Draft Harlow Design Guide Supplementary Planning Document

Ended on the 31st January 2011
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2.Using the Design Guide

(1) 2.1 Using the Guide

2.1.1 This Design Guide is a working tool. It is intended for frequent reference and will be essential for all charged with preparing or assessing the quality of planning applications.

2.1.2 The Design Guide is a contemporary framework for guiding and assessing future development across Harlow, independent of specific location, and applicable to different scales of intervention.

2.1.3 The Design Guide is aimed at informing:

  • Developers, in considering potential development sites;
  • Architects, in drawing up schemes for development;
  • Development control officers, as a material consideration in assessing the suitability of applications; and
  • The Council, in determining planning applications and in upholding decisions at planning appeals.

(2) 2.2 Status of the Design Guide

2.2.1 This is a consultation draft Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) which the Council is seeking views on. Following the consultation process, Harlow Council intend to adopt the Design Guide as a SPD to support the saved policies in the adopted Replacement Harlow Local Plan (2006). Therefore, compliance with the guidance will be a material consideration in deciding planning applications submitted to the Council.

2.2.2 Harlow Council is currently producing its Local Development Framework (LDF). The LDF will eventually replace the current Harlow Local Plan. A key document of the LDF is the Core Strategy. This Design Guide will support the Core Strategy once it is produced.

2.2.3 This Design Guide incorporates and updates guidance previously set out in the Harlow Common Guidelines Supplementary Planning Document (2007).

2.2.4 There is a plethora of national urban design guidance and advice in the UK. Although this guide is certainly influenced by and is consistent with national guidance, it does not try to encompass all of it. This Guide focuses on those aspects of design that make most difference to outcomes – ultimately to the quality of life of the present and future residents of the town and all that work or visit there.

2.2.5 There is also county design advice in the form of guidance produced by the Essex Design Initiative. This takes a character-based approach, centered on more traditional design specific to Essex. Although some of the principles in this guide conform to the Essex Design Initiative’s guidance, this guide is specific to Harlow and the character of its new town identity.

2.2.6 Once adopted as a SPD, this Design Guide will replace the Essex Design Guide as Harlow Council’s adopted design guidance.

Figure 2.1

Figure 2.1 Aerial photograph of Harlow

(3) 2.3 Applicability of the Design Guide

2.3.1 The guidance contained in this document applies to all areas of Harlow except for the Town Centre (currently defined by the A1019 the east, Fourth Avenue to the north, Haydens Road to the West and the A1025 to the south).

2.3.2 This Guide covers residential neighbourhoods and their mixed-use centres and also employment areas, including The Pinnacles and Templefields. This Guide applies to all development including new urban extensions, redevelopment and infill of existing urban areas and alterations to existing buildings.

2.4 Design and Access Statements

2.4.1 Design and Access Statements are required to accompany all planning applications, except those which are for a change of use or development of an existing dwelling house (or within the curtilage) unless the property is in a conservation area.

2.4.2 Design and Access Statements are documents that explain the design thinking behind a planning application. They should be used by applicants to demonstrate the design quality of the proposals and how the development will meet the needs of users, including disabled people, older people and young children. They will also be used by the Council as the main tool in assessing the quality of proposed development.

2.4.3 Further guidance on Design and Access Statements is provided in Design and Access Statements: How to Read, Write and Use Them (CABE, 2006). This document sets out what Design and Access Statements should cover, and a useful assessment crib-sheet from the document has been included in Appendix D.

2.4.4 In Harlow, there are two specific requirements for Design and Access Statements. The first is for a characterisation study to be undertaken. This should show how the local context has been understood and how the design has responded to the context. The second is a response to the design principles which are within this document.

Characterisation Study

2.4.5 Understanding the context of a site is the first step in the design process. Harlow Council will require a characterisation study for any new development, including infill development.

2.4.6 The objective of the characterisation study is to identify, analyse and describe in a systematic and objective way those elements or combination of elements that help to form the character of a place.

2.4.7 The level of detail in the study should be related to the scale of the development proposals. So a proposal for a large scale residential development may be supported by a professional, independent study to consider the extension in the context of the town and its movement and green space network, carefully considering how the development would integrate with and enhance the town. Whereas an application for infill development may just consider the character of the street and the neighbouring properties to inform how the development can successfully complement the streetscene.

2.4.8 The characterisation study should inform subsequent design decisions including the scale and massing of proposals, appearance, and building interface and threshold details. Any uncharacteristic departures that may have already occurred to local character should be discarded.

2.4.9 Applicants might find Table 1 useful to inform their characterisation study.

(2) Principle DG1: Design and Access Statements

Design and Access Statements should include (i) a characterisation study to show how the local context has been understood, and how the design has responded to the context; and (ii) a response to how the principles of this guide have been taken into account in the design of the development proposals.

Feature Components Objectives
Landscape Character
  • Topography (natural shape and form of land)
  • Landscape features (such as trees, other planting, water features, ecology etc.)
Have landscape elements that provide the setting for development been considered in developing the scheme?
Have they been retained in the submitted scheme where possible and appropriate?
Historic Character
  • Historic development patterns
  • Historic buildings
  • Historic features
Have elements of historic character that provide the setting and context for development been considered in developing the scheme?
Have they been retained in the submitted scheme where possible and appropriate?
Urban Structure
  • Street pattern
  • Street hierarchy
  • Street users (public transport, cyclists, pedestrians etc.)
  • Accessibility of the site
  • Barriers to movement
Urban structure is the framework of routes and spaces that connect locally and more widely, and the way developments, routes and open spaces relate to one another.
For large-scale developments and masterplans, has a clear and logical urban structure been established? Does it connect well into the existing urban area?
For medium and small developments, does the layout of the proposed development respond to the surrounding urban structure?
Urban Grain
  • Block structure
  • Block size
  • Building plot
  • Building height
  • Building scale and massing
  • Building interface
  • Building typology
Urban grain is the pattern of the arrangement of street blocks, plots and their buildings.
Has the degree to which an area’s pattern of blocks and plot subdivisions is respectively small and frequent (fine grain), or large and infrequent (coarse grain) been taken into account in the scheme?
Does the height, scale and massing of the building been designed to complement the streetscene and aid legibility?
Has the position of the building in the plot, the building line, set back and frontage of neighbouring development (including open-fronts) been taken into account and designed to complement existing urban grain?
Does the proposed building form have an appropriate typology for the proposed use?
Land Uses
  • Mix of land uses in the wider area
  • Land uses in the vicinity of the site
  • Density
Have the surrounding land uses been considered to ensure that the proposed use is appropriate and there are no potential or existing bad neighbour uses? Is the mix of uses within individual schemes complementary?
Does the scheme make an efficient use land without being over developed? Are the land uses at an appropriate intensification to create the anticipated vitality and viability of the scheme?
Architectural Design, Details and Materials
  • Roof treatments
  • Fenestration
  • Projections
  • Treatment of corners
  • Materials
Have individual buildings within a scheme been designed to respond to the local context of a street? Are statement buildings correctly chosen and located to aid legibility and orientation, and of a sufficiently high calibre design to be worthy of standing out?
Are individual buildings well designed? Do they exhibit the following characteristics:
Durability: buildings and component materials should be robust, sustainable and remain in good condition.
Utility: buildings should function well for the people using them and be capable of flexible use and future adaptation.
Beauty: buildings should delight people and raise their spirits.
Local Landmarks
  • Long-range views
  • Short-range views
Have existing or potential long- and short-range focal points (to distinctive buildings, landmarks or landscape features) been identified and taken account of in designing development where possible?
Has the visibility of any potential landmarks within the scheme on the surrounding urban environment and landscape been considered?
Open Spaces
  • Surrounding network of open space
  • Hierarchy of open spaces
  • Open space within the vicinity of the site
  • Public realm
Has consideration been given to opportunities to connect into a wider network of public open spaces (whether Green Wedges, Green Fingers or other local open spaces)?
Has any public space or public realm within the immediate vicinity of the site been responded to, including being appropriately surveilled by proposed development?
Has sufficient, well designed public and private open spaces (including playspaces) been provided in the scheme where appropriate? Are spaces appropriately related to surrounding development to ensure either natural surveillance (for public space) or privacy (for private space)?
Are areas of public realm within a scheme designed to be durable, using robust materials; functional, having a clear purpose for users; and attractive, providing a welcome addition to the streetscene?

Table 1: Framework for Characterisation Study

2.5 Pre-application Procedures

2.5.1 Pre-application discussions with planning officers from Harlow Council will form an integral element of the design and planning process.

2.5.2 Consultation on development proposals should be in line with the Council’s Statement of Community Involvement, and where relevant pre-application consultation with the local community and other relevant stakeholders should be undertaken prior to the submission of a planning application in order to foster public involvement in the planning process.

2.6 Permitted Development

2.6.1 There are some forms of development that are classed as ‘permitted development’ and therefore do not need planning permission.

2.6.2 If you require any guidance in respect of what may or may not be permitted development you should contact the Council’s planning department or the publication ‘Permitted Development for Householders: Technical Guidance’ (Department for Communities and Local Government, August 2010).

2.6.3 Even if you do not need to make a planning application, you should follow good design principles. A separate application for Covenant Consent or Building Regulations approval may be needed for permitted development.

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