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Flanking manoeuvres and good design…

Category: News November 16th, 2012 by mbc

It seems that the government are undertaking flanking manoeuvres on green belt protection through the new Economic Development Bill. My scepticism spews forth driven from several sources including, Nick Boles MP recent comments that the green belt is only safe “for now“, the forth-coming aforementioned Bill that reportedly will look to sacrifice the green belt at the altar of the construction industry and Eric Pickles commitment to protect the green belt “the green belt plays a vital role in stopping urban sprawl and we will protect it“. I can’t help but read that like the board of a football club backing the current manager, there’s usually a stab in the back behind the fine words of reassurance.

This caused me to think again about one of the documentary foundations of all this change and threat, the National Planning Policy Framework.

Burrowing through it again, I found this intriguing section that I wanted to share (apologies for the hacked about editing):

7. Requiring good design
56. The Government attaches great importance to the design of the built environment. Good design is a key aspect of sustainable development, is indivisible from good planning, and should contribute positively to making places better for people.

Planning policies and decisions should aim to ensure that developments:
> will function well and add to the overall quality of the area, not just for the short term but over the lifetime of the development;

> respond to local character and history, and reflect the identity of local surroundings and materials, while not preventing or discouraging appropriate innovation;

59. Local planning authorities should consider using design codes where they could help deliver high quality outcomes. However, design policies should avoid unnecessary prescription or detail and should concentrate on guiding the overall scale, density, massing, height, landscape, layout, materials and access of new development in relation to neighbouring buildings and the local area more generally.

60. Planning policies and decisions 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.

61. Although visual appearance and the architecture of individual buildings are very important factors, securing high quality and inclusive design goes beyond aesthetic considerations. Therefore, planning policies and decisions should address the connections between people and places and the integration of new development into the natural, built and historic environment.

63. In determining applications, great weight should be given to outstanding or innovative designs which help raise the standard of design more generally in the area.

64. Permission should be refused for development of poor design that fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it functions.

65. Local planning authorities should not refuse planning permission for buildings or infrastructure which promote high levels of sustainability because of concerns about incompatibility with an existing townscape, if those concerns have been mitigated by good design (unless the concern relates to a designated heritage asset and the impact would cause material harm to the asset or its setting which is not outweighed by the proposal’s economic, social and environmental benefits).

66. Applicants will be expected to work closely with those directly affected by their proposals to evolve designs that take account of the views of the community. Proposals that can demonstrate this in developing the design of the new development should be looked on more favourably.

National Planning Policy Framework page 14

Quite simply, who decides what is good design? That statement seems to try and cover all the bases and fails to cover any of them: have design policies but don’t enforce them, let ‘good’ design over-rule all else, let everyone decide…

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New fast-track planning permission for the development of barns proposed

Category: Barns July 4th, 2012 by mbc

In an article today (which I won’t link to as it has horrible pop-up windows when you land there), the Daily Mail reports that a new fast-track route through planning controls for the conversion of barns is being proposed. The proposals, under changes to the Use Class Order, cover conversion into shops, cafes and other types of non-residential venues (the Mail uses rock music venues as a example, not sure there’s a massive demand for those). Consultation on these changes runs until the 11th September 2012.

Such a loosening of controls is seen by Greg Clark, Planning Minister as a way to boost the rural economy, making it easier to develop new businesses and create new jobs.

Planning fees will also be increased by 15%, to allow more staffing in planning departments and therefore (theoretically?) faster throughput for applications… which is nice.

Personally, loosening up planning controls always makes me nervous and makes me ask why? If there’s a really good reason for a development then would this really make it more likely to happen?

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Just what is ‘sustainable development’?

Category: News April 4th, 2012 by mbc

With the National Planning Policy Framework still fresh and being ruminated over, one theme that is never far from thought is sustainable development. With the term now enshrined in planning law, what does it mean?

The NPPF document opens with this:

International and national bodies have set out broad principles of sustainable development. Resolution 42/187 of the United Nations General Assembly defined sustainable development as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs*. The UK Sustainable Development Strategy Securing the Future set out five ‘guiding principles’ of sustainable development: living within the planet’s environmental limits; ensuring a strong, healthy and just society; achieving a sustainable economy; promoting good governance; and using sound science responsibly.

Resolution 42/187 is a reference to the report ‘Our Common Future’ produced by the Brundtland Commission in 1987. The Brundtland Commission was established in 1983 by the United Nations with the goal of uniting countries to work together in the pursuit of sustainable development. The Commission was dissolved at the end of 1987 following publication of the report.

In the Brundtland definition, there are two key concepts of sustainable development:

  • The concept of needs. The basic, essential requirements for human life, weighted toward the world’s poorest people, who should be given overriding priority,
  • The idea of limitations as imposed by current technology and social organisation on the environment’s ability to meet both present and future needs.

The report also identifies three pillars of sustainable development – economic growth (economy), environmental protection (environment) and social equity (society).

So that’s the background. The NPPF takes this a step further with those five guiding principles:

  1. Living within the planet’s environmental limits,
  2. Ensuring a “strong, healthy and just society”,
  3. Achieving a sustainable economy,
  4. Promoting good governance,
  5. Using sound science.

Those are basically, the three pillars with firm foundations of good governance and sound science. This is further spelt out in the Framework:

…to achieve sustainable development, economic, social and environmental gains should be sought jointly and simultaneously through the planning system. The planning system should play an active role in guiding development to sustainable solutions.

So far, so clear. I hoped that the framework would further explore each of these areas to provide greater clarity and provide narrower definitions that could facilitate meaningful debate. In that I was disappointed, the five principles remain bones with very little flesh on them except what we can imply from the framework. The words governance and science don’t even appear in the report again after that opening quotation.

I know I’m being unreasonable, I know that this is a framework and there’s still plenty of work to do. But currently, the answer to the question “just what is sustainable development (currently in the UK) ?” seems to be “it depends” and that is more a lawyers charter than anything else.

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* I quite like the acronym ELF – Environment, Local people, Future

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Sir Patrick Abercrombie – “It is a matter for serious thought…”

Category: News April 1st, 2012 by mbc

While reading up on the response of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) I came across this quotation that is particularly pertinent to the current state of the economy, planning climate and the challenges faced by rural communities:

“It is a matter for serious thought that at periods of financial stress it is always beauty that is sacrificed upon the altar of expediency.”

Sir Patrick Abercrombie, co-founder of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England.

Sir Patrick Abercrombie seems a fascinating character, however there isn’t much information about him available on-line, I’d love to find some more sources of information, quotations etc…

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#NPPF response from the Campaign to Protect Rural England @CPRE

Category: News March 29th, 2012 by mbc

Of the summaries of the recently published National Planning Policy Framework that I’ve read, I like and broadly agree with the findings of this one published by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England.

Whilst the Government appears to have listened to the many concerned voices raised in response to the draft document, the continued insistence on easing planning controls to promote growth remains a troubling key theme of reform and increasingly a political plaything.

The CPRE’s official response from Chief Executive Shaun Spiers is this:

‘We were very reassured that the Minister, Greg Clark recognised the intrinsic value of the ordinary countryside “whether specifically designated or not” and stated that the five principles of the UK Sustainable Development Strategy are included in the document. These were critical issues for CPRE. We are pleased the Minister appears to have listened to the strong public views, which mirrored our concerns.’

The CPRE article has a very useful Green, Amber, Red classification of the main areas of the NPPF. The traffic light designation is used to denote the CPRE’s level of concern. In summary, this shows approval in the areas of intrinsic value (of the countryside), local plans, light pollution and tranquillity, some concerns over the definition of sustainable development and any weakening of the levels of compulsion for developers to build on brownfield sites and then real concern over the Green vs growth debate and the housing pressure being placed on the planning system to provide a five year supply of housing land, plus an additional ‘buffer’ requirement of 5-20% on top of this.

Interesting stuff and certainly worth a read.

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Progress

Autumn 2013

Right that’s the summer over with, now I can get on with some real work without the distractions of other things (like holidays and playing with children, all that enjoyable stuff that gets in the way of progress)… With few major jobs (painting, boxing in – nasty stuff!) left inside, mainly fiddly things that need […]

I’m having a moan on twitter… https://twitter.com/barnconversion/status/368427314868396032

A lovely Flemish barn conversion

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I really like this Kickstarter project >> The Farm of the Future: Earthship-Inspired Greenhouse This project is “Prototyping the First 100% Off-The-Grid, Affordable, Low-Maintenance Greenhouse using Earthship Principles and Aquaponics“. If any of those words meaning anything to you you’ll be interested in the project if not, pass it by… It’s already funded so I […]

Barns

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Design

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Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part B Fire safety

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Architecture

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News

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It seems that the government are undertaking flanking manoeuvres on the green belt…

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Just what is ‘sustainable development’?

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Sir Patrick Abercrombie – “It is a matter for serious thought…”

While reading up on the response of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) I came across this quote from Sir Patrick Abercrombie…