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If the last 6 months have taught us anything it’s the importance of outdoor space to human happiness and wellbeing. Even before the pandemic, the aspiration for green living in the UK was already gathering pace – the conditions we found ourselves in have accelerated the process.

And it’s reflected quite starkly in the current property market. Flats without gardens or communal outdoor spaces are proving much harder to sell and it’s a shift in public perspective developers won’t be able to ignore.

With more people working from home permanently, it’s now much more feasible and appealing to move to a rural location. So to keep investors, buyers and the all important planning authorities inspired by their latest urban schemes, developers will have to start getting creative about the way they factor in outdoor space.

In a relatively short amount of time, we’re already starting to see our cities react to our greener yearnings. London is already narrowing many of its main roads to further extend its network of bike lanes. And across the channel, the French capital is going a step further.

Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, has just announced her vision to turn the French capital into ‘The 15-minute City’ or ‘A Ville du Quatre D’heure’. It’s an ambitious plan to transform Paris into a more pedestrian and bike-friendly space, reducing pollution and working towards a far greener city. And Paris is unlikely to be alone in this drive for a more accessible environment.

This trend will likely be repeated in large cities across the world with predictions that over the long term society may move a more localised lifestyle away from city centres. Multifunctioning buildings will give you everything you need right on your doorstep. So a restaurant that serves you dinner in the evening will also let you hot desk throughout the day. It means more city inhabitants walking in the fresh air to where they need to be, instead of suffering long hours commuting by car or crammed into trains and subways.

The demand for the great outdoors couldn’t be more pronounced. And it opens up a huge opportunity for developers to propose community-focused developments that cater to this need. 

The Olympia renovation by Yoo Capital is a great example of a development that took the outdoor pleasure of the community into consideration. As part of the 2.5 acres of pedestrianised public space built into the project, the two exhibition centres are joined together by a glass arch to create a sky garden. Surrounded by cafes, restaurants and shops, it creates an inviting space for the public to enjoy and was a crucial factor in getting planning permission granted. 

Looking ahead to the future Gullart Architecture have designed a concept for a self-sufficient city in the Xiong’an New Area of China. They created the design during lockdown, so the inspiration for the idea was fuelled by their own experience. 

“Our proposal stems from the need to provide solutions to the various crises that are taking place in our planet at the same time, in order to create a new urban life”. It’s designed so that whoever lives in the confines of the city during such a crisis, has everything they’d ever need to flourish.

The design’s success centres around the way its residents can access outdoor space. There are plazas for people to congregate, greenhouses and orchards to grow their own produce, and each apartment has its own private garden.

Unfortunately, getting the planning green light on your development proposals is often more of an art than a proven science often coming down to many subjective factors. But we believe that incorporating plenty of outdoor space into plans, with walking and cycling emphasised and car traffic minimised, the delicate balance between the interests of those that already live and work in the community and new residents and businesses will be better aligned. And it might just be the decisive element your planner can’t refuse.