Exeter Planning
10 Whitchurch Avenue

Letter published in “The Planner”

The Planner” is the monthly journal of the Royal Town Planning Institute. In the June 2014 they kindly published the following letter from myself.

The point at issue is that a government commissioned report from Sir Terry Farrell has called for PLACE (Planning, Landscape, Architecture, Conservation and Engineering) Panels in each local authority area to integrate these elements in producing better development. In my opinion, developers will (on large housing development) use standard house types (the “pattern book”) because it is cheaper and easier than thinking about the particular site in question and designing individual properties.

“In May’s edition of “The Planner” you report an interview with Clive Betts where he concludes, “They [developers] can do more work on getting the design right…They can take account of the local topography and the local environment. They can consult local residents before the scheme gets into a fixed situation rather than coming along with a standard scheme designed by a computer and say “that’s what you are going to get”.

This seems to accord with the Farrell review (also reported in the same issue).

However, both Mr Betts and Sir Terry are perhaps living in cloud-cuckoo land. Bespoke design for an individual site is going to be more expensive and time-consuming for developers than a “pattern book” of standard house types (for which it appears there is a market). Whilst a good deal of thought often goes into the design of a one-off house the same can not  be said of large-scale developments (which are what is needed to address the housing shortage).

Back in 2000 PPG3 was advocating higher density housing with the problems associated with that being addressed through better design as set out in By Design and design guides. It does not seem to me that this has been delivered to date and in the current climate is less likely to be delivered than in 2000.

The government is clearly pro-housing development and appeal decisions reflect this. It seems to me the test is “is it good enough?”, not “could it be better?” and it would be a brave LPA that would defend an appeal which, if allowed, would make a significant contribution to housing delivery on the basis of “could do better”.

Exeter Planning