Design Forum Report: Inveraray Masterplan

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Download: Design Forum Report – Inveraray Masterplan Appraisal Final for web
Project Reference INVERARAY MASTERPLAN
Details Site identified within the Proposed Argyll and Bute Local Development Plan (PLDP) as both a Mixed Use Allocation MU 3001 (noted within the PLDP for housing, including affordable units, business Class 4, tourism including hotel and community facilities) to be progressed through a Master Plan approach (designation MAST 1/15 within the Plan).
Location Inveraray, Argyll and Bute
Use Type Masterplan Policy/Strategic Mixed Use
Client/Developer Argyll Estates
Lead Designers Richard Heggie, Urban Animation
Planning Authority Argyll and Bute Council
Planning Ref n/a
Issue Date 8th March 2016

1.00    Introduction

(This summarises project status and background information that was indicated to A&DS prior to the workshop or clarified by the parties during the workshop. In the event that any of the statements made in this introduction are considered incorrect A&DS should be advised and the report will be amended.)

  • Project Description

The site is identified within the Proposed Argyll and Bute Local Development Plan (PLDP) as both a Mixed Use Allocation MU 3001 (noted within the PLDP for housing, including affordable units, business Class 4, tourism including hotel and community facilities) to be progressed through a Master Plan approach (designation MAST 1/15 within the Plan).

The masterplan for Inveraray was referred to A&DS Design Forum by Argyll and Bute Council as a Locally Significant project in March 2014. A Design Forum series was initiated in the context of limited initial timescales related to submissions of planning applications for a first phase of housing and a retail development.

The Design Forum series aimed to support Argyll and Bute Council, Argyll Estates, their design team, Historic Environment Scotland, Transport Scotland and other participants towards the production by Argyll Estates of a masterplan to help manage the growth of Inveraray, at a level appropriate to it’s national significance.

  • Workshop Process

Our first Design Forum workshop in April 2014 advised that study and analysis of Landscape, Townscape and Movement Framework should underpin the establishment of a suitable masterplan, and that the masterplan should include a clearly set out 3-dimensional design proposition. The workshop helped facilitate a first phase of housing at Barn Park. A Framework Plan for the growth of Inveraray and a development brief for a 12 unit affordable housing development were subsequently submitted and approved by the council. The housing has since proceeded to construction.

The second Design Forum workshop was held on 5th August 2014 to review localised masterplanning for a gateway retail development at the masterplan site frontage. The workshop reinforced earlier advice on analysis of Landscape, Townscape and Movement Framework and sought more robust proposals tested against the site and wider context. The workshop gave provisional advice in connection with the retail development proposals. This was followed with further input by A&DS staff.

The retail area ‘phase 2’ masterplan and retail development proposals were submitted and approved by the council following the second workshop.

2.00      Workshop Scope

(This section of the report sets out the intended purpose of the workshop as agreed prior to the workshop or as adjusted, by common consent, during the course of the workshop.)

2.01    The purpose of the third and final workshop was to conclude the series by carrying out an appraisal of the developed Inveraray masterplan. This involved the pre-consultation review of draft masterplan documentation and related studies [see appendices]. The review reflected on the various studies carried out since the first workshop and the wider work that has been brought together recently to form a spatial proposal, to put this in context and to address our earlier advice.

2.02    A further iteration of the draft masterplan is intended to follow the workshop, addressing the advice given. The council then intend public consultation following which a finalised masterplan document would be developed before adoption by the council as non-statutory supplementary guidance. Once established the masterplan will supersede the earlier Framework Plan and Design Briefs for the site. The mixed-use ‘phase 2’ masterplan previously approved in relation to the retail development will also be superseded by the wider masterplan.

 

  • A S75 agreement is to be separately established including definition of phased infrastructure delivery relative to the implementation of development.

3.00    Workshop Outcomes

(This section of the report records the appraisal of A&DS arising from discussion at the workshop and subsequently consolidated in order to provide a clear statement of appraisal)

(It begins with a summary of the appraisal by A&DS including the overall rating given for design at the conclusion of the Design Forum process, considering in particular whether buildings and environs have been successfully designed to meet the needs of users and the wider community?)

3.1      Summary Appraisal

The commitment to the process shown by the Council, the client and design team were commended by the panel and the benefits are beginning to show. We consider that the process is now promising a much more robust and defensible outcome. To achieve the evident potential we consider that further consolidation work is required and that commitments to a common purpose by all parties need to become embedded. In this respect the clearly stated intent of Argyll Estate for a robust approach and to ‘get it right’ and the promise of early investment are most welcome and very important.   Equally leadership by the Council through a series of related corporate actions will be important as a catalyst. The value of the studies on landscape and townscape morphology were recognised as was the capacity work done to test layouts and formats. However the general advice was towards being more selective about the critical elements required.   The panel felt the proposals had potential to be simpler and more persuasive in some areas, and the masterplan could be more concise.

The panel considered that the proposed layout works much better at the south end as it adjoins Newtown, with work required at the centre and at the north end. In terms of drawings and masterplan content both drawings and text should be more definitive about the essential structuring elements proposed whilst removing some of the more detailed evidence base, contextual information and analysis into appendices. Clear local objectives are required to inform the still evolving movement strategy.

We consider that there is potential to reach a rating of 2 – well considered and supported.  However to achieve this rating a further draft of the masterplan proposals and document would need to address the recommendations set out in section 3.2 below.

 

3.2      Appraisal and Recommendations: by Topic    

 

3.2.1   Existing Landscape / Proposed Landscape Response

Whilst significant progress is recognised this needs to be simplified to define the critical framework.

            We welcomed the significantly improved clarity on historical landscape principles arising from the studies carried out. Study of the complex evolved matrix that links natural landscape, urban form and man-made landscape has been helpful. This has begun to demonstrate principles for proposed landscape and layout capable of securing a long-term armature on the site responsive to the role of the site within the composition of the wider designed landscape. The panel also recognised that important cues were now being picked up such as characteristics of Sublime and Picturesque landscapes that could be helpful in informing the layout in detail. It is important that the distinctive characteristics of Inveraray as a place and town are recognised and enhanced by any development of the site.

The steps towards defining the differing roles of elements of landscape have been helpful and were recognised, as illustrated by the Figure 8: ‘Fisherland, Green corridors and open space proposal’ in particular. However there is a need to strip the diagram down further, to make it simpler and to make the placemaking objectives clearer. This is also subject to more specific recommendations on open space value below.

Further clarity is needed on the approach to particular historical elements to define robust design principles for each. Some elements are close to the site and others are off-site, with distinct strategies needed in each case. Consistency in approach is essential.

Close-to
Town Wall The need to protect and preserve this should be highlighted as a key objective, particularly in respect of the potential risks associated with any upgrade to the A83 road junction. In this regard, we welcome the approach that the design team and Transport Scotland is taking to design the internal connections and movement to prevent a redesign of that junction being triggered.
Town Avenue The fundamental importance of this feature and the need to minimise damage to the surviving trees, and the need to improve the growth and survival of implemented replacement planting, should both be highlighted as key objectives.
 The ha-ha The designed view is from north to south, perpendicular to the ha-ha, at a threshold between two types of landscape as shown in the morphology studies. This suggests historically that the view, from north to south, across the ha-ha is more relevant than the view along it. The panel sought greater clarity around the renewed role of the ha-ha in the context of its historic significance and we were concerned as to how the proposed SUDS watercourse should stop alongside the school playground.
View of Roundel The need to link the roundel with views towards Duke’s tower does not seem critical and could be reviewed.
Off – site
 Bealachanuaran Grotto at springhead It was suggested that the grotto is something secret and hidden, experienced in situ and that this may be part of its character.   Whilst the historic value of this ‘discovery’ is of interest and welcome, the implementation of the associated vista is ambiguous, terminating in the commercial zone carpark, or as was argued: ‘being a view above the development to the loch’. This raises doubt about the design intent.   Connected to the wider view and to the sublime beyond.
View of the bell tower It was felt that this is more of an incidental view, that it will be visible along the new street at the phase 1 housing and that this may be enough without a further view corridor.

Further to earlier advice we remain concerned that the essential spatial armature planned for future residents and visitors remains both undefined and less usable than it might be given the outstanding potential of the site to create a high quality living environment. The extensiveness and limited value of the open space currently shown on the sketch layout of the masterplan, (especially adjacent to the tree roundel) has previously been raised and remains a concern – there is a need for a better balance with built form and to make better use of the attractive location and aspect for those who will live there.

To resolve these issues we recommend further consideration and design of two primary types of form – what is proposed mass [buildings and tree blocks] and what is proposed space [street, public realm and open space] – that will form the core elements of future place(s). The design for each needs to be developed to establish a more robust primary framework of spaces The value of public spaces and public realm, in particular, needs to be developed and to become more evident, particularly the extent of open space. There is a risk that the spaces in between are too loose, not in the right place, not as attractive as they might be and that consequently it may not be well-used by residents. Once developed this armature should be evident in the main masterplan drawing [see also 3.2.4 [2]].

3.2.2   Existing Townscape / Proposed Townscape Response

Again significant progress is recognised since the first workshop. However the built form layout would benefit from being further simplified as part of the primary spatial armature [as above 3.2.1] and the hierarchy of more and less critical elements needs to be made clearer.   Recommendations for developing the way critical elements are reflected in drawings and the masterplan report are noted below [see 3.2.4 Masterplan Document].

More specific recommendations are:

We sought a review of the location of the proposed square linked to consideration of the grotto view corridor as above. A re-located square could better match where people are likely to congregate, it could provide a stronger gateway into the housing from the avenue and provide better integration of the grotto view, if implemented, as a central vista from the Avenue.

We found the phase 2 mixed-use element insufficiently robust to allow for a range of uses and concerns were also expressed about the perceived ‘backs’ of plots, e.g. as seen from the new housing further uphill. This area should be reviewed and alternative, e.g. double-fronted formats considered. Also, and as an example, a two-storey public facility (perhaps for health/care use) may be possible with accesses exploiting level differences between front and back to provide increased accessibility. Similarly double fronted home and office/studio units may be possible such as at the Mews format at the Inverness Housing Expo.

There was some concern expressed to avoid housing plot typologies with two frontages and with entry to houses through back gardens where the amenity of private gardens will be affected by adjoining parking.

 

3.2.3   Existing Movement Framework / Proposed Movement Framework Response

Again significant progress is recognised since the first workshop. However discussions with Transport Scotland and the Council around internal street layout are still developing and there is potential for changes from the presently proposed street layout to address this, particularly in the centre and north of the site. In this process, and as for landscape and townscape, the movement network layout would benefit from being kept simple and legible for users as part of the primary spatial armature [as above 3.2.1]. A small number of clearly stated, specific objectives against which different design approaches can be tested would be extremely beneficial and a hierarchy of objectives would assist clarifying this.

One of the key objectives (as already stated above) is to preserve the listed wall and in turn to eliminate the need for a dedicated right turn lane at the A83 entrance. It was clarified during discussion that an imaginative approach to street design is required to ensure that volumes of movement at this junction are minimised to give Transport Scotland (TS) the confidence that this can be achieved. An additional but related objective is that the street layout within the site must avoid attracting new short-cutting local traffic.

In response to these objectives, and to avoid a more complex street network, we urged the project team to design an imaginative, pedestrian-oriented street environment as a way of slowing traffic and deterring short cutting whilst creating attractive and permeable shared space routes. Polnoon and Craigmillar provide built examples of built form that slows vehicle speeds – of making people-places rather than movement corridors. This was seen as preferable to longer, more indirect and less legible vehicle routes that would inhibit walking and cycling. We also urged avoiding ‘link road’ as terminology with all its connotations of 1970’s roads engineering. There could be more than one route through the site and these should all be seen as primarily residential streets as distinct from a vehicle corridor and should thus have clear Place before Movement [Designing Streets] priority.

We recognised that the south end street layout and character is working well in terms of primary and secondary street character, including mews spaces that correlate with the character of the back of Main Street. The new section of road at the newly built ACHA housing should link through to a street on the masterplan housing site – a valuable link route with a view towards the Duke’s tower – removing the currently shown cul-de-sac.

Action needs to be taken at the north end to achieve greater permeability and direct connectivity into Inveraray, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists at night time and for young and elderly people. The opportunity for and the potential benefit of a future access, ideally for all modes, at the council roads depot should be more clearly shown and strongly signposted. Similarly a gate access to the housing from the school playground should be shown as a future aspiration. The panel welcomed the involvement of community planning officers in discussions to date. The clear signposting of these objectives was supported by officers present.

3.2.4   Masterplan Document

We welcomed the draft drawings and diagrams produced that test the capacity of the emerging framework, especially those produced latterly (‘Appendix 5; summary and analysis of historic landscape’) that begin to show how the proposals fit into the wider characteristics of Inveraray. All plans should now show the proposals in the wider setting of Inveraray and Newtown demonstrating how the masterplan is integrated with adjoining built form, landscape and movement characteristics. The sketches and illustrations in the character area sections are also helpful.

However we consider that a shorter pithier document remains possible and that a much clearer distinction is needed between what should be permanent and what is changeable in the proposed development. It may even be possible to bring down the current 23 pages to the 12 pages document that we previously asked for.

In order to distil down to a critical framework of drawings we recommend:

[1]   To draw back from the current level of definition of housing layout to leave some flexibility for the interior of each block or phase, for example the detail of building plot layouts can be omitted from drawings. This simplification should be alongside greater clarity and definition on the design intent for critical elements of infrastructure.

[2]   Define two types of form – what is mass [buildings and tree blocks] and what is space [street, public realm and open space]. The definition of where each is required is the essential spatial armature and this needs to be set out in the masterplan drawing.

[3]   Then the scale and location of key components within this armature should be set out including protected features, view corridors, square, building lines, building scale, nodes, landmarks, gateways, local centre etc. Site sections should be included to show the true nature of the site and topography and the consequent effect of levels on public spaces. This will set out the core components of urban and landscape form required.

[4]   Then define and draw in greater detail the character of the important public ‘bits-in-between’ that people will use i.e. the streets, public realm, square, parks and open space – dimensioned street sections that secure the narrow frontage/frontage widths intended – layout of parks and open space – design of the square, etc.

[5]   Then define critical characteristics of built form required to support the quality of the public ‘bits’ – hierarchy of building densities and height – buildings overlooking open space – contained car parking, etc.

[6]   Then use abstracted elevations and building typology sketches [e.g. character-area work] linked to the studies of architecture in Inveraray, to set out the characteristics of architecture required to support the townscape intent such as materials, colours, proportions of openings, simplicity of form, and provide some worked examples or precedents for character, e.g. photos of completed development [with reference and sources noted].

[7]   Finally include illustrative sketches demonstrating a vision for what this might all look like on the site when it comes together.

On this basis the current character area drawings could be used as illustrative samples of detailed layouts – in an appendix. A précis of the context studies of landscape and townscape could also be included in an appendix.

 

3.2.5   Leadership and Implementation

The statements made at the workshop by both Argyll Estate and Argyll and Bute Council officers were very much welcomed. This acknowledges the need for leadership by the council and by Argyll Estate to bring about the necessary quality of development in Inveraray. This partnership approach as a precondition for placemaking has been highlighted by A&DS throughout the workshop series and the intent of both parties in this respect is encouraging. The panel seek clear commitments, as discussed, to implement supportive infrastructure within and outside the red line boundary as set out below. The further development of discussions and clarity of commitments around these issues is essential and should be clearly set out and highlighted in the masterplan.

For the council this means taking action on the council estate, via the roads department and in areas where the council carries influence such as through community services. Council leadership is required in the following areas:

  • Taking action in future to open up a more direct route into the masterplan site via the council roads depot.
  • Taking action to improve the quality of the town avenue and avenue car park public realm as a gateway to Inveraray for visitors and an increasingly important public space for the wider community as Inveraray grows. We urge that the necessary steps be taken to restore the character of this important area bearing in mind its historical role and continued significance as part of the designed landscape and townscape of Inveraray. The future of the town centre car park should be kept under review and every opportunity taken by the council to improve its quality and to establish the role of the area as significant public realm at the gateway to the expanded town, as discussed at earlier workshops.[1] Backyards, vennels, secondary routes are also in need of attention and enhancement – a bi-product of the catalytic impact of this new development.
  • Taking action to replace failing avenue trees, to replace inappropriate species planting and to ensure improved ground (growing) conditions.
  • Taking action via community services to achieve a route and gate from the masterplan site into the school playground

For the estate this means managing the release of land, in the likely small [e.g. 12 unit] lots, under a consistent framework of detailed briefing that holds to the vision and quality standard of the masterplan. Objectives include:

  • phasing starting to the south supporting the regeneration and protection of the important historic and landscape qualities of the site that have been highlighted by A&DS and Historic Scotland at Design Forum workshops, noting in particular the importance (in landscape and townscape) of Town Avenue.,
  • to avoid damage to existing assets such as the Listed Wall and the Avenue trees at Barn Park that may be affected by road improvements.
  • to repair the current backs and fragmented edges of Inveraray and Barn Park by facilitating sensitive and well planned development.

We welcome the estate’s intent to implement advance planting on site ahead of development – This fits well with the need to create a robust, future proof, landscape framework and to achieve this key street lines and levels and planting locations need to be established.

4.00    Next Stage

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

We do not proposed to carry out any further formal panel workshops on the masterplan. However, if felt helpful by the local authority, we can carry out a further review of the proposals for Inveraray once developed design proposals and a consolidated masterplan document are available.  This may coincide with public consultation on the draft document. The purpose of a further review would be to discuss the outcome of responses to our recommendations and to advise whether we consider the recommendations in this appraisal have been satisfied.

In addition, we would be grateful if we could be kept informed of any developing detailed proposals so we can discuss if and how best to support their approach to planning.

 

[1] Alternatives such as the re-location of the car park to a less sensitive location might be considered – examples such as Culross demonstrate tourist parking at the edges of the town reducing impact of parked vehicles on townscape and setting.

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