Draft Harlow Design Guide Supplementary Planning Document
Process For Producing the Harlow Design Guide SPD
In order to construct a robust piece of design guidance the project went through three stages, each presented to and reviewed by the client group, consisting of Harlow Council and Harlow Renaissance:
i) Inception and Baseline: This stage incorporated a set of site visits and an extensive review of existing information that began with a review of national, regional and local planning and design policy.
A review of Sir Frederick Gibberd’s masterplan and design principles was undertaken to establish what extent these were realised and to identify any resultant issues in how Harlow functions as a place today.
The Essex Design Guide and Urban Place Supplement were also reviewed. The former has limited relevance to Harlow as it provides more of a rural context to development, and its companion guide, the Urban Place Supplement, also has limited relevance as it does not provide a new town design context which is important In Harlow.
Finally contemporary urban design guidance and best practice publications were reviewed, such as By Design (DETR, 2000), Manual for Streets (DFT, 2007), Car Parking, What Works Where (English Partnerships, 2006), Safer Places: The Planning System and Crime Prevention (ODPM, 2004) and the Urban Design Compendium (English Partnerships, 2007).
ii) Initial Stakeholder Consultation: A broad range of stakeholders were sought to help to determine which of the design principles that have informed the development of Harlow are fundamental to its identity, and to what extent they can be adapted to form a contemporary version that addresses current design issues.
These discussions were facilitated in five workshops attended by a range of individuals including Council officers, representatives from neighbouring district and county authorities), plus experts and advisors covering planning policy, architecture and urban design, development control, highways and transportation, heritage and conservation, accessibility, crime and fire prevention, landscape and biodiversity, and housing (amongst others).
The Initial Stakeholder Workshop was a half-day interactive workshop to set the overall direction of the project. It brought together interested parties to establish a common understanding of the design guidance’s role and to develop a set of defining principles that should be taken forward into the next stage of developing the Design Guide.
The workshop included a presentation of the project, a review of design in Harlow and a presentation on the principles of successful placemaking.
The outcome of this workshop was summarised into key areas for the design guidance to consider. This was compared with the relevant policy, guidance and the founding principles to establish areas of conformity and conflict.
iii) Detailed Stakeholder Consultation: Four further workshops were then undertaken. These were called Design Workshops, and built upon the outcomes of the initial stakeholder workshop. They were structured into four categories: Neighbourhood Centres, Local Centres and Employment Areas; Movement and Streets; Open Space and Green Infrastructure; and Residential Design.
The Design Workshops were a core part of developing the Design Guide. These workshops considered the topics for which design guidance as to be prepared, and included a presentation on best practice in design and relevant Gibberd principles. Participants were then asked to discuss and debate Harlow-specific design solutions for the topics, which would form the basis of the guidance that would be developed by the consultants.
This design guide also draws upon the report of the ‘Tomorrow’s Harlow’ symposium which took place at Harlow Civic Centre on 18 June 2010 and brought together 66 experts on development in Harlow.
Key National Policy Supporting this Planning Guidance
There is a general direction in current design policy and guidance that leans towards an integrated approach to achieving sustainable yet distinctive built environments. There is a wealth of information that guides a broad spectrum of design issues, from creating livable environments and distinctive, safe and attractive places, to the need to provide walkable open space and social infrastructure whilst protecting and enhancing the character of natural and built environments. In terms of contemporary guidance for development, many of Gibberd’s original principles are still relevant. Nevertheless, they require updating to conform to current policy guidance, such as:
- Planning Policy Statement 1 (Delivering Sustainable Development) (ODPM, 2005) which states that sustainable development is the core principle underpinning planning.
- By Design, Urban Design in the Planning System: Towards Better Practice (DETR, 2000) which supports the need for better urban design quality and standards, highlighted through seven key criteria: character, continuity and enclosure, quality of the public realm, ease of movement, legibility, adaptability and diversity.
- Planning Policy Statement 3 (Housing) (CLG, 2010), which requires new development takes in account appropriate densities, the need to cut carbon emissions and ensure access to community facilities.
- Planning Policy Statement 4 (Planning for Sustainable Economic Growth) (CLG 2009), which reinforces the importance of economic centres improving their viability through the provision of a range of services set within an attractive and safe environment. Centres should be invested as a focus for economic development, whilst a sequential test is required to limit the amount of out-of-centre developments.
- Manual for Streets (DFT, 2007) which promotes high quality residential streets that form an integrated part of a well-connected street network, create safe and attractive places, provide for all users and promote and strengthen communities.
It is not the objective of this design guidance to duplicate the design guidance that already exists, nor to set out an intricate set of guidelines that goes into extensive detail. The Design Guide is intended to be adopted as a Supplementary Planning Document and has been formed to encourage high quality development, steering new development in the right direction in terms of addressing what is special about Harlow.
Policy Context: Harlow Local Plan
Harlow Replacement Local Plan
The Adopted Replacement Harlow Local Plan was published in July 2006 and those policies ‘saved’ by the Secretary of State’s Direction (dated 12 May 2009) currently guide development management in Harlow.
The vision of the Local Plan supports a strong emphasis on sustainability in social, environmental and economic terms. It aims for Harlow to become a more walkable environment where people are able to ‘live near work, leisure and community facilities’. This is encouraged through higher density and mixed use housing and locating employment uses near to public transport connections. The Local Plan aims for sustainable development are supported by a prioritisation of sustainable transport modes, the protection and enhancement of the natural environment and provision of housing for all sectors of the community.
Environmental protection sits highly within the document, which seeks the maintenance of the character of the Green Wedges, Green Belt and areas of heritage and wildlife value (policies NE12, NE17, NE18 and NE19). Policy NE11 also seeks the preservation of trees and hedges. The benefit of a positive edge to open spaces is supported through Policy NE1, which makes the exception for small scale developments that do not adversely effect the ecological or character value and contribute towards local amenities. Major development is expected to be of high quality design, to minimise waste materials, soil loss/ damage (SD9) and to accommodate recycling storage and facilities.
The guidance for new development is that height massing, layout, appearance and landscape is conscious of the context in terms of grain, scale, material and details (policies BE1 and H10), yet this does not necessitate replicating local character. The urban form has to accommodate high standards of design that address security, clearly distinguish public space from private areas (BE2), provide frontage onto the street and collectively create a sense of enclosure (BE5).
Policy encourages an integrated approach to development, transport, employment, education and cultural facilities (ER1), with higher densities promoted in areas of public transport accessibility and in close proximity to services and employment (BE3). This primarily relates to the Neighbourhood Centres, where mixed use development of retail, cultural and residential uses is supported (SD4). Mixed use is generally supported, inside and outside of employment areas (ER11, SD5) where it is in an accessible location and compatible in terms of function, amenity and character.
Apart from reducing the need to travel, sustainable modes of travel should be promoted. New developments are expected to provide footpaths and cycleways that connect to the existing network (T6) and provide better access to the countryside (L13).
Local Development Framework
The Local Development Framework will eventually replace the Harlow Local Plan to provide the future spatial development strategy for Harlow. The Core Strategy is currently being prepared, and the first stage will be consultation on the Core Strategy Issues and Options document.
HARLOW 2020 VISION
The Community Strategy reinforces a set of priorities that aim to promote a high quality of life for the people of Harlow. Those priorities which relate to the Design Guide include the need to improve the local neighbourhood street scene and enhance the green environment, develop a safe and convenient movement network, reduce waste and maximise recycling, enhance public open space and increase the potential for active lifestyles.
GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN
The Green Infrastructure Plan provides guidance on the Green Infrastructure Network which aims to promote an attractive, distinctive, accessible, diverse and multi-functional network of green spaces. The guidelines support a new high quality urban edge and the creation of an improved sense of place for urban fringes, gateways and transport corridors. In terms of urban fringe, it seeks that active frontages from new buildings make a positive contribution to the experience of urban-edge landscapes.
Design and Access Statement Assessment Crib Sheet
This crib sheet has been adapted from Design and Access Statements: How to Read, Write and Use Them (CABE, 2006) which provides further guidance on the application process and how Design and Access Statements can be used to support applications for development.
Would the application help to create an appropriate mix of uses in the area?
Would different uses work together well, or would they cause unacceptable annoyance?
Is the density appropriate?
Could the neighbourhood’s services support the amount of development planned?
Do all spaces have a purpose?
Will public spaces be practical, safe, overlooked and inclusive?
Will private spaces be adaptable, secure and inviting?
Will the buildings sit comfortably with their surroundings?
Will they, and parts like doors and windows, be of a comfortable scale for people?
Has landscaping been properly considered from the start?
Will it help to make the place look good and
work well, and will it meet any specific aims for the site?
How will the development visually relate to its surroundings? Will it look attractive?
Will the place be safe and easy for everyone to move around?
Will it make the most of the surrounding movement network?
Has the applicant clearly described their policy approach and consultation process, whether carried out or planned?
Accessibility: The ability of people to move round an area and to reach places and facilities, including elderly and disabled people, those with young children and those encumbered with luggage or shopping.
Active frontages: Street elevations that are enlivened by visible activity either within or outside the building.
Adaptability: The capacity of a building or space to be changed so as to respond to changing social, technological and economic conditions.
Building line: The line formed by the frontages of buildings along a street.
Character (of an Area): This is influenced by the qualities that affect our experience of a place. In combination, buildings and their component elements (forms, detailing, materials etc.) can create strong character through uniformity or variety. The influence of the character of the surrounding area on the consideration of extension proposals at a property is limited to that part of the street or neighbourhood visible from the site, i.e. the immediate vicinity.
Context: The setting of a site or area, including factors such as the street, activities and land uses as well as landscape and built form.
Density: The floorspace of a building or buildings or some other unit measure in relation to a given area of land. Density is expressed as number of units per hectare for residential development.
Design standards: Specific, usually quantifiable measures of amenity and safety in residential areas.
Design and access statement: Submitted with a planning application, the statement sets out the design principles that the planning applicant has adopted in relation to the site and its wider context, as required by PPS1.
Elevation: The facade of a building, or the drawing of a facade.
Enclosure: The use of buildings to create a sense of defined space.
Form: The layout (structure and urban grain), density, scale (height and massing), appearance (materials and details) and landscape of development.
Hatch: A community hub at the heart of a collection of homes.
Height: The height of a building can be expressed in terms of a maximum number of floors; a maximum height of parapet or ridge; a maximum overall height; any of these maximum heights in combination with a maximum number of floors; a ratio of building height to street or space width; height relative to particular landmarks or background buildings; or strategic views.
Inter-urban network: This is also known as the trunk road network, and its purpose is to provide high speed, direct connections between urban areas. Motorways represent the most extreme example of this type of road, where many users are not permitted and those that remain are segregated where possible (by space and/or time). It is because of these restrictions that journey times can be reduced while maintaining acceptable levels of road safety.
Landmark: A building or structure that stands out from its background by virtue of height, size or some other aspect of design.
Legibility: The degree to which a place can be easily understood and travelled through.
Local distinctiveness: The positive features of a place and its communities which contribute to its special character and sense of place.
Massing: The combined effect of the height, bulk and silhouette of a building or group of buildings.
Mixed uses: A mix of uses within a building, on a site or within a particular area. ‘Horizontal’ mixed uses are side by side, usually in different buildings. ‘Vertical’ mixed uses are on different floors of the same building.
Modal integration: This represents the degree of separation (by space and/or time) of road users travelling by different modes. Modes may be separated, where for example, where pedestrians are not permitted to walk on motorways; or integrated, where, for example, cycle lanes are provided on roads.
Natural surveillance: The discouragement of wrong-doing by the presence of passers-by or the ability of people to be seen out of surrounding windows. Also known as passive surveillance (or supervision).
Open fronts: Front gardens open to the street with no fences, walls or intrusions.
Original dwelling: This means the dwelling as it was first built, or as it was on the 1 July 1948. Although you may not have built an extension to the dwelling, a previous owner may have done so. Therefore, any extension proposal must also be considered in light of any previous extensions to the dwelling.
Permeability: Also known as connectivity, this refers to the directness of links and the numbers of connections in a place. A highly permeable network has many short links, numerous route options, and minimal dead-ends.
Privacy strips: The distance from the edge of the street to the front of the building.
Public realm: The parts of a village, town or city (whether publicly or privately owned) that are available, without charge, for everyone to use or see, including streets, squares and parks.
Public/private interface: The point at which public areas and buildings meet private ones.
Scale: The impression of a building when seen in relation to its surroundings, or the size of parts of a building or its details, particularly as experienced in relation to the size of a person.
Sense of place: Local characteristics which give a place identity.
Vista: An enclosed view, usually a long and narrow one.