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Sustainable development lies at the heart of our approach to masterplanning

Creating opportunities for sustainable development lies at the heart of the way Prior + Partners approaches its masterplanning activities. Our approach seeks to ensure that all our masterplans promote sustainable lifestyles and enable us to live in a carbon neutral world. We work closely with clients to understand investment priorities, and how integrating social, economic, and environmental considerations can support the delivery of value at all levels. Future proofing development is an essential component of our approach, to ensure that development is fit for the future. To enable this, we identify current baselines, understand the policy context, and highlight relevant future trends, to produce options which allow for the developments we work on to be economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.

A time for shared responsibility and accountability

The National Planning Policy Framework directs that a presumption in favour of sustainable development is at the heart of its intent. But are we really securing this through local level direction and decision making? Are we taking enough responsibility to make sure this happens? Are we making ourselves accountable?

We can all cite examples where new development has been delivered differently, been heralded as a step change, a marker for renewed ambitions, and a true representation of sustainable development. But this is certainly not the norm.

Catastrophic events are becoming ever more apparent. June 2018 was the driest on record for many parts of the UK and wildfires scarred precious landscapes that could take 15-20 years to recover. February 2020 was the wettest month in the UK since records began with Storms Ciara and Dennis causing devastating damage and destruction. And we are all now experiencing the Coronavirus pandemic – the full impact of which is unlikely to be known for some time.

Unexpected events are becoming ever more expected – the urgent need to accept and face the harmful impacts of human development are critical. So how should we prepare for the unexpected?

We must plan and build differently, carefully, and with a greater conscience for what we are creating for those that come after us.

At Prior + Partners we believe this conscience starts with a vision. Without the ability to describe the desired characteristics of a place as it evolves, completes, and matures 20, 30, 50 years into the future, how can we expect a shared responsibility for what we create? And without a clear description of specific and desired outcomes or objectives how can we and others be accountable?

All our work starts with a deep exploration of people and place. We use a range of innovative and participatory techniques to help our clients think forwards. Not only ask ourselves what we want to create but what we want the legacy to be.

What are the unique qualities of the environment and landscape? What must be protected and conserved? Who will want to live and work in the places we create? How are they likely to move around and how could technology change this? How will people interact, feel safe and secure? How can we be flexible and agile enough to cope with the unexpected events?

The answers to these questions are different every time. But it is only through answering them that we begin a process of a defining what sustainable development will mean in the different contexts within which we work.

Our work establishes desirable, bold and aspirational visions of the future that our clients, stakeholders and communities willingly demand accountability for. We must always be proud of the contribution that we have made to the lives of future generations.

As a practice, we embody sustainable practices in all we do, ranging from the choices of the projects we work on, to the impact of our own operations. We promote active travel for our employees, seek to minimise any adverse impact of the materials we use, and actively work to ensure that we are a good neighbour.

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