Infrastructure and public realm projects are a key component of the strategies to regenerate urban districts drawn up by Lord Rogers’ taskforce. Davis Langdon & Everest, with urban designer EDAW, examine the funding, procurement and cost of the schemes that will bring people back to the city

<b><FONT SIZE=”+2”>Introduction</FONT></b>The implementation of the government’s housing and transport policies will depend on the success of other initiatives to promote urban living. Lord Rogers’ urban taskforce has identified design excellence as a key element in unlocking the potential of urban districts. In this cost model, cost consultant Davis Langdon & Everest collaborated with planner and urban designer EDAW to examine the cost of urban design and infrastructure projects, in the context of the taskforce’s recommendations.
The taskforce report published last June, Towards an Urban Renaissance, posed a critical question: how can the quality of urban and rural life be improved while nearly 4 million homes are provided over the next 25 years? The government’s target of building 60% of new dwellings on brownfield land is at stake, as well as the challenge of developing cities while minimising increases in congestion and pollution, and the unsustainable use of resources. The report proposes changes that, in time, will result in urban areas becoming attractive places to live, work and play.
Urban design is seen as having a key role in this process, with the creation of compact, mixed-use developments being fundamental to the establishment of sustainable neighbourhoods. However, design alone will not bring about the breadth of change required, and the report also covers planning, local politics, public transport, urban regeneration, training and changes to the tax system to encourage private investment.
In this article, the key themes of Towards an Urban Renaissance are examined. Positive urban design initiatives on all scales are highlighted, focusing on one element of urban design: the public realm. Sources of funding in the public realm are discussed, as are procurement considerations and management and maintenance after completion.
<b><FONT SIZE=”+2”>Key themes of the urban taskforce report</FONT></b><b>Urban design</b>
The report says design is key to the success of urban districts. The context for discussing urban design is very broad, encompassing economic and social development issues together with an inevitable political dimension. Even if the scope of urban design were limited to the “bit between the buildings”, the outcomes would have a great effect on the quality of a development.
Other recommendations include:



  • The development of multi-use zones, incorporating a range of residential, business, shopping and leisure uses and creating active urban neighbourhoods
  • Greater flexibility in planning policies and development densities to permit the development of multi-use zones
  • The need for urban neighbourhoods to have a sufficiently large and diverse population to support the facilities and amenities envisaged, that is, the critical mass that is necessary for economic vitality.

The report is particularly concerned with how new developments will link with existing transport networks, and how an integrated transport system can promote the quality of urban life. The report includes evidence from the USA that shows that lighter traffic in residential areas increases the chance of people meeting and getting to know their neighbours. The many transport-related proposals include:

  • Local transport plans with targets for reducing journeys by car
  • Home zones, in which residential areas are given powers to control traffic within a neighbourhood
  • Increased public expenditure on projects that prioritise non-car transport
  • Prioritising transport needs of regeneration and low-income housing areas.

Poor management and neglect are identified as key reasons that people choose not to live in urban areas. To tackle this, the report recommends:

  • A strategic management role for local authorities, including powers to ensure that private homeowners maintain their property to acceptable standards
  • Increased community involvement in the regeneration process
  • Additional powers to enable local authorities to pursue regeneration schemes in partnership with the private sector
  • Greater investment in professional and technical skills related to urban regeneration.

<b>Recommendations and related issues</b>
The report contains more than 100 recommendations and considers other issues broadly related to the demand for new housing, the planning process, land recycling and remediation. It includes measures to increase private and public sector investment in urban areas. These recommendations are to be converted into a legislative programme by means of an urban white paper, first announced in October 1998.
<b><FONT SIZE=”+2”>A strategy for the public realm</FONT></b>The public realm can be considered as the infrastructure for civic life, linking people and places. Large-scale issues that need to be addressed by a public realm strategy as part of a wider urban design initiative include:

  • <b>Encouraging mixed use</b> Determining the choice of facilities and opportunities available to the public, attracting new occupiers, extending the vibrancy of central areas and diversifying the economy. For example, the establishment of a diverse evening economy in town centres, based on retail, entertainment and residential uses, will make these areas more dynamic, more attractive and, as a result, more secure. Such areas are often synonymous with the creation of a civic space. Recent examples include the Little Germany area of Bradford and Temple Bar in Dublin.
  • <B>Improving pedestrian circulation</b> Making pedestrian routes more direct or legible will encourage walking, potentially reducing levels of traffic. Ensuring that pedestrian routes are clearly signed, well-managed and safe is key to their success. Redirecting pedestrian flows through an area, rather than around its edges, can also increase activity in public spaces. Examples include historic town centres such as York, Canterbury and Winchester.
  • <b>Linking pedestrians to transport nodes</b> Walking should be recognised as a form of transport that can be integrated with others; for instance, by displaying pedestrian route maps on bus shelters. The integration of trams into public spaces in Manchester is a good example.
  • <b>Accessibility</b> Improving links to and from existing transport hubs will make urban neighbourhoods more accessible and establish them as a destination. The accessibility needs of the disabled also need to be addressed. Wider pavements, ramps, tactile pavings and visual markers can all play a part.
  • <b>Identity</b> Establishing or strengthening the identity and character of an urban centre will again improve awareness and support the development of a diversified economy. The appropriate selection of surface materials, furniture and signage can help to establish an identity, as in Leeds city centre.
  • On a local scale, public realm issues include:
  • <b>Signalling change</b> Physical improvements to the public realm are a strong outward sign of a change in the management of an area.
  • Small-scale pavement improvements and signage in London’s Bankside have alerted residents and visitors to the large investments in the new Tate Gallery and Globe Theatre.
  • <b>Improving legibility</b> Improving street furniture, signage, banners and so on helps visitors grasp the layouts of an area and the various activities taking place there. A family of banners, hung along the length of the Spine Route on London’s South Bank, have helped to create an identity for what was previously a traffic rat run.
  • <b>Integrating traffic and pedestrians</b> A key objective of public realm planning is to redress the imbalance between vehicles and pedestrians by improving pedestrian routes and calming traffic. This is often achieved by blurring the boundary between roads and pavements, although the new priority of the pedestrian must be made clear to other road users. Techniques to achieve this include speed tables raised to pavement level to double as pedestrian crossings, with a change in paving signalling the priority of the pedestrian.
  • <b>Ensuring pedestrian safety and comfort</b> Measures include traffic calming and fixed barriers, and improved visibility so pedestrians and drivers can see each other more clearly.
  • <b>Providing security</b> Security issues comprise the security of premises and the safety of users, and must be addressed in consultation with the police, community representatives and insurers. Security is best provided by the constant presence of people, which is supported by mixed-use development and the management of pedestrian flows. Building design, good lighting and CCTV coverage also help to keep citizens secure.
  • <b><FONT SIZE=”+2”>Funding</FONT></b>The involvement of private sector organisations in the funding and management of public realm projects is increasingly vital if a project is to be a success.
  • When involved, private clients take the lead primarily out of self-interest. Their motives are to improve the condition of their surroundings and the personal safety of their staff, as well as to gain prestige through being associated with a successful regeneration project. Private sector involvement will have a significant effect on a project, not least on the quality of the specification of items such as street furniture. Currently, public sector capital funding is available from European Union, central and local government sources. Much of this funding is redirected through the regional development agencies and English Partnerships. Sources of public money currently available include:
  • <b>The Urban II fund</b> This EU fund will be available from 2000 to 2006. Among a range of objectives, the funding aims to promote mixed-use, environment-friendly, brownfield site development and public transport.
  • <b>Regional Development Agencies Investment Fund</b> This fund replaces grants such as the City Grant, the Derelict Land Grant and English Estates. Funding is aimed at reclaiming and developing derelict and underused buildings to improve economic prospects. Assistance from the RDAs ranges from advice through loans and guarantees to direct development.
  • <b>Single Regeneration Budget Challenge Fund</b> About 80% of the resources of this fund are earmarked for comprehensive regeneration schemes in deprived areas. Objectives include promoting sustainable regeneration and improving and protecting the environment and infrastructure.
  • More radical funding mechanisms are proposed in the taskforce’s report. These include public-private investment funds linked to tax incentives for private investors.
  • Funding needs to be made available not only for construction, but also for the long-term maintenance of a scheme. As local authority budgets are limited, it is often necessary for the private sector to provide additional funding, or resources through sponsorship, to ensure an acceptable level of maintenance and management.
  • One option for funding maintenance, suggested in the report, is a jointly funded public-private management arrangement called a Town Improvement Zone. At present, local businesses cannot be legally obliged to make financial contributions to a TIZ, which means that some businesses could freeload on others. By making TIZs statutory bodies, contributions could be enforced by a local authority, as they are in the USA.
  • <b><FONT SIZE=”+2”>Procurement, programme and consultation</FONT></b>The procurement route and programme of any urban design project will be strongly influenced by the client body. Most projects involve a local authority, either as client or increasingly as an agent on behalf of a consortium. The involvement of local authorities will mean it is necessary to follow their elaborate procurement and contract rules – covering public consultation, methods of procurement and internal approvals – that often involve several committees.
  • As a result, construction can take place much quicker than design, which is particularly dependent on lengthy processes of third-party approvals and public consultation.
  • The number of “affected parties” on an urban design scheme is often considerable, and even identifying them can be a lengthy operation. After they have been identified, it is necessary to determine the rights of freeholders, leaseholders and occupiers. Only after this can formal public consultation start.
  • One area of consultation that requires particular attention is the safety audit, which can significantly affect the proposed street landscape. For instance, installing safety barriers around pedestrian crossings may compromise the original design intent. It is advisable to negotiate with safety officers to comply with safety guidelines, taking in risk assessment and appraisals of similar antecedents.
  • Many urban design projects are procured using traditional lump-sum contracts, although there could be an option to use term contractors if a local authority is involved in the project. Where the construction logistics are complicated, management-type contracts, such as construction management, can be used to address issues such as:
  • Phasing of the works to minimise disruption to affected parties
  • Uncertainties that arise when working around or relocating existing site services
  • Long lead-in times sometimes experienced with utilities works or the procurement of non-standard street furniture.
  • The typical scope of an urban design project extends beyond simple resurfacing and hard landscape work. The contract works can be measured using any one of the recognised methods of measurement such as the CESMM, the SMM or the Highways Agency MM, although all have some shortcomings in specific areas.
  • The construction programme is largely dependent on the working method adopted by the contractor, and is particularly affected by the proposed method of traffic and pedestrian management. In programming the works, a balance between the
  • length of programme and the disruption caused needs to be found.
  • The type of highway and the temporary traffic management method adopted may require approvals from the relevant highway authority and may involve restricted working hours. Any working method needs to consider issues such as access/exit from site, deliveries, emergency routes and so on.
  • <b><FONT SIZE=”+2”>Management & maintenance</FONT></b>Even the most carefully considered urban design scheme is likely to fail if it is not backed up by a long-term management and maintenance plan. The management implications of a scheme should be considered early in the design, including issues such as:
  • <b>Legal entity</b> The structure of any management organisation needs to be established
  • <b>Funding</b>An annual source of revenue or a capital fund should be guaranteed
  • <b>Management</b> The scope of the management service needs to be defined.
  • It could include maintenance, security, public events and plans for future improvements
  • <b>Legal powers</b> The powers available to the managing authority need to be established so that appropriate action can be taken, as in licensing trading.
  • The maintenance of the works, including any new public spaces, can often be carried out in conjunction with a local authority. The authority may already have term contractors appointed for the works required, but public-private partnership schemes often demand a standard of service higher than the norm for local authority work.
  • <b><FONT SIZE=”+2”>Urban improvements – cost breakdown</FONT></b>The cost breakdown is based on an urban landscaping scheme with an overall area of 25 000 m2. The works comprise paving works, hard landscaping and street furniture installations. The breakdown also includes the cost of enabling works and services diversions.
  • The cost breakdown is accompanied by schedules of rates for urban landscaping and infrastructure works.
  • Costs are current for the fourth quarter of 1999, based on a location in south-east England. The level of pricing assumes procurement on the basis of a lump-sum contract.
  • Adjustment should be made to the costs detailed in the model and the schedules of rates to account for variations in phasing, specification, site conditions, procurement route, programme and market conditions.
  • <b><FONT SIZE=”+2”>Urban landscape indicative rates</FONT></b>The wide range of variables affecting public realm landscape projects result in it being difficult to define a model scheme. These variables include factors relating to site conditions, the extent of enabling works and services diversions, as well as issues related to product specification.
  • The indicative rates set out below cover a wide range of work encountered on public realm projects. Costs of street furniture, in particular, vary widely, as a result of the wide range of available specifications. Costs are at fourth-quarter 1999 rates, based on a South-east location. The rates exclude preliminaries.
  • <b><FONT SIZE=”+2”>Infrastructure indicative rates</FONT></b>Costs are at fourth-quarter 1999 rates, based on a South-east location. The rates exclude preliminaries.
  • The development of business parks and large-scale housing schemes can involve the construction of roads designed for heavy traffic flows or for adoption by the local authority. Indicative costs of roads and associated features are set out below.