Posts in Landscape

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.

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.


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.


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

Make Room For Green Cover Img

Make room for green – How retail can profit from considered landscape design

June 25th, 2019 Posted by All, Landscape

Trees and landscape in retail parks and shopping outlets have been a controversial topic ever since I started designing landscape for commercial sites. It sometimes seems that trees are the ‘baddies’ that obscure the visibility of branding and logos and, just as bad, require maintenance due to their leaf and possible fruit drop. The disregard for trees can also sometimes lead to their demise: In historic retail sites and car parks they may have been placed into tree pits too small to give them a chance of survival – so not only were they a cost to plant, but then also a hassle and additional cost to remove, never to be replaced. Alternative plantings such as low-maintenance evergreen shrub beds have been equally mistreated, often outgrown their space and, continually suppressed by rigorous maintenance regimes, now look tired and ill, sending all the wrong signals to the potential customer.

In order to appeal to the new generation of consumer and to mitigate the impact of online shopping, retailers are now going to great efforts to offer customers a unique experience. A lot of money is being invested in making shop interiors look luxurious, quirky, chic and memorable. And equal attention is increasingly being given to the shop’s setting to entice customers in and give them a taste of what’s awaiting them within. Shopfronts and their surroundings have a great influence on the shoppers’ positive or negative perception. Therefore, the appearance of the public realm has a great influence on making the experience interesting and appealing.

A wealth of research has been carried out in the UK and abroad to assess shoppers’ perceptions and preferences in relation to varying shopping environments with and without trees and mature landscape. And, unsurprisingly to me, the results have very much been in favour of vegetation, particularly mature trees, shaping the space and framing views, providing shelter and improving general visual amenity of the space. Equally, there are numerous studies proving that plants are beneficial to our health and well-being both indoors and outdoors, that vegetated open spaces are the key to help people relax and get closer to nature. On a smaller scale, biophilic design in the workplace – which can include such simple measures as placing plants in offices – are seen as beneficial to employees’ productivity.

Finding time to go out, listen and experience ‘the outdoors’ is crucial for our mental and physical well-being. But it’s not enough to just walk down a busy, noisy street and expect results. The quality of ‘the outdoors’ environment is very important too. And that relates to every scale. A picnic in the park, an outdoor movie night or a bonfire on the beach is by no means better or worse than a dinner party in the privacy of our own garden. It’s all about creating a friendly and cosy atmosphere, slowing down our busy lifestyles to enjoy a moment.

To me, this calls to mind those oft-heard buzz terms such as mindfulness and hygge – in essence, enjoying the little things in life and celebrating the moment. It’s all about feeling good in our surroundings and spending quality, fulfilling time, indoors and out. It is important to go out, meet people, interact, enjoy the sounds, smells and sensations that come with being outside. But with hygge being all about cosiness, how does that translate to the spacious outdoors? It’s all about bringing the scale of the space back into size and proportions that are easier to relate to, creating enclosures, using natural materials, softening the hard edges with soft landscape elements. And then it’s all about senses too, introducing smells and sounds, water or even fire (in a controlled fashion, of course!).

So why wouldn’t this recent shift towards nature, well-being and mindfulness seep into the retail environment? Well, luckily it has, the changes are slowly shaping up and hopefully soon all developers and retailers will realise that creating a high-quality environment within their public realm provides a tremendous subconscious attraction, resulting in better footfall and better sales. 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 from time spent in a pleasant environment.

Make Room For Green Caption

There are some practical benefits to plants in public realm, too. If placed correctly, trees can provide shading to the shopfronts which in turn helps avoid solar heat gain, reducing the need for air conditioning and subsequently reducing energy consumption. Tree planting will also be required to achieve the high ecological and biodiversity credentials that most sites aspire to achieve these days. Drainage is another crucial aspect to take into consideration and trees and shrubs are our natural allies in improving draining qualities of waterlogged soils and storm-water management. Needless to mention their instrumental role in climate management and wind-speed reduction. And last but not least, I don’t think I have ever come across a local authority that would reject a landscape design based on too many trees or too much planting – but I’ve encountered many applications rejected due to not enough tree planting and the development lacking character.

So let’s not vilify trees and stop banishing them to unsuitable tree pits. Far better to plant the correct trees in the correct places and allow them enough space for compaction-free root growth. The softness of greenery and seasonal colour afforded by attractive shrub beds and the vertical accents that trees bring into a sometimes very rigid, horizontal and geometric architecture (no disrespect to the architects and their hard work), as well as a well-designed public realm can make the prospect of a day out shopping far more enticing, exciting and pleasant.

The retail world is changing and customers’ expectations have developed towards more biophilic design and experiential visits. The retailers’ outlook needs to change too – and the landlords will follow.

Gosia Soltan | Landscape Architect

Senior Living Landscape

Senior living landscape – Time for change

November 1st, 2018 Posted by All, Landscape

That people are living longer is an incontrovertible truth of the 21st century. Innovations and improvement to healthcare, advancement and convergence of technologies, alongside a broader health consciousness and adoption of healthier lifestyles are extending lives beyond the limits imagined by previous generations. In the United Kingdom, some 18 percent of the population is aged 65 years and older, with this number predicted to grow over the coming years to reach almost 25 percent in 2046 [Office for National Statistics, 2018]. At the same time, there has been a revolution in the way we choose to lead our lives – people no longer feel compelled to marry, are consciously opting to stay single or refrain from having children. In the very near future, it will be incumbent upon elderly living provision to keep this new generation of senior citizens active, whilst also combating feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Whilst there is understandably a lot of focus on the internal environment of senior living and care accommodation, it is our view that for developments to be truly successful they should be looked at holistically. Residents should have an opportunity to live a good life inside and outside their homes whatever their age, gender and background. After all, numerous studies have shown that being outdoors has a positive impact on the health, well-being and overall quality of life of elderly people. This is where well thought out senior living landscape design comes in.

It’s arguable that, in the past, landscaping provision for senior living developments was ostensibly decorative – regimented pathways with smooth paving through carefully manicured lawns – rather than providing functional and active spaces that encourage residents to head outdoors. It’s interesting to note how studies conducted in the USA found that landscape elements that increase outdoor engagement by elderly people are sometimes not what we would most probably think. It wasn’t always the smooth paving, stable seating and easy access to paved walkways that encouraged outdoor use, but good views from the walkways and windows that scored highest and would potentially increase the time spent outside by 3.5 times that of the average rate.

Unsurprisingly, clean footpaths and a wide range of plant material were also recognised as an encouragement for residents to spend more time outside on a weekly basis. Also interesting from the social and architectural point of view is that seniors highly appreciated the privacy afforded by their resident rooms, and even more, the views of vehicular movement during their outdoor activity. Furthermore, the top desired landscape features that would encourage outdoors activity were: the ability to see the birds or wildlife in general, the opportunity to take a round trip by linked walkways, and the outdoors visually linked to the indoors [ASLA, access 28.07.18].

Results of these studies also allow us to formulate the main design concept and should include aspects such as: nature elements, choice/autonomy, safety/security, comfort/accessibility and activity to achieve the most sustainable and comfortable senior living design.

In many care or senior living scenarios, one often observes a lack of activity and residents tending to remain indoors in their apartments for large parts of a day. One of the reasons for this may be the lack of confidence in overcoming real-world obstacles. Well-designed landscape should provide features that encourage people to push their boundaries, for instance different kinds of paving that can help seniors extend their mobility in an environment that they perceive as safe. Comparative examples of this can be seen in implemented solutions such as the introduction of changing levels [Tabar P., 2014]: ramps may be challenging at first, but in time residents can set up their own goals and slowly conquer the ‘obstacles’.

Additionally, giving seniors a choice can prove liberating and improve their life quality. Simple solutions should be included in the design process, such as the provision of more footpaths and diversifying the experience that can be gained during a walk. Making the space attractive all year round is imperative; as landscape architects we need to focus more on seasonal planting to give the end user opportunities to enjoy and revel in their favourite times of year. Introducing multiple, interlinking closed-loop footpaths will increase the attractiveness, the feeling of making your own choices and, at the same time, an opportunity to eliminate the anxiety of being lost. The therapeutic benefits of safe and engaging community spaces are already recognised as a way of dealing with dementia.

As the senior demographic rapidly changes, the concept of independent senior living developments in urban areas has gained traction. Urban living is attractive to seniors who have spent their whole lives in vibrant environments or who just want to live ‘where the action is’ and where there are multiple amenities accessible. Additionally, seniors are increasingly reluctant to live in age-segregated communities. They want to stay up-to-date with the surrounding life [Mullaney, 2017]. Limited urban space is more challenging and needs a flexible landscape solution tailored to different activities, but makes it possible to give the elderly in need of care a whole new opportunity to live and interact easily with other generations.

Seniors want to interact with all ages of the community that surrounds them, so it is important that the outdoor spaces should provide a mix of activities. One of the current trends is to engage seniors in gardening, giving them a real purpose to go outdoors. Well-designed beds with herbs, vegetables and other types of planting can improve physical health and mobility and, more importantly, can reduce stress, eliminate loneliness and create choices to work independently or integrate with others. Indeed, research has found that gardening can give a sense of well-being and satisfaction with life [Teo J., 2016].

The present concern is that senior living could get commoditised – or “McDonald’s-ised” [Perkins B., 2009], but as landscape architects it is imperative that we provide designs for the senior sector which have a human scale and local uniqueness with all the care provided.

To conclude: “There is no building type where you can see a more direct correlation between doing something right and its impact on people’s lives. You can build an environment for the ageing that is confusing, imprisoning, and depressing, or you can build one that frees them, encourages them, and enhances their quality of life. This is a building type where you don’t have to look very hard to see what difference you’ve made in people’s lives.” [Perkins B., 2009].

Gosia Soltan | Landscape Architect

The Green Stuff

The green stuff – Urban Edge proud to offer new landscape consultancy service

January 5th, 2018 Posted by All, Landscape

At Urban Edge we have gone ‘green’ and welcomed a new addition to our scope of services – landscape architecture. This new sector will enhance our already versatile set of skills and allow us to offer a more comprehensive quality package to the client/developer; one that sets us apart from many of our competitors. The combined knowledge and experience of architecture and landscape architecture enables us to offer a wider spectrum of services, advice and guidance. Our expertise in this field predominantly covers the residential and commercial markets, including landscape, arboriculture and ecological services.

This new addition has already met with a lot of interest from our existing clients who appreciate the benefits of landscape design in increasing the value and appeal of their sites – as well as the unavoidable requirement that landscape forms part of every planning submission! The logistical benefits of our architectural and landscape design teams working under one roof aren’t to be overlooked either. The value of coordinated design work in achieving better, more efficient outputs, and in cutting out the headache of project managing two separate sets of consultants cannot be under-estimated.