Exploring ‘sense of place’ through public spaces: a case study of the regeneration of Port Talbot, Wales, UK

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The study aims to analyse the relationship between sense of place and public space development in the regeneration of Port Talbot. Existing literature highlighted economic drivers of regeneration which focused on achieving economic growth and lacked a social or environmental approach. Additionally, public space literature contexualised the power of public space to encourage public interaction; however, the benefits are difficult to quantify and therefore undervalued during regeneration development and procurement. Through a case study of Port Talbot, this study conducted qualitative research which identified the strong relationship between high quality public spaces and strong, authentic sense of place; despite limited design expertise within Port Talbot Council. Additionally, practitioner evidence highlighted the dominant influence of politics and austerity as key drivers which have dictated the direction of regeneration in Port Talbot. The study conducted six practitioner interviews, and five walking interviews. Data uncovered the de-prioritsation of public space, and the requirements of practitioners to quantify benefits of projects to ensure the greatest value for money. The study recommended: a public space standard as part of the new NDF legislation, and the hiring of a Landscape Designer for Port Talbot Council to advocate for public realm schemes and promote balanced regeneration proposals.
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