Icon – Lime Tree Square

Street, Somerset

Icon – Lime Tree Square. Photo by Knightstone Housing Association

Design process

Outline permission was granted for a housing scheme here in 2004 as part of a land swap deal. This enabled an earlier Local Plan housing allocation to be re-sited closer to the High Street whilst allowing Clarks to build a distribution centre on an adjoining site, thereby safeguarding the company’s presence in Street. The permission required a minimum density of 40 dwellings per hectare and established key access points and pedestrian routes.

There was extensive community consultation from the beginning, including the formation of a stakeholder group, ‘planning for real’ workshops, and visits to three housing developments demonstrating best practice in sustainability.

The Clarks family’s vision established the development principles for the planning brief, with a commitment to quality and public involvement.

The brief was adopted by the Council in November 2005. It included:

  • creating frontages to streets and open spaces to increase surveillance and security
  • providing a coherent network of footpaths and cycleway linking the site to the existing and proposed routes, local facilities and public transport nodes
  • extending existing development along the West End frontage whilst encouraging views into the site
  • retaining an old stone barn on West End
  • integrating housing in the eastern and southern parts of the site with existing local housing, and making provision for rear vehicular access to existing properties wherever possible
  • locating properties likely to attract car-free households in the southern part of the site

All parties were keen to explore innovative design approaches and further develop best practice. A full professional team was appointed, including the Healthy Cities research centre from the University of the West of England to advise on sustainability.

Taking a fresh approach to the streets and public realm was essential to creating a high quality neighbourhood. The original brief identified a somewhat contorted route through the site, keeping lengths of straight road to a minimum to prevent rat running.

Following the consultation, the highway authority was approached by the design team with detailed proposals which placed a strong emphasis on the design principles of shared space. So instead of using traditional ‘humps, bumps and lumps’ to calm traffic, their concept drew on the ethos of the Manual for Streets to create a safer pedestrian and cycle-friendly environment. This promotes the use of clever design with a strong sense of place to influence driver behaviour.

The design of defined spaces and the use of planting, street furniture and trees all strengthened the sense of place, and the highway authority took this approach on board.

Following planning approval, the Housing Corporation (now the Homes and Communities Agency) provided a grant for the affordable housing element. Crest Nicholson, the scheme’s developer, chose Knightstone as the registered social landlord for the affordable housing element (30 homes) which then appointed its own clerk of works to monitor quality.