New London Architecture

Can hostile vehicle mitigation improve the public realm?

Tuesday 21 March 2023

NLA hosted a members-only Breakfast Talk on 21 February 2023 with the thought-provoking title ‘Can hostile vehicle mitigation improve the public realm?’ The focus of the event was the Centre for Protection of National Infrastructure’s (CPNI) new Public Realm Design Guide for Hostile Vehicle Mitigation which demonstrates how it is possible to create safer places through measures that also enhance the public realm.
The guide was introduced by an expert from CPNI who emphasised that there is no “one size fits all” response to providing protection against hostile vehicles and that each place is unique and requires an informed and considered approach. Ed Freeman, ReardonSmith Landscape (RSL) gave an outline presentation of the guide which was followed by a panel discussion with Annabel Precious (Civic Engineers)’ Pat Brown (Central) and Carola Enrich (Townshend Landscape Architects.)
Ed Freeman emphasised that people and the protection of people are at the centre of the 3rd edition of the guide and RSL were keen to have the input of professionals from across the built environment as an advisory steering group to inform its development. One of the discussion points was the recognition that this had been a very positive process and a means of  ‘bridging the gap’ that currently exists between CPNI and those responsible for designing and managing the public realm.  The NLA event is one of the actions that CPNI are taking to close this gap, and Alistair Moss (chair of the steering group)  said that it’s beholden to those working in the public realm to respond by supporting the dissemination of the guide.
The principle of taking a layered approach to address risk at each of the 3 layers described in the guide – ‘district’, ‘site’ and ‘threshold’ was well received. Illustrations are provided throughout this largely visual document including potential strategies for each of these 3 geographic layers. 
Images of HVM measures are featured in the guide that have the potential to be adapted to provide HVM as well as a number of other benefits such as public art, water, play, seating, urban greening and SuDS. Details are also provided for the technical requirements for VSB elements to allow designers to provide creative solutions based on the security requirements, together with links to other organisations and technical guidance in the Appendices.
It was noted that designers and Clients may have a tendency to focus on their immediate project area, but looking outside their site can provide wider benefits and lead to more coordinated responses with other stakeholders. In answer to a question about how to achieve better coordination of HVM measures across different property ownerships it was suggested that Area Action Plans could be a useful tool and  BIDs could also be a means of generating strategies for coordination and discussions that cross boundaries.
A new section based on crowd science provided by Movement Strategies summarises key principles as the 5 C’s –  Comfort, Convenience, Capacity, Conflict and the overarching Context. This section gives advice on avoiding or minimising potential conflicts between HVM measures and pedestrians, including wheelchair users and pushchairs.

HVM interventions may not be compatible with the infrastructure for cyclists, and the guide acknowledges that a pragmatic approach should be taken where there’s an interface between them, depending on the context. Annabel Precious said that designers need to be experts in balancing the interests of all the different user groups based on a thorough understanding of the site conditions.   Tools that can be used to make space feasible for all users and help to manage risks include slowing speeds and re-thinking delivery strategies such as restricting vehicle access to the outer ‘district’ area.  
Pat Brown acknowledged that it isn’t possible to mitigate all risks. However, strong partnerships and working in collaboration across land ownerships can lay the foundations for intelligent design responses that may provide wider benefits beyond HVM.
Not many of the attendees were aware of Martyn’s Law (formally known as the ‘Protect Duty’) that will become legislation later this year.  The full details are not yet known but it will prompt those responsible for designing and operating publicly accessible spaces to formally consider public safety and it will be a tiered system based on the number of people in the space. 
CPNI encouraged designers to use the Guide as a portal for addressing risk, noting that it is a live document that will evolve as threats change
Ed Freeman summarised that the new public realm design guide ‘is the starting point to make safer, inclusive and beautiful spaces for all the enjoy’.
Peter Murray (Co-Founder of the NLA) closed the event by saying that he was pleased that the role and aesthetics of design has been brought into the important discussion about HVM.
CPNI and their consultant team would like support with dissemination of the Guide so if any participants can assist by encouraging their professional bodies to hold a CPD session or by writing articles for their professional journal please direct message us @RS_Landscape



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Thomas Bender, specialist in heritage and architecture, listed buildings and large developments at planning consultants...

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