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Fiona Scott

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An Urban Design Scholar's High Street highs and lows in suburbia

DECEMBER 8: This month saw many of the more disconnected elements of the last few months’ work starting to have a resonance.

Alongside the investigation of the Roman Road in Redbridge, I’ve been attending some meetings for the Dalston Interchange project, and I am in awe of the work Muf and their team are doing. It has highlighted to me once again the frequent polarisation of the issues between masterplanning and what happens on the ground.

The issues in Dalston have significance on the High Street in Ilford as well, where the existing small-scale local activity – which is what the High Street is particularly good at, goes almost undetected at the scale of planning and policy. Contrary to much planning and policy, its not just ‘retail’ that generates ‘activity’, its actually a whole host of varied small businesses and enterprises that bring the place to life.

The tenders came back for the Redbridge Roman Road Corridor urban strategy, so I’ve also been over at Redbridge, with one of my mentors, Eva Herr, discussing with their planning team the key criteria for the selection process, and what Redbridge should be getting out of the interview process with the shortlisted candidates.

As the credit crunch tightens its grip, it looks as if there will be increasingly fierce competition for local authority contracts, and the large number of high quality tenders for this project is both excellent news and unnervingly revealing.

I am looking forward to meeting the winning bidder, and hope we’ll have some good conversations about Suburban High Streets.

The last month’s work came to a head towards the end of November, with an evening crit at Palestra, where the loftily-named Scholars were called-upon to present their work to an intense panel of critics from DfL, AJ and RPS.

It was great to see the three projects together for the first time and I felt privileged to be involved in such an absorbing and far-reaching discussion.

The challenge now is how to marry the disciplines of the architect and the strategist, and do more than scratch the surface of the underexplored and complex outer London High Street.

Latest ‘to do’ list includes: high street plot sizes? definition of ‘mixed use’ block? and recipe book for high streets?

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