Alcan, Midsomer Norton

Building identity for the community.

The site of the former Alcan factory in Midsomer Norton was entirely allocated for employment. Our brief was to consider the role of the site within the wider context, in order to achieve a residential-led mixed use development.

Developing a regeneration strategy

The Alcan factory was built to help replace jobs lost at the end of the coal-mining era, before it closed in 2006. Its history of employment use and position within a residential neighbourhood close to Midsomer Norton Town Centre created significant challenges and opportunities. With the site protected entirely for employment use, a key element in our strategy was to show how the site was best placed to contribute to the future of the town, through a residential-led mixed use development.

Making a positive contribution to the future of the town

Through a combination of research and extensive engagement with a wide range of stakeholders, we were able to analyse the challenges and opportunities and identify what the future of the development could be. Providing a new housing offer together with workspace targeted at the needs of emergent new economy businesses was an important component in a strategy for development of the local economy.

Challenging planning policy

From a starting point of strong planning policy resistance, unanimous Planning Committee approval was secured for a mix of new homes, live/work units, a combined community facility and small office units, new green spaces and pedestrian and cycle links to the town and an off-site workhub.

Responding to local character

Midsomer Norton has many buildings of distinctive quality and character. Our masterplan exhibits strong urban design principles, making connections to the existing neighbour beyond the site and clear placemaking in the streets and open spaces. The detailing of the proposed dwellings also picks up on specifics of the local vernacular.

Development has recently been completed and the uplift in quality and status of the project is evident. Our work in Somer Valley tells us that the planning system can too easily reinforce under-performance. However, when applied in a dynamic manner with a regenerative mind set, new perspectives and potential can be opened up.