Road testing the Place Standard tool
In May 2015 we helped North Ayrshire Council to road test the Place Standard and consider the relevance of the tool to community and development planning officers. An interactive workshop method was used involving working in groups and a site visit to a part of Irvine around a local park with neighbouring housing and where future development was planned.
Two groups of seven, one a Spatial Planning officer group and the other a Community Planning officers group had parallel group working sessions, allowing comparison afterwards. Both groups looked at the changing area around Quarry Road Park in Irvine, each carrying out a separate assessment.
Materials included copies of the Place Standard tool and 1:2500 scale mapping and drawings of development proposals. Results were then compared to draw lessons. The half-day workshop included:
- An introduction to the tool
- 10-15 minutes for groups to confer and agree on: purpose of assessment; study area and route to take
- 90 minutes site visit stopping to discuss existing site conditions
- 45 minute discussion and assessment of the 14 questions, completing a spider graph and noting priorities
The workshop highlighted the role of the tool from a professional officers perspective
“ We would have used it in a recent consultation if available – it could have led to a richer result.”
“Useful as an agenda / framework for structured discussion – to give consistent aligned views”
“Could form part of public engagements or public meetings”
“Tailor-made for pre –application consultation e.g. for major housing sites”
“Could be used at Main Issues Report stage”
“It could help overcome challenges to corporate working”
The workshop highlighted lessons learned to gain value from the tool.
“The on-the-ground element of the site visit makes a difference – looking at and discussing places in situ gives greater understanding and accuracy.”
“It was important to look at the detailed considerations – not relying on question set alone.”
“Important to consider scale and frame of reference at the outset.”
“The scoring is not the only element to gain value – it is also about having the discussion to explore a theme – the quality of the dialogue is important.”
“Take care as non-residents when assessing: ‘identity and sense of belonging’ and ‘Influence and Sense of Control’”
- The workshop was the start of a process of steady growth in use and application of the tool by North Ayrshire Council linking community and spatial planning work in a number of communities such as locality planning workshops for small towns and design charrettes
- Feedback from the event had a significant influence on the eventual form of the tool including: guidance for group assessment; emphasis on the value of group dialogue and collective assessment; inclusion of themes related to local economy and parking; guidance on scale; inclusion of space to record individual comments