Design and Townscape Guide - Refresh 2009 (Consultation Draft)

Representation ID: 140

Received: 05/06/2009

Respondent: Leigh Town Council

Representation Summary:

2.8.2 We strongly disagree with the principle of 'enabling development'. The use of publicly owned land for development purposes must not be linked directly to another project. The decision to release publicly owned land must be taken on its own merits. The decision on the use of any released funds must be taken subsequently. The release of tracts of publicly owned land should only take place following direct consultation with residents.

Full text:

Section 1
1.1 How are the ambitions and aspirations of the local community to be assessed on an on-going basis?
1.1 Reviews should be frequent, easy to initiate, responsive to local comments and published in full.
1.1.1 The Document accepts that people care about their local area and therefore it should be made easier for them to comment and for their views to be taken into account. People will not have a pride in their local area unless they have more input.
The views of relevant parish and town councils and local organisations should be sought and also taken into account.
Development should add to local indentity, not uniformity; empirically the latter currently seems to be the case.
1.2 Who should decide what will 'adversley affect an area'?
Section 2
Council planning staff need to be well-trained to appreciate Southend's architectural history and the character of local areas.
A broad consensus is needed on what is good design for Southend; this must include residents and community architects who live in and understand the town. The arbiters of design and style must not be limited to official architects who may well not be local and may not empathise with the town.
2.2 It is very important that local character is considered. More weight must be given to opinions of people in the area.
2.2.2 The impact on skyline must be considered for all new developments. Some of the large new blocks already dominate the skyline from a distance.
2.2.3 Who decides if existing character is poor? By allowing 'a new characteristic which will provide an enhanced identity 'can mean that anything new will be permitted.
2.3.1 The contributions from major developers must benefit the local area (i.e not simply money in a Borough-wide pot) must be practical and, during time of financial constraint, not used for 'civic art'. These contributions must not be a simple option for developers.
2.3.4 If height etc is determined in each case, it depends too much on the opinions of individual officers. Developers will try to say that each development is a 'landmark' building (as is happening now). Landmark buildings should be few and far between, not just an excuse for something large.
2.3.4 Careful detailing can help but this is sadly lacking in most recent plans (the example shown in Prince Avenue illustrates a significant lack of detailing. This picture should be removed from the final document and replaced by one which shows the detailing)
2.3.5 This section is very important but needs more specific guidelines or it will be in danger of being ignored. These are the details that can seriously affect the quality of life for residents.
2.3.8 Building close up to a public highway should be avoided except for public buildings. In these cases, higher floors should be set back to avoid a dominating appearance and creating a 'canyon' effect.
2.5.1 It is important that there is no loss of existing open space and new open space should be created, as green as possible. People appreciate even small areas of local green space that they pass every day; it increases their sense of well-being and they may never get to larger, more organised green spaces.
Public open spaces should be designed for relaxed use by people and durability in the real world, not just to look attractive on the drawing board. They should have permeable surfaces and plenty of soft landscaping including grass.
2.5.4 New buildings should avoid blocking important distant views which give a sense of openess. Buildings on corner sites should be set back and not too high, to avoid blocking views; streets should lead into each other.
2.5.5 Form should follow function only if it also fits with the surroundings.
2.5.6 Whilst lighting is important, it should be energy efficient and effectively directed. There is too much unnecessary light in the town now with spillage into the sky and neighbours; this is pollution and a waste of energy.
2.6.3 In order to optimise natural resources, the use of solar panels and systems for the recycling of rainwater should be actively encouraged in new developments of all sizes. Energy and water conservation measures must be inlcuded.
2.6.5 This states the importance of tree's and vegetation but no mention is made of gardens, particularly front gardens. As required previously, these must not be given over entirely to car parking or hard-surfaced across the whole width.
2.6.6 Large commercial developments should provide transport or contribute to a subsidy for public transport, unless it is already plentiful.
2.7 The size of sites and the number of dwellings proposed for which provision must be made for affordable housing should be as small as possible, and the percentage of such dwellings should be high. Directives for these must be quantitatively defined and enforced; the alternative of commuted sums should be avoided. These are essential to achieve the mix of house types mentioned in PPG3 para 14. Southend should aim for the percentage levels of affordable housing required by Government.
2.8.2 We strongly disagree with the principle of 'enabling development'. The use of publicly owned land for development purposes must not be linked directly to another project. The decision to release publicly owned land must be taken on its own merits. The decision on the use of any released funds must be taken subsequently. The release of tracts of publicly owned land should only take place following direct consultation with residents.
2.8.5 Reviews of conservation areas should be publicised and comment welcomed and considered.
Section 3
3.1.3 The set-back of windows should be actively encouraged; many modern buildings would have been dramatically improved by this simple device.
3.1.6 All off street surface parking, on whatever scale, must be water permeable to avoid shedding water to the highway and burdening drainage system. This will help retain moisture in the soil.
The other guidelines for parking must be pursued and enforced.
3.1.8 Care should be taken to check existing trees and shrubs and ensure they remain as agreed. Graduitous removal must be penalised and replacements must survive.
3.1.9 Recycling facilities should go beyond current requirements. Southend should be a leader in the provision of both residential and commercial recycling.
3.2.1 Private amenity space is highly valued, and has a different quality from public amenity space. Quanitative requirements for private amenity space must be specified to ensure adequate provision and preserve the quality of life for residents.
3.2.3 Side extensions - Inclusion of the 1 metre rule is good but 'where necessary' may be removed from the document.
Limits on extension sizes should be specified to protect neighbours and aid determination of applications.
3.2.3 The restrictions on dormer size and style are good and needs reinforcing.
3.2.3 Additional Storeys - after 'street' add 'or a significant stretch of the street'.
3.2.4 There should be a presumption against backland development in private gardens.
3.2.6 Conversion to Flats - the onus should be on the applicant to show that there will be no additional strain on local amenities.
3.3.2 Illuminated signs should be switched off over night to avoid distraction, light pollution and energy waste.
3.3.3 Perimeter blocks should still have a band of soft landscape around them. Buildings directly on the highway are stark and reflect and amplify noise.
3.4 The current rules for shopfronts in conservation areas should be retained; this is not stated.
Section 4
4.2.1 The location plan must be large enough to identify the site easily and indicate the orientation accurately.
4.2.1 Additional Visual Information - A scale bar should also be given, by at least the main drawings and/or important dimensions given (to enable dimensions to be appreciated when viewing on the web later this year).
'Street Scene' elevations (which are theoretical views from infinity) should be accompanied by ground plans as the relative set back of buildings influences the human perception of the street scene.
Spurious vegetation should not be shown on plans to artificially soften the design.
Plans which are difficult to understand or lack information should not be accepted until they have been improved.
4.2.2 Travel plans must be realistic, not rely on theoretical buses, car share, cycling etc, which may never materialise.
4.2.2 There must be a presumption against building in flood risk areas; no assessments will stop flooding. Development in these areas should be commensurate with the degree of risk.
4.2.2 Ecological assessments must be realistic and concern for local ecology should be an important consideration in planning applications.
4.2.2 Recycing should 'look ahead' and exceed current requirements.
The document contains general ideas of development in an ideal world (with which few could disagree) but must also contain clear objective evaluation and provide the authority with the means to support good practice.
Without specific, quantitative definitions and criteria, decisions will be subjective, inconsistent and harder to support to residents and at appeal. The frequent use of 'should' implies a lack of enforcement; 'must' would give greater power.
Examples of supposedly good design are shown; some of poor design (identified as such) could be equally helpful.
No public or school playing fields must be lost.
Optimum and maximum housing densities must be specified.
There should be no increase in housing unless the infrastructure of sewerage, water supply, medical services and local schooling are increased commensurately.
Account should be taken of other locally produced documents which affect design and townscape.