Design rules, OK

Architects’ Journal 24/02/2005

BY BRIAN WATERS

PPS1 is the overarching planning guidance that replaces PPG1, published eight years ago, as well as Circular 5/94, ‘Planning Out Crime’.

As the introduction says: ‘The policies set out in this PPS will need to be taken into account by regional planning bodies in the preparation of regional spatial strategies, by the Mayor of London in relation to the spatial development strategy in London and by local planning authorities in the preparation of local development documents. They may also be material to decisions on individual planning applications.’ Bear this last point in mind when considering some of the key points in the opening section: ‘The government’s objectives for the planning system.’ It is in this context ? which is intended to dictate everything from the content of policies to the consideration of applications and enforcement ? that architects’ interest in the relevance of design should be placed.

The original PPG1 mentioned design only in an appendix, though famously it suggested that the involvement of an architect was a material consideration ? a policy that got lost in the 1997 version where it merely required that planners refuse bad design. PPS1 promotes design to a section of its own and the word ‘design’ is mentioned 25 times. Presumably this implies that there will be a much more conducive environment for architects to produce and deliver good architecture ? or will there? (See box. ) Actually, the role of the architect in preparing applications has not been put forward in this new document.

Had it talked about it, the somewhat undefined meaning of ‘good design’ might not remain such a subjective issue (ask the average planning committee member what it means to him or her! ).

To require that applications, involving a significant building proposal, should be prepared by an architect may seem to be asking too much, but it would ensure an appropriate level of skill in the preparation of such applications. It would also go some way towards eliminating the need for protection of title. (If this seems far-fetched, it is by default the common position in Europe, and in France in particular, it is a statutory requirement).

Design rules, OK

Architects’ Journal 24/02/2005

BY BRIAN WATERS

Dominant amongst the flood of planning documents emanating from Government at the moment is Planning Policy Statement 1: Delivering Sustainable Development (PPS1)*. This replaces PPG1 published eight years ago.
The importance of PPS1 as the overarching planning guidance for the whole system cannot be understated. As the introduction says:
“The policies set out in this PPS will need to be taken into account by regional planning bodies in the preparation of regional spatial strategies, by the Mayor of London in relation to the spatial development strategy in London and by local planning authorities in the preparation of local development documents. They may also be material to decisions on individual planning applications.”
Bear this last point in mind when considering some of the key points in the opening section: “The Government’s Objectives for the Planning System”: see BOX 1.

BOX 1——————————————————————————————

Key points in The Government’s Objectives for the Planning System
• Good planning is a positive and proactive process, operating in the public interest through a system of plan preparation and control over the development and use of land.
• Sustainable development is the core principle underpinning planning. At the heart of sustainable development is the simple idea of ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and for future generations.
• Planning should facilitate and promote sustainable and inclusive patterns of urban and rural development by – making suitable land available for development in line with economic, social and environmental objectives to improve people’s quality of life; –contributing to sustainable economic development; –protecting and enhancing the natural and historic environment, the quality and character of the countryside, and existing communities; –ensuring high quality development through good and inclusive design, and the efficient use of resources; and, –ensuring that development supports existing communities and contributes to the creation of safe, sustainable, liveable and mixed communities with good access to jobs and key services for all members of the community.
• To help meet these broad objectives, the country needs a transparent, flexible, predictable, efficient and effective planning system that will produce the quality development needed to deliver sustainable development and secure sustainable communities. National policies and regional and local development plans (regional spatial strategies and local development frameworks) provide the framework for planning for sustainable development and for that development to be managed effectively. Plans should be drawn up with community involvement and present a shared vision and strategy of how the area should develop to achieve more sustainable patterns of development.
• This plan-led system, and the certainty and predictability it aims to provide, is central to planning and plays the key role in integrating sustainable development objectives. Where the development plan contains relevant policies, applications for planning permission should be determined in line with the plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.
• Local communities, businesses, the voluntary sector and individuals have a right to a high quality service that is fast, fair, open, transparent and consistent and respects the cost, effort and commitment that has gone into engagement in plan making and in preparing and submitting applications. Planning authorities must ensure that plans are kept up to date and that planning applications are dealt with expeditiously, while addressing the relevant issues. Planning authorities should ensure also that they have in place appropriate arrangements for enforcement.
• However, planning authorities need to go further. Under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 every local planning authority now has a responsibility for reporting, on an annual basis, the extent to which policies set out in local development plans are being achieved. Their role, therefore, is not restricted to plan making and development control, but involves facilitating and promoting the implementation of good quality development. They should therefore aim to provide a good quality service for managing the development of their area: making plans, dealing with development consents and assisting implementation, striving for continuous improvement with regard to matters such as openness, customer service and stakeholder satisfaction.
• More effective community involvement is a key element of the Government’s planning reforms. This is best achieved where there is early engagement of all the stakeholders in the process of plan making and bringing forward development proposals. This helps to identify issues and problems at an early stage and allows dialogue and discussion of the options to take place before proposals are too far advanced.
• Pre-application discussions are critically important and benefit both developers and local planning authorities in ensuring a better mutual understanding of objectives and the constraints that exist.
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It is in this context, which is intended to dictate everything from the content of policies to the consideration of applications and enforcement, that architects’ interest in the relevance of design should be placed.
The original PPG1 mentioned design only in an appendix, though famously it suggested that the involvement of an architect was a material consideration – a policy which got lost in the 1997 version where it merely required that planners refuse bad design. PPS1 promotes design to a section of its own and design is mentioned about 25 times all told – see BOX 2.

The role of the architect in preparing applications is not revived as a consideration. Had it been then the somewhat undefined meaning of ‘good design’ might not remain such a subjective issue – ask the average planning committee member what it means to him or her! To require that applications involving a significant building proposal should be prepared by an architect may seem to be asking too much, but it would ensure an appropriate level of skill in the preparation of such applications and would go a long way to solving the problem of ARB by eliminating the need for protection of title. (If this seems far-fetched, it is by default the common position in Europe and in France a statutory requirement).
Of particular interest is the requirement that “authorities should not stifle innovation, originality or initiative through unsubstantiated requirements to conform to certain development forms or styles”, which is consistent with the ‘country house exception’ in the new PPS7. Innovation and originality is the new ‘in context and in character’.

BOX 2——————————————————————————————-
• Good design ensures attractive usable, durable and adaptable places and is a key element in achieving sustainable development. Good design is indivisible from good planning.
• promote the development of renewable energy resources, and take climate change impacts into account in the location and design of development.
• Planning policies should promote high quality inclusive design in the layout of new developments and individual buildings in terms of function and impact, not just for the short term but over the lifetime of the development. Design which fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area should not be accepted
• Planning should seek to maintain and improve the local environment and help to mitigate the effects of declining environmental quality through positive policies on issues such as design, conservation and the provision of public space.
• High quality and inclusive design should be the aim of all those involved in the development process. High quality and inclusive design should create well-mixed and integrated developments which avoid segregation and have well-planned public spaces that bring people together and provide opportunities for physical activity and recreation.
• Although visual appearance and the architecture of individual buildings are clearly factors in achieving these objectives, securing high quality and inclusive design goes far beyond aesthetic considerations.
• Planning authorities should prepare robust policies on design and access. Such policies should be based on stated objectives for the future of the area and an understanding and evaluation of its present defining characteristics.
• Design policies should avoid unnecessary prescription or detail and should concentrate on guiding the overall scale, density, massing, height, landscape, layout and access of new development in relation to neighbouring buildings and the local area more generally. Local planning authorities should not attempt to impose architectural styles or particular tastes and they should not stifle innovation, originality or initiative through unsubstantiated requirements to conform to certain development forms or styles. It is, however, proper to seek to promote or reinforce local distinctiveness particularly where this is supported by clear plan policies or supplementary planning documents on design.
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http://www.odpm.gov.uk/stellent/groups/odpm

Brian Waters is principal of the Boisot Waters Cohen Partnership. Visitwww.bwcp. co. uk