North Berwick Town Centre Charrette

17 October 2017 | blog, charrette, street design, town centres, working with communities

Understanding the town - community design session at the North Berwick Town Centre Charrette

“Is North Berwick Town Centre a great place for everyone? Are you interested in how the town works, how parking and traffic are organised or have ideas about how walking and cycling can be made easier or the environment improved? Then come along and get involved.”

To explore these questions, the North Berwick Town Centre Charrette was launched on 30 May 2017, with design workshops running in various locations in the town centre from Thursday 1 – Saturday 3 June 2017. This interactive urban planning and design exercise was open for all to take part in and was an opportunity for local people to work with a design team to develop ideas and test out suggestions that may make the Town Centre work better for everybody.

We were appointed as part of a team led by Kevin Murray Associates with Urban Movement. North Berwick Coastal Area Partnership commissioned the Charrette, with support from East Lothian Council and funding from the Scottish Government Charrette Mainstreaming Programme.

Pre-Charrette events and survey

Ahead of the Charrette events, the team engaged with over 400 people through local schools, North Berwick Day Centre, North Berwick Youth Project and other groups to generate ideas to feed into the Charrette and gain insight into the town centre. The key ideas emerging from the pre-Charrette engagement were the narrow width of the pavement, the lack of crossings on the High Street, managing deliveries and waste collection, creating space for seasonal events, a community bus loyalty scheme, creating attractive walking, and cycling routes. There was also a survey, which was sent to over 7,000 addresses in the North Berwick Coastal Partnership Area. The survey responses indicated that:

  • pedestrianisation – a range of different forms was suggested, from full pedestrianisation to timed pedestrian times with consideration for Blue Badge and servicing access
  • need to retain vehicular access – again a range of options was suggested from keeping access as it currently is to limiting access by time or for Blue Badge or servicing only
  • safer streets – reducing the feeling of threat from moving vehicles through wider pavements, with even surfaces
  • new uses in the town centre such as markets or festivals
  • retaining the character and vibrancy of the town centre – including ensuring that there is a diversity of retail in the town centre and preventing the street from being filled entirely with one use, such as coffee shops
  • independent shops – these are popular and being able to retain the ones that are there and attract new independent shops was identified as an important aspect of the town centre’s character
  • the quality of High Street needs to remain high – some shop fronts and buildings require maintenance or cleaning to ensure that the quality of the town centre remains high
  • community transport including Park and Ride was suggested as well as a community bus service that serves the town with a regular route was mentioned often
  • community transport including Park and Ride was suggested as well as a community bus service that serves the town with a regular route was mentioned often
  • social spaces – people inevitably meet others they know when they are in the town centre – having more places that are pleasant to stop and chat in without having to step into the roadway to let people past were suggested
  • other ideas for the town centre included additional toilets and changing facilities, clean pavements, more cycle racks, venues for arts and performances

On pedestrianisation, while the full range was discussed, the analysis highlighted that there was a spectrum from total to none and the majority of the responses sat in the middle. This proved to be useful information in understanding opinions and helped others to understand that the majority do not see this as a binary issue, but something that is likely to have degrees of flexibility in it.

 

major traffic issues on High Street, North Berwick Town Centre Charrette

The Design Workshops

During the design workshops, a variety of techniques and tools were used to aid the community and the design team to get into the issues and begin to generate ideas for solutions and to test these. This was an iterative process, beginning with a shared walk and discussion using the Place Standard tool. This set up the issues for discussion over the next few sessions. These were:

  • movement and connectivity (Town Centre walking environment, accessing the Town Centre from outlying areas, cycling, community transport)
  • traffic and parking (including enforcement)
  • equal access (for different users from different ages, restricted mobility, etc)
  • facilities (eg art centre, youth facilities, toilets etc)
  • sustainability

Through the next few sessions, the discussion around these ideas generated ideas that were tested and further developed. The main outcomes from these sessions were:

  • a low-speed environments
  • possible parking regimes
  • connections to housing areas
  • character, quality, views
  • shuttle bus link-loop
  • social inclusion
  • links + crossings + junctions

 

The Placemaking Strategy and Vision

Through all of the discussions the team were also working to pull together a vision and placemaking strategy for the Town Centre:

“A friendly, universally accessible place that makes the best use of its distinctive historic fabric to connect locals and visitors with…
– an enjoyable and effective movement network
– a range of well-connected uses and amenities
– good information, signing and parking regime
– a choice of homes, shops and services
– a positive and welcoming culture
…delivered through a positive medium-term community plan to improve conditions for everyone.”

From the 44 projects that emerged from the Charrette, the following were the top three from the discussions and the action planning exercise on the final day of workshops:

  1. The east end of the High Street – making major people-focused improvements to walking and access conditions along this section of the street (See 1. Improvements for People Movement, Category F).
  2. The Parking Strategy – Enacting an effective strategy will enable other projects and will contribute to creating a people-focused Town Centre and improve parking turnover for short-stay visits.
  3. Other Improvements for People Movement – a programme that begins to make the Category changes that will combine to create a much-improved walking environment and create a strong place through more space for people and activities.

 

Action Plan

As with many other Charrettes we have been involved in, the projects were gathered together into the following Action Plan Themes:

  • Street and Public Realm Improvements
  • Traffic and Parking
  • Character, Quality and Amenities
  • Sustainable Travel and Accessibility

The action plan sets out guidance and priorities for implementing the proposed vision based on sustainability, accessibility and community cohesion/building. It describes a strategy for North Berwick that meets the aspirations of the community – a place with equality of access and an attractive, people-focused environment.