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29/04/2020

Planning's new pattern book: Talking head - Silvia Lazzerini

Words: The Planner

When writing the cover article for May’s The Planner, we spoke to a number of people at length about their thoughts on design and planning reform. We simply couldn’t fit the full range of their opinions and insights into the piece. So here are the interviews, edited for clarity and length

“The government’s programme around planning reform places great emphasis on good design. While much is being made of the focus on ‘beauty’, in effect the goal behind reform is to re-cast well-established objectives for a 21st century planning system: the right mix of homes, in the right place, to support economies and communities that grow and thrive over time.

“The Planning for the Future paper highlights centrally-led initiatives to secure good design, including revising the NPPF and introducing a National Model Design Code. The success of steps like these will rely on their ability to flex to local contexts. Our own experience of planning a new garden village in Oxfordshire is that you can’t simply mandate something as subjective as beauty, but need to engage local communities to understand what this means to them.

"The success of steps like these will rely on their ability to flex to local contexts"

“At the moment the debate on design quality tends to place under-resourced local authorities at odds with housebuilders, which are taking on significant risks bringing sites into the system. Proposals being put forward to reform planning fees could help bolster the model we already have in place around planning performance agreements – with greater resource for planning departments and greater certainty for developers.

“Focusing on this alone, however, would miss an important point, which is on the trade-offs associated with good design or ‘beauty’ – whether that is in terms of extra space, higher quality materials, or community assets. Giving local authorities stronger teeth won’t necessarily guarantee a better product overall, unless viability considerations can be offset elsewhere.

“For Grosvenor this is where our master-developer model comes in. Our role is to navigate the priorities of the local authority with those who will ultimately invest in development – securing outline planning consent and setting standards for design that housebuilders see not only as deliverable, but desirable.”

Silvia Lazzerini MRTPI is project director, strategic land, at Grosvenor Britain & Ireland

 Read more thoughts on design and planning reform

Illustration | Craig Bowyer

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