Prior + Partners led the masterplanning for several large, complex sites in London, as well as thinking about places on the edge of London. Now, the practice wants to share their experiences with the Future of London network.
Prior + Partners has a track record of developing masterplans for complex regeneration sites, with current schemes in London including Silvertown, Thamesmead and Euston Station, more of which later.
Director Simon Mattinson, a planner by background, describes Prior + Partners as having a passion for place, narrative and vision. He believes their approach aligns closely with Future of London’s values, which was a major reason for joining.
“We are all about unlocking the potential of place,” he says. “Our role on projects is long-term, and we dedicate ourselves to becoming firmly embedded with our clients. We value the process of carefully challenging and shaping the right approach to projects.”
“No site sits in isolation. There are always consequential impacts, so we enjoy the large scale, the complex.”
Jason Prior founded the company in 2017. He built on his experiences from major schemes including the London 2012 Olympic Legacy Plan and helping to reimagine Manchester after an IRA bomb destroyed parts of the city centre in 1996.
In the six years since its inception, Prior + Partners has grown from four to around 90 people. This London-based team includes urban designers and masterplanners, chartered town planners, geo-spatial data scientists, landscape architects and architects.
The practice is focused on planning and masterplanning, and builds collaborative teams with its external partners, including architects and the wider range of experts needed to tackle complex projects.
Taking a multi-disciplinary approach in East London
Prior + Partners is applying this multi-disciplinary approach to the regeneration of Silvertown in Newham, and the long-term transformation of Thamesmead in an £8bn joint venture involving Lendlease and Peabody.
“There’s a fantastic opportunity for London and for an existing community living in Thamesmead,” says Simon.
Transport for London is considering proposals for a DLR extension that would cross the river near Beckton and link Thamesmead to the light railway network. TfL say the extension would create up to 30,000 new homes and 10,000 jobs.
“Our work has been about creating the strategic vision to underpin the business case that would allow the partners to unlock the bigger opportunity,” says Simon.
Masterplanning complex sites such as Thamesmead
The team is developing a 30-year plan that considers housing density, as well as integrating the expansive network of rivers and canals, and working out how to foster employment.
“We’re thinking about jobs in a world where workspace is flexible. We want businesses to be able to grow in Thamesmead by creating opportunities for people to live and work there.”
The Silvertown project involves transforming the largest brownfield site remaining in the Royal Docks, located between the River Thames and City airport.
As well as the delivery of a significant number of homes, job creation is central to this project. The Millennium Mills building, a listed former flour mill, will transformed into an entrepreneurial space for business start-ups.
These complex reimagining of places sound bold, exciting and often very big. So does the prospect of so much change sit well with existing communities, and how are they involved?
Empowering communities through co-design
Prior + Partners is comfortable with the language of co-design and sees developing a locally owned vision of place as essential to every major project they take on.
“In Thamesmead, we have worked with local groups and leaders who are trusted by the communities that live there. It’s imperative we build relationships with the local community and empower them in the process.
“Beyond just unlocking better design, authentic engagement helps to mitigate understandable concerns that can otherwise lead to objections.”
Rethinking places close to London
Prior + Partners is also working with local authorities beyond London that want to think about the long-term potential of their places. This includes place-based strategies for councils in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
“The question of whether it is an opportunity or a challenge to be on the fringes of London is very real,” says Simon. He believes this evolving relationship with places across the wider London city region could be a good theme for Future of London discussion.
“These are places that directly feel the pressures of London but since the pandemic are experiencing some different and, in many cases, positive signs of recovery.
“Flexible working has meant people are spending more time in their local towns and villages so we are beginning to see real investment and focus across London’s fringe. Perhaps it’s here we will begin to see some of the most innovative ideas that will shape our future towns and cities.
“Our experience of working outside London and around the globe is something we want to reflect on with the Future of London network.”
Opportunities around transport hubs
When Simon says global, one of the projects he is referring to is Prior + Partners’ work on plans for a new eco-innovation district in Sunnyvale for Google, as well as another of the tech giant’s sites in San Jose that links to the proposed new California high speed rail station.
So what about that masterplan for Euston station? After Argent’s famous transformation of King’s Cross, the choice of Euston as the HS2 terminus created an opportunity to rethink the surrounding area.
Prior + Partners led the masterplan design team that supported the original bid by Lendlease. As we speak, there a lot of uncertainty around Euston as HS2 is reviewed by government. Suffice to say, if and when Euston does go ahead, it will be a very complex project indeed, but one that could unlock fantastic opportunities for the surrounding communities.