The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea sets Cultural Placemaking at the heart of borough-wide development:  Major proposals announced

  • A new proposal document from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea places culture and the creative industries at the heart of future development
  • Kensington and Chelsea aims to become the first local authority to undertake a borough-wide approach to cultural placemaking and to integrate culture into the borough’s economic development through planning.

The new proposals, which put cultural placemaking at the heart of major future development and planning activity across the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, were announced last night [22 May 2012]. The proposals seek to spark debate and stimulate ideas from across development, planning, cultural and creative sectors to form new thinking and partnerships to create new places. Feedback on the proposals will influence future Council policy in this area. Download the document here:

The Royal Borough is home to some of the world’s most significant visitor attractions, cultural organisations and creative industries and is home to large numbers of artists, designers, musicians and the creative professions.  The borough’s focus on the creative industries mirrors the Capital’s status as a global leader in the creative industries (one in 10 jobs in London is in the creative industries and the sector has outperformed most industries since 1998).

The Council’s new cultural placemaking proposals, developed in partnership with Futurecity and BOP Consulting, aim to build on the Royal Borough’s Arts and Culture Policy.  This Policy sets out to create a stronger, more sustainable creative economy, placing the borough at the forefront of contemporary creativity, and enabling residents to access internationally excellent culture and using culture to attract inward investment.

Central to the new thinking is:

  • Placing cultural commerce and the creative industries at the heart of the Council’s future economic development through planning. (The Council will be the first local authority in the UK to take this approach.)
  • Applying the concept of cultural placemaking right across Kensington and Chelsea - viewing the borough as a tapestry of existing and possible creative districts and neighbourhoods, which can realise their full potential through cultural placemaking.
  •  A new Creative District Profiler developed by Futurecity and BOP Consulting, to assist in cultural placemaking.
  • The opportunity for internationally significant collaborations between developers and the creative and cultural sectors to produce bold new ideas. 

The Council’s new thinking seeks not only to benefit its existing neighbourhoods, residents and businesses but also, crucially, to help realise the right environment for the creative and cultural economy of the Royal Borough to flourish and grow, making it as attractive as possible for the creative and cultural industries.

The Royal Borough, although the smallest London borough in size, is the fifth largest in terms of the importance of the cultural and creative sectors to its economy. The borough is home to 4,000 creative businesses, over 15 per cent of its employment is in the creative and cultural sector, while over 30 per cent of the borough’s business units house creative and cultural businesses.  Maintaining a vibrant high street with a strong retail mix is also important: research shows that the number one reason for visiting the borough is ‘to shop’ – each year, more than 13 million people visit Kensington and Chelsea, spending a total of £1.3bn.

The new cultural placemaking proposals follow in the wake of Saatchi Gallery’s arrival on the Kings Road in 2008, and the reopening of Exhibition Road earlier this year, transforming the home of world-renowned institutions such as the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the V&A, into the UK’s most accessible cultural space. In 2014 the Design Museum will move into the former Commonwealth Institute building on Kensington High Street, establishing the heart of a major new design quarter in the Capital and creating a significant moment for cultural placemaking in the Royal Borough.

The Council’s cultural placemaking proposals call on developers seeking to work in the Royal Borough to:

  • Embed culture and the creative industries into their thinking right from the start of the development process.
  • Be even more imaginative and bold in their thinking and proposals, in particular masterplanning design, the animation of new places and creative and commercial ideas for the public realm.
  • Explore and anchor the heritage and contemporary cultural context of their sites as fully as possible.
  • Work with the Creative District Profiler to identify the potential of a proposed site to become a creative district.
  • Brand and animate their developments, through interventions, temporary creative spaces and long-term cultural provision, partnerships and programming.
  • Be active in forming creative partnerships with the Royal Borough’s diverse communities, local and international cultural providers and the creative industries to influence development
  • Form long-term partnerships with cultural providers to influence the style and content of cultural amenities, not merely their existence.

Cllr. Nicholas Paget-Brown, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Transportation, Environment and Leisure, says: “The borough’s economic future and the vibrancy of our neighbourhoods are closely linked to the success of our creative industries, tourism and the cultural sector. We believe that adopting a cultural placemaking approach to planning and development across the entire borough has the potential to create places to benefit present and future residents and businesses, stimulate home-grown cultural talent and make the Royal Borough the choice for international creative companies seeking to locate in London.

“The Council’s role here is one of a catalyst – bringing developers together with creative organisations and residents to explore what is possible and provide direction. We are not prescribing certain solutions, we want developers to take inspiration from the cultural placemaking approach and come up with bold ideas for their sites.  We particularly feel our major strategic development sites are ripe for this form of approach and have already started to explore the options in our proposals. We are in the businesses of creative ideas and want to hear from you.”

Mark Davy, Founder and Director of cultural agency Futurecity says: “The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is taking a leading role in delivering the last big idea in property; that Culture and creativity should drive the thinking behind new developments and the regeneration of urban places.

“Our ten-year experience shows that by integrating arts, culture and the creative industries at the start of any new development provides solid, positive, social and economic returns.  It involves the local population, builds stronger neighbourhoods and creates places where people want to live, work, shop and relax. This in turn has economic benefits for businesses operating in the area through increased occupation rates, footfall and dwell time.”

- END -

The Cultural Placemaking document can be downloaded from here:

Further information and images:

Culture and Creativity in the Royal Borough

Kensington and Chelsea has the highest level of cultural engagement in the UK with 66% of over 16s engaged in the arts at least three times in the last 12 months. (Source: DCMS Active People survey)

The Royal Borough is home to some of the world’s most important visitor attractions including the V&A, the Natural History Museum and The Science Museum, and leading cultural organisations such as Saatchi Gallery, the Royal British Society of Sculptors, Christie’s the Auctioneers, The Royal Court Theatre, and also major creative industries such as Associated Press, Sony, EMI, Universal Music and Granta publishing.

The Royal Borough is famed for its spirit of creative independence, with renowned design and retail hubs such as Portobello Market, Notting Hill, The King’s Road, and Kensington High Street launching the careers of creative entrepreneurs such as Vivienne Westwood, Mary Quant, Peter Simon, founder of Monsoon, Wayne Hemingway, Stella McCartney and Thomas Heatherwick.

The retail offer of the Royal Borough is equally famous with department stores such as Harrods, Peter Jones, and Harvey Nichols, while locations such as Sloane Square and Portobello Road attract people from across the country and around the world.  The Royal Borough is also home to the Chelsea Flower Show and Notting Hill Carnival.

The Royal Borough is also home to a diverse range of communities, rich in cultural heritage and creative outputs. Examples ranges from the Nour Festival, exploring Middle Eastern and North African arts and culture, and reflecting the fact that Arabic is the second language of the borough, through to African-Caribbean heritage in the north of the borough, and the world-famous Notting Hill Carnival. North Kensington can lay claim to being the home of black music in the UK.  Alongside Carnival, its heritage includes Tim Westwood and UK Hip Hop, Norman Jay MBE, Broken Beat, Neneh Cherry and Goya Records.

The importance of the creative industries within London

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has defined the creative industries as “those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property.” The field includes advertising, architecture, arts and antique markets, crafts, design, designer fashion, film, video and photography, software, computer games and electronic publishing, music and the visual and performing arts, publishing and television and radio.

London is synonymous with cultural excellence and the creative industries. The creative industries are the Capital’s third largest business sector, employing nearly half a million people and generating a turnover of almost £19bn a year. In London more than one in five new jobs is in the creative industries. London is home to a world-beating culture and arts scene, the world’s fourth largest advertising sector, the third largest music market, and is an acknowledged global centre for fashion.

London’s status as one of the world’s creative powerhouses is due to the success of our creative industries and our cultural scene. Since 1998, growth in the creative industries has out-performed almost every other industrial sector in the UK’s economy. The creative industries have been one of the key drivers of the UK economy in the first decade of the new millennium, contributing around £59bn to the economy each year. (DCMS Economic Estimates, 2011).  That’s more than construction and more than double insurance, pensions and pharmaceuticals combined. It is likely the creative industries will be an even stronger economic driver in the coming decade, with many researchers, economists and politicians predicting that they will be one of the UK’s most potent economic sector in the years to come.

84% of Londoners felt that London’s cultural scene was important in ensuring a high quality of life, and a more or less equal number (87%) also felt that London’s cultural scene was important in ensuring a strong London economy (GLA, 2011).

London has seen a rapid expansion of its cultural offer over the past 20 years, with major and sustained investment in its galleries and museums, visuals arts, film, theatre and dance, public realm and education. Economically, this cultural infrastructure is worth a reported £7.7 billion to the UK economy per year. Culturally, it has meant the emergence of a series of loosely-defined creative districts across London, in the Southbank, Shoreditch and Spitalfields in addition to emerging creative districts in Nine Elms and King’s Cross and the more established cultural centre of London’s West End.

About the Creative Profiler

The Futurecity/BOP Creative District Profiler is a tool to identify the strengths that any neighbourhood can draw on to become a Creative District with an exciting cultural life that attracts visitors and investors. The Profiler also highlights any weaknesses. To run the Profiler, a neighbourhood is defined as a circle extending for half a mile around a central point. This is equivalent to a ten-minute walk. The neighbourhood is then scored from 0 to 5 against eight factors associated with successful Creative Districts. Scores are derived from onsite visits and face-to-face research, and from robust national and London data sources including Experian. Venuescore, and  London Profiler. The eight factors are:

People factors

1. Creative Residents: the proportion of residents who have creative jobs

2. Younger Residents: the proportion of residents in the key 25-34 age group

3. Ethnic Diversity: the proportion of residents who belong to ethnic minority groups

Infrastructure factors

4. Cultural Offer: the number of cultural venues

5. Retail Offer: the strength of the neighbourhood’s retail offer

6. Public Transport: how good the public transport links are

Opportunity factors

7. Land Availability: the area of land that is available for redevelopment

8. Desirability: the number of residents in the AB social class who have chosen to live there

The scores are mapped onto a grid to reveal the neighbourhood’s unique profile.

This profile can be compared to other Creative Districts. For example:

  • Established creative district:  Exhibition Road
  • Organic creative district:  Shoreditch and Spitalfields
  • Planned creative district: King’s Cross Central
  • Emerging creative district: Deptford

The Profiler is based on robust data sources, and it draws on Futurecity/BOP’s

many years of experience with major regeneration projects. However:

  • The Profiler does not provide a final word on any neighbourhood. It provides a rapid initial analysis that can lead to more detailed planning.
  • The Profiler should always be used with a walking tour of the neighbourhood. This will add rich qualitative detail. For example, the Profiler assesses the strength of the local retail sector, but only a site tour will reveal the unique mix of shops and the experience of using them.

Kensal Gasworks:  Worked example of the Creative Profiler 

This part of North Kensington is not well known to many Londoners. At present, the huge 17-hectare Gasworks site is isolated even from local residents. Yet a mixed-use development served by a Crossrail station on this site could yield over 2,500 new homes and 2,000 jobs, many in the creative sector.

Using the Creative District profiler, in terms of People factors:

  • 26 per cent of local residents work in creative jobs, which is around the London average
  • 18 per cent of residents are in the key 25–34 age group which is around the London average
  • The area is very diverse – one in three residents belongs to an ethnic minority group with, for example, visible Caribbean, Portuguese and Iranian communities supporting various social centres and cafes

The Infrastructure factors are not strong yet but new development will help address this:

  • Few public cultural venues – although many small creative businesses and

community/arts organisations are housed within former industrial buildings

  • Limited retail offer catering primarily for local residents
  • Poor public transport connectivity with a PTAL rating considerably lower than the rest of RBKC. The proposed new Crossrail station will boost the accessibility and profile of the area
  • A substantial area of brownfield land, although this is split into multiple sites/ownerships
  • Considered a desirable location by a modest number of affluent AB class who make up 26 per cent of the local residents

Kensal Gasworks would suit treatment as an Emerging Creative District, which offers new opportunities for existing practitioners. The community spaces required on the Gasworks site by the borough’s Core Strategy could support outreach/expansion for arts organisations from the local area. There is a particular opportunity to provide a new facility to support and showcase Carnival Arts. The rich and strong associations of North Kensington with the film industry provide further inspirations. The site could support studio spaces, fit for purpose for the twenty-first century, accommodating independent producers and other industry suppliers. Such workspace could be complemented by teaching facilities for specialist higher education departments in film, and enterprise and business development programmes.

Key infrastructure projects at Kensal Gasworks could benefit from the injection of a creative spark to provide new icons for the area. For instance, a new footbridge across the canal could be treated as an artwork in its own right. Likewise the new Crossrail station presents an opportunity to commission dramatic artist-led façade designs or public artworks.

About the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s Culture Service
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s Culture Service is committed to encouraging arts and creativity, in all its forms, for the benefit of residents and all who work in or visit the borough.  Together with colleagues across the Council, it works with a wide range of partners from across the borough and beyond, including business, community, voluntary, education and not-for-profit sectors.  The Service is committed to develop and enhance still further the Royal Borough’s outstanding reputation for innovation, excellence and creativity.

About Futurecity

Futurecity Ltd. is the UK’s most successful culture and placemaking consultancy.  Working in partnership with property developers across the UK, the company argues that everyone has a stake in property development, and that culture should be seen as a long-term investment which builds real places through activity and animation, offers authenticity and ultimately raises values. 

BOP Consulting

BOP Consulting specialises in culture and creativity – their role in social and economic development and their impact on the environment.  BOP uses its knowledge to develop public policy and to advice clients in regeneration, property development, innovation, education and the third sector.