Waterlooville Town Centre: Co-creating a design-led response that will reinvigorate a declining town centre

Towns & Cities

Feria Urbanism is privileged to be leading the team that was selected by Havant Borough Council to deliver a regeneration and implementation framework for Waterlooville town centre. With twenty submissions at the ITT stage and then four teams invited to interview, the competition was strong. Our team was selected as the best fit for this complex and important project for the town. The award-winning urban design and urban planning studio Feria Urbanism will lead a collaboration of eight practitioners and practices.

COMMUNITY-LED WALKING TOURS

The project began with a community-led research phase during November and December 2023. Local people – who know the town best – showed the project team the places that matter to them through a series of twenty-seven walking tours around the town centre. We tracked the chosen routes using GPS to create a map of the walks and this map now forms part of the evidence base for future designs interventions.

The in-person walking tours were complemented by a series of digital tours. These combine the Zoom video call platform with Google maps to create virtual version of the walking tour. Participants can ‘walk’ around the town centre in real time and their comments and observations are plotted using the Google map tool. This is a highly effective use of digital planning tools and gives an effective alternative to those unable to attend the in-person walking tours due to time limitations or restricted mobility issues.

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ENGAGING YOUNG PEOPLE

Richard has considerable experience involving young people in the urban design and urban planning process and in the next phase of this project, he was privileged to work with many young people in Waterlooville. With the kind support of the full-time teaching staff, Richard was able to work with the children and students at three primary schools, a secondary school and a sixth form college. The young people ranged in age from eight through to 18 years old. In total, he engaged with around 185 young people over the first two weeks over January 2024.

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To find out more about young people’s attitudes to the town centre, he used a used a variety of different techniques including “what if…?” questions, written surveys, model-making, video, mapping exercises, and an invitation to draw ideas for a better town centre. He also used OpenAI and Microsoft artificial intelligence programmes to generate images that can help visualise the ideas of young people.

“I want to express our heartfelt gratitude for your recent visit and the insightful presentation about the regeneration of Waterlooville town centre. You provided a valuable learning experience for our students, offering them a firsthand understanding of how regeneration proposals and plans come together. Witnessing the involvement of different stakeholders and gaining insights into the multifaceted aspects of urban regeneration was both educational and inspiring. The opportunity for our students to see geography in practice was truly fabulous. Your presentation highlighted the significance of their voices in the urban planning process, emphasising that their perspectives matter. This experience has undoubtedly enriched their academic journey and broadened their understanding of the real-world implications of urban development. Once again, thank you for contributing to our students' education and providing them with such a meaningful experience. Your expertise and insights have made a lasting impact, and we appreciate your commitment to fostering learning opportunities”
Urszula Broadway, Head of Geography, Oaklands Sixth Form College, Waterlooville

THE FESTIVAL OF IDEAS

The research phase that ran from November 2023 to mid-January 2024 developed the initial content for the Festival of Ideas. This was conceived and produced by Feria Urbanism in collaboration with the wider project team and ran between Monday 22 January and Thursday 25 January 2024.

We were always keen to take the next phase of the project into the heart of the town centre by transforming an unused space into a thriving hub of creative activity. There is something symbolic about this type of takeover, a civic gesture signalling change and optimism. We installed a new shopfront design on No. 95 London Road to create a dedicated project hub for four days. It became a classroom, a design studio, a debating chamber, and café … a place where ideas were shared, and new worlds created.

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The first day began with a presentation on what we know so far, based on the results of the walking tours with residents and the workshops with local schools. Next up, was a thought-provoking series of talks and discussions on the topics of demographics, socioeconomics, and land ownership. The afternoon included model-making from local children and mapping out a series of architectural interventions that could unlock various development sites. The strategic town-wide plan started to take shape that evening.

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The second day was busy from the moment the doors opened with people keen to take part in this opportunity to design the future. We started with an inspiring talk about how more landscape and green infrastructure in the town centre can benefit mental health, can offer play opportunities, and can create intergenerational spaces. We then headed outside the design a prototype space at 1:1 scale using Feria Urbanism’s foam blocks, real trees, and washable paints. Next, we explored architectural responses to five different town centre districts before mapping specific buildings against benchmarks for climate resilience, energy demand and energy generation. The debate and discussion continued through the afternoon. By the evening, significant progress had been made towards a consensus urban design framework plan.

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The third and final day began with an exploration of access and movement issues, inviting those taking part to develop a car parking strategy. We asked them to examine pricing, duration, and location of car parks, together with thinking of the best ways to overcome the big barriers to easy pedestrian movement. These activities were all done within the context of the emerging spatial plan, so we can develop a movement strategy responsive to the type of town centre we all want to see. We then developed the main headings of the Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) that is needed to lock in all the ideas, creating a workable and statutory planning document that can help the deliver changes people want. And by late afternoon, we had sketched out a revised urban design framework drawing that captures all the ideas and aspirations we have heard over the festival week. On the final evening, approx. eighty people gathered to listen to our closing presentation.

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The Waterlooville Festival of Ideas has received widespread recognition with coverage from the BBC News website, BBC Radio Solent, ITV Meridian News, The Portsmouth News, The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail.

NEXT STEPS

In March 2024, there will be a Gallery & Exhibition of the refined design propositions, hosted in the same venue used for the Festival of Ideas. The project is scheduled to conclude in May 2024 when the final reports, documents and plans will be agreed with the client team at Havant Borough Council. This webpage will be updated at the right time to report on these future phases. More to follow.