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In March an international design competition was launched by the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation and the NHS to find the best creative and inspiring ideas to help shape the landscape of what will be the first new Garden City of the 21st Century, and the largest of 10 Healthy New Towns being developed in the UK.


Today (2nd July), the shortlist of the winning ideas was announced at the Housing Design Awards 2018, as part of a special seminar organised with the NHS to challenge homebuilders to support better health outcomes.


The Healthy New Towns Programme is led by NHS England, who are working with Ebbsfleet Development Corporation and Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley Clinical Commissioning Group to ensure that the Garden City is a happy, healthy place to live and work.


Managed by The Landscape Institute, the competition is in two stages. The first stage of the competition invited entries from landscape professionals, or teams including landscape professionals, with multidisciplinary teams incorporating artists and engineers particularly encouraged. Entries needed to address the shape of the whole city, rather than just one site, with the judges looking beyond Ebbsfleet at the wider health of the nation with the ideas submitted.

Located 17 minutes from Central London by high-speed rail and 2 hours from Paris and Brussels by Eurostar, Ebbsfleet is a major railway hub between London and Europe. It also has a unique topography that could be incorporated into any design concept – from frontages along the River Thames, to lakes and extensively-quarried chalk hills and valleys, to historic sites such as the Gilbert Scott-designed church in Northfleet.


The panel of ten judges (http://healthygardencity.co.uk/#panel) selected five finalists to go forward to stage 2 of this innovative competition which are:

• The Chalk Walk –

Additive Urbanism, a landscape design studio led by Matthew Halsall CMLI. In collaboration with Ryan Szyani, Architectural installation designer.

A series of natural interventions that combine to form an educational wildlife trail – The Chalk Walk. This would be implemented prior to the main development, employing a series of devices connecting new and existing communities to one another, in order to greatly improve access to nature and provide a healthy alternative to travelling by car.

• The Ebbsfleet Sublime – The disruptive use of the picturesque to create wellbeing and place –

LDA Design in collaboration with Architecture 00 and Vivid Economics

The Ebbsfleet Sublime is imagined as a beautiful, carefully curated experiential landscape which accommodates productive land, play, workspace, recreation. It draws out the sublimity of nature from the Ebbsfleet landscape and adopts the painterly techniques of Turner, Gainsborough and Lambert.

• Everyday Adventure –

Huskisson Brown Associates working with Claire Powell Chartered Physiotherapist

Everyday Adventure focuses on creating a framework of accessible, active and sociable green routes that connect communities, destinations and population groups, to promote walking and physical activity as the preferred choice for everyday journeys and experiences.  

• H.A.L.O – a model for growing a healthy infrastructure – Bradley Murphy Design in collaboration with JTP, Peter Brett Associates and Sebastien Boyesen

HALO comprises four key interventions that overlay Ebbsfleet like a web.  They connect people to place and to each other, addressing the fragmentation of landscape and habitats, limitations of access and restricted sources of healthy food.  These interventions respond to local context through a range of typological treatments, that are reflective of local landscape character, building a richness of experience that is unique to Ebbsfleet.  


• Swanscombe Gorge Park by Chris Blandford Associates in association with Buro Happold and Proctor & Matthews

The aims are to:  reconnect  the  landscape  and  communities;  regenerate  and   repair  the  existing  natural  landscape;  rejuvenate  the  site  with  cultural  and  recreation  activities and to  re-use  local  materials.  


The judges also highly commended The New Landscape Guides to Ebbsfleet – Churchman Landscape Architects in collaboration with Thomas Matthews and Buro Happold Engineering. This project was inspired by 20th-century Shell/Shilling Guides, a series of guidebooks describing the counties of Britain.

Kevin McKeogh, Director of the Healthy New Town Programme, said: ‘Ebbsfleet Garden City’s landscape with its white chalk cliffs, open green spaces and lakes offers a unique opportunity to provide a landscape that challenges the norm. It will also be creating 15,000 new homes and 30,000 jobs, so it is important that the landscape delivers a sustainable and healthy place for people to live and work.’


‘As the Director of the Healthy New Town Programme, I am delighted by the range of ideas and approaches we have received and the shortlist is outstanding. I look forward to the competition moving on to its next phase.’


Dr Sara McCafferty, Healthy New Towns Programme Lead, NHS England said: ‘Ebbsfleet is the largest of the 10 demonstrator sites in NHS England’s Healthy New Towns programme, which seeks to improve the design of new places in a way that improves the health and wellbeing of the residents that live there.  This competition has created an exciting opportunity to take an innovative approach to the design and sustainability of the city and, in particular how land can be used to support the health of its community.’


‘The creativity in landscape design shown by the entrants is truly inspiring and I am sure will contribute significantly to what we want to achieve with a Healthy New Town.’


Dan Cook, Chief Executive of the Landscape Institute said: ’At the Landscape Institute we are fully aware of the power of good landscape to improve our health and well-being. The work we have done on public health and landscape has gathered a growing evidence base that green spaces play a vital role in healthy living. By having green spaces integrated into communities, people have the opportunity to become more active and improve their health. Even short-term exposure to green space can have a huge impact on both physical and mental well-being.’

‘Driving forward this important link is at the heart of this project and we are delighted to see such a range of exciting projects come through from our colleagues across the landscape profession. We look forward to seeing what these five shortlisted companies will come up with for the next phase of the competition’


The five shortlisted companies have now received a second stage brief and will have the task of developing designs for one of the lakes within the city. The winner will be announced at the LI Annual Conference on 6 September 2018.