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        Guest blog by Shauna Bradley

        Urban Splash always strives to do the right thing

        10 July 2024
        A 4 minute read by Shanua Bradley

        Inspired by our International counterparts, we’re actively integrating as many green spaces into our neighbourhoods as possible, acutely aware of the benefits it brings to our communities.

        Here we chat to Shauna Bradley, Partner at Howells and architect of our Port Loop development in Birmingham, which encapsulates this vision with its abundance of traffic-free green streets, communal gardens, public parks and playgrounds.

        Port Loop is a 43-acre, canal-side site in Birmingham, just 15 mins from the city centre offering 1,150 new homes, retail and leisure spaces. Working with Urban Splash and their partners Places for People to bring the development to life has been a wonderful experience as we share their vision of providing a lifestyle for our residents, not just bricks and mortar. This overarching ambition was clear from the get go with the original manifesto specifying that this was a place that would embrace community in the form of abundant shared green and blue spaces.

        Shauna Bradley (left) and the team from Howells

        That comes down to creating neighbourhoods that allow people to bond, play and relax. There’s so much to be gained by being surrounded by greenery, it really needs no explanation- it’s enriching and transforms a space from being merely practical to a place where children can wander safely, without the risk of vehicles but rather, immersed in nature.

        We had a rare opportunity at Port Loop with the canal an integral part of the landscape. The classic terrace has been revolutionised to create a contemporary and spacious home that overlooks the water which can be accessed at the bottom of some of the gardens. The water is safe for children to play in and residents can sail and paddle board, opening up a new way of life similar to European culture.

        Canal side living at Port Loop in Birmingham

        Evoking the wholesome nostalgia of the 1940’s

        As an architect you’re forever inspired by design around the world, and Europe provides a great deal of stimulus. Whilst Port Loop isn’t based on one particular scheme, it does reflect the norm in places like Copenhagen, where shared green spaces are openly integrated. Instead of boundaries and boulders causing separation between homes, we’ve adopted their approach of shared spaces.

        For example, four terraces - 40 homes share one large garden - so instead of forty trampolines and forty lawn mowers - there’s just one. It’s not just practical benefits however, feedback from residents has been enthused - they all get to enjoy a garden forty times the size of an individual one, whilst having the opportunity to connect and bond. Children play with one another and really, we’re echoing the streets of the 40’s where kids can play out 'til tea and neighbours can seamlessly integrate. Community is at the heart of Port Loop.

        Brick House shared gardens at Port Loop in Birmingham

        It’s groundbreaking for the UK and testament to Urban Splash who always strive to do the right thing. It’s never been about numbers, they’ve inspired us to push the boundaries to create a sustainable and lovely place to live. Whilst it’s not strictly for families, the manifesto is clear that this is a place where there will always be children playing - this is a fundamental part of its purpose.

        Brick House homes at Port Loop

        Evolving as we learn

        Port Loop is not city centre and it’s not suburbia - it’s a harmonious mix which is echoed in the masterplan and incorporates 65 homes per hectare. Over 40% of the site area is dedicated to green and blue space - a magnificent number which really cements just how integral this vision was for Urban Splash. It’s a new concept for the UK, and as a result there were a few challenges - we only just scraped through on the vote with Birmingham Council Planning Committee to be allowed shared gardens as it’s just not the norm. Fortunately, having now been able to show various authorities how the space is being enjoyed, they are now fully on board which will help to shape the way for future proposals.

        Community events at Port Loop

        The first phase of 140 homes is now occupied and resident feedback has further shaped our intention for the next phases. We’ve slightly adjusted where cars will be parked so views can remain untarnished and children and pets are safer to roam. The next phase will also create an additional public park, which we feel is incredibly important. It opens up the space to the wider community and makes sure it feels integrated and an organic part of its surroundings.

        Visiting Port Loop on a sunny day really makes it hit home what a glorious use of space this is, and I look forward to seeing the next phases come together to enhance the beauty of what has already been created.

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