DESIGN | Design Considerations

5.2 DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS FOR SAFFRON WALDEN

5.2.1    More recent housing developments in Saffron Walden have not generally been built to the standards proposed by the Essex Design Guide, either in terms of the architectural style of the buildings or of the estate layouts. The image below demonstrates a missed opportunity in development layouts in terms of layouts and porosity (how many ways in or out of the development there are). The policy SW7 provides specific direction and policies on the design of footpaths and layouts.

5.2.3    This development (Tudor Park) on the eastern edge of the town illustrates the problems of a lack of vision at development stage and therefore missed opportunities to encourage sustainable transport modes. It has a single access point for vehicles and pedestrians at the north of the development. There was no provision for a pavement to the west of the development so pedestrians immediately have to cross a busy road to go anywhere. Residents have noted that if pedestrian links had been created to the south, it would be a very quick walk to the nearest supermarket. Instead, they have to walk north up and out of the development, cross Ashdon Road, walk along the pavement to the north of Ashdon road, cross back over Ashdon Road, then walk down Elizabeth Way, and then turn left along Radwinter Road towards the store. Faced with such a journey, many may well choose to take the car instead. Similarly, no link was made to the west of the development, which could have been an opportunity to create a ‘quiet route’ for pedestrians. The red lines illustrate potential links which could have been made.

5.2.4    As has been identified in the Heritage and Character Assessment, the street scene aesthetic varies throughout the town. The centre of the town has a mix of older architecture from various periods and the Conservation Area designation affords these streets a high degree of protection. Elsewhere the town is characterised by pockets of land which have been developed for housing at different times and in the prevailing styles of the 1920s and onwards.

5.2.5    The SWNP recognises that there is the potential for the more modern developments to evolve in the same way, so that where buildings on a development may currently look very much the same, in future years as renovations and improvements take place, the streets may come to also have what has been described as a “pleasing jumble” of styles of architecture.

5.2.6    To ensure that neighbourhoods remain pleasant places in which to live, infill buildings will be resisted if they have a detrimental impact on the amenities enjoyed by their immediate neighbours, or if they are visually detrimental to the overall street scene.

5.2.7    The SWNP seeks to protect the Conservation Areas from small incremental changes which individually could be overlooked, but which in aggregate can result in a noticeable step-change of appearance. The visual aspect of the older parts of the town has changed many times over the centuries, and now they demonstrate a rich heritage which must be preserved in its current form.

5.2.8    The special character and appearance of the Conservation Areas can be derived from many different aspects including the scale, style and materials of the buildings, the historic street pattern, street frontages and building lines, boundary structures, street furniture, trees and open spaces. Consideration must be given to the form of new or replacement street furniture within the Conservation Areas. For example, new or replacement street lighting must match the existing styles.

5.2.9    Any development which includes more than ten dwellings is considered by the SWNP to be substantial relative to the size of the town and has the potential to have a considerable impact on the overall aesthetics of the town. It must make a positive contribution to the town’s architectural vernacular.

5.2.10  The SWNP notes that of the 356 households on the Uttlesford housing waiting list for Saffron Walden as at 2018, 33% are over 60 [1]. The Uttlesford Viability Study June 2019 concludes that land values in Saffron Walden are such that accessible and adaptable homes may be built without impact on viability.

5.2.11  Gated communities are contrary to the objective of retaining a sense of town-wide community spirit and they restrict pedestrians and cyclists from using ‘quiet routes’.

5.2.12  Having an adequate amount of home living space is vital and the Nationally Described Space Standards set out what is considered as a reasonable minimum for a good standard of living. Adoption of the Space Standards is appropriate for Saffron Walden, which, as a small market town, naturally doesn’t have the same level of public indoor leisure spaces that larger towns have, such as shopping malls and cinemas.

5.2.13  Saffron Walden has a lack of public parks, with many housing developments being further away from public open space than the Fields in Trust guidelines [2]. In the absence of the ready availability of public parks and gardens, private gardens gain extra importance for the health and well-being of residents.

5.2.14  The demonstration of a design-led approach will be in the Design and Access Statement (in the case of developments of 10 dwellings or more) or in the Design Statement (in the case of developments of under 10 dwellings).

5.2.15  Approximately one in three people will suffer from dementia and Dementiastatistics.org estimates that the annual cost to the UK of dementia is £26 billion, and this is expected to rise to £55bn by 2040 [3]. The symptoms of dementia include difficulties in thinking, with memory loss, and using language.

5.2.16  The difficulties experienced by people with dementia and their carers can be reduced when their surroundings are not confusing. The Royal Town Planning Institute’s 2017 publication Dementia and Town Planning describes six broad urban planning principles which, if considered throughout the design process, help to reduce confusion.

5.2.17  These planning principles have been endorsed by the Alzheimer’s Society and the Essex Design Guide. Additionally, the Royal Town Planning Institute notes that following these six principles makes urban design and layouts more pleasant for everyone, and not just for people with dementia and their carers.

5.2.18  Saffron Walden has the aim of becoming a “dementia-friendly” town, and the SWNP works towards this objective by ensuring that all urban design changes, whether domestic or commercial, acknowledge and respond to the six planning principles to create an environment which is:

  • Familiar – functions of places and buildings are obvious, any changes are small scale and incremental;
  • Legible – a hierarchy of street types, which are short and fairly narrow. Clear signs at decision points;
  • Distinctive – a variety of landmarks, with architectural features in a variety of styles and materials. There is a variety of practical features, e.g. trees and street furniture;
  • Accessible – land uses are mixed with shops and services within a 5-10-minute walk from housing. Entrances to places are obvious and easy to use and conform to disabled access regulations;
  • Comfortable – open space is well defined with toilets, seating, shelter and good lighting. Background and traffic noise should be minimised through planting and fencing. Street clutter is minimal so as to not impede walking or distract attention; and
  • Safe – footpaths are wide, flat and non-slip, development is orientated to avoid creating dark shadows or bright glare.

[1] Data provided by UDC

[2] Amenity green space should be available 480m from dwellings, parks and gardens 710m, and natural and semi-natural green space 720m

[3] https://www.dementiastatistics.org/statistics/cost-and-projections-in-the-uk-and-globally/

POLICY SW7 DESIGN

1.  All development in Saffron Walden must contribute positively to the parish’s sense of place through a design-led approach underpinned by good design principles and reflecting a thorough site appraisal, and must comply with the other detailed policies.

2.  Following the Design and Access Statement or Design Statement will be a condition of approval of outline planning applications.

3.  All planning applications for development with the potential to impact on the Conservation Areas and/or heritage assets including listed buildings will be accompanied by a Heritage Statement that describes the significance of the Conservation Area and/or heritage assets and assesses the impact of the development. This includes planning applications outside the Conservation Areas but which will impact on any of the Conservation Areas and/or heritage asset for example because of the generation of additional traffic or the impact on views.

4.  Developments and extensions of buildings and spaces must demonstrate that they:

a)  Display a high level of architectural quality which responds positively to the best of Saffron Walden’s context;

b)  Evidence a positive response to the landscape, local and longer views and the natural and historic environments;

c)  Integrate well with existing neighbourhoods while seeking, where appropriate, to improve the aesthetic of the immediate area;

d)  Refer to Secured by Design principles to reduce crime and encourage safer communities;

e)  Create well connected and accessible new streets which provide for a rich choice of routes, prioritising active and sustainable travel. In the case of doubt on this matter the Essex Design Guide or any other locally applicable design guide will be referred to for best practice;

f)  Have active frontages, particularly at street level, and provide a clear distinction between areas of public and private realm;

g)  Respond to and enhance the amenity value of an area through consideration of matters such as overlooking, natural light, micro-climate, outlook and amenity space, both for existing neighbours and future residents; and

h)  Meet the nationally described space standards [Department for Communities and Local Government, Technical Housing Standards, March 2015 (Updated May 2016 and as may be updated in the future)].

5.  Infill development will be supported subject to it meeting the following criteria:

a)  Maintains a high level of amenity for occupiers of surrounding properties and provides for high levels of amenity for future occupiers of the proposed development, particularly in terms of noise, privacy, overshadowing and access to daylight;

b)  Respects the existing street scene;

c)  Reflects prevailing boundary treatments;

d)  Provides adequate parking, bin storage and access arrangements; and

e)  Preserves and enhances Saffron Walden’s heritage assets and their setting

6.  Any developments which have a relatively large footprint (including car parking facilities) in the scale and context of Saffron Walden will have their impact minimised through appropriately detailed frontages that wrap around the unit.

7.  While all residential schemes must contribute positively to the quality of Saffron Walden as a place, any developments of more than 10 dwellings will demonstrate how a scheme does this through a completed Building for Life 12 assessment.

8.  Development sites of more than 30 dwellings, or any development in a Conservation Area, or in a sensitive setting, will be subject to an independent design review. The nature of the design review will be appropriate to the scale of the development.

9.  Gated communities will not be permitted except in cases where the housing caters for groups of people classed as “vulnerable”.

10.  To improve the legibility of street layouts, and wayfinding: streets with spurs will have separate names for the spurs; street numbering will follow a logical pattern; and streets will be named at each corner.

11.  Three-storey housing will be acceptable, other than in settlement edge locations, and subject to the building height and form respecting and complementing the buildings and landscape in the immediate vicinity. Buildings higher than this would not normally be supported unless the surrounding buildings and context make them appropriate.

12.  Garden and outdoor spaces must conform to the Essex Design Guide guidelines.

13.  Street furniture, including lighting, must be designed to be sympathetic to its surroundings, and where possible to propose an improvement to the aesthetics of the area.

14.  Article 4 Directions may be sought where appropriate to preserve the historic fabric of the town.

This policy supports the Neighbourhood Plan Objectives 1,2,3,4,5

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Neighbourhood Plan Objectives

Objective 1

Saffron Walden will be an economically active and self-sustaining town, offering equal opportunities to all.

Objective 2

Saffron Walden’s residents will be able to live as healthily as possible.

Objective 3

Saffron Walden will be an environmentally sustainable town.

Objective 4

Saffron Walden’s heritage assets, high quality landscape and conservation areas will be protected or enhanced.

Objective 5

Saffron Walden will retain its market-town feel and community spirit.

POLICIES

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