NOTES FROM THE DEBATE FEATURING Sir Simon Jenkins
A JOINT EVENT BETWEEN CARDIFF CIVIC SOCIETY (ccs) AND CARDIFF UNIVERSITY
23RD NOVEMBER 2018, Glamorgan Building
As the fastest growing city in the UK away from the SE of England CCS are keen to ensure that the drive for growth is not at the expense of quality of life, the term ‘liveability’ has been adopted to cover all the aspects of what makes a place good to live, work and play. The Civic Society were delighted to get the support of Sir Simon Jenkins, a well known advocate of the art of managing growth whilst protecting what is good from the past to create a future liveable city.
The event combined the views of Sir Simon with contributions from Allison Dutoit of Jan Gehl Architects and Roger Pride of Heavenly. Professor Kevin Morgan chaired the Q&A. These notes are a personal record (not a verbatim account) of what we, the Cardiff Civic Society, heard and learnt from the event.
SIR SIMON JENKINS
Sir Simon began by expressing support for the role of Civic Societies, the last bastions of protection of what is great in our cities, great support for us from such an opinion leader! Standing between planners, developers and politicians Civic Societies can bring a balance that is often missing.
The old should not be seen as a constraint on development. Our heritage deserves respect, a point emphasised later by Roger Pride. The changing nature of city employment away from manufacturing to services does not need to mean the destruction of serviceable and often beautiful buildings, which are often successfully reimagined as modern workplaces or dwellings. Respect for the legacy and the origins of the city must live with the future, the street pattern is usually impossible to alter without drastic destruction, but the buildings need to be given the same respect. It seems that the ‘establishment is not listening’, there is perpetual pressure to overdevelop and money talks loudest. Democracy must not be side lined to the desire to ‘leave a personal mark’ on the city that seems to be the desire of many.
We have several tools available to help change happen respectfully, no decision is inevitable.
- Listing, constraining the desire to destroy.
- Conservation areas. These not statuary but allows us to draw attention to placemaking/uniqueness, human and social capital invested, sense of place/character.
- Protest, using shaming and humiliation if all else fails.
- Publicity, to engage with public opinion.
MAIN POINTS FROM THE SUPPORTING PRESENTATIONS (Allison Dutoit and Roger Pride)
AND THE Q&A
Managing change to deliver ‘liveability’ involves understanding the role and importance of technology and imagining how the future will be different to the past. The switch from horse to car based transport was unimagined and therefore not planned, so we have congestion and pollution and the street plan is very difficult to change. The switch to electric/autonomous vehicles could be a boon or a plague, according to how we see the future. The future should recognise a well established and unique ‘storyline’ or reputation for the city that prioritises the following characteristics:-
- The streets are for people, not vehicles.
- Public health is at risk from poor air quality and pollution and lack of green space.
- Green space and use of rivers are vital for well being to avoid a city becoming a desert.
- Design should follow and add to a ‘lodestar’ or story unique to each city, we need to have a clear view of what the reputation is and could be.
- Most development is ad hoc and generated several derogatory remarks from the audience about the deficiencies of planning in Wales and Cardiff in particular.
- Cities compete for economic gain, this is most effective if we celebrate and promote the ‘place’.
- Development must contribute to the brand/reputation, celebrating and enhancing the uniqueness.
- Bad development prioritises one view over that of the community at large.
- Growth is not all bad.
- Tall buildings are necessary, but they must relate to and respect what is already there.
- We should not freeze the past in but allow space for change.
- Consultation is not working, and is seen as a constraint on progress. New ways of accessing opinion are needed.
- The added value acquired by development land does not find its way back into the community; it should.
- Localism is a trend that needs encouraging.
Liveability is a topic that provokes strong and conflicting opinions and interest and will not be concluded in one debate. The Civic Society will try to promote further opportunities to influence Cardiff’s growth.
CARDIFF CIVIC SOCIETY