Tell the story

A good core strategy needs to tell the story of the place. This should be told in the vision and in the strategy itself.

The story of a place can be told by:

  • explaining the important history, context and physical characteristics of the area
  • talking about the people who live there
  • describing how the area functions
  • understanding the relationships that exist with the wider area
  • understanding the opportunities a place offers.

Think about how a place will work in the future, what it will look like, what it will feel like, how people will use it and how will it be different from other places. Try not to focus on just housing numbers or land uses.

A good core strategy does not need to be lengthy. It is about distilling the knowledge and evidence about a place, its communities and its future. Focus on the key issues and priorities that are relevant to the place. Build on the opportunities the place offers to make the most of development and investment.

From understanding and clarifying the story of the place, it should be clear what is important to that place, what makes it special, and why.

Questions to think about when telling the story

  • Is there a clear description of the special character of a place and how it functions?
  • Does it recognise the choices facing an area?
  • Does it express the role the place plays in the sub-region and region?
  • Who lives there and why?
  • Is it clear how the physical, economic, environmental and social influences have shaped the place?
  • Does the vision set out what the place will be like and reflect the characteristics and issues of the area?

Why a good story is important for design quality

Clearly expressing in the core strategy the existing character of a place and how it functions, and explaining how this informs future choices will:

  • focus the strategy on quality of place rather than on policies or housing numbers
  • clarify understanding and knowledge of the place - where it has come from, how it is now, and where it is going
  • identify important features of that place which need to be protected or enhanced
  • help scope different options, which can be tested help identify the areas that are stable, will change, and those that need managing and protection
  • recognise the needs of the existing and future communities
  • make it relevant, to engage people in the process
  • lead to a strong and locally specific vision for the area.

Case studies

London Borough of Tower Hamlets

London Borough of Tower Hamlets

The emerging Tower Hamlets core strategy is based on the understanding and interpretation of the place. This has led to the identification of 24 separate ‘hamlets’ that shape the borough.

Read the Tower Hamlets case study.

London Borough of Camden

London Borough of Camden

The London Borough of Camden’s ‘core strategy preferred approach’ consultation document clearly and succinctly sets out what makes Camden unique and identifies the priorities for the area.

Read the Camden case study.


Plymouth City Council

Plymouth City Council

Plymouth City Council’s adopted core strategy clearly identifies and tells the story of priority areas within the authority through recognising the geographical location, history, local challenges, opportunities and the key issues for each area.

Read the Plymouth City Council case study.

Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stoke-on-Trent

Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stoke-on-Trent

The adopted joint core strategy tells the story of Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stoke-on-Trent and their relationship to one another through a detailed but succinct spatial portrait based on robust evidence.

Read the Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stoke-on-Trent case study.