Royal College of Art outlines vision for ‘Lyme Regis Utopia’

AFTER announcing Lyme Regis was one of three rural communities chosen for a prestigious research project, the Royal College of Art has created a visualisation of what might be possible in the town, described as a ‘Lyme Regis Utopia’.

This major new research project, led by the Royal College of Art (RCA), aims to reimagine public spaces and transport systems in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the current fragility of our interconnected world; from the importance of our local communities to the impacts on global trade, jobs and our natural environment.

In response to this and wider challenges about the future, designers from the (RCA) – supported by the professional bodies and private organisations – have come together to seek a better way forward.

Together with partners from councils, civil society and charities, the RCA has connected with three rural communities around England so that they can understand their beliefs, feelings and knowledge about their towns.

The three communities are Biggleswade in Bedfordshire, Haltwhistle and surrounding parishes in Northumberland, and Lyme Regis.

The college will be using residents’ experience and knowledge to develop a set of tools that will help them to reimagine how they can build their community together, improve the ways they get around their town as well as beyond and how they might share their ideas about the future in more collaborative and supportive ways.

In Lyme Regis it is hoped the project could help find solutions for one of the town’s biggest issues – traffic congestion and lack of parking.

The RCA has now released its findings so far, based on contributions from 38 people. The findings outline benefits and disadvantages of living in Lyme Regis as outlined by those who have contributed to the research project so far, as well as their hopes and concerns for the future.

Based on these findings, the RCA has created a visualisation of a ‘Lyme Regis Utopia’, which shows an image of the Cobb Gate area adapted with open green spaces, wider pavements and limited traffic to create a “bustling public realm”.

In contrast, the RCA has also created a ‘Lyme Regis Dystopia’ based on people’s concerns, showing the same area of Cobb Gate with packed crowds, busy roads and no green space.

Outlining their hopes and ambitions for the community, those taking part in the project listed green, clean and inclusive spaces; more social activities including leisure and sport; better transport connections and reduced traffic in the town centre; affordable housing for young generations; not to become overly reliant on tourism; a solution to litter problems; and a greater variety of jobs.

The main issues raised were regarding traffic, congestion and parking, with Broad Street and Church Street the main areas of concern, as well as environmental issues and isolation.

Out of those taking part so far, 82 per cent said they were worried about environmental issues, 79 per cent about the state of the economy, 74 per cent about social issues such as isolation, 39 per cent about political differences and 32 per cent about how technology was affecting their lives.

The Royal College of Art is still keen to hear from more residents, especially younger residents or those who don’t normally get involved in community activities or planning the future of the town.

To find out more about the project or to share your thoughts, email

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