Auchincruive Estate

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Download: 130611 SAS13 Auchincruive Appraisal
Project data
Project Reference Auchincruive Estate
Details Masterplan for new village, incorporating existing historic buildings and designed landscape.
Location South Ayrshire
Use Type Housing
Client/Developer AWG Property/Scottish Agricultural College [SRUC]
Lead Designers CDA
Planning Authority South Ayrshire Council
Planning Ref Approval of Matters Specified in Conditions Ref: 09/01416/PPPM
Issue Date 11/06/2013

1.00 Status of Appraisal

1.01 This report forms a Project Appraisal by the A&DS Design Forum panel. The report reflects both the outcomes of the final workshop on 29th May and the subsequent appraisal by panellists. Equally it encompasses key issues raised and discussed during the series of earlier workshops. The earlier Design Forum advice notes remain relevant as background to and substantiation of the position expressed in this appraisal.

1.02 The appraisal in section 3 below sets out A&DS’s informed advice on the design quality of proposals at the conclusion of the Design Forum process for Auchincruive. The appraisal incorporates an overall rating of the quality of the documentation and the design proposals presented in relation to standards relevant to the site. This is followed by further advisory notes in section 4, providing explanatory notes related to the section 3 appraisal.

1.03 Sections 3 and 4 are both structured around the workshop topics, related to the conditional matters and issues identified by the planning authority in condition 13 of PPP consent ref 09/01416/PPPM, as noted in the text. This structure is intended to facilitate the use of this appraisal by South Ayrshire Council when reviewing the case for discharge of conditions of the PPP consent.

1.04 This report draws on information presented to A&DS, and from discussions with all parties, throughout the Design Forum workshop series.

The current documents presented and discussed in connection with the 29th May 2013 workshop included:

  • CDA Auchincruive Colour Masterplan (drawing)
  • CDA Site Analysis (39 page doc)
  • CDA Design Code Document (97 page doc)
  • CDA Design Code appendices (10 page doc + appendices)
  • CDA Village Study (75 page doc)
  • DWA Landscape Strategy, dated May 2013
  • Waterman Sustainability Strategy, dated May 2013

2.00 Background

2.01 A new mixed-use village of 495 residential units is proposed under the terms of planning consent ref 09/01416/PPPM granted July 2012. This proposal is required to address the distinctive character of historic buildings and landscape at Auchincruive whilst replacing the former campus of the Scottish Agricultural College with new development, with a view to creating a new village that, as required by the PPP consent, is an exemplar of placemaking.

2.02 The requirement for this further A&DS engagement with the project, and a second series of A&DS workshops, this time under the A&DS Design Forum Programme, had arisen out of condition 13 of the PPP consent. The PPP consent for Auchincruive required the developer to consult A&DS during the process of preparing a Development Brief/Design Code for the site at Auchincruive. These two documents are regarded by the South Ayrshire Council as critical to securing successful development via third party developers, hence the requirement for A&DS involvement.

2.03 The A&DS engagement with the proposals for Auchincruive has involved the A&DS Design Forum panel and staff, the Project Team, representatives of South Ayrshire Council and Historic Scotland. A series of 4 half –day Design Forum workshops began on 18th September 2012 and concluded with the recent workshop on 29th May 2013. In addition a desktop appraisal was carried out on 26th March 2013. An advice note was issued following each of the earlier engagements.

3.00 Appraisal Outcomes

[This section of the report summarises the appraisal of A&DS arising from discussion at the workshop and subsequently consolidated in order to provide a clear statement of appraisal pertinent to the stage in design development that the project has reached.]

Appraisal Summary

During the course of the Design Forum process for Auchincruive, there has been clear progress, a refreshed approach to the earlier PPP stage masteplanning and the beginnings of a vision for an exemplar settlement. The present proposals for Auchincruive, however, remain too undeveloped and the clarity of the coding for the majority of the site is too ambiguous to be supported in its present form. We acknowledge that the village centre, focussed around Gibbs Yard, is stronger in its current form.

Therefore the panel concluded that the project, in its present form, is rated as category 3, with potential but unsupported.

We recommend that the appointed consultants come together as a team and work closely with council officers over the coming weeks to develop a shared vision and a commonly endorsed document. This needs to reflect a softer and more considered approach to placemaking, built around the subtleties and nuances of the various conditions around the site and the findings of the village and historic buildings study.

This appraisal sets down elements that A&DS consider need to be resolved in order that it might reach a position of being supportable.

3.01 Morphology/site appraisal/village study [condition 13, items 5, 6 and 7].

The village study, site appraisal and morphology study, as requested by the planning authority and prepared by the design team were intended, in terms of the planning conditions, to establish distinctive qualities for the proposed place, to support the establishment of the required exemplar of placemaking and to meet Designing Places policy in a particularly sensitive and significant environmental context. However the present village study, site appraisal and morphology study contain insufficient analysis and lack clear conclusions to be effective in this respect. For this reason the proposals and design code continue to lack the intended underpinning based on observations and evidence.

See also section 4.01 advice.

3.02 Vision and illustration/Exemplar of National Policy and Guidance [condition 13, items 1, 2, 3 and 4]

A vision for the site is beginning to emerge, in certain areas, however it needs to be amplified and have more force to convey the aspirational exemplar approach required by the council, to address Designing Places policy and PAN 67 Housing Quality. The limited level of design development in the outlying character areas, fails to provide sufficient confidence that the vision will translate, via 3rd party developers, into the intended exemplar development. There is therefore presently a risk of lack of distinctiveness for the majority of the proposed new build development for the new Auchincruive, contrary to Designing Places policy.

See also section 4.02 advice.

3.03 Mixed Use and Built Form strategy [condition 13, items 8 and 9]

The layout would benefit from being simpler, with a few key moves – not complexity for its own sake. It would benefit from fewer, better defined, character areas albeit these might each contain a range of existing physical characteristics. The ‘New Town’ geometries appear out of place in this context and A&DS would expect to see a more nuanced streetscape, structured around the various localised townscape and landscape conditions such as woodland edges, cycle corridors, south facing slopes, the northern gateway and the higher density courtyard/steading conditions around Gibbs Yard. Topography has informed the built form in some areas however this needs to be developed for the steeper sloping locations.

Those elements that tie the place together, such as streets lines and types, treelines, new woodland, cycleways and walking routes need to be anchored at this stage.

To follow the principles of Designing Streets, solutions for the inter-relationship between street design and its implications for the architecture need to be fully demonstrated. The present block plans with 6m front curtilages are in conflict with the imagery of contemporary exemplars and the narrow street sectionsidentified in the village study.

See also section 4.03 advice.

3.04 Movement/ B-plan/ Public Realm [condition 10, items 10, 12 and 13]

Both A&DS and the planning and roads authorities wish to see an exemplar of the application of Designing Streets principles. However the present block structure, street hierarchy and street sections anticipates a more formulaic approach to layout by 3rd party developers, which places the exemplar expectation at risk.

The adoption of a permeable approach to the street layout is welcome and should help support the intended integration of walking and cycle routes into the surrounding countryside. We also welcome the principal routes having been re-oriented to take account of Neogen as a destination and to integrate the working population into the new community. However these benefits do not outweight the risks associated with a streetscape prioritising front-curtilage parking, wide streets and detached houses.

See also section 4.04 advice.

3.05 Landscape strategy [condition 13, item 11]

The landscape strategy needs a clear hierarchy that establishes the broad character of farmland, woodland, mature trees and hedge lines to be extended into the site, then a more subtle level within the site that varies locally to take account of localised differences of topography, exposure and orientation. At the smaller scale there might also be small differences between character areas such as between beech and holly hedges and which add to the sense of place.

To demonstrate to developers that the vision can be successfully implemented the landscape design needs to more fully address the implications of steeper slopes, identify design characteristics e.g. materials/planting palette for each character area and fully integrate SUDS design, as discussed.

Boundary treatments also need to work harder to link with the patterns and forms of the wider landscape. For example the built form proposal for designed frontages to the landscape is in conflict with the landscape proposal, which proposes that housing is visually contained behind structure planting. Determining a common set of planting characteristics and plot formats, suited to wooded edges, would help clarify this. Whilst the sections drawn by CDA begin to investigate these interfaces and the relative scale, exposure and containment of buildings, it is early days and further design work is required to develop an unambiguous strategy capable of being implemented.

See also section 4.05 advice.

3.06 Sustainable development strategy and BREEAM [condition 13, item 14]

The adoption of a silver standard energy consumption target for each dwelling in terms of building standards and a carbon emissions target per dwelling is welcomed. However the extensive checklist set out in the sustainability strategy duplicates the section 7 silver standard measures and the need for the checklist should be reconsidered.

Since placemaking is fundamental to sustainable development this inter-relationship should be made clearer in the documentation generally. To become an exemplar of sustainability the placemaking issues would need to be better resolved.

See also section 4.06 advice.

3.07 Development Brief / Design Code [condition 13, all items]

A re-stated masterplan [or Development Brief] would help provide the necessary clarity, replacing the earlier masterplan, setting out the vision and presenting the design principles and critical elements required to tie the whole place together. It needs to set out the strategic elements of landscape and streets that will organise the proposed layout in three dimensions. It needs to illustrate with 3D imagery a vision for what the village might look like as a whole.

The masterplan needs to fully integrate the landscape and built form propositions. It needs to clearly set out the landscape elements (including trees, hedges, lawns, tennis courts etc) that are to be protected and retained.

The design code, which could be an appendix to the masterplan, would then set out further detail of the built form guidance for each character area.

Clearer, drawn, more concise coding, with less text, is needed to set unambiguous directives and guidance for development. This needs to provide a better link to the thinking behind the code, explaining the rationale to third parties. On the one hand this must provide the clarity that is necessary to ensure that development can be carried out in a coherent way and to a consistent standard to realise the vision, whilst on the other hand it needs to define where flexibility is allowed such that individual developers can adapt their models and practices to suit site conditions.
See also section 4.07 advice.

3.08 Phasing/Procurement/Management/Maintenance strategies [condition 13, items 19,20 and 21]

We welcome the new phasing proposal, showing early establishment around key elements of the village core, and the principle of each phase incorporating a mix of easier and harder elements to deliver.

The landscape implementation strategy needs to be linked to the masterplan and design code phasing.

4.00 Advisory Notes

[This section sets out the further advice and guidance provided by the Design Forum Panel, also providing further explanatory notes relating to each appraisal topic.]

4.01 Morphology/site appraisal/village study [condition 13, items 5, 6 and 7].
The potential for the application of study findings include:

  1. To incorporate a clear line of influence on the code for the proposed outlying character areas. The characteristically narrow street sections and typically low-rise linear forms of the more distinctive and attractive villages identified may be regarded as models.
  2. The village centre layout has begun to take better advantage of the historic buildings as established centrepieces and planned landmarks, progressing significantly in this respect since September. Further improvement might be gained via the character and architectural language of the listed buildings to inform the coding for new housing more generally.
  3. Developing the hierarchy of the estate buildings and their relative architectural expressions and materials pallettes should provide useful cues i.e:
    Hall| gatehouses| Temple
    [Classical architecture in ashlar stone]
    Dairy| Wilson Hall| Gibbs Yard
    [Arts and crafts, rural architecture with some dressed stone detail, harled].
    This hierarchy might be used to help solve problems and structure the new planned village form such that the new housing forms an extended family of contemporary forms that respond to historic characteristics and materials pallettes.
  4. Layout and phasing of the new housing could be more closely informed by a morphology appraisal that links the patterns of historic growth and change at Auchincruive to the planned patterns for future growth.

4.02 Vision and illustration/Exemplar of National Policy and Guidance [condition 13, items 1, 2, 3 and 4]

Vision Status

We would suggest:

  1. A compelling first paragraph is needed to sell the idea and show the strength of what is possible to 3rd parties. The vision needs to be prominently located in the documentation. [It is, at present, reserved until page 22 of the Design Code document.]
  2. The application of the vision needs be re-iterated through the masterplan and code to explain its relevance to the detail of the proposals.

Vision Content

A vision has been discussed for a new village. We would suggest this:

  1. Builds on three key features and assets of the site
    • a beautiful, well-established and historically important landscape setting
    • an undulating topography
    • and a set of distinctive historic buildings and settings.
  2. Establishes a vibrant mixed-use community integrating the new resident population with the existing and projected working populations, the attractive sport, recreational and visitor activities already exiting on site at Auchincruive and in the surrounding landscape along the River Ayr.
  3. Grows the place and identity of Auchincruive outwards from the established and distinctive historic core, taking care to create a new community that responds to the setting whilst also creating a cohesive and distinctive Auchincruive village form.

Masterplan Proposals

We would suggest that:

  1. This would benefit by being more easily appreciable in three dimensions, more simply, succinctly and unambiguously expressed through drawings. Whilst this is more evident in the centre and around Gibbs yard it is not evident for most character areas where Illustrations show little detail.
  2. Presently sketches for differing areas show similar building forms and formats, implying a uniform approach without the nuance intended and required to address the divergent site conditions such as gradients, densities, frontage conditions, orientations and types of adjoining landscape.
  3. Whilst we welcome the move away from earlier proposals for back-court access generally, the entrance area is probably the weakest part of the layout at this stage, with issues including the obstruction of the view of Wilson Hall and the use of rear-access parking.

4.03 Mixed Use and Built Form strategy [condition 13, items 8 and 9]

At present there appears to be some discrepancy and ambiguities between the various packages of design information and documents, which results in lack of definition as to how the vision will be realised. This might be resolved by addressing:

  1. Street forms: There is currently a discrepancy between
    (i) the imagery included of well-designed contemporary architecture and urban design
    (ii) the variable quality of buildings and forms in the village study and
    (iii) the notional block plan and street sections that reflect a mainstream suburban housing format. It is necessary to distill from these divergent sources what is actually intended and appropriate for the site and to record this for each character area. A matrix might be used to define the characteristics of each character area.
  2. Definition of the characteristics of the intended main and secondary frontage types.
  3. Relevant precedent examples need to be identified for particular locations. Accordia, Cambridge, for example, includes housing forming an edge to parks and in close proximity to mature trees. The Inverness expo provides a good example of the integration of a swale into the street layout.
  4. The intended contemporary approach to traditional forms needs to be more clearly demonstrated either by further detailed design or by showing realised examples where this has been successful
  5. The street structure at present is denser and with narrower streets at the centre and less dense, with wider streets, in outlying areas. This seems at odds with the extra space needed, e.g. along the High Street, in areas of greatest activity and intensity. There is an opportunity to narrow the outlying streets to make them more intimate, village like and responsive to context.

4.04 Movement/ B-plan/ Public Realm [condition 10, items 10, 12 and 13]

We would suggest:

  1. That the proposal for a 6m front curtilage for the generality of the new housing is at odds with key objectives for the site:
    – Responding to the village study [which shows typically narrow linear streets].
    – Realising the quality shown in the precedents for new housing included in the appendix of the village study [these do not include front curtilage parking and this is one of their distinguishing characteristics].
    – Following Designing Streets principles. [A&DS Advice note 4 quoted Designing Streets “(It) emphasises the influence of built form on street design. ‘Street Design must consider place before movement’ ‘Street user hierarchy should consider pedestrians first and private motor vehicles last’ ‘Design should not rely solely on conventional traffic calming techniques to develop a positive sense of place. Instead, speed-controlling features should be built into the layout of the street, taking advantage of building alignment, parking, road narrowings, landscaping and other design features’ ‘streets should allow for and encourage social interaction’.]
    – Getting the balance right between the form in outlying areas, where there is less activity and traffic, and the form at the centre of the village, where there is more.
    We would therefore advise the adoption of our recommendation and that of the council to pull frontages forwards to integrate on-street parking with street trees, to (generally) remove front curtilage parking and put parking between houses. In addition we would advise the elimination of the secondary tier of streets with double pavements [road type B] that appear overdesigned. These changes would help achieve a B-plan closer to the ‘after’ version for Polnoon (Designing Streets, page 21) “bringing movement, buildings and open space all together”.
  2. If it is to be implemented by commercial developers a street layout needs to be set out that is more economic and efficient, keeping the infrastructure costs down with fewer more compact streets, limiting the extent of ‘blacktop’.

4.05 Landscape strategy [condition 13, item 11]

We would suggest:

  1. Where buildings and landscape proposals might have been integrated into a single masterplan proposal these elements are currently designed and presented in the separate Landscape Strategy and Design Code documents that risk contradicting one another. We would encourage joint working within the design team to integrate proposals and these documents into a single design vision and masterplan.
  2. The discussion at the last workshop highlighted opportunities to develop the design of existing and proposed woodland edges in such a way as to create a woodland format and to reduce the extent of road infrastructure.

4.06 Sustainable development strategy and BREEAM [condition 13, item 14]

We would suggest:

  1. Eliminating the large part of the sustainability strategy such that the priorities are clearer, the third party developers are not unnecessarily burdened.
  2. That the strategy for achieving sustainable placemaking should rely to a large extent on strategies integral to the Masterplan and Design Code documents.
  3. Making the engineering text less prescriptive. It should support developers to meet the code and masterplan rather than narrowing down their options, SUDS being a case in point. This needs to be balanced against the clear advantage of setting down those elements that have been successfully resolved and to offset the need for further approvals.
  4. Whilst we recognise that the drainage infrastructure has yet to be designed we would wish, as discussed, to see the potential of open watercourses and swales being ruled in rather than prematurely ruled out at this stage. Water infrastructure can be attractively integrated with street character to influence the housing layout introducing strong landscape features capable of linking with the wider landscape character. We note for example the stated intent of retaining something of the character or roadside burns.

4.07 Development Brief / Design Code [condition 13, all items]

We would suggest:

  1. That an updated and renewed masterplan and design code should be seen as positive tools that are useful to incoming developers. They can be conceived to resolve and de-risk the design problems presented by the site, to remove uncertainty in the planning process (by demonstrating what the council will accept) and to provide confidence for a mix of developers that they are working to a common benchmark and will not undermine one anothers interests.
  2. That such a plan and code have the potential to help market the development parcels and to demonstrate site value based on the undoubted assets and opportunities presented by the site.

5.00 Next Stage

[This section of the report indicates further A&DS involvement proposed or discussed at the workshop.]

5.01 The issue of this report represents the completion of the Design Forum Workshop process for Auchincruive. The review by A&DS of any further submissions by the Project Team would need to be by special arrangement with A&DS and in association with an explanation as to how the various matters raised in this report have been addressed.

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