Southampton’s urban centre – Has COVID-19 fundamentally changed the housing to be delivered in Southampton?

Posted on 21st September 2020
Against the background of a lively public debate about the future of city centres Blake Morgan commissioned the Southern Policy Centre to explore how city centres in the central south are responding to the many pressures for change, and what the future holds for our urban centres: Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole (BCP), Portsmouth, Southampton and Winchester.

The research phase is now complete and the Southern Policy Centre is running a series of virtual roundtable breakfast discussions across the central south to discuss our findings with members of the business community, and the public and charity sectors.  These virtual discussions will help inform our final report.

We held our second virtual roundtable breakfast on Friday 25 September to discuss our findings and focus on the city of Southampton.  Our attendees discussed two particular themes this week:housing and the environment. A visual output of the discussion, highlighting all the key points made by our attendees, was artworked live by Alex Hughes of Drawnalism.

Simon Eden, who researched and drafted the report, highlighted the long term trend of growing populations in the urban centres.  Will this now be reversed due to COVID-19?  One of our contributors asked: “What is good quality housing now?”. The housing market is currently buoyant due to the SDLT saving scheme and the effect of people reappraising their lives and desiring more space (both inside and outside).  Is this change temporary or the start of a longer trend?  How can developers delivering housing in the urban centre respond to the desire for bigger housing and more outside space?  Are schemes under construction that don’t deliver those aspirations now less attractive and less viable?

We also discussed the environment and the key role of green spaces in the success of urban centres.  One of our attendees remarked that: “We need a blueprint [for the urban centres] but also a ‘greenprint'”.  Incorporating open spaces in public and private developments is vital but if more areas are given over to open spaces then there will need to be a reappraisal of developments and the prices to be paid for development land.

Our next virtual roundtable will focus on the city of Portsmouth.  This will be held on 25 September 2020.  There will be a virtual roundtable focussed on Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole on 2 October 2020.  The final report will be formally published in early November 2020.

Reimagining City Centres

Image credit: Alex Hughes, Director, Drawnalism. @Drawnalism @DrawnalismAlex

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