The future city

A panel discussed how cities like Derby can develop in the future, highlighting the importance of people, partnership working and the spaces in between buildings.

The panel comprised: Bart Somers, Mayor of Belgian city Mechelen; Yolande Barnes of UCL's Bartlett Real Estate Institute; John Forkin, Managing Director, Marketing Derby; Fraser Cunningham, Partner, Smith Partnershp; and Paul Clarke, Chief Planning Officer at Derby City Council.

Talking about some of the challenges in developing a city, John Forkin told delegates "Initially you need to seek investors that are market making, people that understand the metrics that drive a city like Derby. For us, that comes back to the people - using the strong local profile to create confidence that the opportunity is here."

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Bart Somers said "Investors and developers follow the market. If you want to progress your city you have to build the market and it’s not always easy to do. You have to work with developers to get the resolution. You must progress and create a biosphere of people that share that vision and drive it forward."

Paul Clarke, Chief Planning Officer at Derby City Council said that the city's planners shared the vision for the improvement of the city, and that they welcomed developers working with them at pre-app stage before submitting a formal application.

John Forkin said "Public-private partnerships are a way of getting things done and Derby has a great track record in this respect." As a member of Derby's Cathedral Quarter BID board, Fraser Cunningham of Smith Partnership spoke about the success of the BID in harnessing the support of local businesses for the development of the Quarter - he gave examples of the new Museum of Making and the Derby Ram Trail in 2020 as catalysts for Derby's visitor economy.

Yolande Barnes said that the key is investing in flexible, changing, multi-use buildings "as we have no idea how we are going to be using buildings in ten years time, let alone 50 and the lifespan of a building and a city is so much more than that."

She went on to explain "There isn’t a tension between whether you are a market town or a city, the key to both is the people - the communities they make, the space they can interact in and the ways they can do that. Everything is interlinked and we need to be so much cleverer to make a city successful in the future - we need to think about the spaces between the buildings and the relationships formed there."

Looking at what the city of the future might look like, the panel agreed that a few small interventions can have a significant impact - trees, lighting, water etc. Bart Somers said he was optimistic, "I think it will be a much more pleasant place to be. It’s a place you don’t need a car; a city of a thousand villages. It will be a much more shared environment, gardens will be public places where people can have a BBQ and meet people. People will co-work. Greenery changes the environment immediately. That’s how you make people want to be there, live there, work there."

Yolande said "A city of the future has to be everything and so much more - things that haven’t even been conceived yet. The fabric of the city has to be able to adapt and evolve accordingly."