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Designing in the Task Force spirit

Architect Andrew Wright, who provided design and environmental input for the Rogers Task Force, has coincidentally been working on major regeneration project for Bilston in the Black Country, where a brownfield sit is to be remediated and remodelled to accommodate housing and employment uses in the spirit of the Urban Renaissance model.

Client for the Bilston Urban Village is Wolverhampton Metropolitan Borough Council and Advantage West Midlands rda/English Partnerships.

The 65ha site is to the south-east of Wolverhampton. Thick mine seams were intensively worked beneath the site, supporting many foundries and industry. Canals and railways once carried most of the freight traffic to the site. Until very recently, the area thrived with industrial activity.

Today the canal arm has been terminated. The site remains largely derelict, and has been used as a major land fill site. Most of the ground is loose fill. Beneath the site, old mine shafts need grouting and stabilising.

After invited competitive interview, Andrew Wright Associates were appointed as masterplanners with Peter Hunter acting as consultant, leading an integrated consultant team, including Ove Arup and Partners on engineering, Grant Associates on landscape, Bucknall Austin on costs and dtz Pieda on economics.

Extensive and essential remediation is an integral part of design, providing a compact mixed-use development running along the backs of the valley, with each plot afforded maximum views over the central landscape. The development is well served by public transport, which links to high quality pedestrian routes traversing the site, to restore links between the local communities (access to the Bilston Education Centre will be much improved). New development will be more commercially oriented alongside the Black Country Route, in more visible and prominent sites. A quieter residential mix encircles the park and runs along the canal to south. To the east of the site will be heavier, more traditional industries, but these shift to lighter employment uses towards and within residential areas.

The proposals include cleaning and restoring the canal and its banks; water from the canal is then fed along pathways and corridors to the central park, to a special wetland area that will provide a unique character and quality. A strategy for an integrated chp system will reduce energy use by 70 per cent.

An example of the benefits of integrated team-working, vital in the Rogers report's view, is the involvement of Ian Carradice and his geo-technical colleagues at OAP, and then Andrew Grant on landscape. Andrew Wright Associates identified the opportunity to use the essential (and massive) ground works operations to restructure the valley. Carradice was able to guide these aspirations technically, and with AWA working closely with Andrew Grant, the team designed a clear strategy for landscape, water and ecology. Kevin Peberdy of the Wetland Centre then produced a clear ecological concept.

With further specialist input, the land and terrain has been articulated so that surface water systems flow by gravity, via channels to the central pools and wetland areas.

The design is now moving to a three-dimensional framework, to ensure general urban form, and establish strategies such as the disposition of mixes.

Alongside these planning and strategic issues, guidelines will be developed to ensure principal frontages and edges give form, enclosure and boundary to public streets and spaces, all aimed at shaping a high-quality urban space for people to enjoy - what the Task Force has in mind.

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