Derby's Urban Sustainable Transition (DUST)

DUST is a co-creation project working with multiple agencies from across Derby to produce visualisations of a more connected, accessible, sustainable and prosperous city for future generations of Derbeian’s.

DUST is a research project with a mission to envisage a sustainable, resilient, and attractive future for the city of Derby. The project is funded by the Osborne legacy. Professor Richard Osborne was a geographer who specialised in urban regeneration and economic development with a particular focus on Derby and Derbyshire as well as Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

Professor Osborne was a founding trustee of the Derby Lonsdale College of Higher Education and was among those who were key in setting the path for the institution to reach University status in 1992. He passed away in 2018 at the age of 93 and as part of his legacy left a funding gift to the University to support work in his area of specialism.

The DUST Project explore development opportunities for the city of Derby capitalising on digital technologies to visualise a city for the future. We intend to capitalise on Derby’s natural assets, namely historic and existing waterways, greenways, parks and open spaces. Moreover, we are undertaking plans to bolster active travel, reduce car-associated emissions, introduce low-carbon mobility models, and improve transport and connectivity within Derby.

One major objective of the DUST project is to reconceptualise the city centre as a more vibrant, prosperous, and liveable place. To achieve that, we are proposing several public realm enhancements, such as revitalising riverside areas and upgrading linkages to the railway station.

The DUST Project team

DUST is led by Professor Chris Bussell, Pro Vice-Chancellor Dean of the College of Science and Engineering, who also chairs Derby City’s Climate Change Committee. The project team also includes members with multidisciplinary expertise, including – but not limited to – architectural and urban design, computer graphics, spatial modelling and environmental simulation. The team consists of the following members: 


The DUST team has produced several concepts for different sites across the city of Derby. Some of those refer to proposals for a natural restoration of the Markeaton Brook, a culture-led renovation of the Friar Gate Bridge, and a new street typology for residential areas at Mackworth. Each of these concepts comprises of various design scenarios, which range from a minimal to a high level of spatial intervention. Essentially, we use the design scenarios to construct representations of future opportunities for the urban realm in contrast to present conditions. 


Here we look at opening up and deculverting Derby’s biggest hidden asset, the Markeaton brook. The brook runs from the Derwent up through Albert Street with an added public waterside park in the place of Primark. Then flowing past the new Becketwell development turning these new flats into waterside residence, through to the Strand and restoring the street’s name “strand” to its original Old English meaning of “small stream” and turning this hidden heritage of Derby into a “little Venice”.

The brook then weaves its way back to its current opening at Ford Street through Bold Lane and Jury street, creating opportunities for riverside apartments and a Derby College Park while maintaining road connectivity through appropriate bridge placements. Then with the restoration of the current Markeaton trail this would create a new route for pedestrians and cyclists as well as a greenway for wildlife, in and out of the city.

By restoring Derby’s natural treasures and putting in the necessary flooding measures we would be giving back the city centre’s focal point, fostering the city’s communities and culture and facilitating all local businesses.


Take a virtual tour of the Markeaton Brook

In the contemporary processes of urban development, regeneration is becoming a relevant way to limit the occupation of new land and enhance the existing spatial, social, and ecological dimensions of a particular part of a city. The main scheme is to activate Derby’s vertical public realm and to create a new landmark for the city. The project aims to create a winter roof garden at the top of the car park with an outdoor viewing platform. The rooftop will bring new opportunities to the city’s development and will be free for the public to visit. The design includes bars, restaurants, a musical stage and an amphitheatre.

The roof garden will have direct access from the street level through a sequence of escalators. The building also has two public lifts that take the visitors directly to the roof garden level. The roof garden will act as a vertical extension of the city’s public realm. The roof garden will provide communal space for leisure activities and a relaxing outdoor green environment that promotes healthy and sustainable living quality.

Take a virtual tour of the Rooftop Garden

The Electric Daisy is a project put together and developed by "Down to Earth Derby", which aims at creating a Garden in the city for the community to rest, learn and play. The Electric Daisy will sit on a vacant plot of land on Bold lane previously the home of "Prince's Supermarket" which was demolished between 2007 and 2009. The space will offer an outdoor space where people can socialise, catch a bite to eat or do some work, it will also be an entertainment/event space for community activities.


Take a virtual tour of the Electric Daisy

According to our estimations, most of Derby’s neighbourhoods receive more thru traffic than expected. On top of that, some pericentral areas (particularly in the western part of the city) are at great risk of flooding. However, only limited green infrastructure to efficiently treat storm water is currently available to those zones. We have also identified socioeconomically deprived areas at the southern part of the city; most of these areas lack vibrant public places, which would promote safety, social interaction, and a sense of belonging. 

There is, therefore, an urgent need to explore various possibilities with a view to turning Derby’s residential areas into more liveable places. Transforming the typical residential street into a more liveable street typology is one of the scenarios considered. With living streets, we are directly targeting at the aforementioned problems by combining health-promoting and sustainable qualities into one multifunctional place. These qualities include green infrastructure to manage storm water and cleanse air, public street furniture to increase interaction and safety levels, as well as infrastructure to encourage physical activity.

To contextualise our vision for living streets, we have applied the living street typology on an example neighbourhood in Mackworth. According to our plan, existing residential streets will be converted to living streets whereas the outer roads should continue to function as traffic collectors - since thru traffic will be discouraged for living streets. We envision living streets to receive one-way car traffic with a speed limit of up to 10mph.

The living street paradigm looks to calm down thru traffic by creating physical obstacles – in this case, raingardens and street furniture. In this way, non-residents are discouraged to drive through or park on street. Also, those street elements have more meaningful uses than plain traffic-calmers. For instance, we intend to use a pergola and a timber frame structure as social life attractors as well as environmental additions, in the sense that climbing plants can boost local biodiversity; while bioswales can treat storm water.

In the same spirit, we are introducing playscapes and cycle infrastructure of different uses and scales in a bid to promote a healthier way of living for kids and adults.

Take a tour of Living Streets

This work focuses on the old Friar Gate goods yard and train station. Our aim is to revitalise the site as a commercial centre with bars and cafes. As such, the Old Bonded warehouse and Engine House can be used by the public and also the new neighbouring school. On the station side, we envision revitalising Friar Gate bridge with a restaurant/pub in which people will be able to come dine or drink in Old Mark 2 British railway carriages on Friar Gate bridge, or on the adjoining bridge in the open air.

This would leave a large open area to the rear of the station, which will be suitable for events, such as Christmas markets or pop-up music events, with space for more consistent shops in the station viaducts below. This will be combined with a public park, which will comprise of multi-use play areas. To get people to the area we also propose a new multi-storey car park where the RCP parking currently is as well as having the new extension to the great Northern Cycle route running through this entire area.

Take a virtual tour of the Friar Gate Bridge and Bonded Warehouse

We have developed plans to restore the Old Train route as a Cycle and pedestrian path, which would require digging out and restoring both station bridge and Mickleover Tunnel running alongside the Mackworth park. The route will start from where the current "Great Northern Cycle Path" ends at station road in Mickleover. In line with national highways plan for the Kingsway’s roundabout on the A38, our modification would be to include a cycle and pedestrian path over the A38 but under the above traffic, thus linking the Great Northern Cycle Path into the city of Derby.

Working closely with Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust, we have incorporated some of their ideas into DUST. The Trust’s vision includes plans for a nature-based restoration of the Derwent Riverside at the city-centre.

The most prominent feature of these plans is the construction of a new marina, which will function as a permanent mooring and boarding point at Derwent Wharf. The marina will provide a mooring pound for six to eight boats with water point and EV charge points. Multiple kiosks will be serving local food, coffee/tea, and gelato, thereby creating new, al fresco dining areas. Many of these dining spots will be located by the water, while some others will sit on the redeveloped area between two of the most historic Derby’s pubs (i.e., the Tap and Exeter Arms). In this way, we intend to establish a new gastronomic route in city-centre – stretching from Exeter Street down to the riverside – and thereby contribute to the local economy.

We have also prepared proposals for the restoration of the river shoulder between Derwent Street and A601. The area currently consists of five building blocks, whose uses are due to be relocated behind the flood wall, as per the city’s anti-flooding program. Our intention is to replace those blocks with a green zone, which will include urban gardens, local tree and plant species, and pollinator hotels in a bid to increase local biodiversity. An additional retaining wall has been designed to protect the gardens from flood events. This wall will be made of a flexible, 3D-printed cellular system, which can be a cost-effective and eco-friendly solution unlike conventional, concrete-made structures.

The wall will be furnished with a green layer of local vegetation. Moreover, our design looks to accommodate pedestrian and cycle movement, as we are providing footpaths and cycle tracks, which will develop across the proposed green zone and connect it to the rest of the city. Some of these footpaths will be part of a “Science and Culture Trails” network, which will give children the opportunity to engage with the natural environment around them and contextualise science and culture.

Trails are designed to be adaptable – both physically and functionally – and their exact content will be decided in collaboration with local schoolteachers. The network will culminate in a pavilion (located at the place where the Biohouse currently is), which will accommodate exhibition/meeting spaces, equipment/resources rooms, and guest facilities. 

Take a virtual tour of Derwent Wharf and the North Riverside Gardens

The approach

Our team employs data-driven design approaches and looks to communicate the project vision through immersive technology applications. Specifically, we utilise advanced spatial analysis techniques (e.g., GIS) and computational design tools (for instance, generative and algorithmic modelling processes) to produce a wide range of developmental scenarios in line with the project objectives.

To visualise the DUST concepts, we harness the unparalleled capabilities of emerging extended reality (XR) systems. That is, the DUST team is developing virtual and augmented reality platforms as an immersive channel. We invite all interested individuals to view this through interaction with the design concepts.

We are currently collaborating with key stakeholders to exchange knowledge and explore new possibilities. The application of XR platforms has a crucial role as it has become the conduit through which we can present reimagineered urban design concepts to project stakeholders. We anticipate that heritage groups, businesses and residents will play a part in the placemaking process, by feeding into the discussion about how certain interventions may affect the cityscape or the ease of movement.

The DUST team utilises technological innovation and multidisciplinary knowledge to streamline a collaborative dialogue and transform Derby into a really exciting place to be!

Get in touch 

If you'd like to find out more or get involved then please get in touch with our enquiry team.