Union Mill Masterplan

The aspiration has been to create a tight knit, community focused development; informed by its historical context of conservation areas, listed buildings and canalside frontage. A distinct, yet sensitive design approach strengthens the industrial heritage that defines the area and brings activity back to the waterside.

Date

Due for completion in 2023

Client

PlaceFirst

Value

£63m

The Union Mill and Lower Horseley Fields site is located in The Canalside Quarter of Wolverhampton. The Canalside Quarter is a key road, canal, and rail gateway into the city centre from the north and east, with the west coast mainline and Birmingham Canal running to the north of the site. The proposal seeks to build upon the areas architectural and historic character; utilising and expanding the historic fan like plan arrangement. Simple rectilinear building footprints are used, as can be found addressing the canal along its length. This strong building line creates a legible street pattern easily navigable by both residents and visitors. The proposal will enhance views of the site and conservation area from the canal and railway by creating strong and active frontages, a more cohesive landscape and by mending broken gaps within the urban form. The scale, layout and form of the development is informed by its historical context with a sensitive approach to incorporating the listed buildings standing on the site.

A tight knit development will enhance the sense of community by providing activity along the street creating chance encounters and social interaction between residents for a safer neighbourhood. Two storey ground floor units have front doors onto the street with the majority of units having glimpses of the canal through the view corridors into the site. The design of the buildings draws inspiration from the surrounding industrial heritage with a material palette in keeping with the local vernacular. Commercial units are incorporated into the east of the site within the existing historic building to create a destination for residents and the local community strengthening the industrial heritage that defines the Union Mill Conservation Area.

 

A distinct public realm space with shared surface streets and pedestrian only paths reconnect the site back to the wider area and fosters canalside activity for pedestrians rather than vehicles. The landscaping scheme anchors the development into its surroundings to create a sense of place by forming a mix of public and private spaces with dedicated communal areas containing elements such as allotment plots, greenhouses, play areas and shared cycle stores.

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The Challenge

The site presented several challenges from the inner-city location, existing waste treatment activities on site, the adjacent canal, the Conservation area status, and the listed buildings. The existing use of the site and requirement for remediation meant that a variety of levels needed to be addressed between the existing road to the south and the canal to the north.

The Solution

Many of the site’s challenges were embraced as opportunities to create a distinct sense of place. The fan like plan arrangement addressed the canal as is typical of the historic buildings, whilst allowing a setback to create a new public towpath along the canal, bringing activity back to the waterside. The dramatic level changes were used to create a varied landscape scheme with amphitheatre seating. Priority was given to the retention of as many of the existing buildings as possible, with the new build elements strengthening the industrial heritage which defines the conservation area.

The Outcome

The final scheme submitted for detailed and listed building consent was well received by the local authority, and unanimously recommended for approval by the planning committee.

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