Design South East organised a study tour to the award-winning Rochester Riverside development in Medway on 6th October, which was attended by over 30 members of our Kent Design network. We enjoyed a round of presentations from the council and design team, which told the story of the site’s development over the past 30 years. It highlighted the key role of the local authority in assembling such a complex site and working with locals to drive forward a vision for its regeneration. Speakers from Allies and Morrison and BPTW brought us through the masterplan’s key principles and how the architecture responds to Rochester in a contemporary way.
The guided tour of the development showcased the importance of street-based urbanism that is easy to understand and respects views to landmarks like Rochester Cathedral. The connection with the River Medway is a key part of the new neighbourhood’s character, which is further celebrated through public art, excellent landscape design and the refurbishment of a historic crane on-site.
Attendees remarked that the scheme feels unique and yet a natural part of Rochester and were impressed with the pedestrian experience and how the scheme deals with parking (always a tricky issue!). Other highlights include the range of home types on offer, the success of the landscaping and public realm design, and the flexibility built into the plan by using urban blocks that are adaptable to changes in the market by accommodating either homes or apartment blocks.
The tour finished with a visit to the marketing suite where a member of the developer team confirmed that the homes are selling extremely well, a testament to the quality of the design and superb location.
Here are some of our key takeaways:
- Medway Council outlined the challenges and opportunities of the site in Medway dockyards. With an area comprised of transitional mixed uses spread across 35 land ownerships, the development met with initial conflicts which were resolved with the implementation of a Masterplan SPD and Compulsory Purchase Order.
- Collaboration between the Council, Homes England and National Rail led to the setting up of key objectives for the redevelopment, which were to look beyond the site boundary and integrate the scheme with sustainable and exemplary design strategies.
- A positive, collaborative working relationship between the local planning authority (Medway Council), developer (Countryside) and design teams (Allies and Morrison, BPTW, HTA Design and others) was essential to realising the vision for the site. PPAs were used to set the timeframe for these meetings up front.
- Significant community engagements over 3-4 sessions led to input and buy-in from the existing community and contributed to only one objection at planning stage.
- The Design Review Process was an important step in achieving design quality, particularly in relation to parking provision and how the architecture responds to its context. It gave the applicant team ammunition to seek flexibility on some policy requirements, including around parking, whilst also being a powerful tool for the local authority to use to push the applicant team further.
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Image Source: Design South East