West of England Place-making

The appellation ‘West of England’ is typically used to describe the region covered by the former county of Avon, which spans the northern and southern extremities of the ceremonial counties of Somerset and Gloucestershire respectively. Recently the sub-region's four authorities have been working closely to develop a West of England Joint Spatial Plan and Joint Transport Study, which will facilitate better integration of policies on transport, housing, the environment etc. The West of England Joint Spatial Plan team commissioned a multidisciplinary study to investigate whether the West of England has special characteristics of 'place' that engender shared interest and regional affinity, to which emerging planning policies might positively respond. The ultimate aim being to promote happiness, health and wellbeing. This approach to the design, planning and management of space is often described as place-making.

We were commissioned to work with the project landscape architects to ensure the physical environment was given equal emphasis with cultural influences in the emerging place-making strategy. We therefore aimed to identify the West of England’s unique and unifying landscape characteristics relating to topography, rural scenery, and flora and fauna, which intertwine with human experiences and symbolic meanings to create a sense of place, thereby distinguishing the Region from adjoining areas. We also examined whether the inhabitants of the West England show a particularly special environmental consciousness that sets them apart from neighbouring populations, reinforcing attachment to the Region’s natural / semi-natural environment. Finally, we considered whether this combination of factors had in turn fostered greater eco-activism and fashioned a unique place for creative thought, endeavour and globally exportable environmental expertise.

Although the West of England was envisioned primarily for strategic planning purposes, by good fortune it also has real geographical integrity, being bound on all sides by attractive prominent landscape features - the Mendip Hills, Cotswold Hills and Severn Estuary. The landscape also contrasts with neighbouring landscapes, reinforcing a sense of identity and belonging among its inhabitants. Place-making that seeks to draw major inspiration from the natural environment and landscape should also seek to build on any progressive environmental traits within the population, which in the case of the West of England, appear particularly prevalent. Strategic progress is already being made in this regard through various landscape-scale conservation projects that aim to strengthen connectivity between people and nature, while also enhancing the integrity of wildlife habitats.

Ultimate Client
West of England Partnership

Proximate Client
Clifton Emery Design

Design Team Leader
Clifton Emery Design

Landscape Architect
Clifton Emery Design


Site Area
Greater than 100 Hectares