Landscape and Townscape Strategy // Cramlington, Northumberland, UK // 2014
Cramlington: Vision for a new Garden Town.Cramlington is a town that is gradually coming of age. It is a prosperous, growing place, whose position adjacent to the two main roads into Northumberland and on the East Coast Main Line locate it as "Gateway to Northumberland”.
Despite it's current expansion, relative prosperity, and growing regional influence, the town suffers from a lack of character in many areas, a legacy of its post-war planning. Looking to the future, with large-scale expansion in the pipeline and with this new possibilities for inward investment, the challenge for Cramlington is to steer these transformations to move the spirit of the place from the generic to the specific, to create a town full of unique, characterful places which inhabitants identify with and are proud to call their own.
The copious swathes of green space running through Cramlington represent both a significant challenge and an enormous potential in this respect. We understand the restructuring of the public realm as key to effecting this transformation going forward and is the basis for our landscape and townscape strategy. Getting the public relam right is the point of departure for transforming Cramlington into a Contemporary Garden Town, with a verdant, healthy and well-used landscape.
The Guiding PrinciplesIn our strategy, a set of key principles inform specific proposals to improve the landscape and townscape of Cramlington. They derive from the Vision for Cramlington as Northumberland’s first contemporary garden town.
These principles are:
- Rus in Urbe (Bringing the countryside into the town)
- Legible Cramlington
- A Coherent Town Centre
- Respect the Past, Look to the Future
- Actions not words (Cultural/Sport/Civic mobilisation)
- Each District a Place (Residential Identity)
- Access all Areas (Pedestrians and bicycles first)
- Quality not Quantity (Targeted Public Realm improvements)
- This Land is your Land (Access to the countryside)
- Don't ignore, Repair (Tackling problem areas head-on)
`Rus in Urbe´: bringing the Countryside into the townThere are enormous areas of undifferentiated underused, characterless, or otherwise qualitatively undefined municipal grassland in Cramlington. Much of this takes the form of extensive roadside verges and interstitial green spaces between housing districts, the latter often associated with the pedestrian and cycle network. Whilst contributing little to the town, these green spaces are expensive to maintain, their homogenous character disorienting and they often act as a hindrance to a healthy, urban interaction between cars and pedestrians. The idea behind Rus in Urbe is to use these grassland areas to introduce linear woodland with glades of wild flowers and native shrubs. This will completely change the appearance, biodiversity and economy of landscape in the town, whilst reducing maintenance costs and introducing a visual delight which is currently lacking.
Green Network and TopographyOne of Cramlington’s great strengths is the proximity and immediacy of the rural landscape. One has only to pass over (or under) the outer grid of roads to be in a true rural landscape: Cramlington has no suburbs, and the rural landscape is one that contains many attractive recreational areas. The reclamation of the former scars of deep and open-cast mining has created a pattern of woodland, wetlands and nature reserves, accessible via an extensive network of public rights of way.
By examining these networks and connections, together with the town's topography and the proposed Rus in Urbe landscape interventions, we have identified a potential ecological matrix connecting the town and its surroundings. By developing the landscape, surface water drainage and paths and roads as a symbiotic whole, a broad ecological potential can be identified in the town's deep structure, the armature for a sustainable future.
Movement interaction PointsCramlington has an extensive network of pedestrian and cycle infrastructure, largely separate from its road network, running through public green spaces and connected across the roads with underpasses. This system enables pedestrian to move around the town easily and the associated green spaces are an important civic, ecological and bioclimatic asset. But the resulting lack of interaction with other forms of traffic is disproportionate to traffic loads and the prevailing speed limits. Crossing point locations (for underpasses, bus-stops and the like) are generally close to roundabouts where traffic speeds are further reduced. Despite there being few dedicated crossings or even pavement provision in most circumstances, it is evident that many people prefer to cross roads at grade than through the sunken and often desolate underpasses. Bus stops on major traffic routes, often located close to major junctions, are also unwelcoming, often difficult to find, and in some cases can only be accessed using stairs.
The town needs to allow pedestrians to go where they want to and in safety. We propose a series of alterations at strategic points to explore a more inclusive, shared and interactive public realm, creating an active streetscape and aiding orientation.
Gateways, Hubs and EntrancesThere are now a total of eleven residential districts with more to be created in the southwest sector development, each representative of the time it was constructed. They are generally entered off major junctions with extensive landscaped surroundings, often at roundabouts. These are important orientation points in the town, places when you need to know you have arrived somewhere, or are entering a specific place, slowing down, approaching a destination or otherwise taking your bearings. Traditionally, they would be the locations of landmarks or significant, notable urban elements, helping people to know where they are and where they are going (“Turn left at the King’s Head”). But in Cramlington, such locations are generally homogenous, undifferentiated, and lacking in character, landmarks or any other element that could assist orientation or otherwise positively contribute to the urban experience. We propose that each residential district have its own distinctive entrance and accessible open space and that other landmark "Gateways" are developed at strategic entrance and orientation points through the town, to improve legibility, and create urban diversity and identity.
South-East Cramlington: proposed InterventionsCramlington Southeast and Cramlington East were identified as the two districts needing immediate and specific attention, formulated as a concrete set of landscape and townscape proposals. Our suggested interventions have been developed through the application of the Framework Principals to these districts, which are understood as a test case for the other neightbourhoods of the town. Examples of interventions include:
- Turning Roads into streets
- Developing the public Realm around amenity hubs
- Locally led pocket parks throughout the area
- A new Eco-Park
- Entrance Gatzeways and orientation hubs
- Improved access across the A1 to the countryside
Analysis of the Town CentreWe have identified 12 Action Zones in and around the Town Centre where focused improvements can ameliorate its current problems, articulate the Principals, manifest the four-fold Strategy and deliver on the promise of the Vision. The Framework Principles are manifested in the Town Centre under the rubric of a four-fold strategy:
The Inner Identity - Creating a sense of place in the Town Centre;
Urbanising the edge - Passing through a Town Centre, not around;
Connecting the dots – Efficient pedestrian linkages to the rest of the town;
Articulating arrival – Designing the drama of coming into the heart of Cramlington.
Amenity Clusters and Public Realm ImprovementsIn addition to the urban definition of the Town Centre, a series of local amenity hubs have been identified in the outlying districts. In each of these locations, we propose landscape, public realm and urban improvements to develop the local offer and civic identity of these hubs.
Public Realm Proposal for Clifton RoadClifton Road is an important district amenity hub for East Cramlington, with several local shops, take-away meals, a social club, community centre and local support facilities for the elderly. It suffers from a misuse of road space, with a perfectly adequate car park being under-used, while cars park illegally next to the shops. It is a classic example of a multi-faceted urban design problem whose resolution will require co-operative action from a number of key bodies, including Northumberland County Council. We have proposed a specific Public Relam solution which addresses the problematic issues, whilst creating a sense of place, civic identity and allows the shared and appropriate use of space.