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Imaginative place-shaping can drive economic and social recovery

The faces of our cities, towns and villages will have to undergo a significant transformation in the recovery from the impact of coronavirus, local councillors have been told.

Speaking via Zoom at the Northern Ireland Local Government Association’s monthly Executive meeting, Ciarán Fox from the Royal Society of Ulster Architects spoke about the pressing need for more innovative and imaginative place-shaping which can fully ensure small businesses can return to trading, people have enough room to adequately socially distance, and ensure access for all as the economy and wider society opens up again post-lockdown.

During the coronavirus lockdown, the RSUA and a range of public sector and private sector organisations launched the #OurChangedPlaceNI initiative, encouraging people to share their ideas and plans on social media of what changes they would like to see in their local physical environments.

Cllr Stevie Corr, Chair, NILGA Place-Shaping and Infrastructure Network said: “Today was an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas and explore how we can shape our cities, towns and villages post-lockdown. Covid-19 has presented serious issues to our communities and revealed challenges to how we can sufficiently socially distance going forward. By engaging in collaborative discussions like these, we can work to develop solutions and plans for better shaping our local areas.

“The #OurChangedPlaceNI initiative is welcome and it opens up the conversation and debate about the future of our physical environment. As the need to socially distance continues, wider and larger spaces will be needed to fully support businesses like bars, restaurants, and cafes and allow them to maximise how many customers they can safely welcome. By working harmoniously with pedestrians, public and private transport, and cyclists, we can allow businesses more space to operate and drive the post-Covid social and economic recovery.

“By transforming our local areas and taking new approaches to our place-shaping, we can also encourage active travel like cycling and walking, beneficial for both the environment and the wider public health. Out of coronavirus has come a further opportunity to design our areas for the benefit of our environments, citizens, local economies, and public health, and we now have a unique chance to reshape our communities for the mutual benefit of everyone who lives in them.”