Make it Happen – Constructive discussions, positive change

Make it Happen Conference

Dedicated to showcasing commendable design delivery and best practices amidst challenging times – Megan Askham from our Planning team recently attended the “Make it Happen” conference. Organised by a prestigious partnership between the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Urban Design Group (UDG), Royal Town Planners Institute (RTPI), and the Landscape Institute (LI) whose mission is to celebrate triumphs and share best practices within the vibrant realm of architecture and urban planning.

The ‘Make it Happen’ Conference

On 17th April 2024, I attended the ‘Make it Happen’ Conference delivered by the Urban Design Group, RTPI, RIBA and the Landscape Institute. The conference was dedicated to celebrating good design delivery and best practice during challenging times. The event promised to unite the public, private and third sectors, and academia in a shared pursuit of positive change within the built environment.

The conference consisted of 12 talks from a variety of professionals within the built environment sector. These included talks on place-based community engagement, digital planning, utilizing digital technology for design solutions, translating policy into places, community engagement, placemaking, heritage and sustainable development.

The Make it Happen conference was located within 1 The Great Northern Close, an award-winning building, which was the focus of James Dilley’s, from Jestico + Whiles, presentation. The presentation highlighted the visionary approach which utilises Nottingham’s forgotten canal system. Through the creation of an active frontage, including a vibrant piazza and outdoor events space, Binks Yard, the building creates safe, outdoor public spaces as well as vast public footpaths and cycle routes. The building houses a range of amenities including Cleaver & Wake, a restaurant, café, roof terrace and indoor events space. The design principles behind the building pay respect to Nottingham’s character by integrating specific architectural design elements inspired by the site, including distinctive windows and intricate brickwork. The development serves as a gateway to the forthcoming Island Quarter development.

Make it Happen Conference: The Island Quarter Jestico + Whiles
Image: Jestico + Whiles: The Canal Turn, Nottingham
Image: Jestico + Whiles: The Island Quarter, Nottingham

The Island Quarter is a 14-hectare site which has been derelict for 40 years. The masterplan has been submitted by Axis and Leonard design architects, who focused their talk on pre-application enquiries and community engagement. Engagement and consultation processes give local people the opportunity to express their opinions on proposed design solutions and actively participate in the design process. The consultation process involved engagement groups comprising heritage specialists, students, biodiversity groups, accessibility and inclusion advocates and various other stakeholders. As a result, the proposed development includes mixed-use facilities, appropriate Purpose-Built Student Accommodation, a biosciences hub, and provisions for cyclists, scooter riders and skateboarders, while maintaining the comforting familiarity of Nottingham’s unique character. Additionally, following additional consultation and engagement after the granting of outline permission, the masterplan has been revise to incorporate a 105% increase in greenspace, a 10% expansion in Gross External Area and a significant 46% reduction in parking spaces, which aligns closely with the feedback and preferences of consultees.

Image: The Island Quarter Masterplan, Ian Staples and David Jones

Finally, the stand-out presentation of the day for me was from Nottingham City Council delving into the realm of digital planning transformation via 3D Urban Modelling. Within the Council, 3D modelling plays a crucial part in the pre-application process to help assess major schemes and analyse their spatial relationships. The tool offers a comprehensive 3D map of developments, both in isolation and in a wider city context, incorporating layers such as shadow analysis and other extant planning permissions. By utilising this tool, stakeholders can better understand the proposed development’s impact on the surrounding area and assess the site’s capacity for development. Looking ahead, the Council aspires to expand the tool’s capacity to encompass various aspects such as highway schemes, flood risk assessments, green corridors, CCTV placement, tall buildings and consultation processes.

Image: Digital Planning Transformation through 3D Urban Modelling, Mick Dunn, Nottingham City Council

The conference provided an invaluable opportunity for professionals within the built environment sector to delve into effective design delivery and best practices, engage in enriching discussions and forge new connections within the industry. I look forward to any forthcoming events hosted by the Urban Design Group, RTPI, RIBA and the Landscape Institute.

Megan Askham, Planner, Planning & Design Practice Ltd

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