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Polnoon Masterplan: Idea to Design - Residential Streets Project

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What are the recommendations?

This project has provided almost 20 recommendations. They have been split into people, product and process and have been kept short and succinct.

People

Leadership

Good leadership, commitment and knowledge are crucial to ensure that a project is seen through to the very end.

Role for project managers

There is a role for more project managers to be embedded within the house building industry. It takes time and commitment to pursue joint planning and RCC consent but with dedicated project managers (or champions) who have a very clear vision of the outcome, as well as a drive to achieve it, they can play a key role in keeping the built industry moving forward. In particular, they an act as key liaisons between all of the stakeholders, and act as one point of contact, with the local authority.

Multidisciplinary teams

The skill base of a team reflects the ultimate quality of a development. To create a new place does require a mixture of professionals working together, such as planners, architects, designers, engineers, and landscape architects, as well as people with sharp economic knowledge, to ensure that the vision is always on target. The key players should be identified early on in the process. This project was fortunate in that the architects had worked with the engineers on previous projects, and hence this not only created a good working relationship, but also a common understanding about the type of place we were striving to create. It would certainly be recommended that more architectural firms link together with engineering companies to offer dual services in terms of design and infrastructure solutions.

Design skills

There is no substitute for good design skills. Not everyone has a 'natural eye' for design but with training and experience, more planners can help to feel more confident about design. It is therefore recommended that the opportunity for design training is still needed within local authorities, as there is some way to go before many local authority officials feel confident in applying the Government's design policies.

Councillors

Councillors play a crucial part in the determination of a planning application but in most cases, their role mainly comes into play at the end of the process. Whilst this is acceptable for most applications, when dealing with important or sensitive sites, their role should potentially be reversed, in that they are more involved at the beginning of the process. They should also be kept informed about the development of design in a safe and unbiased way, for all parties, which is in keeping with the Code of Conduct for councillors. More design training for councillors is also recommended and more encouragement for some councillors to become civic leaders or champions for good design.

Hotline

If a project hits a difficult issue or tension between a local authority, the statutory consultees and a developer, it would be useful for the Government to operate a dedicated 'hotline' to provide support. This would help to raise the profile of the types of issues which are causing concern and would also act to resolve issues more quickly, and thus, preventing some applications from stagnating.

Architecture and Design Scotland

Architecture and Design Scotland offer a detailed and thorough Design Review service. The organisation is reviewing how it can offer other forms of support to Local Authorities on design matters, including design support services and supporting local design review.

Product

Bad design is easy to achieve

Our planning system is allowing mediocre design - even despite a whole range of policies which have been crafted to both protect and maximise the potential of the environment. This project, however, has proven that cul-de-sacs and the common 'plot by plot' approach to housing layout does not create a sustainable or quality place to live. It does not even offer a good return for developers. It is therefore recommended that a stronger line is taken by authorities to use their 'design as a material consideration' policies more frequently. We have to move away from the 'it will do' approach and strive to create better places which make better value in the long term. Good place making needs to become expected.

Think big

Sell the place (in its widest sense) not the unit.

Simplicity of understanding masterplans

Use of the Bavarian B-plan tool is very simple but effective way of helping people to understand the three basic components of a masterplan i.e. buildings, movement and open space. It is recommended that this supplementary diagram becomes general practice, and is produced alongside any future masterplans to help achieve more consistency in people, whether professional or lay persons, to read places more easily.

Process

Design briefs

Design briefs for special or sensitive sites can be very helpful for a developer to know, right from the start, the local authority's aspirations and requirements for a site. This, together with a full list of all the relevant development policies which must be met, as well as those which may be negotiable or open to debate, would help to create a clear picture of what's required and help to focus the design from the beginning.

Pre-application discussions

This project relied heavily on pre-application discussions. Whilst they proved to very helpful, in reality they can also be too high risk for the developer. This is because so much time, money and energy is put into 'front loading' the development, but there is still no actual guarantee on the result. It is therefore recommended that to provide more weight to pre-applications, as well as reducing tension and encouraging more investment, there needs to be a 'sign-off' or agreement between the local authority and the developer, at key stages of throughout the discussions. Statutory consultees could also, where possible, be involved at certain stages of a sign-off.

Complex landscape of policy

In addition to planning policies, there are so many other policies which a developer needs to take into account. This can create quite a complex policy landscape to navigate. It takes a very skilled specialist to be able to join them all up. A good exercise to short piece of research would therefore be to simply list all the policies which required, by different bodies, simply to get a development off-the-ground. The ultimate aim would be to assess the relevance of the policies and de-clutter the landscape.

A picture says a thousand words

The use of images and graphics to help explain an idea or resolve a problem can help people to think more visually, and ensure that everyone is on the 'same page' rather than just relying on words and leaving things open to interpretation. After all, design a visual art, and planning for places should encourage the use of more diagrams to help illustrate ideas.

Reports and supplementary design statements

Report writing should be focused to ensure that councillors are able to digest the key points. Plus, although design statements can be very helpful when provided with a planning application, it is a good idea for the developer to provide a one page submission of the 'key diagrams' which really show the essential aspects of the development. This is because it can sometimes be hard for councillors to feel comfortable, or even have the time, to going through a detailed design statement. In contrast, a one page summary can prove more beneficial and perhaps more guaranteed of being used.

Fees

Once an application has been submitted, and paid for, the developer is still likely to incur fees to attend to any extra requirements which are thereafter highlighted during the period of determination. Again, this is often an unknown cost, which could be reduced if the pre-application discussions carried more weight or even a list of all the issues required to be discussed was completed before being submitted.

Ground control

The sub-surface infrastructure such as sewers, services and general road design considerations need to be given a high importance, within the design process, to ensure adequate space and clearance from buildings and landscaping is provided for within the masterplan. This can be helped through early involvement with design professionals and statutory consultees.

Time is money

The longer an application takes to determine, the higher the cost for everyone.

Joint planning and road construction consent

The process outlined in PAN 76 on Residential Streets is achievable but this project has helped to fine tune the process. A new recommended process is provided and will feature in the new policy statement Designing Streets.

See below for new planning/ RCC process

new planning/RCC process diagram

new planning/RCC process diagram

new planning/RCC process diagram

Street Engineering Review ( SER) Notes

Undertake SER in accordance with Local Authority guidance and relevant national policy/guidance, for example Designing Streets.

SER to include agreement of street layout including landscaping proposals in relation to the following:

  • Vehicle tracking of layout with particular attention to be given to refuse vehicles and pantechnicons
  • Approval of key visibility splays
  • Speed control
  • Agreement of drainage discharge rates
  • Agreement of SUDS techniques
  • Schematic drainage layout for foul and surface water including dimension requirements against building and landscaping
  • Key materials palette
  • Utilities strategy