Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

Rebuilding the town centre

After many years of long redundant past employment sites, the historic woollen industry town of Bradford on Avon has transformed into a desirable market town with a robust economy. A prominent central site set in a conservation area of over 6 acres, the delivered scheme provided 174 dwellings, 30,000ft2 of new shops, business premises and workshops, two new public open spaces, a riverside walkway, ten historic buildings restored capable of reuse, a town farmers’ market, a local convenience store, the Made in Bradford community shop and a powerful water turbine delivering renewable energy.

Our approach, led by consultation

Following several failed development schemes, we were appointed to create a new vision for the former mills. At that time, tensions between the local community, the planning authority, land owner and developer were high.

From the outset, our approach was to build engagement with a complete range of community and stakeholder groups, to create a statement of common ground. This was mediated by the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment following which key aspects of the design were developed.

Understanding community aspirations

The site had severe technical and viability challenges. It was situated on the River Avon flood plain, presented risk of high levels of contamination and wildlife issues and included almost impossible vehicle access as well as many historic buildings.

While the Local Planning Authority policies favoured housing, local residents wanted a high proportion of non-residential and community use. We used a large town centre 3D scaled model as part of our extended consultations to help visualise and test different design options for the regeneration of the site, directly with the town’s community.

Sustainable development in a heritage setting

After running four public exhibitions, a consensus emerged and planning permission was obtained for a high-density scheme which delivered affordable houses and a high proportion of non-residential floor space, alongside 174 dwellings plus shops, cafes, workshops and offices. Heritage features were conserved and a feasible traffic circulation within the site introduced.

We managed this project from inception to completion providing planning, public consultation, urban design and architecture. The scheme has won a number of awards including the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Best UK Project for Regeneration and Renewal. RTPI judges said: “The development will enhance the physical environment of this long-derelict site in the heart of historic Bradford on Avon, adding to the quality of the local townscape and increasing the attractiveness of the town centre for residents and visitors.”