There has been a lot of talk about the growth of the nascent BTR housing market in Scotland in recent months, but very little about the importance of communities.
For me, the key to sustainable development is in creating places, not simply delivering buildings. Creating places in which people want to live, work and play: places that promote healthy, sustainable lifestyles and that attract visitors, talent and investment.
Placemaking is a collaborative approach to planning, design and development. It is not a new concept, of course. In fact, in Scotland, it is referenced in national planning policy.
To quote Kevin Stewart, minister for local government and housing, in the Scottish government’s latest consultation paper on proposals to strengthen the planning system: “The places where we live, work and play can have a major impact on our health, wellbeing, sense of identity
Making places is about creating sustainable communities where people can live and also work, relax, shop, eat and learn - and there are already some fantastic examples.
Take Edinburgh’s Quartermile, which has integrated retail, leisure and residential development with flexible office space to create a campus feel. And it is yards away from the University of Edinburgh, which delivers an ongoing supply of highly skilled graduates. In fact, the university will soon be located at Quartermile when it converts the former surgical hospital building at the development into a hub that will unite business and public policy.
The result of all of this is a real community, a thriving place where businesses want to be and their people want to work and learn.
The key is to start with placemaking as a core principle. Whether it is a new garden city or a mixed-use development in the centre of the Scottish capital, placemaking must shape thoughtful, considered design right from day one.
If not, it will be too late to deliver the economic and societal benefits that are so advantageous.
Placemaking may seem a romantic notion, almost like a modern-day equivalent of the Victorian model villages built to accommodate factory workers close to their places of work. However, it is a proven formula that is already helping to transform towns and cities for the better.