Monday, 19 November 2012

Principles for developing a new town centre in Prudhoe

About two years ago I first launched off into the subject of Prudhoe Town Centre floating the concept of The Hanging Gardens of Prudhoe. Perhaps that was open to mis-interpretation? A great deal has happened since then and a great deal had already happened by October 2010. Yet in November 2012 and despite the award of planning permission on June 20th 2012 to the Duke of Northumberland for a new town centre there is little imminent sense of anything about to happen, Two factors in the present hiatus are perhaps at work. One might be Spencer Court at Newburn. The other is not a might be but a certainty. All along through the present scheme, the people of Prudhoe believed Sainsbury was on board as the operator of the planned supermarket. But during late October 2012 (earlier in some people's minds) Sainsbury made it very clear from CEO level that they were having nothing to do with the Prudhoe scheme and had no present ambition to open a supermarket here.

What happens next? Potentially nothing which for those properties neighbouring and thereby blighted is a dismal thought. The Duke has his planning permission (or does he because "Section 106" is not yet signed off?). He can sell it on, he can find another supermarket (would any other chain going into the detail of this complex and controversial project make a different call to Sainsbury?). He could seek to vary the consent and perhaps just build houses. Or he could say the way this has gone on these last few years has not produced any winners, how else could things be made to work?

What follows is blue sky thinking on the assumption that either the landowner wishes to work with the community to deliver aspirations welcomed by both groups or the landowner has been persuaded to sell the land to a body like the Prudhoe Community Partnership and there is then the promise of a community led redevelopment.

What sort of principles in designing a new town centre in 2012 could be adopted?

Suggested watchwords: 21st century, respect for one's neighbours, work with not against the hillside, a new supermarket is desirable, provision for artizan/small town scale operations which draw the folk to the community, the new Legion building, something cutting edge for creatives/self employed/internet cafe/studio style business, build on the solid gardening traditions of the site, the Alnwick Garden and the Prudhoe Gardeners Association,  ensuring that the non-car owning public have ready access to the core of any new development (that is not so with what is on offer see here), ensuring a brand name or strap line exists from early in the project to give it life and suggest it is a destination, using the tools of 21st century social media to develop the concept and to maintain a FAQ during its implementation (e.g. Second Life visuals).

Who would lead? If the Prudhoe Community Partnerhip took a lead, they would need to retain "honest broker/mentor skills" from development experts. A range of such agencies local and national exist. In no particular order I suggest some: Glasshouse Building Living Neighbourhoods Northern Archictecture Xsite architecture and Tim Bailey Bardon Mill's 21st century partially underground village hall Christoph Oschatz and Design by Kiosk in Bensham ArchDaily

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