Untitled Practice (UP) is set to transform Kingsbury and Market Square in the heart of Aylesbury’s historic town centre conservation area. The landscape and architecture studio was appointed to undertake the 1.2 ha public realm improvement scheme following an open tender process run by the new unitary authority of Buckinghamshire Council.
With a rich civic quality, Market Square is the focal point of the town with its distinctive Clocktower, Crown Court and Corn Exchange buildings. UP’s proposed scheme will tie this together with Kingsbury – the gateway to Aylesbury’s Old Town – to create a new town centre destination of lively public realm that places accessibility, health and wellbeing through green infrastructure at the forefront. With renewed public appreciation for open space following the pandemic, the redevelopment signifies an important milestone in the revitalisation of the area and presents a well-timed opportunity to rebalance Aylesbury town centre to better support its people.
Over the past decade, the council has led an ambitious regeneration programme for the town centre. Creating new beautiful open-space and focusing on improving the social and leisure offer has been fundamental to the council’s mission and in 2018 it was awarded Garden Town status as part of the government’s Garden Communities programme, providing an opportunity to enhance the character and identity of the area. The town centre is the first of eight priority project areas identified in the ambitious Aylesbury Garden Town (AGT) Masterplan. The AGT Masterplan provides a framework for Aylesbury’s expansion by 16,500 homes by 2033. UP’s proposed public realm improvements to Kingsbury and Market Square will better support this growth to encourage further investment and will build on the work to date to create a stronger leisure-based focus for the town centre’s ‘high street’ environment.
Characterised by its distinctive Dennerhill stone cobbles, the current Market Square suffers from accessibility issues and inadequate infrastructure to support the type of active frontage uses that provide a more convivial offering. UP’s design response sees the Market Square conceived as an ‘urban living room’ representing an enhancement of the square’s inherent qualities. With improved accessibility and the introduction of new power and lighting infrastructure, the scheme will facilitate wider market and events opportunities for the whole community.
Meanwhile Kingsbury, which currently lacks a distinct identity but with great potential, will be redefined as a ‘garden square’, embodying the qualities and aspirations of the Garden Town at its very heart. The proposal will weave the two adjacent spaces with their immediate and wider surroundings. The introduction of a more coherent ensemble of cycling connections and walking routes will better support residential communities including the new Garden Town neighbourhoods, as part of an improved green infrastructure network.
Proposed materials will respond to the conservation area and Old Town, extending from Market Square up into Kingsbury, providing a frame for new soft landscape interventions, which will include sustainable urban drainage systems wherever possible. The scheme also seeks to mitigate climate change impacts and increase biodiversity with initial stakeholder engagement confirming extensive public support for increased planting throughout the public realm.
The recent commission builds upon the practice’s public realm regeneration work at Sidcup High Street, Abbey Wood and Acton Central in London, and across nine Central Bedfordshire towns and villages including nearby Leighton Buzzard.
UP has already been progressing with stakeholder and public engagement with planning expected in Spring 2021. Start on site is estimated in September 2021 with a projected completion in Autumn 2022.