Eastbourne Homes, Eastbourne Borough Council
The practice was appointed by the public sector partners to develop the Devonshire Design Framework (DDF), a comprehensive urban renewal strategy for Devonshire, a ward on the east side of the town. While popular as a place to live, the ward suffers significant deprivation as evidenced in overcrowded housing, worn out and illegible public realm and a low wage culture. Our initial step was to research a ‘Ward Profile’ to understand the condition of the ward as a place and community. Plan was then in a position to formulate the DDF presenting a wide range of deliverable projects covering the ‘four dimensions’ of economic development, social resilience, physical regeneration and cultural well-being within a coherent framework expressed through eight over-arching design objectives.
Matters of context relate to the way the ward fits into the regional economy as well as its natural and built surroundings. An important focus of the DDF was therefore addressing how the ward could contribute to the vitality and viability of Eastbourne and East Sussex by building stronger connections and taking advantage of the growing sectors within the economy. In physical terms, its location forms one of its key strengths. Proximity to the town centre and key points of infrastructure allow people to live convenient, connected lives and it nestles between the beautiful landscape of the South Downs and the sea.
The practice placed the community at the heart of the design process. This was done through a community engagement programme made up of three strands:
- Briefing sessions and workshops with key resident groups such as Charlies, a club for young people, local businesses and disability groups
- A day spent interviewing local residents during market day in Eastbourne
- A Community Planning Day. The aims of the day were threefold; it allowed, firstly, local people and stake holders to put forward and prioritise ideas on how the ward could be improved; secondly, thedesign team were able to raise initial findings from their work and air their initial impressions, and, thirdly, an information exchange could take place between the community and design team regarding public realm and development project opportunities.
Out of this a Community Brief was drafted that formed the main bridge between the engagement programme and the DDF itself, informing the design approach of the architects and urban designers involved.
The result of the project was a document that presents a rich and practical menu of projects, some ‘quick wins’ others of a more ambitious, long term nature. The philosophy of our approach would be that of collaborative urbanism – mobilising a wide array of public, private and civic players to bring forward projects both large and small that, collectively, will have a transformational effect on the area.
Ten years from now, we anticipate Devonshire Ward will be a beautiful place, in harmony with one of its key attributes, the natural landscape. It will offer a natural home to people starting out in life and a healthy and safe place to bring up a family and enjoy retirement; we expect to enrich the social and cultural infrastructure to build a fun, lively and thriving place full of unexpected delights and pleasures. It will be at ease with diversity, welcoming newcomers who wish to contribute to its thriving civic scene or set up a business. In short, a place that reflects the values of the people: a believe that life should be lived in full techicolour, a willingness to help others, a generosity towards new-comers and collective sense of pride in the place where they live.
Images by Jan Kattein Architects and Plan Projects.