustain a multitude of uses and to allow existing and new businesses the opportunity to thrive; one way of enabling this would be to create more residential alongside the socio-economic infrastructure.

We believe that retirement living could partly fulfil this additional need and is frequently overlooked as a suitable use for town-centre living. Retirement Villages are often located on the outskirts of towns or rural locations, but there is increased demand from a new generation of senior citizens and retirees who want the opportunity to engage in the social and economic life of the wider community. They want to live in urban and suburban areas and continue to lead an independent lifestyle, maintain and build new friendships, participate in community activities.

Summary

The renewed focus on levelling up could not come at a more important time, as local communities struggle to deal with the long-term socio-economic impacts of the pandemic. Despite the fact that large-scale regeneration schemes can take years to get off the ground, they represent a clear and sustainable solution.

However, if we are to truly ‘level up’ the UK, regeneration strategies need to be carefully planned and successfully implemented to unlock investment, growth and the future prosperity of our local centres. This is our opportunity as architects to team up with Local Authorities and be part of an appropriate delivery mechanism set up to improve not only the built environment, but also to create genuine economic and employment opportunities, paving a brighter future for generations to come.

Alexandros Marcoulides | Associate Director

The Place, Milton Keynes

Right-sizing at the heart of Milton Keynes as next phase of retail refurb completes

November 18th, 2021 Posted by All, News, Retail

We were delighted to see Milton Keynes’ brand new Aldi store open its doors to customers this month, following a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Team GB bronze medalist Chris Langridge. The store’s opening marks the completion of the next phase of a £1.5million reconfiguration and refurbishment of The Place, a popular retail park destination in central Milton Keynes. Designed by our architectural team, the reconfigured scheme creates a balance of units more suitable for the current retail market, whilst improving access to a Starbucks drive-through and making it easier for cars to manoeuvre around the retail park.

Although a popular destination for shoppers, well-documented changes in consumer behaviour and the national retail picture had recently seen three out of the five A1 units at The Place become vacant and the retail terrace itself start to become dated. Appointed by retail park asset manager Quadrant Estates for full Architectural and Principal Designer services, we have reconfigured the scheme to combine three units to create a circa 20,700 sq.ft space, large enough to successfully land Aldi as a new anchor store at the southern end of the scheme, and subdivided another into two circa 4,900 sq.ft units, one to be occupied by American Golf who have relocated from their existing unit.

Explains Tom McNamara, Director: “Even before the current pandemic, bricks and mortar retail had been through a number of significant changes in recent years. Traditional retail park layouts and the size of units need to be challenged, but with often tight budgets it takes extensive retail property experience to consider every aspect whilst taking on board both client and incoming tenant requirements to make a retail park attractive. We are seeing more and more retail terraces with unit sizes that are just wrong for the current market and that don’t match tenants’ needs. At The Place, we’ve combined three units to make a single new anchor store and sub-divided another for smaller retailers who want less floorspace. In doing so, we have created the opportunity for the park to successfully secure a new food retail anchor tenant and attract a more diverse retail mix, which will only increase the popularity of this retail park.”

In addition to improving the layout and unit sizes, we have used simple, but high-quality architectural interventions to give the whole terrace façade, now containing four units, a facelift. The existing blue canopy and shopfront have been removed, whilst professionally recoating the existing cladding panels in white and shades of grey, along with new glazed entrance screens and projecting canopies, has given a strong horizontal emphasis that creates a simple, unobtrusive line tying all the units seamlessly together.

Our redesign has also seen the car park reconfigured to add more spaces closer to the new Aldi unit for the convenience of their shoppers. Pedestrian pathways directly adjacent to the entrance have been extended to accommodate a trolley bay and safe pedestrian passage. Delivery areas behind the terrace have been re-worked to make the logistics easier and quicker for staff. As part of the reconfigured scheme, the drive-through lane of the popular Starbucks pod has been extended to minimise traffic congestion, along with amendments to car parking and planting and signage for the Starbucks unit itself.

“Ease of use is not always talked about in design terms, perhaps because it doesn’t always have quite the same ‘wow factor’ – but we know that getting the infrastructure right and making it easy to move around the retail park is vital for both tenants, their customers and the long-term viability of a scheme” explains Tom. “We are delighted to see work completed on this next phase of The Place and, with Aldi now opening its doors in our reconfigured space, the scheme is sure to remain a popular retail destination into the future.”

The fast lane to drive-through success

The fast lane to drive-through success

October 28th, 2021 Posted by All, Food, Retail

The drive-through is one of the hottest retail property assets in the UK right now, with food and drink-to-go businesses facing fierce competition for sites in a sector that has been supercharged by the impact of the global pandemic.

When KFC reopened several of its UK branches as drive-through only shortly after the first Covid-19 lockdown in May last year, the resulting tailback of cars made national headlines. According to recent data by global information company The NPD Group, Brits made 121 million visits to drive-throughs between September and November 2020, a 14% increase on the same period last year. Spend was up 45% to £723m over this time frame, with consumers tending to place larger-than-average orders at the drive-through window.

Whilst much of the accelerated growth in drive-throughs can be linked to the Coronavirus pandemic and people feeling safer and more secure in their cars, the range of new operators entering the UK drive-through market – as well as more established F&B outlets looking to make drive-through a key component of their portfolios – and battling it out for prime locations suggests the sector will remain strong beyond the current health crisis. Indeed, the number of drive-through enquiries received by Urban Edge in recent months has been unprecedented.

Even before the pandemic, we were seeing owners and operators of retail parks responding to the impacts of ecommerce and declining footfalls by bringing in more F&B and increasing leisure attractions. Sold on the idea that they are fairly easy and fast to build, landlords with redundant space or large, empty car parks can find the concept of creating drive-through or drive-to experiences appealing to enhance the attractiveness of their parks and turn them into thriving destinations.

However, the road to drive-through success is not always that straightforward and takes experience and technical know-how to deliver.

On-site challenges

For starters, many standalone restaurant and retail units in the UK weren’t originally conceived with the drive-through in mind; to try and maximise car park space, they’re often hard up in the corner of sites resulting in minimal room around them to site a drive-through lane. They can frequently be surrounded by mature trees and other topography that’s very difficult to negotiate, whilst no-build zones that sometimes tesselate across a large car park can leave limited space for development and necessitate challenging and complex works to retrofit the drive-through lane.

Another challenge, particularly for new build, is that owners often want to locate their drive-through offer in an underused, satellite area of the car park. Unfortunately, these sites tend to be a significant distance away from existing utilities infrastructure and the added costs of introducing power and water to a restaurant unit can dampen the economic viability of a scheme.

Regardless, if car park space is available and until the market is completely saturated, there are always going to be owners looking at restaurant space options for their assets. To deliver operationally viable restaurant schemes on difficult areas of car park requires knowledge and experience, as well as inventive thinking.

To secure prime sites and gain a foothold in this competitive market, owners and operators need to think quickly and innovatively. We’ve been fortunate to work with many forward-thinking businesses and it’s amazing what they’re willing to consider and what we’ve been able to achieve, whether relocating site entrances, moving half the restaurant around internally or incorporating a drive-through at the end of a small terrace of units. On a few tightly constrained sites, we’ve even looked to incorporate a drive-through to a multi-storey mixed-used development by demolishing parts of the building to allow for drive-through lanes to wrap around the perimeters of existing units. Some of the bigger operators are also considering double-storey height restaurants to facilitate the occupation of a tight footprint.

Securing successful delivery

Experience of the sector and the requirements of the major operators counts for a lot when successfully delivering these schemes. As one of the UK’s foremost out-of-town retail specialists, we have been working with owners, developers and operators of retail assets for a good number of years, reviewing portfolios of development and advising on the opportunities that exist to integrate asset classes and maximise the value of their sites.

Our experience in drive-throughs dates back to the very beginning of the business when we undertook a large portfolio review of 60 Little Chef sites with a view to converting several to Burger King drive-throughs just before the 2008 recession. We started getting our first enquiries for coffee pods in 2011 and since then have built around 11 drive-throughs and 9 drive-tos for a number of well-known brands, with another three to start on site imminently and approximately 10 currently in various stages of design.

In the immediate term, as retail looks to bounce back from the impact of successive lockdowns, owners and operators of retail destinations will be weighing up drive-through and drive-to as a means to bring in more customers and raise their scheme’s footfall levels back to pre-pandemic levels. Longer term, we anticipate the drive-through trend to continue, with more retail locations increasing the level of F&B and leisure offers to remain competitive.

Aided by technological advances and a greater reliance on online or mobile ordering, we also anticipate the scope of drive-through to evolve. Curry’s pilot zero-contact drive-through order and collect took more than 55,000 orders in its first three weeks of operation and perhaps points to a future where even non-F&B retail will feature some a drive-up and collect element as part of its portfolio. Owners and developers therefore need to not only be flexible, but also think creatively about their assets, perhaps looking to combine multiple drive-through offerings, such as drive-in entertainment with drive-through food and other click-and-collect or pick-up services.

And then there’s the potential impact of electric vehicle take-up. Recent figures published by the Department for Transport revealed ‘alternatively fuelled’ car registrations overtook diesels for the first time in 2020 and, as the Government pursues its ambition to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, interest in chargepoint infrastructure in prime locations will continue to grow. Unsurprisingly, a number of the foresighted landlords with whom we work are already exploring the relationship between rapid electric car-charging facilities to drive-through and F&B retail.

Whatever the future may hold, owners and developers need expert advice to make the right decisions, maximise the value of their assets and secure a long-term future for their sites.

This is an extended version of an article that first appeared in Property Week on the 28th October 2021.

Dave Frost | Senior Associate Director

Thomas Bromley reflects on his summer placement at Urban Edge

Thomas Bromley reflects on his summer placement at Urban Edge

October 27th, 2021 Posted by All, News

Going into any profession after three years of education is always daunting, none more so than architecture. Whilst we are taught a variety of software and design methodologies, there is little exposure to the reality of working within an architectural practice. The BArch course allows you to develop the relevant design and technical skills which prepare you for the role of an Architectural Assistant, but working within the industry gives you the important real-life experience of moving projects through the RIBA Plan of work stages 1-7.

During my Part 1 placement year at Urban Edge, I was involved in a variety of work, from modelling, masterplanning to landscape design, as well as assisting with multiple planning applications in sectors ranging from later living to retail. Within the office I found myself surrounded by a wealth of knowledge and expertise that, when absorbed, informed my future work and fed into my MArch studies, significantly improving the level of detail and quality of design.

I thoroughly appreciated my time at Urban Edge and, having discovered that I enjoy working within a practice more than the educational side, am now more enthused than ever to return to the architecture profession after my Masters study. I have gained knowledge that would have been unobtainable without direct exposure to the industry and I am looking forward to furthering that knowledge and experience in the future.

Thomas Bromley | Architectural Assistant

Darren Hodgson Appointed Senior Associate Director

Urban Edge appoints Darren Hodgson as Senior Associate Director

October 14th, 2021 Posted by All, News

We are delighted to formally announce the appointment of Darren Hodgson as Senior Associate Director. As part of his role Darren will be working to further expand our workload into the later living sector, whilst helping to further strengthen and grow the business.

Darren has worked for us for 14 years and is an integral part of our management team. He has spent the last year overseeing our continued growth into the later living sector, leading the design and delivery of several projects with Inspired Villages, most notably their first net-zero carbon villages at Millfield Green, Caddington and Ampfield Meadows, Chandlers Ford.

Darren said: “I have spent the last 14 years growing personally with Urban Edge and I am delighted to be afforded the opportunity to shape and grow the business further. Whilst the last couple of years have been tough for all businesses, we have a strong vision for the future and the resilience and talent to continue our successes. Later living is a key sector for the practice, as well as an important growth area for the UK, and I look forward to building on our enviable and growing reputation for the design and delivery of successful later living schemes throughout the country.”

Russell Gay, Director added “This promotion recognises Darren’s personal growth, technical ability, diligence, professionalism and loyalty, he has invested heavily into Urban Edge and we in turn have invested in him. We are delighted that Darren will continue to play a part in the future development of the business.”

Ampfield Meadows Retirement Community, Chandler's Ford breaks ground in Hampshire

Sustainably designed retirement community breaks ground in Hampshire

September 27th, 2021 Posted by All, News, Senior Living

We are delighted to announce that Ampfield Meadows, a 10.3-acre scheme set on the north western edge of Chandler’s Ford, has now broken ground. Delivered by Legal & General’s developer and operator of later living homes, Inspired Villages, the scheme at Chandler’s Ford will meet strong local demand for later living housing by bringing forward 149 new specialist age-appropriate homes.

Set within the historic county of Hampshire and enclosed by natural woodland, Ampfield Meadows will consist of 89 apartments, 12 cottages and a village centre building. The village centre includes a further 48 apartments, a wellness centre, restaurant, shop and other facilities accessible to residents and the local community.

The site’s topology has led us to devise a carefully considered landscape design; developing the natural fall of the site to provide accessibility across the whole of the site for residents and visitors alike.

The development will also employ a number of the net-zero carbon initiatives employed by Inspired Villages on some of its other new villages, working towards Legal & General’s recent commitment to make all its residential accommodation operationally net-zero from 2030.

Darren Hodgson, Associate Director said: “Architects working in the later living sector arguably have a moral responsibility to design strategies that can reduce the carbon footprint of development, whilst also devising outdoor landscapes which have a human scale and local uniqueness. Earlier this year we were delighted to see Millfield Green in Caddington, the UK’s first net-zero retirement community, commence on site. We are equally proud to play a continuing part in supporting Legal & General and Inspired Villages in the delivery of a second village following the same carbon reduction principles at Chandler’s Ford.”

The first phase of the development started on site in June 2021 and is due to complete in February 2023. A reserved matters application has recently been submitted to secure the development scope of the original outline approval for the scheme.

You can read more about our approach to sustainability in the later living sector here.

Sonning Common Retirement Community, Oxfordshire

Sonning Common Retirement Community wins planning approval

July 20th, 2021 Posted by All, News, Senior Living

We’re delighted to report that Sonning Common Retirement Community in South Oxfordshire has achieved planning approval. The scheme was approved following an appeal by developer and operator Inspired Villages who recognised an urgent need for specialist accommodation for older people in South Oxfordshire and Sonning Common itself, where more than 25 per cent of villagers are aged over 65, one of the highest proportions of elderly in any community in the county.

The proposed development will deliver 133 new homes, specifically designed to help residents enjoy their retirement in a beautiful, landscaped setting. The proposals also include a new wellness centre; including a swimming/hydrotherapy pool, fitness studio, gym and treatment rooms, as well as a new restaurant, café and hairdressers. All of these facilities would be made available to eligible residents from the wider community.

Sonning Common sits on the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the retirement community will be set within a 11.6 acre site on the north eastern edge of the town. Therefore, the proposals required a considered design approach that sits naturally within its environment and limits impact on the important green edge of the town. The development will be domestic in scale and character, with the apartment buildings arranged in a series of courtyards and terraces relating to the main green spaces. Our design references the architectural language of Sonning Common and neighbouring villages in terms of style, scale and materials and affords the development a strong sense of place.

The landscape proposals have been designed to protect, manage and enhance existing landscape features of value, and to identify and mitigate against potential impacts to the existing sense of place and character of the locality. This will include the creation of new wildlife corridors and improvements to existing habitats. The scheme is also seeking to plant hundreds of new trees to provide attractive landscaping and preserve the ecology benefits to both residents and the wider community.

Darren Hodgson, Associate Director, says: “Having worked closely with Inspired Villages on this scheme for some time, we are delighted to see Sonning Common Retirement Community finally achieve planning approval. It is an important decision for the later living sector, proving that contextual and carefully considered design is crucial, whilst also highlighting the importance to developers of meeting local need. This is a high-quality development that will not only meet the needs of its residents, but will be fully integrated into the local community, creating new jobs and reducing pressure on local NHS and adult social services budgets.”

This will be our latest project for Inspired Villages, having recently submitted planning for a retirement village of 138 apartments with associated leisure facilities in Tunbridge Wells, and seen the start on site of the UK’s first two net-zero retirement communities at Ampfield Meadows, Chandlers Ford and Millfield Green, Caddington.

Trade Counters, Croydon

Boost for Croydon as gateway scheme for Valley Retail & Leisure Park starts on site

June 29th, 2021 Posted by All, News

We are pleased to announce the start on site of our plans to transform a derelict plastics factory in Croydon into 5,650 sq.m of much-needed employment floorspace. The £8m gateway scheme will result in wider accessibility improvements at Valley Retail & Leisure Park and contribute to the London Borough of Croydon’s long-term objectives for the area.

The design will see the comprehensive redevelopment of the former Stewart Plastics factory site and reconfiguration of adjoining land to provide a high-quality Class B development with associated landscaping and car parking areas and a new link road. The regeneration of this derelict site, vacant since 2012, will deliver significant investment and local employment opportunities for the London Borough of Croydon.

Josh Rowley, Associate Director said: “The commencement of this project represents an important economic boost for Croydon and builds on our strong track record of creating deliverable employment schemes that can achieve commercial success.

“Our extensive experience in opening up opportunities for asset creation on challenging or tired sites has allowed us to develop a workable layout that can meet all the client’s key requirements. Working closely with the client, planning officers and other stakeholders, our design also meets with the London Borough of Croydon’s aspirations to create a gateway development for Valley Retail & Leisure Park, enhancing the aesthetics of the existing environment as well as delivering accessibility improvements for the wider area.”

The scheme will see the development of eight units of employment space, designed across ground and mezzanine floors to reflect the requirements of modern industrial operators as well as the Council’s aspiration to create a gateway to the retail park. A clean and uncomplicated aesthetic uses a simple palette of materials to provide unity and cohesion across the development. The elevations have slender vertical panels to help break down the perceived massing and are punctuated by a series of featured entrances which incorporate tenant signage and glazing. The development has been designed to achieve a BREEAM shell target of ‘Excellent’.

Our design team also built a good relationship with the allocated Designing Out Crime Officer (DOCO) for Croydon and have implemented a number of security measures to ensure the scheme is a safe place to work and visit.

The team also had to take into account several site constraints, including high-voltage cables and underground services. Potential traffic-flow issues with adjacent residential and retail development will be addressed with a new access road to redistribute existing traffic and reduce congestion. Importantly, the new road will create direct access to the retail park, which is home to Ikea, a Vue cinema and shops including Boots and Next, and will open up the site for potential future expansion and intensification in accordance with the Council’s wider plans.

A consistent line of semi-evergreen and deciduous shrubs of varied height, colour, texture and structure, has been proposed to run along the boundary fences fronting onto the access road to create a clean and all-year-round line of vegetation. A planting strategy has been carefully chosen to create an attractive and colourful combination of low-maintenance plants of varied shapes, structures and textures as well as foliage colour and flower in season.

Willerby Business Park, Hull

Our latest drive-through scheme breaks ground at Willerby Business Park in Hull

May 18th, 2021 Posted by All, News

We are delighted to announce the start on site of our latest drive-through project, for Ramoyle Developments Ltd, that will see the construction of two pod units for Burger King and Costa, respectively, at Willerby Business Park in Hull. The scheme will join a growing number of drive-throughs and drive-tos that we have delivered since 2011, with a further 10 currently in design progress or due to start on site.

Explains Josh Rowley, Associate Director: “The market for drive-through food and beverage has increased substantially in the last few years and the number of enquiries that we have received recently is unprecedented. The strong relationships we have forged over the years with all the major operators has given us a deep understanding of their specification and brand requirements and means we can be incredibly efficient in how we deliver their schemes on sometimes challenging sites.”

The drive-through pod units at Willerby Business Park have been designed to respond and relate to the site in which they are located, whilst also reflecting the branding and specification requirement of the tenants. Our design team gave careful consideration to the overall height and siting of the pod units so as not to adversely impact upon the visibility of the other tenants in the business park. The pods will benefit from their positions close to the business park’s entrance and the adjacent roundabout, as they will have good visibility from the nearby traffic routes.

The car park and an area of landscaping in the southern area of the development site will be reconfigured to accommodate the new drive-through units, whilst a retaining wall will be introduced to allow for the difference in levels. At the site entrance the existing raised island will be removed, and a new lay by installed to the west of the access, providing a delivery area for one of the pod units.

“Siting the pods units and their drive-through lanes proved challenging as we needed to retain a certain amount of parking and take into account a number of tree protection orders on the site,” says Josh. “We also had to contend with differing site levels that required both an intelligent design strategy and experience of the requirements of these types of schemes to deliver two accessible drive-through lanes, avoiding the need for cars to journey uphill or restaurant customers having to use long flights of steps or steep ramps from the car park on the other side.”

The design team have also proposed new trees and areas of vegetation to ensure the site retains a vegetation buffer at its border. In doing this, views into the site will be improved, providing greater presence for the existing units as well as the new drive-through pods.

The existing Willerby Business Park is made up of units of a variety of uses, primarily classes D and B. The addition of these new drive-through units for Burger King and Costa, adjacent to a popular leisure centre, will ensure a more diverse range of attractions to the business park and fulfil the client’s aspirations of enhancing the park’s appeal to the public and ensuring its long-term commercial viability.

The scheme is expected to complete in Q3 2021.

Net-zero carbon in later living

Later living and the climate crisis: The architectural response

March 15th, 2021 Posted by All, Senior Living

There is often a misconception that climate change concern and care for the environment is the realm of the young, perhaps perpetuated by the media’s recent focus on school climate strikes and high-profile youth activists such as Greta Thunberg. However, older people – many of whom were the original climate activists of the 1960s and 70s – are increasingly finding their voice, as exemplified recently by the number of senior citizens taking part in protests with climate activists Extinction Rebellion.

According to a 2020 national survey by Opinium, it is the baby boomers, rather than the millennials, who are most likely to act in support of green issues, and that includes the choices they make when investing their money and where they choose to live. Unsurprisingly, increased interest in environmental and ethical issues amongst older people is starting to exert its influence on the later living market as developers and operators look to green their estates and appeal to seniors who are actively seeking out low or zero-carbon housing options.

Not only are there consumer expectations being brought to bear on the market, but legal necessity, too – following the Paris Agreement, the UK Government has a legally binding target of Net Zero Carbon by 2050 fast approaching. Buildings are currently responsible for approximately one-third of global energy consumption, 30 percent of global energy-related CO2 emissions and 20 percent of total CO2 emissions. In the UK, approximately 27 percent of our carbon emissions come from heating our homes, and that is why it is so important to start getting our housing design right sooner, rather than later. The Government’s climate advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change agrees, and wants to see all new builds operating at net-zero carbon by at least 2030.

Several developers in the later living sector have already made an important start. Earlier this year, for example, Retirement Villages Group (RVG), which operates 16 retirement communities around the UK, set out a target to achieve net-zero carbon on its operations by 2030. This follows the announcement last year by Legal & General that it is to make all of its new housing stock operational net-zero carbon enabled by 2030, including its later living businesses which comprise Guild Living and Inspired Villages. Millfield Green Retirement Community, located in the village of Caddington, Bedfordshire, will be the UK’s first net-zero retirement community delivered by Inspired Villages.

Aside from legislative pressure, there are other reasons why sustainability is important to the later living sector. In 2019, a study by Harvard University and the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany found that residential energy consumption intensifies in people over the age of 65; this can partly be explained by older people’s ability to feel heat and cold more easily, as well as their tendency to spend more of their time indoors, consuming electricity through lighting, heating and air conditioning. Such power consumption is not only expensive, but also poses a significant challenge to our limited energy resources and efforts to mitigate climate change.

The path to zero carbon: challenges and opportunities

The common recourse for developers, operators and estate managers is to source green power from a renewable energy supplier, or to invest in on-site renewable energy technologies. However, the limited quantity of renewables currently available in the UK poses an energy security risk, whilst on-site renewables are not practical in many locations due to site constraints and building configuration.

That’s not to say that renewables can’t play their part in producing energy, however it is far better to take a ‘fabric first’ approach to building design and maximise the performance of the materials that make up the building fabric itself, before considering renewable energy generation. This can help reduce capital and operational costs, improve energy efficiency and reduce embodied carbon emissions, as well as reduce the need for maintenance during the building’s life.

When we consider that residential – and retirement living buildings in particular – consume most of their energy from heating, cooling and lighting, it brings into sharp focus how important simple design solutions such as the right orientation, simple and compact built form, window type and sizes can impact the thermal efficiency of a building, as well as influence energy consumption and demand.

The greatest opportunity for impact on embodied carbon and energy efficiency comes at the design stage. It is therefore imperative that we start thinking about sustainable and energy-efficient design strategies at the outset of any project before inefficiencies get built in and are difficult to retrospectively fix. For example, a greater percentage of embodied carbon is found in the foundations and superstructures of a building and very little in the external works and finishes. If opportunities are not taken at this early stage, the embodied carbon savings are lost for the entire lifetime of the building.

Early involvement, collaboration and responsibility

However, architects and designers should be considering sustainability and energy efficiency at all stages of design from site considerations, design and masterplan, construction and all the way to its operation.

Early involvement and collaboration with energy specialists and contractors is key and can help in reviewing early design decisions and maximising the energy efficiency of the building. This can also help to reduce any potential performance gap that would have existed if the numbers had not been reviewed earlier on. It is also a great opportunity to brainstorm ideas and think about all the elements of the building, highlight issues that might spring up later on in the project and devise solutions for every potential eventuality.

Of course, designing buildings to be sustainable and energy efficient at the concept/feasibility stage is not without its difficulties. A lack of post occupancy studies/evaluation or case studies of later living and retirement properties make it difficult to get a full understanding of the performance of buildings in the sector. Going forward, it would benefit if lessons learnt are published and past policies and outcomes are peer reviewed so we can continually evolve our approaches and do things more efficiently in the future. Greater transparency and knowledge sharing could also increase uptake and allow for greater marketability.

In conclusion, it is clear that both societal and legislative pressures will continue to influence the move towards low or zero-carbon real estate. With an ageing population and a growing body of evidence that climate change will disproportionately impact older people, there is arguably also a moral responsibility for built-environment professionals working in the later living sector to consider the built form holistically and to help design strategies that can reduce the carbon footprint of development, whilst also protecting older people from environmental change.

Anjana Suresh | Architectural Assistant

Reflections on 2020

Reflections on 2020 – Lessons learned and looking forward

December 16th, 2020 Posted by All, News

Just over a year ago, we had just been crowned ‘Large Business of the Year’ at the 2019 Mercury Business Awards. The award win was the icing on the cake of what was another fantastic year of growth for the business and a year that had seen us oversee the design and delivery of numerous high-profile projects, including the completion of several major retail and leisure destinations, prime mixed-use developments and retirement villages. Of course, nobody could have foreseen what was waiting around the corner!

As we head towards the end of 2020, it’s interesting to reflect on how many of the assets that contributed to us winning the Mercury Business Award have seen us through a year that has been dominated by the global impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. The successful business growth that so impressed the judges was largely down to the fact that we have continued to apply the same rules as we did as a small business as we’ve grown – and that same ethos has been applied throughout the pandemic to great effect. Having created an inclusive and supportive place to work, we were able to involve all staff in the swift and decisive decisions that were required to keep the practice smoothly operating at the height of a national lockdown.

Adapting to the new normal

That’s not to say that the early stages of the first lockdown didn’t test us. Like many businesses, we had to adapt very quickly – and adapt we did! We were fortunate that, just prior to the pandemic taking its hold, we had already started to look at more flexible staff working arrangements – the lockdown immediately accelerated that process and our investment in an IT infrastructure to ensure everybody could work successfully from home has paid dividends. It has ensured quick response rates and continuity for clients, whilst also allowing our teams to collaborate and maintain a consistent level of service, understanding and creativity on projects.

Video conferencing has, in many instances, also proved popular with employees who feel that they can be more efficient when not having to worry about spending time stuck in traffic or on a train when travelling to meetings. These are positive lessons we can take forward post pandemic. However, we cannot wait to get back to being sat around a table as a team, thrashing out our ideas noisily and passionately and reaching the creative and considered conclusions for which we are renowned.

A broad and diverse specialism

As part of our award entry, we detailed how the business had purposefully started to diversify its portfolio as part of the year-on-year growth strategy. That strategy has truly paid off this year, as having a broad and diverse specialism that takes in everything from retail to leisure, later living to residential and has reduced our exposure to any one sector facing difficulties during the national lockdowns.

Inevitably, we saw a dip in retail and leisure work as lockdown measures started to bite, but our later living expertise has very much been in demand and we are working on a number of significant schemes in the sector with several more in the pipeline. Perhaps it is no surprise that the later living sector has come to the fore over the last 12 months, as conversations about how and where older people choose to live have taken on extra meaning during the current health crisis. With many elderly people living in remote locations, in towns and cities where people don’t know their neighbours, or their families and friends live far away, the concern is not only the lack of physical support these older people might need, but also the massive change in the quality of their mental and social lifestyle.

With the UK’s ageing population growing – the Office for National Statistics projects that more than 24 percent of people living in the UK will be aged 65 or older by 2042 – we firmly believe that there needs to be an increase in purpose-built later living communities where older people can socialise within their household and closer neighbourhoods. As this pandemic has proved, retirement villages can provide a controlled environment for the elderly, whilst still allowing for an active social lifestyle.

Whilst retail and leisure has certainly had a rough year, many businesses in the sector are now starting to contemplate a post pandemic future and we are seeing a growing number of enquiries as retail and leisure property owners seek ways to minimise the impact of the last 12 months on their assets. Even before the pandemic, the growth of ecommerce and a change in consumer behaviour had started to have serious impacts on the retail landscape and we have been helping landlords think differently about the spaces they own for a good number of years, especially the opportunities to be had in converting or redeveloping existing assets into alternative or complementary uses such as offices, hotels or even housing. For many landlords, the pandemic has added more urgency to that process and our expertise in the sector places us in a strong position to help.

Connecting to the local community

Whilst our morale has remained strong, we cannot deny that there have been one or two disappointments this year, not least the fact that we had to cancel our annual charity golf day. However, our attendance at last year’s Mercury Business Awards brought us into conversation with a local mental health charity called MindSpace who were there to collect the award for ‘Best Social Enterprise’. The charity was looking for new premises to further expand its offering and to bring together all its existing drop-in and therapy sessions.

Connecting to the local community and giving something back to the area that has contributed so much to the practice’s success has always been at the forefront of our vision. Ever since we met at the Mercury Business Awards and heard about MindSpace’s vital work we were keen to help out in their efforts to find a new and improved space for their work.

Once the unoccupied premises on Broad Street had been identified and secured, a 34-strong volunteer team from Urban Edge set about ripping up old flooring, stripping wallpaper, clearing the garden, and redecorating the interior of the new premises towards the end of the last year in preparation for this year’s opening. It was a brilliant few days, and a great team builder with everyone just getting stuck in. In February this year, we were delighted to see MindSpace finally move into their own larger premises and increase their reach into the community at a time where mental health support is even more important

Confident and forward looking

This year has certainly contrived to throw a lot at us, but we have continued to move forward and have even recruited four new team members during lockdown, including another significant appointee to our growing Landscape team. We have learned some valuable lessons, have significantly invested to ensure robust operational systems can deal with every eventuality, and we finish the year confident and forward looking. So, whilst it’s incredibly difficult to predict what next year may hold, based on our projected workload and the dedication of our hardworking staff, we are cautiously optimistic that 2021 will prove to be a good year for Urban Edge.

Travelodge, Stockley Park

Urban Edge completes new Travelodge at Stockley Park

November 2nd, 2020 Posted by All, Leisure

Urban Edge has recently completed its first hotel project, a c£8million Travelodge Plus at Stockley Park in the London Borough of Hillingdon. Working for client Orchard Street, we designed and delivered the 81-bed, 2,481 sq.m GIA hotel with bar/restaurant facilities on underutilised leisure space adjacent to one of the UK’s premier business parks in outer London; home to internationally renowned companies such as Marks & Spencer, GlaxoSmithKline and Apple.

From concept to delivery, we brought our extensive experience working on both retail and leisure schemes to add additional value to the already well-populated site without losing excessive parking. Working closely with planners from the London Borough of Hillingdon, the team worked on a design for the brownfield site that would embody a definite architectural character, respectful to the Arena, the leisure hub of the Stockley Park business park and a building listed as being of significant interest within the local borough, and the wider landscape.

Explains Josh Rowley, Associate Director: “This is our first project for Travelodge and we were delighted to be novated to the contractor, so we saw it through from concept to delivery. Our design had to be distinctive yet sensitive to its surroundings whilst creating the space required for accommodation, public areas and back of house services needed in a modern hotel. The Travelodge is situated on a currently underused section of the Arena, Stockley Park’s leisure hub, so will not only enhance the existing leisure environment within the local area but revitalise a currently underused area within the park.”

The development proposals for the Travelodge were carefully considered to provide the optimal layout while working with the existing Arena building. In order to maximise the efficiency of the site’s current car parking, the decision was taken to provide the majority of the accommodation at first and second floor level. The structural grid has been designed to allow the retention a large area of parking as undercroft parking. The southern portion of the car park has also been reconfigured to make it more efficient and suitable for the parking requirements that a hotel of this size will bring.

The elevational treatment has been a key element in the success of the scheme. We decided to use the existing site topography to create a compact three-storey building stepping down to the existing Arena and below the height of its central rotunda. A step back of the main façade makes the hotel less imposing, whilst a glazed feature relates to the Arena’s existing conservatory which was important to the Local Planning Authority. The new Travelodge uses natural stone effect panels at the first floor level and timber cladding to the bedrooms, a similar pallet of materials to the Arena but interpreted and applied in ways that clearly define the old from the new.

During the design, construction and planned operation of the Travelodge at Stockley Park sustainability was high on the agenda. The scheme has gained BREEAM Very Good and incorporates a number of strategies, systems and products to achieve its sustainability aspirations. A high-efficiency envelope was devised and has seen low U-values achieved using insulation over and above Building Control notional values – for example the roof achieved a U-value of 0.13W/m2K when the minimum limiting parameter is 0.25W/m2K, helping reduce the hotel’s heating needs. Meanwhile, roof-mounted PV panels generate an estimated output of 6773.8Kwh/pa, further contributing towards the building’s energy demands.

To future proof the hotel, EV charging points have been installed for customer use, whilst additional timber-clad cycle parking has been added to promote the use of greener transport.

“Despite the coronavirus-related site restrictions that occurred in the latter stages of this project, the team worked hard to ensure the project was delivered smoothly onsite and we’re pleased to report that the Travelodge London Stockley Park is now open and welcoming its guests,” concludes Josh. “The finished scheme blends well with the existing site building and setting, whilst providing a new service to complement an already world-class and internationally connected business park.”

Retirement living during a pandemic

Retirement living during a pandemic

April 3rd, 2020 Posted by All, Senior Living

Keeping our elderly population safe: The value of retirement living in the face of COVID-19

During the first week of the UK lockdown to stem the advance of COVID-19, many news outlets reported on Doreen, Dotty and Carol, three ladies in their 70s moving in to one of their respective houses to isolate together. They were doing so, they told inquisitive reporters via Skype, because they couldn’t bear the idea of isolating alone and so, to avoid getting lonely, they would live together, getting through the weeks ahead on a shared love for cheap wine and box-sets of The Crown!

What Doreen, Dotty and Carol’s story teaches us is the innate need that older people have to connect, socialise and surround themselves with a supportive community. Yet in almost every country battling the COVID-19 pandemic, people over the age of 65 are being told to self-isolate in their own homes and shut themselves off from other people. And whilst three ladies finding companionship in a northern England town is a heartwarming tale for troubled times, the story is no doubt playing out very differently for many elderly people living in remote locations, in towns and cities where people don’t know their neighbours, or their families and friends live far away. The concern is not only the lack of physical support these older people might need, but also the massive change in the quality of their mental and social lifestyle.

This dreadful pandemic has arrived at a time when the UK’s ageing population is growing – the Office for National Statistics projects that more than 24 percent of people living in the UK will be aged 65 or older by 2042. At the same time, older people are particularly vulnerable to the current Coronavirus outbreak and may equally be at risk in future epidemic and pandemic scenarios. We therefore need to start having a conversation now about where and how people in the UK should live in later life.

Having worked on senior living developments throughout the world and having spent time studying and learning from retirement and care communities throughout Europe, it is still very much my view that older people are better served living in a purpose-built supportive community where they can still socialise within their household and closer neighbourhoods, whilst having their food delivered and care provided if needed.

Retirement villages, acting as de facto isolated communities, provide the only controlled environment for the elderly in these troubling times. Food and shopping can be delivered to residents by the operator without a need to rely on the kindness of relatives and neighbours, thus the flow of people in and out can be reasonably controlled and exposure to the virus greatly minimised.

That being said, as disturbing stories reach us about care home mortality rates in pandemic-hit Europe, we need to acknowledge the risks of having large groups of elderly and possibly unwell people living in close proximity and consider how we can better mitigate that risk now and in the future.

Currently, operators have the flexibility to make case-by-case judgements on the self-isolation measures they incorporate into their communities, with many having entered preemptive or voluntary lockdown. Social isolation is one of the key challenges for retirement village residents; it is often their social life that gives residents their sense of connection and improves mental health and well-being – but that need not be massively impacted in future pandemic lockdowns. If developments were designed properly as clusters and small groups of apartments, households of up to half a dozen people can move in together, sharing facilities whilst supporting and caring for each other. Meanwhile, staff arrangements with on-site sleeping facilities could be provided in order to allow staff to stay on site in case of quarantine.

Loneliness could be controlled by making sure that there are still activities provided, such as walks around the grounds in small groups which respect social distancing. A well-stocked on-site shop, with a delivery service during any quarantine measures, should also be considered an essential requirement, relieving any need to leave the site for essentials shopping.

Technology can also play a greater part in helping to control the environment, activities and social interaction, creating online multi-chat rooms, broadcasting movies or audio book clubs. Indeed, many retirement and care communities are already deploying technology to keep residents informed and educated on all aspects of the pandemic, including social distancing guidance and tips on health and well-being. This is critical, as many elderly people in non-retirement communities are still ignoring important government guidance on COVID-19. In the future, of course, the use of more developed technology such as robots could minimise human contact further, but still provide help with daily tasks and chores.

How and where elderly people live has never before come under such intense scrutiny – and when the current pandemic is over there will no doubt be many important lessons for the retirement living and care home sector to take away. However, we can be in absolutely no doubt that retirement villages, assisted living developments and extra later living communities have an essential role to play in providing the support the elderly need in such unsettling times, making sure that no one is forgotten or left on their own.

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director

Coronavirus Statement

Coronavirus statement

March 20th, 2020 Posted by All

As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues, we want to reassure you that the well-being of our employees and clients is at the forefront of everything we do. Whilst we will of course adhere strictly to Government advice, we remain fully committed to providing a continued, seamless service to all of our clients across the business.

We are carefully monitoring expert advice regarding the Coronavirus outbreak and are working hard to implement contingency plans in order to ensure that any risk and disruption to both communication and project work is kept to a minimum. As the situation is very volatile, it is likely that these plans will change over time.

In response to the latest Government guidance on social distancing, we have taken the precautionary measures to suspend all unnecessary travel, as such our employees are being encouraged to hold meetings virtually. It is likely that our work force will be working remotely in a fully operational way in the near future. You can, however, continue to contact us as normal, and we reiterate that we will endeavour to continue to deliver the highest level of service as usual.

We would like to thank you for your continued support and our thoughts are with those who have been and are directly affected by Coronavirus.

2019 – A year in review

January 31st, 2020 Posted by All

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2019 was another strong year for Urban Edge. We continued to deliver outstanding retail projects and diversify our business, particularly in the later living and logistics sectors. We also found time to have plenty of fun along the way!

Parliamentary Review 2019, House of Commons

Urban Edge at the House of Commons

December 3rd, 2019 Posted by All, News

Urban Edge Architecture Director, Russell Gay, attended a gala evening at the House of Commons at the end of last month. The prestigious event, hosted by broadcaster and newspaper columnist Julia Hartley-Brewer, with guest speakers including former England footballer Sir Geoff Hurst, was the culmination of year in which the leading architectural practice has sought to inform and influence Government policy as a Best Practice Representative for the Parliamentary Review.

Rubbing shoulders with current and former Government ministers, policy makers and other business leaders in Westminster, Russ took the opportunity to discuss with them some of the most pressing issues facing the UK high street and retail property, as well as the pressing need for quality senior living provision in urban areas.

Also speaking at the event, former Labour Minister and Co-Chairman of the Parliamentary Review, David Blunkett thanked this year’s participants for their valuable insight into their respective industries and stressed the importance of politicians having a firm understanding of the challenges with which British organisations must contend.

“It has been a privilege to take part in this year’s Parliamentary Review and offer our expert insight, knowledge and best practice solutions to the people who make crucial decisions on policy,” said Russell following the House of Commons event. “I was greatly encouraged by Lord Blunkett’s assurances during the Parliamentary Review gala that our testimonies will be taken on board by parliamentarians and fed into future policy.”

The invite to the House of Commons followed Russell being chosen by former Conservative Communities Secretary Lord Pickles to take part in this year’s Parliamentary Review, an influential annual journal that shares best practice amongst the UK’s policy makers and business leaders. Urban Edge Architecture, winner of the ‘Large Business of the Year’ category at the 2019 Mercury Business Awards, was identified by the Parliamentary Review committee as an outstanding leader in its field and a best practice representative of its industry.

“It’s been a terrific year for Urban Edge Architecture,” concludes Russell. “We have overseen the design and delivery of numerous high-profile projects and seen our influence growing, particularly in the senior living sector. Whilst the practice works nationally on a portfolio of retail, specialist residential and leisure developments for high-profile clients, our recent award win and involvement in the Parliamentary Review has also seen our profile rise locally in Stamford and more broadly through Lincolnshire – important for a growing business looking to recruit the very best talent the region has to offer.”

Images courtesy of Westminster Publications.

  • Parliamentary Review 2019, House of Commons
    David Blunkett delivers his opening speech at the gala event
  • Parliamentary Review 2019, House of Commons
    The evening was hosted by Talkradio presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer
  • Parliamentary Review 2019, House of Commons
    England legend Sir Geoff Hurst speaking to an enthralled audience
  • Parliamentary Review 2019, House of Commons
    David Blunkett thanks this year’s participants for their valuable insight
  • Parliamentary Review 2019, House of Commons
    Guests enjoying refreshments on the balcony overlooking the Thames
  • Parliamentary Review 2019, House of Commons
    Guests taking the opportunity to experience the House of Commons

Later living isn’t just about residents… It’s much more complex than that

November 12th, 2019 Posted by All, Senior Living

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During last week’s Later Living Conference organised by Property Week there was a big focus on the residents of later living schemes and various discussions on how they are portrayed by operators and other sector consultants in the media.

Yet despite this people-centric focus, we saw presentation after presentation in which no real people featured at all! Rather, we saw artificially posed images and caricatures of older people drinking wine, sipping coffee and walking along beaches wearing Panama hats. We were also told that the sector’s future residents will be funky 70-year-olds performing handstands, wearing leather jackets and dying their hair blue.

Whilst it’s encouraging that the sector is trying to better understand its residents’ needs, we need to be careful not to base our schemes on the aspirational and imagined residents of retirement living brochures or assumptions about what the lifestyles of the next generation of senior citizens might be. After all, the Later Living Sector is not only about residents; it is much more complex than that. It is about creating residents’ communities; it’s about hospitality and care. We create places for living and places to work. We offer a range of hospitality services, as well as care and support. All elements work holistically to create successful schemes that will benefit real residents, enjoying life however they themselves see fit.

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director

The expert view on senior living

The expert view on senior living

October 28th, 2019 Posted by All, Senior Living

By 2040, nearly one in seven Britons will be over 75 according to a recent report by the Resolution Foundation. The report also estimates that a third of people born today can expect to live to be 100. This increased life expectancy is one of the great triumphs of modern society, but with this triumph comes many challenges, not least an ever-growing need for quality, well-located housing suitable for senior living.

At Urban Edge Architecture we believe that senior living needs to be provided within our towns and cities and we are working on schemes with developers and operators that actively encourage social connection through the provision of shared and social spaces. We want to create developments where young and old can live side by side, both benefiting from the social, cultural and economic opportunities of a multigenerational community.

Ideas around urban senior living have gained some traction in recent years and Urban Edge has seen its influence growing in the sector, with our dedicated experts invited to share their in-depth knowledge within a number influential journals and at high-profile events.

Earlier this year, the Parliamentary Review editorial committee identified Urban Edge Architecture as an outstanding leader in its field, and Director Russell Gay was invited by former Conservative Communities Secretary Lord Pickles to contribute to the Review’s 2019 edition. One of the topics Russell took the opportunity to discuss was the need for senior living provision in urban areas, calling on policy makers to help facilitate the creation of mixed-use, multigenerational developments that can foster a diverse and sustainable urban and suburban economy.

Writing in the Review – an esteemed annual journal that shares best practice amongst policy makers and business leaders in an effort to raise standards – Russell said: “As architects, we see at first hand that high-quality, innovative design is crucial to attract people 65 years and over.

“Older people are increasingly demanding the opportunity to engage in the social and economic life of the wider community. They want to live in urban and suburban areas and continue to lead an independent lifestyle, maintain and build new friendships.

“With the extremely high land values in cities, the creation of mixed-use developments not only answers the demands of modern living but also creates better funding opportunities. We believe mixed-use schemes are key to the creation of a diverse and sustainable urban and suburban economy, providing activity, employment opportunities and vibrant public spaces.”

Our contribution to the Parliamentary Review follows a number of recent high-profile speaking engagements for Urban Edge’s Senior Associate Director, Sonia Parol. Drawing on her wealth of experience working on both sides of the globe, including multi-residential, specialist housing and mixed-use projects in the urban living sector, Sonia has been a much sought-after expert for events such as Inside Housing’s Ageing In Place Summit and the Property Week Retirement Living Conference.

Sonia passionately believes that there is an urgent need to transform the UK housing market to ensure that senior citizens are treated equally, able to make the same meaningful choices as everyone else about where and how they live. To do this, she says, we need to make it a mandatory requirement to design and deliver all new homes to be accessible and adaptable to people’s needs over time.

Speaking ahead of her appearance at this year’s Ageing In Place Summit, Sonia said: “The UK government is pledging to build 300,000 homes a year until the mid 2020s to tackle the housing crisis. That’s why it’s so important to get the design of our housing correct now. If we don’t, we are locking in age-restricted housing for decades and poorly serving the needs of future generations of senior citizens who want to remain and play an active part in the communities in which they have lived all their lives.”

A Brighter Future For Retail Parks Feature Img

A brighter future for retail parks

October 16th, 2019 Posted by All, Retail

The Government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s interim report grabbed headlines recently with its call for retail parks and large supermarkets to be redeveloped into mixed-use communities. A month earlier, LDC data suggested vacancy rates across UK retail parks had risen sharply between the first half of 2018 and the end of the first quarter of this year. Reading all of this, one might conclude that the time of the retail park is nigh.

Dig deeper beneath the headlines, however, and it seems the death of the retail park has been greatly exaggerated. The LDC data, for instance, also reveals that some brands are actually starting to increase their retail park presence. Our own experience, having recently completed four new build retail park projects and with a number of new sites at planning and pre-planning stages, also suggests that the death of the retail park has been greatly exaggerated. We have also been appointed to several retail park facelifts where landlords are looking to improve and enhance their assets, preferring to retain and attract retail tenants rather than repurpose for alternative use.

Of course there may well be a compelling case for change of use in London and other major cities where demand for housing and residential values are at their highest, but change of use may not suit all landlords. For some, the prospect of getting a retailer in on a long lease may still be more attractive than redevelopment.

We recently met with a landlord client just outside central London, whose 1980s-era one-storey retail park was located in an area surrounded by multi-storey, mixed-use redevelopment. The client had fully planned on going down the same route with their site, but an analysis of the costs and a recent dip in the London resi market suggested that a comprehensive refurbishment and re-let to existing tenants would produce more of a return over five to ten years than an enormous multi-million-pound mixed-use development. So it’s clearly not always the case that one size fits all.

Retail park landlords do need to be mindful, however, that in areas of oversupply there will inevitably be winners and losers. As the retail park reinvents itself to suit the 21st century requirements of both tenant and customer, owners of outdated or inadequate retail park assets risk being left behind and losing tenants to better designed, competing sites.

The good news for landlords is that there are plenty of clever solutions that can deliver an impactful uplift, even within the financial constraints they find themselves under. However, there are often challenges above and beyond budget, particularly in relation to third party and tenant agreements. Our experience tells us that landlords often seriously underestimate the time it will take to negotiate with existing tenants. Early engagement is essential; otherwise potentially great schemes cannot be successfully delivered and can often result in schemes with ‘holes’ where tenant and landlord have failed to reach agreement.

Part of our role as architects is trying to help the landlord with those discussions and selling the benefits to tenants. But what are the essential ingredients for a successful 21st century retail park?

Firstly, the out-of-town retail model is becoming more experiential. For retail parks to truly distinguish themselves as a destination, this might mean landlords considering a greater integration of asset classes to emulate successful town centres and increase dwell time – coffee, food, playgrounds and crèches, gyms and climbing walls, flexible space for pop-up parks and pop-up food are all elements that now distinguish a quality retail park. We are also seeing an increase in interest in double-sided shopping, where the retail element of the park is completely pedestrianised and devoid of cars.

Parks that focus on creating a high-quality environment within their public realm are also likely to prove an attractive prospect. Unattractive public realm merely becomes a route from A to B or best avoided entirely. Well-conceived and attractive public realm, on the other hand, will encourage people to use the space, prompt lingering presence, resulting in better sales, client satisfaction and repeat business.

Landlords may also need to consider providing alternative travel choices for both tenants and customers whilst also futureproofing for electric cars by including charging points.

All of these measures clearly involve thinking about the bigger picture and serious investment, not merely replacing the glazing and re-painting the cladding. However, we believe that there are still plenty of long-term opportunities for those landlords with well-located sites to create viable and popular retail park destinations with the ability to retain existing and attract new tenants.

This is an extended version of an article that first appeared in Property Week on the 27th September 2019.

Tom McNamara | Director

Parliamentary Review 2019 - Retail Experts

The expert view on the retail sector

October 15th, 2019 Posted by All, Retail

Recent years have proved challenging for the retail sector, but at Urban Edge we firmly believe that change brings opportunity and find ourselves called upon to provide innovative solutions for our retail property clients. We have also seen our influence growing in the sector, with our retail experts invited to share their in-depth knowledge within a number of influential forums and journals.

Earlier this year, the Parliamentary Review editorial committee identified Urban Edge as an outstanding leader in its field and Director Russell Gay was invited by former Conservative Communities Secretary Lord Pickles to contribute to the Review’s 2019 edition. The Parliamentary Review is an esteemed annual journal that shares best practice amongst policy makers and business leaders.

Russell took the opportunity to highlight the continuing plight of the UK’s high streets and how, as the crisis has grown, our skills have become much sought after by developers and property owners looking to repurpose retail assets.

Writing in the Parliamentary Review, Russell says: “We have been urging retail property owners to forward plan to minimise the possible impact on their assets as much as possible. At Urban Edge we believe there are still plenty of opportunities for physical retail to prosper – it’s just a case of landlords thinking differently about the spaces they own, especially the opportunities to be had in converting or redeveloping existing assets into alternative uses.”

We have been working with forward-thinking owners and developers to adapt their existing assets for a good number of years, using our experience and good technical know-how to make the appropriate decisions for each scheme. A good example can be seen at Highcross in Leicester where, following the closure of the House of Fraser store in July 2017, we worked with Hammerson to develop proposals for the sub-division and remodelling of the vacated four-storey retail unit, reactivating high street façades and creating new revenue streams for the client from areas of the building considered to be ‘dead space’.

Our experience on this and other such projects, has now led us to examine similar schemes for clients and look at repurposing existing units for other complementary uses such as offices, hotels or even retirement housing.

Of course, we also understand that change of use may not suit all landlords. For some, the prospect of getting a retailer in on a long lease may still be more attractive than redevelopment. This is particularly true for ‘out-of-town’ retail, a sector that continues to prove resilient despite the changes impacting the high street – however retail park landlords need to act early to reap the benefits from well-located sites.

Writing in the September 27th issue of Property Week, Urban Edge Director Tom McNamara said: “Retail park landlords do need to be mindful that most major towns now have an oversupply and there will inevitably be winners and losers. As the retail park reinvents itself to suit the 21st century requirements of both tenant and customer, owners of outdated or inadequate retail park assets risk being left behind and losing tenants to better designed, competing sites.”

“Landlords need to think about the bigger picture and serious investment, not merely replacing the glazing and re-painting the cladding. For retail parks to truly distinguish themselves as a destination, this might mean landlords considering a greater integration of asset classes to emulate successful town centres and increase dwell time – coffee, food, playgrounds and crèches, gyms and climbing walls, flexible space for pop-up parks and pop-up food are all elements that can now distinguish a quality retail park.”

Russell has now been invited to attend a high-level event at the House of Commons in late October where he will be raising some of these issues with parliamentarians, policymakers and other senior business leaders.

You can read Russell’s full Parliamentary Review article by clicking here.

Accessible Retail Conference 2019

We’ll be talking sustainability at this year’s Accessible Retail Conference

October 4th, 2019 Posted by All, News, Retail

Senior Associate Director Dave Frost will be speaking at this year’s Accessible Retail Conference, the trade body which represents the property interests of the retail warehouse and retail park sector of the retail industry. Held at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in central London on the 10th October, and attended by some of the key influencers and decision makers in the sector, the theme of this year’s conference is Sustainable Partnerships.

Dave, who takes to the stage at 10.30am, will be discussing how we delivered Nando’s ‘next generation’ restaurant at Cambridge Retail Park – the chain’s most sustainable restaurant ever. Utilising ‘One Planet Living’ principles, the restaurant was designed to be extremely energy efficient, generate its own electricity and use waste heat from cooking for space heating. Material specification prioritised low-impact elements, fittings and furniture.

“Nando’s wanted to implement new sustainability principles and we produced a design that integrated this philosophy while complementing the existing retail park environment where the restaurant is located,” says Dave. “It presented an opportunity for us to build a restaurant using clean and sustainable materials, better design processes that reduced carbon impact and with technologies to operate the restaurant more efficiently. This pioneering development was an incredible journey for both Nando’s and Urban Edge and I look forward to recounting that journey and the learnings that came out of it with the Conference audience.”

Further details on this year’s Accessible Retail Conference can be found here.

Ageing In Every Place

Ageing in every place – All homes should be appropriate for all ages

October 2nd, 2019 Posted by All, Senior Living

I’m often asked how best we can design suitable homes for senior citizens. Implicit within the question is the idea of an entirely separate strand of homes for older people, when really we should be asking how we can design all homes to be appropriate for all ages.

When it comes to housing provision, a new generation of senior citizens – many of whom chose to or will have to continue working – represent an increasingly unsatisfied market. They don’t always want or need to move to a retirement village or specialist housing, they want a home that better meets their lifestyle requirements and aspirations. Many would prefer to remain in their current homes, but struggle with properties that were not designed or built for ageing.

Whilst there will always be a requirement for specialist housing, we urgently need to transform our housing market to ensure that senior citizens are treated equally, able to make the same meaningful choices as everyone else about where and how they live. But we can only do that if we make it a mandatory requirement to design and deliver all new homes to be accessible and adaptable to people’s needs over time.

With the right legislative levers in place, this should not be too hard to achieve. It’s incredible to think that, at the turn of this century, very few buildings in the UK were even accessible because it was perceived to be too expensive or over-excessive to make every new development wheelchair friendly. Yet the introduction of Part M of the Building Regulations in October 1999 with its requirement that ‘reasonable provision shall be made for disabled people to gain access to and to use the building’ changed all of that. It was found surprisingly easy to implement and very little evidence has ever been put forward to suggest that the regulations have added to development costs.

Yet despite the ease with which Part M has been adopted, there is still a terrible shortage of accessible homes in the UK – only seven percent of homes in England meet basic accessibility features according to the Government’s own housing survey. And just because a home is accessible does not necessarily mean it is liveable or adaptable for all needs and requirements over time. We therefore need more ambition in the standards the Government sets for homes to ensure that all new housing is suitable or can, at the very least, be easily adapted for people as they age or if their needs change.

Ageing In Every Place Caption

Enshrining such measures in regulation is important. According to JRF research, prior to the introduction of Part M, many builders had little or no knowledge about disabled people and their design needs. Now that Part M has become the norm it has become second nature for architects and developers to design and deliver accessible and inclusive homes and nobody ever questions it. In much the same way, we now need to put the needs of our ageing population front and centre by bringing together a full range of measures on improving access and inclusion in the built environment into a coherent and transparent strategy.

It needn’t be a stretch. Many of the requirements would be similar to those already included in Part M, but they need to be more robust and extend to the long-term liveability of a home for all age groups and abilities. Many design guides for ageing in place already exist and often include simple measures such as open-floor plans with few obstructions, larger windows, specific colours to aid with depth perception, no-step entries and slip-resistant floor treatments – all fairly straightforward and easy enough to incorporate in any type of newly built homes. It neither sounds complicated or expensive.

Equally, whilst most discussions on ageing in place focus on the home, we also need to look at applying the same rules and regulations to the broader communities that play a crucial factor in people’s ability to stay put. In part, this requires a cultural shift, a better understanding of the psychological and physiological needs of older people by society as a whole. However, our built environment has a crucial role to play, too.

Creating a housing market where people have the option to remain in their homes and communities for as long as possible benefits the whole of society, reducing the burden on the NHS, and encouraging more cohesive, intergenerational communities.

According to a 2018 House of Commons CLG report, the costs of poor housing to the NHS is estimated to be £1.4 billion per annum; of which nearly half (£624 million) is attributed to poor housing among older adults. At the same time that many older people are struggling with poor quality homes not designed for ageing, we are also seeing new houses being built that are not suitable for young or extended families. The lack of joined-up thinking and forward planning, as well as a failure to understand and design for the changing social needs of residents, has seen the continued segregation of generations and the inevitable fracturing of communities.

The UK government is pledging to build 300,000 homes a year until the mid 2020s to tackle the housing crisis. That’s why it’s so important to get the design of our housing correct now. If we don’t, we are locking in age-restricted housing for decades and poorly serving the needs of future generations of senior citizens who want to remain and play an active part in the communities in which they have lived all their lives.

Sonia Parol | Senior Associate Director