Design and Townscape Guide - Refresh 2009 (Consultation Draft)

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Section 1 - Introduction


(45) 1.1 The Status of this Guide

This Design and Townscape Guide is a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) and is part of the Southend on Sea Local Development Framework (LDF). The LDF is a set of development plan documents (DPDs) and supplementary guidance documents (SPDs) that together form the planning policy framework for the town.

The purpose of the Design and Townscape SPD is provide guidance for developers and investors about what will be expected in design and townscape terms in order that development proposals will meet the policy requirements of the LDF.

(1) 1.1.1 Policy Framework

1. The current planning policy framework for the town comprises:

  1. National Planning Policy Statements
  2. The East of England Plan
  3. Core Strategy DPD
  4. 'saved' Borough Local Plan (BLP) policies (until such time they are superseded by other Development Plan Documents in the LDF)
  5. Design and Townscape Guide SPD (which supersedes BLP Appendix 2 -Design Guidelines for Conservation Areas; Appendix 3 -'Townscape Policy Guidance' and Appendix 4 - 'Design and layout guidelines for housing' )
  6. Interim vehicle parking standards SPD

2. Other planning documents to be produced over a period of time as part of the Southend-on-Sea Local Development Framework (LDF) are set out in the adopted Local Development Scheme (LDS) (see Diagram 1: Southend-on-Sea Local Development Framework).

The National Agenda

3. The Southend-on-Sea Design and Townscape Guide seeks to deliver the Government's Sustainable Communities agenda in a way that is appropriate to local circumstances. In so doing it has had regard to the Government's policies and principles set out in:

  • Sustainable Communities: Building for the Future
  • PPS 1: Delivering Sustainable Development;
  • By Design - Urban design in the planning system: towards better practice;
  • By Design - Better places to live;
  • Safer Places - The Planning System and Crime Prevention;
  • Planning and Access for Disabled People: A Good Practice Guide;
  • PPS3: Housing;
  • PPG 13: Transport;
  • PPS25: Development and Flood Risk
  • Better places to live by design: a companion guide to PPG3
  • Buildings for Life
  • Code for Sustainable Homes

Full details of these publications can be found in Appendix19: Bibliography

4. It also takes into account the aspirations and ambitions of the local community both now and in the future by seeking to capture the drive and enthusiasm in the town fostered by being part of the regeneration and growth area on the doorstep of a world city. In looking to the future, it has regard to the proposed aims, strategic objectives and policies in the following regional and local development plans:

  • East of England Plan Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS 14): EERA, May 2008
  • Southend-on-Sea Core Strategy Development Plan Document: Southend on Sea Borough Council, December 2007

1.1.2 Regional and Sub-regional Policy Framework

5. The East of England Plan has at its heart the objective of 'improving the quality of life for the people of the region by (inter alia) 'ensuring new development fulfils the principles of sustainable communities, providing a well designed living environment adequately supported by social and green infrastructure'. This objective is delivered through the following policies:

  • Policy SS1: Achieving Sustainable Development
  • Policy ENV7: Quality in the Built Environment
  • Policy ENG1: Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Energy Performance
  • Policy WM6: Waste Management in Development
  • Policy ETG1: Strategy for the Sub-Region (Essex Thames Gateway)
  • Policy ETG4: Southend on Sea Key Centre for Development and Change

(3) 1.1.3 Southend on Sea Local Development Framework

6. The Core Strategy Development Plan Document (adopted December 2007) sets out a clear aim and set of strategic objectives for the spatial planning policies that will guide development in the Borough to 2021. Improving the quality of the built and natural environment and minimising the impact on Climate Change are key to achieving national and local priorities in Southend.

The Aim

To secure a major refocus of function and the long term sustainability of Southend as a significant urban area which serves local people and the Thames Gateway.

To do this there is a need to release the potential of Southend's land and buildings to achieve measurable improvements in the town's economic prosperity, transportation networks, infrastructure and facilities; and the quality of life of all its citizens. This will include safeguarding and improving the standards of the town's amenities and improving the quality of the natural and built environment.

Core Strategy Dec 2007

7. The Design and Townscape Guide in particular seeks to deliver the following Strategic Objectives for the Core Strategy DPD:

SO14 - Deliver high quality, well designed and attractive urban and natural environments which are safe, people friendly and distinctive, and which respect and enhance existing character and local amenity.

SO15 - Secure effective and efficient sustainable development which prevents or minimises local contributions to, and the impact of, climate change, flood risk and the depletion of non-renewable resources, including the application of sustainable construction and operation in all development through the prudent use of natural resources, energy efficiency and low carbon emissions, and the maximum use of renewable and recycled resources.

Core Strategy Dec 2007

8. Good design is therefore key to delivering regeneration and growth in Southend and this is clearly set out in the Core Strategy DPD Key Policy KP2: 'Development Principles' to which all development should have regard. This key policy is reinforced and supplemented by more thematic Core Policies in particular CP4: 'The Environment and Urban Renaissance'. More detailed development management policies related to design have been 'saved' where still relevant and they too must be taken into account when designing new development proposals.

See Appendix 2 for the list of saved BLP policies relating to design. The LDS, Core Strategy and other emerging Development Plan Documents can be found on the Council's website: www.southend.gov.uk.

Core Strategy Policy KP2; Development Principles

All new development, including transport infrastructure, should contribute to economic, social, physical and environmental regeneration in a sustainable way throughout the Thames Gateway Area, and to the regeneration of Southend's primary role within the Thames Gateway as a cultural and intellectual hub and a higher education centre of excellence. This must be achieved in ways which (inter alia);

4. respect, conserve and enhance and where necessary adequately mitigate effects on the natural and historic environment, including the Borough's biodiversity and green space resources; ensure that European and international sites for nature conservation are not adversely affected and contribute positively towards the 'Green Grid' in Southend;

9. secure improvements to the urban environment through quality design.

10. respect the character and scale of the existing neighbourhood where appropriate;

11. include appropriate measures in design, layout, operation and materials to achieve:

  1. a reduction in the use of resources, including the use of renewable and recycled resources. All development proposals should demonstrate how they will maximise the use of renewable and recycled energy, water and other resources. This applies during both construction and the subsequent operation of the development. At least 10% of the energy needs of new development should come from on-site renewable options (and/or decentralised renewable or low carbon energy sources), such as those set out in SPD 1 Design and Townscape Guide, wherever feasible. How the development will provide for the collection of re-usable and recyclable waste will also be a consideration.
  2. avoidance of flood risk, or where, having regard to other sustainability considerations (see Section 2(i) and Policy KP1 above) a residual risk remains, the provision of measures to appropriately and adequately mitigate that risk. All development proposals should demonstrate how they incorporate 'sustainable urban drainage systems' (SUDS) to mitigate the increase in surface water run-off, and, where relevant, how they will avoid or mitigate tidal or fluvial flood risk;
  3. avoidance or appropriate mitigation of actual and potential pollution impacts of development;
  4. a reduction in and prevention of crime. All development proposals should demonstrate how they have used design measures to help reduce crime and create environments that are safe, secure and people friendly;
  5. enhancement to the ecological and amenity value of the environment where appropriate;

Policy CP4: The Environment and Urban Renaissance

Development proposals will be expected to contribute to the creation of a high quality, sustainable urban environment which enhances and complements the natural and built assets of Southend.

This will be achieved by:

  1. promoting sustainable development of the highest quality and encouraging innovation and excellence in design to create places of distinction and a sense of place;
  2. maximising the use of previously developed land, whilst recognising potential biodiversity value and promoting good, well-designed, quality mixed use developments;
  3. ensuring design solutions that maximise the use of sustainable and renewable resources in the construction of development and resource and energy conservation (including water) in developments;
  4. providing for quality in the public realm through the use of imaginative and innovative design, sustainable and quality materials and landscaping and imaginative use of public art;
  5. maintaining and enhancing the amenities, appeal and character of residential areas, securing good relationships with existing development, and respecting the scale and nature of that development;
  6. creating safe, permeable and accessible development and spaces that encourage walking and cycling within 'Environmental Rooms';
  7. safeguarding and enhancing the historic environment, heritage and archaeological assets, including Listed Buildings, Conservation Areas and Ancient Monuments;
  8. protecting and enhancing the town's parks, gardens and other urban open spaces, including all open areas whose townscape and amenity value is important to the surrounding area, and the biodiversity of the area;
  9. safeguarding, protecting and enhancing nature and conservation sites of international, national and local importance;
  10. creating and maintaining a 'Green Grid' of high quality, linked and publicly accessible open spaces across the town which contribute to and help develop the Thames Gateway Green Grid;
  11. maintaining the function and open character of a sustainable Green Belt;
  12. providing for the effective management of land uses on the urban fringe*, including landscape enhancement in respect of any development;
  13. protecting natural resources from inappropriate development;
  14. preventing, reducing or remedying all forms of pollution including soil, water, noise and other forms of airborne pollution.

All development will be required to have regard to the Council's Design and Townscape Guide SPD.

*Urban fringe may be considered to be the countryside and other land 'spaces' immediately surrounding towns and cities. However no definitive definition exists at present.

9. All new development will have to demonstrate that the proposed scheme is a high quality design or it will not be considered acceptable. The Southend-on-Sea Design & Townscape Guide SPD is a material consideration when assessing planning applications. All development in the Borough will be required to have regard to this document, where appropriate, as determined by The Council. In addition, and in line with PPS3, the level of quality in new residential development will be assessed using the CABE Building for Life criteria.

(1) 1.2 Consultation

1.2.1 Public Consultation

10. During its development the 2009 Design and Townscape Guide has been subject to wide public consultation. This process included targeted consultation of over 500 local and national specialist organisations, as well as interest groups and local residents and businesses. The responses from this process have been used to inform the final document.

1.3 The Strategic Importance of Good Design

1.3.1 Expectations

11. People care deeply about their local area. They expect good quality design in new development, renovation schemes, streets and urban spaces whilst safeguarding and enhancing local character. Interesting buildings, quality streets, good relationships with existing development, and the use of public art and landscaping can all help to develop local identity and places people are proud of.

(1) 1.3.2 Commitment to Urban Renaissance & Thames Gateway

12. Good quality urban design is a vital component and key catalyst of sustainable urban renaissance. And it will drive regeneration of the Thames Gateway which is a national and regional priority. The 'vision' for South Essex, including the Borough, is to make it a focal point for major economic regeneration, attracting investment in buildings infrastructure and open spaces. Good quality design will help urban renaissance and regeneration to increase opportunities for local people, improve housing and the local environment, provide new infrastructure, create a sense of place and identity and provide a better quality of life for everyone. This means a greater emphasis is needed on the use of buildings, the public realm, streets, open spaces and landscaping - the public realm - and how these elements relate to each other to create a unique sense of place and identity.

13. Southend-on-Sea is the cultural and intellectual hub within the Gateway and a higher education centre of excellence for South Essex. The Council is also working with CABE and the Thames Gateway Partnership to draw up a Design Pact. This will further emphasise the Borough's commitment to high quality design.

Further information on the Thames Gateway Design Pact can be found on the CABE website www.cabe.org.uk

(3) 1.3.3 Commitment to Sustainability

14. Successful urban renaissance and regeneration require development to be sustainable. The Borough Council is committed to sustainability and the principles of urban renaissance and regeneration. It recognises that sustainable development relates to the built and natural environment but also has social and economic dimensions. Sustainable urban renaissance is about creating a quality of life that makes living in the town desirable - that includes high quality development, sustainable building practices making better use of land and energy, and increasing the sense of community. Development and investment in Southend must contribute to creating quality urban environments where there is a diversity of activity, ease of access for everyone to a range of opportunities, and responsive urban design. At the same time major consideration needs to be given to the following:

  • Climate change and flood risk and the important role design of buildings and external spaces can have in contributing to the reduction in the use of resources (i.e. using renewables and energy and water conservation/generation);
  • Crime and disorder and again the role of design of buildings and spaces, etc.;
  • Conservation and enhancement of built heritage and biodiversity/natural resources etc.

15. Development proposals will be expected to contribute significantly to the creation of a high quality and sustainable urban environment which enhances and complements the natural and built assets of Southend.

(3) 1.3.4 Commitment to the Environment

16. The Borough Council is committed to improving the quality and sustainability of all development throughout the Borough whilst protecting the town's natural and built resources including:

  • Create a 'Green Grid' of high quality, linked and publicly accessible open spaces across the town, linked to the rest of the sub-region as appropriate
  • Protect and enhance both the natural and leisure environment and setting of the River Thames
  • Provide for the effective management of land on the urban fringe - the interface between town and country - to provide an effective community resource and setting that enhances and protects the Metropolitan Green Belt.
  • Honour commitment to the Nottingham Declaration which requires the Council to tackle climate change and reduce carbon emissions across the Borough including making all new homes zero carbon by 2016.

(1) 1.3.5 Commitment to Good Design

Policy Link - Core Strategy Policy CP4: The Environment and Urban Renaissance - 1

17. The Borough Council's commitment to good design will create attractive, high-quality living environments in which people will choose to live, work and play. Development will be expected to provide places of character and distinction, which are accessible to all, sustainable and secure. Creative and innovative design will also help achieve sustainable development in making the best use of previously developed land and improving the quality and attractiveness of residential areas.

18. The standard of development proposals has often been disappointing, particularly when they fail to maximise the design potential of the site by using its characteristics and features and recognising its local context, and when they use inappropriate cliched design features which rarely contribute to the street scene and have little to do with local distinctiveness. New housing is all to often criticised for being poor quality and out of context. Designers should therefore be committed to achieving good design for development and be adequately skilled to do so.

19. In order to obtain high quality, developers should employ skilled designers to provide the best solution for each particular context whilst taking a holistic design approach.

1.4 Purpose of the Guide

20. The aims of this Guide, therefore, are to inspire and positively encourage high quality development proposals, to provide a practical basis for achieving this and to assist the Council in resisting poor quality development. Development which fails to respect the principles of high quality design will be refused.

21. The Guide will assist applicants in recognising the sensitivity of their site context and its surroundings, in realising the development potential of individual sites and in contributing to the revival of civic pride and a sense of place for the Borough.

22. The Guide is intended, therefore, for developers and their designers when considering new development. It is also intended for residents and property owners, to inform and encourage good design practice when considering alterations to existing buildings and open spaces. And it is intended to guide the Council's own development proposals in the public realm and to its properties.

(1) 1.5 How to Use the Guide

23. The Guide is divided up into 6 sections:

  • Introduction
  • General Design Principles
  • The Historic Environment
  • Sustainable Development and Design
  • Detailed Design
  • How to Make an Application

24. These sections outline the key considerations in each area. It is recommended that designers read the sections relevant to their development prior to commencing the design process. At the end of sections 2-5 there are a series of questions that should be able to be answered positively in relation to the development. These include the 20 'Building for Life' criteria questions which have been adopted by the Government as a Core Indicator for assessing the quality of new housing development. These questions are used by Development Control to assess applications. They should also be used by the designers as prompts for the Design and Access Statement which is now a requirement for all planning applications.

The Building for Life Criteria can be found in Appendix 3. Further information on Design and Access Statements including suggested headings can be found in Section 6. Further guidance and examples of best practice housing development can be found at www.buildingforlife.org Building for Life silver standard or above will be required as part of the Thames Gateway Design Pact. Further details on the Design Pact can be found on the CABE website www.cabe.org.uk

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