An urban extension for 5,500 new homes, two primary schools, retail, community and leisure uses, a link road to the M1, and a tram extension. Designed by Pegasus Planning Group.
25 August 2009
Planning reference: 09/01025/OUT
We are pleased to have the opportunity to comment on this proposal. We were also pleased to see much enthusiasm within the team for bringing forward a development in this area of Nottingham. It was evident that the team have a good appreciation of the opportunity at hand to redevelop the site in a way that could benefit both prospective residents and those who are already living within Clifton. Indeed the vision to develop the site with a sustainable community that is distinct, offers aspirational living environments and is integrated with the Clifton district is welcome. It is with regret, therefore, that our concerns for the planning application lead us to believe that the development as proposed will not realise this vision.
We appreciate that a large amount of time and money has been committed to the project to date and it is disappointing that CABE were not consulted on the proposal much earlier in the design process. Nevertheless this is a one-off opportunity to redevelop the site to this extent and therefore it would be imprudent not to redevelop it with a proposal that could help raise housing/living standards in this area as well as enhance the reputation of Nottingham as a whole. We recommend, therefore, that the design team and local authority are proactive in using the comments in this letter to help reach a consensus on a revised masterplan. CABE would then be happy to offer further assistance by advising on the design again.
Principle of development
A more convincing case is needed for the principle of development in this location. It is not clear why this amount of development is this location is considered the best option for accommodating housing growth around Nottingham. It is important that in light of current planning policy, it can be demonstrated that a major development to the south of the city is a more efficient and effective approach than developing in multiple locations around Nottingham.
Consensus making and visioning
By Design: Urban Design in the Planning System (2000) notes that collaboration between parties is a fundamental part of good design. The lack of agreement between parties for what can be realistically delivered has hampered the design. For example, while the ambition to include a tram line within the scheme is welcome, there seems to be little commitment or detailed thinking on how this could be delivered. Despite this, the design has had to accommodate a tramway which, in turn, has influenced the design of other parameters.
We also note that developing strong links with the existing urban area of Clifton to enhance prospects for regeneration is a priority. It is not evident, however, how the design will achieve this. We are not convinced, for example, that the size and position of the community hubs have been decided to help support the facilities currently on offer in Clifton. This is evident in the concept plan which omits any reference to Clifton’s facilities when identifying where the community hubs will be. Furthermore, there is no plan to show how far or by what route existing residents would need to travel to access the new facilities. This suggests that the hubs will only support the existing development, which in turn could create a ghettoed community, contrary to the vision to bring existing and proposed residents together. We recommend that the design team and local authority take a step back from the detailed design to agree the level of social, physical and economic infrastructure that is required to support a truly integrated redevelopment of this site. Until these fundamentals are agreed, any subsequent design remains cursory.
Sustainability and phasing should also inform these early discussions. Sustainability in particular should be a primary generator of design, helping to shape the vision. Planning Policy Statement 3 Housing clearly states that ‘development should facilitate the efficient use of resources…and seek to adapt to and reduce the impact of, and on, climate change.’ We recognise that reaching a consensus can be a difficult process but agreeing the requirements of the masterplan will naturally shape the type of place this should become.
Connecting routes and spaces
PPS3 states that development should be well connected to public transport and community facilities and PPS1 Delivering Sustainable Development recommends that good design should be integrated into the existing urban form and the natural and built environments. It is important, therefore, to define how the development can be best connected with its surroundings to deliver the vision set. Connectivity is relevant at a number of levels from the large scale (concept stage), that shows how the major roads, urban areas and spaces will connect, to the small scale (more detailed design stage) that concerns streets and blocks. We have a number of concerns for connectivity at the large scale. Earlier in this letter we raised concerns for the lack of connectivity between existing and proposed services and facilities. As well as social and economic connections, the development should make appropriate physical connections. Terminating the main boulevard with a park and ride facility and the road further east with an employment quarter creates inappropriate dead ends and a hard edge to the settlement that doesn’t respond to the more natural landscape beyond. We appreciate that the indicative masterplan is not for approval at this stage, however, the suggestion that the masterplan could be built out with monotonous blocks of housing is worrying. Many of the residential roads have little or no connection with their surroundings and a lack of hierarchy in these roads will make way-finding difficult.
Three main roads, parallel to each other and in addition to the re-aligned A453 seems to be an over engineered solution that does not have the makings of a sustainable development. It seems that highway requirements have been prioritised above other placemaking needs.
The proposal must answer the critical question of what sort of place is being created at Nottingham Gateway. We understand the vision to build a distinctive settlement, however, we find little within the proposal to suggest that this scheme will be any more distinctive or relevant to Nottingham than other urban extensions. PPS3 is explicit in stating that a development should ‘create or enhance a distinctive character that relates well to the surroundings and supports a sense of local pride and civic identity.’ Further work is needed to explore what type of community this will be. The concept diagram needs to be supported by a narrative that shows how the contextual and site analysis has informed the design of the scheme.
It is encouraging that the design team have identified some of the failings of the Clifton estate and have a desire to improve on these issues in the new development. Unfortunately the design of the proposal does not convince us that this will be the case. Despite the different character areas proposed, the indicative masterplan shows a layout of blocks, routes and spaces that overall, are very bland in character. We appreciate that the development is at an outline planning stage, nevertheless the concept plan needs to be supported by a clear idea for placemaking that responds to the local context. This should be evident in the design and access statement that will inform subsequent stages of design. A revision to the plan, therefore, needs to overcome our concern that many of the roads have uniform widths and spacing with a lack of hierarchy between primary, secondary and tertiary routes. A hierarchy should help to define the character areas.
We recognise the idea to subdivide the site into different character areas but it is not evident that the placemaking agenda shown on the tenth board of the presentation has been overlapped with the character areas on the eleventh board so that one informs the other. The topographical lines, for example, do not appear to have any affiliation with the boundaries of the site or the distribution of development within the character areas to reinforce their quality.
We are surprised that a zoned approach to the employment area and locating community sports provisions on the opposite side of the A453 is being proposed. Not only are these uses peripheral to the development and therefore largely inaccessible to residents, but this approach repeats the mistakes of the past. Successful communities require a full range of local services and facilities that are conveniently sited and connected to residential areas. We recommend that a more sustainable approach is taken that combines the primary activities of living and working, which in turn could support a range of secondary uses (eg leisure and community based uses) that help to make a place.
We support the idea of designing a landscape structure that informs the masterplan, however, we have yet to be convinced that it is working well. We think the internal structure lacks legibility. Working with the topography, the open spaces, parks and greenways need to be graded within a hierarchy to help people differentiate between areas. We appreciate that the design of facilities such as allotments is more applicable at the detailed design stage, however, there should be a strategy overall for their distribution, role and function at the outline stage.
We understand the urgency to meet the current demand for housing and the Government’s target for housing numbers. Nevertheless, central to this must be an agenda for providing good quality housing and building communities and this is reflected in national planning policy. We are concerned that the current proposal is contrary to planning policy, not least to PPS3 that states that the local authority should be encouraging development that aims to meet the needs of people, is visually attractive, safe, accessible and functional and that has a distinctive identity of its own. We do not think that the planning application in its current form should be given planning permission. We feel this conclusion is in line with PPS1 that states that ‘design which is inappropriate in its context, or which fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it functions, should not be accepted.’ We would, however, like to offer the local authority and the design team the opportunity to have the scheme reviewed again, once changes have been made to the current planning application in light of this letter.