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Walsall Gigaport masterplan, UK

We were appointed by Walsall Regeneration Company to study the potential of fibre optics to assist regeneration and attract investment to the town. We then prepared a spatial analysis and indicative concept development framework master plan with a data hub as a catalyst for new investment in business space, and prepared and submitted an outline planning application.

Our client gained value from the integration of our town planning team with our technical expertise in transport, communications, public consultation and environmental management.

Close liaison between ourselves, Walsall Council and Walsall Regeneration Company (including key stakeholder and community workshops) led to investigative studies which included ecology, heritage, contaminated land, noise and vibration, air quality, urban design and visualisation, flood risk and transport impact.

The Gigaport site is located on the northern side of the town centre, separated from it by the line of the new ring road (known as Littleton Street). Over time the ring road is likely to become very congested during peak hours and this area also currently experiences poor air quality from the high traffic levels.

Our services included town planning and master planning, urban design, visualisation, landscape, ecology, transportation, flood risk, air quality, noise and vibration, contaminated land, heritage, and consultation.

Challenges

Key issues identified by the studies included:

  • How to resolve the separation of the key development plots from the town centre and enhance development value as a result – eg footway links across the ring road

  • Identification of development opportunities in currently backland locations with scope to lift land values and viability

  • How to achieve greater vitality through mixed uses

  • Integration with other new uses eg college and parking

Solutions

The proposals were developed to encompass approximately 144,000m2 of new commercial floor space, a high quality hotel (4 star with conference facilities), new college expansion facilities, a health and sports facility and some 169 Live/Work units. There will be some limited supporting retail uses to add to the vibrancy and high quality public realm with extended pedestrian areas and limited vehicular access.

Public spaces will be a focus for events and activities to enable better integration with the town centre. The Walsall Gigaport would enhance benefits, especially the live/work concept which would use superb fibre optic links. Live/work units comprise office space in a range of sizes. All of the new space would access the fibre optics 'superhighway'. The initial phase will have a prestige new office scheme, the data centre and incubator offices comprising up to 51,000m2 of floor space.

Looking ahead, the Gigaport will be seen as an extension to the town centre, with opportunities to reduce the severance effects of the Ring Road and increasing connectivity and accessibility between Gigaport and the town centre.

Value and benefits

Our client gained value from the integration of our town planning team with our technical expertise in transport, communications, public consultation and environmental management. The client recognised that separation of these services by employing individual consultancies would have risked losing the innovative approach such integration brings.

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