A+DS and SNH have helped to facilitate a workshop for Fife Planning Authority to inform the development of their Designing Places Supplementary Guidance. The event invited participation from private sector design and construction industry representatives.
The guidance is intended to raise the placemaking agenda and be clear and concise; easy to use by applicants and planners; and, deliver improved quality of development on the ground (to achieve ‘the right development in the right place’).
A facilitated session initiated an open and frank discussion around three prompts:
- How do you use design/place supplementary guidance at present?
- What information you would expect design guidance to provide?
- Are there design policies or supplementary guidance that you have found particularly useful?
It was clear from discussion that a design led process encompasses a wider area than is covered in a guidance document. Guidance cannot replace early dialogue between Council and applicant. The importance of the development plan was clear: it was felt that for a good scheme to be designed the right sites must be promoted in the plan.
Design briefs should be prepared in collaboration; the public sector needs to be clear about what is being asked for. Site and context appraisals are important. There is enthusiasm for meaningful early pre-application discussion; discussions need to be consistent.
The human element is important; there is a desire to get everyone around a table to talk. There appear to be two worlds: a ‘statutory’ world governed by process, and a ‘real’ world where development happens. Dialogue is important.
A rapid design exercise invited each of the four groups to produce a quick design for a site, using background planning information (site designation, brief, policy requirements, and contextual information) and attempting to push the envelope of what the draft guidance advised as being acceptable. These ‘briefs’ were then passed on to an adjacent table who evaluated the ‘proposal’ against the draft guidance document to establish if the proposed designs met the qualities of successful places and other policy requirements.
Key observations were fed back from each table on their experience of using the guidance as an aid to both develop and subsequently assess a proposal. A final reflective discussion covered a number of points:
- Just because a guidance section has been answered doesn’t mean it has resulted in a good outcome.
- There is a lot to assimilate: there is a difficulty that the guidance is attempting to anticipate and have a prompt for every scenario and permutation; this isn’t possible.
- The guidance is a prompt/framework for a conversation that needs to be bespoke for each unique situation. It is not a ‘checklist’ – this is the wrong sort of status.
- The guidance is for different audiences: Development Management assessment; designers aiding the design; surveyors to enable financial appraisals; construction industry to gauge certainty about a proposition.
- The importance of the development plan and of site briefs that provide specific proportionate information about key issues.
- A need to be proportionate, focussed and clear about what is important in any given context.
- The importance of partnership working – public and private co-operation. A need for the public sector to provide clear upfront guidance.
- The human element – a desire for early pre-application discussion, and a need for this to recognise the development sector sometimes needs rapid advice.
- Being able to talk: this requires appropriate skills and a need for consistency.
Everyone recognised the value of the event in developing the guidance, and the participation and contributions of the design, construction and house building representatives was greatly appreciated. The Fife Designing Places Supplementary Guidance is being reported to Committee in February 2015 and will thereafter be available for a period of consultation.
Further information is available in the accompany summary paper.