Creating better places: place delivery in action
8.1 The challenge of co-ordinated delivery
8.2 Controlling the spatial development framework
8.3 Achieving regulatory approvals
8.4 Exercising ownership power
8.5 Enabling advance infrastructure by attracting investment funding
8.6 Securing design quality through procurement strategies
8.1 The challenge of co-ordinated delivery
What really makes delivery organisations effective in creating better places is the extent to which they are able to co-ordinate and control the spatial development framework, achieve regulatory approvals, exercise ownership power, enable advance infrastructure to be provided by attracting investment funding and secure design quality through their procurement strategies. The more delivery organisations can manage and integrate these five aspects of the development process, then the greater their chance of creating better places. To a greater or lesser extent, these actions are as much about making markets as making places - since over time, successful places become self-sustaining and attractive in market terms. This section therefore considers each of the five aspects in turn, before assessing their combined impact in making markets, especially in regeneration areas.
8.2 Controlling the spatial development framework
A robust and imaginative spatial development framework or masterplan is essential to creating somewhere that functions as an integrated place, where the various elements reinforce each other and contribute to making the whole much greater than the sum of the parts. The place vision typically starts as a set of conceptual sketches, ideas and options, and develops over time into the spatial development framework or 'masterplan'. However, all ideas and options must be informed by prior and appropriate research into property market demand and a general understanding of servicing issues such as utilities and drainage along with geotechnical matters. There is little point in having a vision that can't be implemented as a result of uneconomic technical barriers.
Many contemporary spatial frameworks use a connected street network and a traditional street block (perimeter block) structure. Although the best masterplans strike a balance between certainty and flexibility, to be effective they must co-ordinate strategic decisions about form and layout and guide infrastructure provision, phasing and land release.
What is crucial here is that the place leader or promoter takes overall responsibility and control for both generating and delivering the masterplan. A well thought out plan that has agreement from all parties gives the leader the confidence to ensure that the project is implemented without dilution or deviation.
Although often commissioned from consultants, the place promoter should therefore oversee the masterplanning process, making full use of the client brief to control its commission and ensure that what is proposed can be delivered on the ground. Once approved, the place promoter then needs to ensure that it is delivered parcel by parcel, by resisting pressures from individual parcel developers to make changes to the masterplan to suit their short-term interests and agendas.
8.3 Achieving regulatory approvals
Delivering new places normally involves obtaining numerous regulatory approvals, often from different state agencies. The standard procedure of sequential individual approvals can have a devastating impact on project viability because the time taken can significantly lengthen the development period (and therefore risk), increase development and finance costs and cause 'windows of development opportunity' to be missed. Alongside this, regulatory decisions can be highly unpredictable or simply in conflict with each other. A typical example of the latter occurs when a planning authority encourages the development of shared highway space or 'home zones' but the highway authority refuses to give its approval.
The challenge here is to accelerate and co-ordinate the approval process. Ideally, place promoters may wish to see sequential individual approvals replaced by simultaneous, multiple approvals. This might be achieved, for example, in a charette where all the regulatory bodies are brought together at the same time and placed alongside other stakeholders, and conflicts ironed out. Alternatively, if the regulatory bodies can be persuaded to sign up to an agreed design code, then it becomes much clearer what needs to be achieved on individual developments, with those meeting the code gaining the basis of a consent.
For development management to be different to traditional development control, it must mean that local planning authorities take an active role in integrating and accelerating all the various regulatory approvals, with the aim of creating a single development consent. As an example, South Dublin County Council ( SDCC) is the specified delivery body for Adamstown SDZ. This is a statutory declaration under Irish law. SDZ status meant that a more integrated planning approach was developed for Adamstown than is usual. The Adamstown Project Team is composed of four SDCC staff members who were specifically assigned to work to deliver Adamstown over the long term. They communicate daily with the developer, Castlethorn Construction, while providing an interface for other relevant Council departments, such as Education, Health, Environment and Transport. SDCC is able to bring together all of the actors involved in delivering the public infrastructure and provide a common interface between them and the private sector.
Developers are motivated by securing consents by the easiest possible means while regulatory problems can tempt place promoters to settle for the least common denominator in order to lessen that delay. Cutting through red tape is therefore essential to the delivery of quality places since it is not simply about speeding up projects but about integrating regulatory demands without compromising quality.
8.4 Exercising ownership power
Land is a vital resource in the development process. Like planning control, land ownership provides a form of power over the future use and development of land. But while planning control is general and largely negative - it can prevent things more effectively than it can make them happen - ownership of land provides control of specific land parcels and can be used positively to make things happen. Land ownership thus brings direct and positive power to ensure development happens at the time, location and quality desired.
Effective place delivery often involves consolidating multiple land ownership to ensure subsequent co-ordinated development. Fragmented land ownership can prove a major obstacle to development. If the land cannot be consolidated, the development process is fundamentally different. Land consolidation allows greater operational flexibility. It matters in six main ways, by:
- Enabling the design of areas as a single entity, rather than individual landowners being overly concerned with their own land parcels.
- Facilitating viability - providing certainty and confidence to the market.
- Devising the appropriate procurement process that sets out clear and precise objectives to enable a fair selection of developer candidates rather than be forced to deal with developers with conflicting propositions.
- Allowing conditions and covenants to be attached to the land as mechanisms of control.
- Allowing a phased and structured land release for development.
- Allowing infrastructure to be agreed and implemented in an efficient manner.
Achieving ownership control produces clarity and confidence in the market by enabling developer and investors to know what will happen on subsequent phases, which then creates favourable conditions for value growth.
The case studies show that the ownership of land is critical in delivering projects. All the European case studies were implemented by the public sector either acquiring or historically owning the land. Allerton and Upton were also publicly-owned by English Partnerships, who was therefore able to deliver the projects to the agreed vision. In each case, without the willingness (and determination) of the landowners to develop a real place on their land, quality development would not have happened.
Newhall provides an excellent contrast between what happens when land is retained rather than sold early on. Its immediate neighbour to the south - Church Langley - is a standard 1980s/1990s speculative car-based development. Both sites were originally farmed by the Moen Family. Church Langley was sold to national housebuilders who, having acquired the land, were free to build their standard product subject to local planning authority policy. Second time around, the Moens retained control over the land, ensuring they were able to exercise more control over the development effectively demonstrating that land ownership can deliver better quality than the planning system.
At Castlefield (Britannia Basin) Urban Splash own or have options on most of the neighbourhood. This allows the company to develop the place on its own terms, as opposed to having to work with many other developers. The other major landholder in the area is Peel Holdings, who also have an interest in maintaining the value of the land for the long term and who, following encouragement from Manchester City Council, drew up a masterplan with Urban Splash, assisted by EDAW. Peel Holdings therefore helped to maximise the development value of its own land by co-operating with Urban Splash's place-making efforts, while not developing anything itself.
Adamstown was assembled through a process of land banking during the 1990s undertaken entirely by private interests (Castlethorn, Tiera and Maplewood). Land assembly was relatively straightforward. There were not many individual land holdings and the sales were uncomplicated. Ultimately the land was developed by the same interests that had assembled the site.
Land ownership thus carries significant place-making power as landowners can release or not release land, release it in certain sizes and in certain locations, impose conditions on the subsequent development of the land released, and lease rather than sell land. Land disposal in this context should be seen as place-shaping and as creating sustainable value.
Despite the clear importance of land ownership to development, the purpose (and motivation) of many UK public or private authorities in disposing of land is rarely about creating better place. Local authorities typically market land only where there is no need to retain the land asset as it has become non-operational, or for the short-term benefit of an immediate capital receipt, regardless of wider strategic value. Notwithstanding pressures caused by financial crisis and fiscal retrenchment, public authorities interested in place-making need to resist the temptation to gain capital receipts from a quick sale of development land. This connects with the idea of patient equity where the investor is willing to defer any return for an extended period of time, because, by foregoing immediate return, the investor anticipates more substantial profits/rewards downstream.
8.5 Enabling advance infrastructure by attracting investment funding
Quality places work well because the necessary physical and social infrastructure is planned and provided as an integral part of the overall development programme. Physical infrastructure includes roads, open space, public transport, sewers, drainage, water and service utilities, etc. Some elements are essential to ensuring the project can proceed - for example, roads and sewers, while others are more discretionary - for example, public transport.
Social infrastructure covers schools, shops, nurseries, community facilities etc. Provision typically occurs when a certain population threshold triggers it or when it is considered commercially viable. In both cases it is often later than when the need for the facility first occurs. To facilitate creation of a rounded place, the challenge is again to ensure early provision. The continental European case studies all demonstrate municipalities committed to the development of rounded places at an early stage.
The challenge is therefore to ensure advance provision of both physical and social infrastructure. This matters for four main reasons:
- It establishes the physical development framework for the place and demonstrates commitment to the project.
- It provides serviced plots where participants must accept the promoter's rules.
- It reduces private sector risk and encourages developers to take part, allowing wider participation from a variety of players.
- Provides greater control on development phasing and, with multiple developer participation, allows projects to be completed quicker.
Without advance infrastructure, subsequent investment many not happen and the place-making ambitions remain unrealised. In the UK, masterplans are often produced without any accompanying commitment to advance infrastructure, as a result of which nothing happens on the ground. This type of masterplanning has therefore tended to be seen as an exercise in architecture on a grand scale, wasting resources rather than mobilising them for implementation.
The case for advance infrastructure is compelling. Early installation of high-quality public transport infrastructure, for example:
- Demonstrates commitment by the public sector to a project's development.
- Reduces the project's effective distance from the rest of the city.
- Encourages early formation of more sustainable travel habits, so reducing car dependency.
- Encourages the use of space by people who do not live in an area but who like to use it for whatever appeal and activities it has (such as Hammarby-Sjöstad's nature reserve and ski slope).
Hammarby-Sjöstad had a tram line built very early on in its development. Here, public sector investment of €500m primarily on land decontamination and transport infrastructure generated subsequent private-sector commitment of €3bn, but costs were recovered from sales of development parcels (i.e. the municipality did not end up making a loss overall and got the benefit of delivering a better place). The tram links in with the T-Bana (Stockholm metro) and ensures the development is well-connected to the rest of the city, in direct contrast to Hammarby's previous status as a somewhat ill-connected backwater.
Transport infrastructure can also change a previously marginal, low-value site into a more accessible and therefore more valuable one. Large projects need high quality transport and high levels of investment in transport infrastructure, as at Adamstown, IJburg and Hammarby (and Vauban after 2006). Although three of the smaller four case studies (Newhall, Allerton Bywater, and Upton, all in England) had no public transport investment, they were all convenient for existing settlements and too small to justify tram/rail systems.
In most cases, off-site infrastructure serves more than the particular development site. It has usually been provided by society at large through general taxation, although developers may have been asked or required to make financial contributions towards it through some form of betterment tax, planning gain or community infrastructure levy.
In most cases, on-site infrastructure has been the immediate financial responsibility of the land developer. The cost has generally been recovered through the subsequent sale of the land to either parcel/building developers or the eventual purchasers of the development. However, public agencies sometimes contributed to the cost of on-site infrastructure, seeing it as an investment in the place.
The main challenge today is to secure investment funding for all advance infrastructure which can be recovered or exceeded from future revenue from the sale of serviced plots to developers. This approach clearly requires the public sector to take on risks attached to the infrastructure investment. However, if the public sector creates the development framework, risks are removed from developers who should pay more for the certainty of prepared and serviced sites. This approach allows developers to concentrate on building houses for sale rather than asking them to roll out good quality streets and spaces which they treat as a cost to development rather than a particular benefit.
It can be argued that there is little or no difference between 'investment in place infrastructure' and 'investment in property'. The important issue is to establish the essential investment criteria, instil good practice in managing and productivity of the asset and growing asset value and performance. Place making as an investment is more risky as there is a greater element of imperfect knowledge as a result of multiple interests and interaction, political interventions, general trading and events. However, it is clear that investors make places not developers, since developers tend to focus on what is easy, avoiding the complex and concentrate on the short term.
Not having previously existed, IJburg was perceived by city residents as peripheral (perhaps even more so than Hammarby-Sjöstad). Development was possible only as a result of substantial public investment in creating islands, building bridges and developing extensive transport infrastructure, including new roads and express tram. Early roll-out of the high-speed IJtram was significant in demonstrating that, in terms of time taken to get to Centraal Station, it is psychologically 'closer' than much of south Amsterdam. The infrastructure was funded upfront by the City Council, but recovered from selling serviced development plots to developers. Developers must comply with the requirements of site-specific and area-specific design codes.
This reflects the experience at Vauban where substantial funds to remediate the area and to develop the infrastructure came from the State Government's redevelopment fund and from credits raised by the City Council. All credits had to be repaid through selling building lots and, due to the need repay these credits, the City Council had to keep to a strict development timetable.
The development of Allerton Bywater also depended on advance infrastructure spending of £24m by English Partnerships on drainage, roads, extensive site clearing and decontamination, which significantly reduced subsequent development risk. Part of this investment was recovered though land sales to developers. A phased programme of land sales can help repay infrastructure costs, since developers are normally willing to pay more for serviced than unserviced land, since their own development costs will consequently be reduced.
Infrastructure investment provides greater flexibility in development participation allowing the scale of development to vary greatly, reflecting the different capacities and interests of individual owners, co-operative/housing associations, local private builders, and national volume developers.
Such multiple participation has several advantages:
- It creates variety/choice, competition, increases speed of development and is less exposed to the risk of non performance than the single developer approach.
- It reduces the bargaining power of any one developer. A single developer can play a strong hand against a public promoter whereas a disparate group of interests have a weaker hand unless they enter into a developer coalition.
- It allows phasing which provides an opportunity to grow values through competition.
- On large sites, developers prefer working with other developers as wider participation expresses confidence to the market.
Infrastructure investment encourages greater co-ordination with public utilities and opens up opportunities for energy production as part of the place development process. It allows greater co-ordination of planning gains/obligations, relating to transport, education, affordable housing etc. It can be argued that these obligations can be most efficiently addressed by a place promoter who combines land ownership power with infrastructure provision. If seen at this scale then it will be understood that the planning obligations are not treated as a development cost but necessary to create 'place value'.
In contrast, a single developer will seek to minimise planning obligations through time consuming negotiations. Uncoordinated or late infrastructure provision may both impair place quality and make development riskier and more expensive in the long term. The unwillingness of banks to lend in the current markets has significantly curtailed the delivery of new private sector development and prevented potential spin-off public projects. Local authorities are also facing difficulties in funding large-scale projects as a result of increasing national debt and subsequent budget cuts. The economic downturn has affected the extent to which private sector can fund infrastructure by agreeing planning gain and developer contributions with local authorities through section 75 agreements.
Rather than individually negotiated agreements, a superior approach may be similar to the Milton Keynes 'roof tax' as reflected in the new Community Infrastructure Fund in England. Alternatively, Tax Increment Financing ( TIF) could essentially capture future tax revenues from investment in enabling infrastructure within a particular area. Tax receipts that would not have come about but for the infrastructure investment, are then used to meet repayments on the original investment. This allows the benefits of development to be achieved without increasing taxes or diverting public spending from other projects. As the European project case studies demonstrate infrastructure funds are recovered by subsequent serviced land sales. Therefore, the investment is relatively short term and provides wider benefits from multi and varied participation.
8.6 Securing design quality through procurement strategies
Land ownership may need to be consolidated to enable co-ordinate development to happen. Thereafter encouraging a range of different developers to participate in the build-out can significantly assist design quality by promoting variety, creativity and innovation in the built form. As Figure 2 shows, rather than to create a single product, land consolidation should be seen as a means to enable multiple participation by diverse developers including individual, co-operative enterprises, small-scale and large-scale property companies.
Figure 2: Land consolidation as a means to an end
If larger developments are therefore planned into a series of smaller projects to be implemented over different time frames, each by a different building developer and perhaps a different designer, this will encourage a range of styles, and, once built, a diversity of owners. With the exception of Upton, all case studies had relatively small development parcels. Diversity was ensured at Newhall, for example, by splitting the site into separate development parcels, of no more than 100 homes, each designed by a different architect. At Adamstown, a similar idea was used but the parcels are larger and diversity was less.
Project phasing is an important part of implementation and enables variety to be achieved. Where land release can be controlled, programmed phases allow coherent and efficient provision of infrastructure, a critical mass of development, focus and synergy. Phasing also allows for a learning curve and can be used to alter the rate of development in case of demographic or economic change. All case studies had controlled phasing of development.
Two types of developers/housebuilders were active in most of the case study areas:
- The first type are the corporate, major, or volume housebuilders. Public bodies often prefer doing business with larger organisations who may be deemed to be safer and less risky. However, corporates work to a tried and tested formula, which rarely bring about quality places. There is often a need to 'bend' their practices away from a standard model (i.e. in/out, short-termism, producer sovereignty model) towards one that meets the place promoter's requirements by contributing toward the larger whole rather than just concentrating on their own parcel or building development. Design control mechanisms are needed that ensure the parts amount to a larger whole. Upton and Allerton Bywater provide good examples of how this can be achieved.
- The second type are the local, small, bespoke, or custom developers, who offer much greater potential to create diversity, identity and character. By releasing land parcels in small parcels, wider participation can be achieved. At Vauban, much of the development was undertaken by owner co-operatives, which gave plentiful diversity and variety - though this requires sufficient people willing to form co-operatives and undertake self-build. Small-scale developers also tend to provide greater opportunity to ring fence the place investment including training and employment initiatives. Where pioneers lead and show the success of a particular product, others follow. In other words, the corporates frequently follow the path-breaking experience of non-corporates. The experience of Urban Splash in Castlefield demonstrates how this can work in practice.
Land sub-division and release strategies affect the scale of developer willing to participate and produce different outcomes. Smaller developers often prefer small parcels. Owing to their larger operation, larger developers may need larger parcels to gain sufficient economies of scale. Smaller land parcels are more prevalent in Europe. Small parcels spread the risk of one developer proceeding slowly or running into problems, and increase consumer choice.
The need therefore is for smart parcelisation that addresses the needs of the place rather than ease of development. Traditional urban block structures and plot divisions offer ways of sub-dividing larger development projects. Figure 3 shows four common approaches to land release/sub-division, which yield different outcomes in terms of the number and variety of developers and designers. Smaller parcel sizes often attract smaller developers, while discouraging larger developers.
Figure 3: Land release and subdivision
Only IJburg and Vauban made any use of plot-based development. IJburg has the most diverse range of building types of the case studies and a striking range of domestic architecture. This has been achieved through small building plots, a strong self-procurement mentality in the Netherlands and the use of a small number of rules about overall form (e.g. overall height, height of ground floor ceiling, building line, etc) within which designers had significant freedom. A range of plots sizes (and form codes) were used, so allowing a mix of 4-5 storey narrow townhouses, 3-storey (wider) terraces and 2-3 storey detached, terraced and semis. The styles range from mock 17th century to ultra contemporary.
Design codes can also play a valuable role in securing consistency in design quality between different developers, with each taking responsibility for delivering particular parcels within an overall design expectation. With the exceptions of Castlefield and the early stages of IJburg (Steigereiland), all of the case studies used design codes of sorts. The former is relatively small scale and is delivered by a developer investing long term in the design quality of the place; the latter sought to encourage creativity and experimentation. Design codes can be enforced by planners (Allerton, Adamstown, Vauban), landowners (Newhall) or by both mechanisms (Hammarby, Upton).
8.7 Making property markets
In certain circumstances, where markets are mature and buoyant, public sector intervention in place-making may require no more than the sensitive implementation of development control powers. But in other locations, where markets may have failed or simply not exist, effective place-making becomes equally about establishing market frameworks as about making places. Public sector intervention in such cases can play a crucial role in breeding confidence, reducing risk and coordinating timescales. The end result is to challenge developer attitudes and behaviour by turning development that would otherwise be considered unviable to the private sector into development that comes to be seen as an attractive opportunity for a developer. It also has the potential to produce places of a much higher quality than the standard development products normally created by the private sector.
The key issue to discover here is where, how and to what extent does the public sector need to participate in making effective markets in order to make better places. Each of the case studies offers important lessons about this for Scotland.
Newhall, Harlow, England
Newhall provides the best example of where place-making involved relatively little public sector intervention, apart from planning control. This was made possible by two essential ingredients: a buoyant housing market and an active landowner prepared to act as place promoter.
As a popular commuter town, Harlow was well placed to ensure that the additional development costs required to achieve higher development quality than in the adjacent standard speculative estate could be covered by an additional premiums in the achieved selling prices. These premiums were also assisted from limited land releases in the South East of England, which enabled developers to manage the rate of development at Newhall to achieve such required sale prices. In other words, even in Harlow, making places involved market management, albeit by the private sector, to avoid excessive release of new homes at any one time. This suggests that a wholly private-sector approach to place-making may imply a relatively slow pace of development consistent with the capacity of the local market to absorb new supply without a detrimental impact on price levels.
The unusual role played by Newhall's active landowners, the Moen brothers, as the place promoter demonstrates how a buoyant housing market needs to be coupled with a long-view of market returns, if place-making is to be left largely to the private sector.
However, even in favourable market conditions seen at Harlow, the private-sector approach was unable to deliver social infrastructure in advance of, or alongside, housing development, even if it achieved satisfactory provision of physical infrastructure. Newhall offers Scotland some limited pointers in relation to the development of new settlements or major greenfield extensions in well established and healthy market conditions, but it also provides a warning that wholesale reliance on the private sector may create places initially lacking in social infrastructure.
Adamstown, Dublin, Ireland
Adamstown seems much like Newhall in its reliance on the private sector, albeit on a far greater scale with an intended development of 10,000 homes rather than the 2,500 eventually planned for Newhall. However, it is easy to misinterpret the developers' role at Adamstown and consider that their very substantial investment in land assembly and infrastructure provision could be readily replicated elsewhere. This would be to avoid the critical question of why even a well-resourced developer would expose itself to the long-term risk of what amounts to a development equivalent in scale to one of the early British new towns. The answer at Adamstown is to be found in the strategic rather than the operational intervention of the state in the development process.
Adamstown was initially planned when the booming Irish housing market necessitated the designation of Strategic Development Zones by a process that invited local authorities to make proposals to the Irish Government. The designation of Adamstown as an SDZ sent two important signals to the private sector:
- the sustained commitment by South Dublin County Council to facilitate the development by a streamlined approach to decision-making, rather than simply acting from a distance as regulatory authority, and
- the sheer scale of private-sector development proposed at Adamstown necessitated a strategic framework that limited the potential for immediate competition, which the SDZ process ensured.
This gave the developers confidence that their initial investment could be more than recovered as land values rose over time and enabled them to react to the recent downturn in market conditions by reducing the annual rate of development.
Here the lesson for Scotland concerns the role of the public sector in strategic market management and again in seeing the market relationship between the pace of development and the prospects of achieving development quality.
Castlefield (Britannia Basin), Manchester, England
Britannia Basin may also appear to be another private-sector led development, with the innovative approach of Urban Splash central to its success. Again, however, this would underestimate two critical public-sector interventions.
First, over a lengthy period of time, significant public-sector investment in the broader Castlefield area and then in nearby Hulme had transformed the central Manchester housing market, making the Urban Splash scheme viable by ensuring that it did not stand alone in a sea of deprivation, but instead could be well connected to what were already considered 'better places'. The connectivity of the Urban Splash development at Castlefield (Britannia Basin) was reinforced by public-sector investment in the extension of the Manchester Metrolink to Salford Quays, with the opening an adjacent new tram stop almost coinciding with the completion of the development.
More directly, the £2.1 million of support from English Partnerships towards land assembly came at a critical point in the development process in cash flow terms, enabling Urban Splash to take the risk of an innovative form of development.
Again, as at Adamstown, the positive approach of Manchester City Council, in doing what it could to speed the development through the regulatory system, bred confidence and reduced development risk. Castlefield (Britannia Basin) therefore points to the importance of long-term public sector commitment to concentrated urban regeneration and shows how this can eventually encourage sustained private-sector commitment to innovative and place-making.
Allerton Bywater, Leeds, England
Allerton Bywater required much greater state commitment to strategic market making, since unlike the Urban Splash scheme at Castlefield (Britannia Basin), there was very little similar surrounding development to connect with. This helps explain the scale of the English Partnerships' investment, which at £24 million, was more than ten times the amount invested in Castlefield (Britannia Basin) for roughly the same number of homes delivered. Again, however, as at Adamstown, this investment was not required to produce financial returns until the long term, as land was sold off to the eventual developers.
Even though Allerton Bywater itself had to be transformed into an active housing market as well as an attractive place to live by such state intervention, it had the good fortune to be located in a prosperous sub-region.It was close to Leeds, that had by then become the booming financial centre of the north of England. In regulatory terms, the design code provided the developers with certainty and ensured faster public-sector decision-making on individual projects, which reinforced the financial commitment of English Partnerships.
Each house at Allerton Bywater cost about £300,000 less than an equivalent dwelling at Newhall, reflecting the scale of public sector investment. For purchasers, Allerton Bywater thus provided excellent value for money in a booming regional housing market and this enabled the development to move ahead much faster than at Newhall. In short, reconciling place quality with strategic market transformation and a rapid pace of development required very substantial public sector intervention.
What is distinctive about the continental Europe examples is that this public sector commitment to market transformation, evident at Allerton Bywater was central, and indeed even more clearly apparent in Hammarby Sjöstad, IJburg and Vauban. While the transformation of Allerton Bywater from a former mining village into an attractive residential location depended on its economic linkage into the broader Leeds sub-region, new property markets at Vauban and IJburg, for example, were created from scratch by redeveloping within the city or bolting development on to it.
Vauban, Freiburg, Germany
All the Continental examples involved substantial public-sector commitment not merely to place-making but to creating the kind of market environments in which the private sector could most effectively be persuaded to contribute development of a quality not widely seen in the UK. In each case, local authorities played a central role in the delivery of each project, and not just in its regulatory control. At Vauban, the City Council spent DM 40 million on land acquisition and was subsequently able to fund 30% of the cost of the tram infrastructure from land sales. Another DM 5 million towards the cost of remediation and infrastructure came from the State Government.
This scale of investment put the City Council in the driving seat, while the specific form of spatial planning seen at a local level in Germany, created clarity and confidence for individual developers. Indeed, it created development framework that deliberately favoured smaller developers, co-operatives and individuals, rather than large-scale developers. Of course, were such an approach to be adopted in Scotland, the public sector may need to accept that smaller organisations tend to pay less for land than larger developers who can call upon scale economies. At Vauban, development proceeded at a rapid pace, with the main scheme of 1,800 units built out in around four years.
Hammarby-Sjöstad, Stockholm, Sweden
Hammarby Sjöstad involved the creation of an entirely new urban district in an area previously dominated by scrapyards and redundant industrial premises. Negative externalities alone would have prevented a private-sector led development, even on a piecemeal basis. Stockholm City Council's approach was to take the lead in assembling the site and creating the development framework, which provided a settled context for individual private-sector developers to take responsibility for specific portions of the site. In other words, public-sector intervention was essential to making the development happen by creating the development framework opportunity within which private developers could then concentrate on achieving returns while operating within contained risks.
Such clear intervention put the City Council in a strong position to require place quality, while ensuring a relatively rapid pace of development. Interestingly, Hammarby Sjöstad was originally intended as an Olympic site and like its counterpart in London, would have remained in a run-down state without a clear public-sector vision and commitment. Stockholm City Council's long-term commitment and investment in market making was therefore essential to drawing in the private sector on terms that prioritised place-making.
IJburg, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Much the same approach was taken at IJburg where the market as well as the place was created from scratch by public sector action and investment led by Amsterdam City Council. Like Adamstown, the strategic planning context has enabled IJburg to flourish as a major growth area in which developers could have confidence in the likely level of demand.
Phase 1 of IJburg is almost the same scale as Adamstown but has moved ahead considerably faster with 75% now built. The public-sector led nature of the scheme has ensured a clearer and more consistent development programme. Intriguingly it has tied developers in at an early stage though a form of development partnership that required the private sector to buy land at a price agreed in advance and also to contribute to infrastructure provision.
The scale of this commitment to both place and market transformation reduced risks for both private and public sectors. IJburg again shows what is possible when planning and development are seen as integrated activities led by the public sector and intended to provide a tempting platform to encourage private-sector contribution to place-making.
Place design and making markets - summary of evidence
The case studies thus offer clear and important lessons in relation to the economics of delivering better places. In most cases, policy aspirations require markets to be transformed or re-made in order for better places to be created. Importantly, successful places appear to interpret market transformation as a matter far wider than the housing market, seeing the important linkage that has to be made between housing demand and broader economic activity in the region. The potentially most isolated case study in housing market terms, Allerton Bywater, depends on the broader Leeds economy. The case studies therefore caution against seeking to develop entirely new places in regions where the local economy would not support a buoyant housing market.
Taken together, the case studies emphasise the importance of substantial public-sector commitment, expertise and investment, even if that investment is more than recouped in the long term. What the investment does is to reduce developer risk and therefore encourage developers to become more innovative and more strongly committed to place quality. It also has the potential to achieve development at a faster rate than the private sector could alone. If Scotland wishes to engage with the process of creating better places on a more sustained and broader basis, its policy-makers need to engage seriously with these economic essentials by re-thinking the extent of public-sector commitment and investment to market transformation.