11 Emson Close | Saffron Walden | Essex | CB10 1HL
5.1.1 The NPPF Section 12 Achieving Well Designed Places puts significant weight on the design aspect of the planning process:
NPPF Paragraph 124: “The creation of high-quality buildings and places is fundamental to what the planning and development process should achieve. Good design is a key aspect of sustainable development, creates better places in which to live and work and helps make development acceptable to communities. Being clear about design expectations, and how these will be tested, is essential for achieving this.”
5.1.2 Saffron Walden has grown over time, with the historic core surrounded by more recent development. The historic core contains a blend of styles from previous eras, and a large part of the town is designated Conservation Area. The surrounding developments are built in a style that reflects the more generic approach of national housebuilding companies. Some approaches to the town are characterised by older style industrial buildings, which limit the aesthetic appeal of the approach.
5.1.3 It is notable that the NPPF not only seeks to protect areas which are already considered to be attractive or “good design”, but also seeks to improve areas which are not.
NPPF Paragraph 130. Permission should be refused for development of poor design that fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it functions, taking into account any local design standards or style guides in plans or supplementary planning documents.
5.1.4 Saffron Walden is a small town and it can relatively easily be crossed from one side or end to the other on foot by a reasonably fit person. This human scale is important because it emphasises the need for design in all locations to be well-considered. The quality of design of all developments, both residential and commercial, will be given equal importance. Housing design must be appropriate to the scale, character and grain (scale of layout) of the existing built form; however, a site bordering existing poor design will not be a reason to allow additional poor design. Instead it must seek to improve its immediate environment.
5.1.5 The Essex Design Guide, first published by Essex County Council in 1997, and revised in 2005, is a very useful document which contains well-reasoned design guidance for developers, and local and neighbourhood plans, without being prescriptive. In its own words it “should help many of those responsible for producing the built environment understand that housing developments should have a sense of place, be legible, pedestrian friendly and sustainable which help create successful living environments”. The Essex Design Guide as most recently amended is considered to be suitable for the architectural vernacular of Saffron Walden.
5.1.6 The Urban Place Supplement is a supplementary document which builds on the Essex Design Guide with a particular focus on developments of over 50 dwellings per hectare. It is appropriate for developments in the centre of Saffron Walden.
5.1.7 Both documents outline ways in which neighbourhoods can be created so that residents and visitors are encouraged to walk or cycle instead of traveling by car; to eliminate the creation of dead areas which would encourage crime; to reduce the negative impact on feeder roads; and to assist the elderly, less mobile or those with dementia to engage with the wider community.
5.1.8 Building for Life 12 (BfL12) was designed in 2012 in response to the National Planning Policy Framework’s commitment to build more homes and better homes. It describes itself as a “government-endorsed industry standard for well-designed homes and neighbourhoods. Local communities, local authorities and developers are encouraged to use it to guide discussions about creating good places to live”.
5.1.9 BfL12 sets out 12 urban design criteria in the form of questions. It gives recommendations of things to consider and recommendations of things to be avoided, and is a very simple framework for assessing developments.
Saffron Walden will be an economically active and self-sustaining town, offering equal opportunities to all.
Saffron Walden’s residents will be able to live as healthily as possible.
Saffron Walden will be an environmentally sustainable town.
Saffron Walden’s heritage assets, high quality landscape and conservation areas will be protected or enhanced.
Saffron Walden will retain its market-town feel and community spirit.