PROCEEDINGS OF THE US/ICOMOS INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM

MANAGING CONFLICT & CONSERVATION IN HISTORIC CITIES
INTEGRATING CONSERVATION WITH TOURISM, DEVELOPMENT AND POLITICS
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, USA ‡ 24-27 APRIL 2003

Planning for Historic Market Towns in England and France
Ivor Samuels

At a time when everywhere is becoming like everywhere else the conservation of the distinctive character of rural market towns, threatened by the forces of homogenisation, becomes ever more important. This distinctive character can depend on the form of the buildings and their relation with the natural environment, but it can equally derive from the particular economic patterns and the social fabric of the town. Conservation of the buildings and the urban fabric does not mean their preservation like a fly in amber but their adaptation and re- use whilst retaining their essential properties. In the same way the conservation of the social and economic life of a town does not mean the propping up of economic activities which, in this era of globalisation, may have shifted to other countries. Other activities must be promoted which allow the life of the town to continue. Although few of these towns are of exceptional artistic quality, they are not World Heritage sites, most of them include some protected zones and buildings, and the quality of their built environment and natural settings represents an important resource for their economic future.

Kington (left) and Fakenham: the natural setting and the buildings of market towns are valuable economic assets

This paper reflects on a number of projects carried out in France and Britain where the pressures of sectoral change, shifts in retailing patterns, the centralisation of services and a demand for private residential development threatens to destroy the local distinctiveness of these towns. In the French cases the emphasis was on the conservation of the physical heritage while the English cases were more concerned with the conservation of economic and social life. Although the cases discussed are small towns in two countries, they demonstrate methods and approaches which have a wider relevance. In the United States both the Main Streets movement, with its concern to revitalise the centres of small towns and the New Urbanism with its rediscovery of the virtues of local vernacular architecture, are manifestations of similar concerns and they have had an influence on the work described here. The projects in both countries have introduced methodological innovations which were demanded by the imperatives of the two different contexts. In England a main concern was to extend public participation to a process which integrated the private and public sectors in projects concerned with economic regeneration. The French projects, in particular, illustrate the benefits of cross- cultural interchange in confronting the issue of the safeguard of local character against the powerful forces of homogenisation which dominate much European development. The work in these cases had to resolve the problem of how, in urban design practice, ways can be found of understanding and analysing local character. This paper explores the extent to which the methods adopted in both sets of projects are circumscribed by both the planning machinery and the organisation of local power.

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PROCEEDINGS OF THE US/ICOMOS INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM

MANAGING CONFLICT & CONSERVATION IN HISTORIC CITIES
INTEGRATING CONSERVATION WITH TOURISM, DEVELOPMENT AND POLITICS
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, USA ‡ 24-27 APRIL 2003

Factors of Change The pressures on small towns are familiar in most developed countries. The first comes from the transformation of the rural economy, which over the last two years in Britain has received a brutal blow from the foot and mouth epidemic. In some towns the cattle markets, a regular focus of commercial activity, were closed for two years. Many will never reopen with a consequent permanent loss of this important source of vitality. Even the bucolic image of la France profonde with its vineyards and pastures screens considerable change. For instance the French census tells us that the number of those considered to be peasants declined by 38% in the decade between 1989 and 1999 as industrial agriculture, which employs fewer people, and does not depend on local towns, became the norm.

The loss of small businesses is a problem in many European Countries Italy (left) and France

The second factor is that process of decentralisation which has seen retail activity shift from town centres as retailing has become increasingly dominated by a limited number of supermarket chains. This has happened in the United Kingdom to a greater extent than in any other European country with the exception of Switzerland (it is interesting to note that the United States is relatively less concentrated than in all but three European countries). Because of deregulation and the elimination of wholesaler s independent shop find it ever more difficult to operate and the character of the market town High Street which derives from its small shops is being eroded. At the same time as shopping has been decentralised, public facilities have been centralised, again to the detriment of small town vitality. In the pursuit of economies of scale, schools, colleges, hospitals and clinics have been amalgamated into fewer but bigger units which have often needed larger sites in the bigger towns with the local units being shut down. Police stations have also been centralised and the removal of a local presence has increased crime response times and has led to greater rural insecurity. All these changes have resulted in a vicious circle of reduced local employment possibilities, lower spending power, reduced provision and therefore redundant buildings.

Fakenham (left) and Kington; empty shops in a prominent location and a redundant listed chapel

Two Planning Contexts In England these projects were carried out for the Civic Trust Regeneration Unit in a number of towns Bentham. Cinderford, Kington. Minehead and Torrington, mainly in the West of England They formed part of a Rural Development Commission (RDC) programme for assistance to country areas, where the dwindling opportunities for the population to have access to all that is assumed central to a fulfilling life - education and training, employment, services and housing, is a major preoccupation. The work was therefore primarily of an economic motivation and the lead professionals for the projects were economic and social development consultants.

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PROCEEDINGS OF THE US/ICOMOS INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM

MANAGING CONFLICT & CONSERVATION IN HISTORIC CITIES
INTEGRATING CONSERVATION WITH TOURISM, DEVELOPMENT AND POLITICS
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, USA ‡ 24-27 APRIL 2003

In France the work started in four communes on the edges of the Ile de France region - Asnières sur Oise, Aumont, Boigneville and Mennecy with later projects being carried out as far afield as Provence, the Loire and the Alps. The motivation was primarily environmental - the retention of the character of the settlements against the threat of suburbanisation, as urban development and massive infrastructure projects spread across the Paris basin This is not to say that employment was not an issue but that rather the state of the local economy was a secondary concern in these particular planning initiatives. The French projects were set within a legal framework of decentralisation which gave every commune the power to prepare its own land use plan, the Plan d Occupation des Sols (POS). (Reforms have recently been introduced which have changed the nomenclature). Since there are some 36,000 communes in France, 32,000 of which have fewer than two thousand inhabitants (Merlin and Choay 1988), the possibilities for making plans which respond to local character, are potentially very great. The first project undertaken was for Asnières sur Oise with a population of three thousand people, and subsequent work has taken place in communes with populations as small as five hundred. In practice however, this remarkable opportunity to implement locally responsive plans has not been fully realised and, with few exceptions, the procedure has been to make plans which show a minimal response to local conditions. These are generally prepared by the local Direction Departementale de l Equipement (DDE) which is a decentralized office of the Ministère de I'Equipement (responsible for planning matters as well as housing and public works) providing a fee based planning service for the communes in the department although the communes are able to hire their own consultants, which was the case in the projects described.

Asnieres; the natural setting and a typical street

At Asnières the 1987 POS. prepared by the DDE, contradicted the intentions of the Mayor who had been elected subsequent to the adoption of the Plan on a platform which included the safeguard of local character. In making decisions on applications to build in the territory of his commune, he was unable to ensure acceptable development because the legal basis of his power to do this, the POS, offered a set of rules which did not recognise the particular qualities of the settlement. The 1987 POS conformed to a model which, as a result of standardisation, neglected the special characteristics of each locality. Firmly in the tradition of qualitative controls and using such instruments as Floor Space Ratios, these plans were more concerned with the quantity of development which could be allowed than with influencing the resulting quality. Pressures on staff also meant that it was easier to compile standard clauses rather than worry about interpreting the particularities of each town. The same administrative pressures can be seen at work in England where the innovative Essex Design Guide had been replicated in numerous areas which have quite different building traditions. In the French case this standardisation may also derive from the professional background of staff more concerned with administrative efficiency than with genius loci. Although there are some architects in the plan making teams, DDE officials are usually engineers and administrators whose values are more to do with administrative efficiency than with environmental excellence.

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PROCEEDINGS OF THE US/ICOMOS INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM

MANAGING CONFLICT & CONSERVATION IN HISTORIC CITIES
INTEGRATING CONSERVATION WITH TOURISM, DEVELOPMENT AND POLITICS
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, USA ‡ 24-27 APRIL 2003

The French POS is a legally binding document which stands alone in constraining citizens' rights to the use of property. If a proposal is in accordance with the regulations of the plan then it must be approved. There is no discretion, at least in theory, to deal with a project on its own merits as can happen in England. In contrast to the French decentralisation of planning powers, the Local Planning Authority in England is the District Council the smallest of which has around 50,000 inhabitants and which may contain a dozen settlements of the size of Asnières. The District Council has the responsibility for preparing a Local Plan which, at best, may have insets for the larger settlements, but tries to deal with issues at the level of the whole District wherever possible. For example, guidance for the design of residential buildings in the town of Cinderford is covered by policies for the whole District in spite of the wide variations of building materials, colour and topography that exist across the territory of the Forest of Dean (Forest of Dean District Council 1993). Even where a Plan is produced for a small town or village it generally only identifies those areas in which a high degree of change is expected or where it is necessary to locate major elements of planning policy such as growth boundaries or identifying a new industrial area. None of the Local Plans covering the five English towns under discussion treat the different parts of the towns in detail so that our projects, undertaken as part of an essentially economically motivated RDC regeneration programme, often represent the only opportunities to consider a locally focused planning proposal. To our knowledge the planning system in the UK is unique in being both based on a relatively weak plan and ultimately subject to national centralised control. The plan is not only supplemented by other documents but it can be overturned by a developer if he can marshal enough arguments to make a successful appeal to the appropriate Central Government Ministry. Attention has been drawn to the inadequacy of these local plans for urban design purposes (Hall, 1999). They are based on a high degree of two dimensional generalisations and are directed at the control of use rather than form. However, we know from urban morphological studies of how towns evolve, that form has a much greater resistance to change than use and therefore really needs at least as much, if not more, consideration in instruments intended to control and direct change. Even where design guidance seeks to elaborate or supplement the Local Plan the content usually misses the point. Most guidance amounts to little more that a pious hope that local character will be respected. Most important is the fact that when design guides are published they seem to focus on matters of design detail and materials, and seem unaware of the way that the deeper structuring levels especially street layout or plot configuration, affect settlement form. If one applies the metaphor of a funnel to the various levels of resolution of the built environment (McGlynn and Samuels, 2000) we note that traditional settlements are characterized by a wide diversity at the top of the funnel (the range of neighbourhoods, or districts, and street block and plot sizes), and a progressively reducing diversity towards the bottom of the funnel. Not surprisingly, the vernacular architecture of settlements is distinguished by the limited number of materials available locally. In contrast, in most modern housing developments the funnel is reversed. There is a relatively restricted range of districts, street configurations are usually determined by engineering standards so they tend to be all the same, and plot sizes and building configurations all lay within a very narrow range. The

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PROCEEDINGS OF THE US/ICOMOS INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM

MANAGING CONFLICT & CONSERVATION IN HISTORIC CITIES
INTEGRATING CONSERVATION WITH TOURISM, DEVELOPMENT AND POLITICS
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, USA ‡ 24-27 APRIL 2003

developers try to overcome this lack of diversity at the higher levels of the funnel by introducing an apparently arbitrary and excessive amount of diversity at the lowest level - materials. In some developments they seem to pride themselves on making no two adjacent buildings alike in terms of materials and minor building elements, such as porches and dormer windows. Approaches and methods It is suggested that the work in France and England was obliged to innovate in completely different ways as a response to the planning contexts described above. The French work can be regarded as one of several attempts to render the machinery of the POS capable of controlling the quality as well as the quantity of development (e.g. Steinebach 1993). The British plans represent an attempt to produce a local planning statement in an otherwise highly centralised system. For the Mayor of Asnières a new POS had to be an instrument that was comprehensible to non professionals as well as architects. It was necessary to demonstrate the characteristics of the village and the limits within which solutions to their specific development problems could be found. As far as these requirements were concerned this was very close to the specification for the Essex Design Guide referred to above. In addition, since it would be a legally binding document, it had to demonstrate the legitimacy of the prescriptions it was putting forward. Unlike an advisory design guide it had to put up arguments that could be tested in a court of administrative law. Our initial approach to this problem was to adopt in its entirety the didactic method of the British Design Guide. However, while recognizing its usefulness with respect to its transparency to non -professionals, the lawyer on the team was concerned by its lack of rigour. Firmly based in the tradition of the work of Gordon Cullen and the Townscape School (Cullen 1961) the guidance often takes the form of collections of subjective responses to place. Sometimes they put forward proposals based on implicit design attitudes which would be considered doubtful or untenable if made explicit and, certainly, would not stand up to the scrutiny of the French legal system. The work undertaken in France has therefore used the Italian tradition of systematic morphological analysis applied, via the technique of the British Design Guide, to the French system of regulations. The first application of the method at Asnières sur Oise was received with a degree of opposition from professionals used to existing methods of quantitative control and, without the presence of a lawyer in the team, the POS would never have been approved by the departmental authorities. Difficulties were experienced on both sides of the controlling/developing boundary. As controllers, the DDE raised objections to what they claimed was its historicism and elitism and the constraints it would exert on architects' creativity. As well as the concern voiced by staff of the DDE with respect to the complications of administering such a sophisticated plan, a number of unsuccessful challenges to the POS legality were made by the Préfet of the Val d'Oise before it could be finally adopted. Initially French architects found it difficult to work without the discipline of the usual quantitative land use and volumetric controls. These devices were not used because; while they control area and volume they do not exercise any qualitative control of form. There were, however, architects who were willing to work within the framework of the regulations and a number of buildings have since been constructed which fulfilled the Mayor's expectations by being responsive to the locality.

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MANAGING CONFLICT & CONSERVATION IN HISTORIC CITIES
INTEGRATING CONSERVATION WITH TOURISM, DEVELOPMENT AND POLITICS
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, USA ‡ 24-27 APRIL 2003

An extract from the Boigneville POS showing acceptable building and plot combination for one zone

Public participation In France the main channel for public participation in the planning process was through the elected Conseil Municipal, where opposition to proposals was often raised on party lines and there was rarely any discussion of substance which could allow the emerging POS to be tested or evaluated in a systematic way. There was also a separate Commission for the POS to which representatives were invited from the different parts of the commune, but this was very much a forum for receiving proposals in progress and was dominated by the Mayor. This process took place against a background of remarkable local power with respect to initiating projects and raising tax revenues which is given to even the smallest commune. The client for the project was very clearly the Mayor with, at some distance, the Conseil Municipal.

The public works dept and the Town Hall at Asnieres

Once the plan had successfully negotiated the process of adoption the commune had a great deal of autonomy with respect to its implementation. For example it has its own public works department with a staff of half a dozen. This means that it has the ability to swiftly implement council decisions in such matters as changing traffic circulation arrangements. In contrast, English settlements of a comparable size to Asnières have elected Town Councils, but with very limited powers. They are only informally consulted on planning matters, have no ability to contradict a decision of the District Council and have no spending power. The client structure for the English projects was complex since funding for subsequent projects, and even the plan itself, came from a number of sources including the District Council, the Rural Development Commission and a national charity. The planning team reported to a Reference Group which represented the District Council, the Town Council and other local stakeholders such as local arts groups, churches and businesses. The setting up of the client group arrangements and the terms of reference for the regeneration projects was itself a time consuming matter and preceded through cycles of seminars and public meetings before the contracts were finalized. However, once set up, these structures usually had the capability to continue as implementation agencies once the professional team had left.

Public participation workshops at Kington (left) and Bedford which is a bigger town and can afford a more sophisticated exhibition

Another innovatory aspect of the English work was the holding of a series of public workshops during the projects. The first. "The Good. The Bad and the Ugly" was intended to elicit as wide a range as
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PROCEEDINGS OF THE US/ICOMOS INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM

MANAGING CONFLICT & CONSERVATION IN HISTORIC CITIES
INTEGRATING CONSERVATION WITH TOURISM, DEVELOPMENT AND POLITICS
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, USA ‡ 24-27 APRIL 2003

possible of views of the towns' problems and citizen priorities. These proved to be an invaluable control on professional perceptions and indicated a wide variation in priorities across towns with apparently similar problems. The second workshop presented a range of possible projects as part of a linked strategy and invited the participants to sort them into priorities under different headings such as environment, employment, tourism and transport. These were useful but presented the difficulty of publicly demonstrating the interrelation between different projects. It was also difficult to set out adequately the arguments behind as many as forty separate projects in a way that enabled the participants to make informed decisions at a two hour meeting. A different model of participation was used at Minehead, where information was circulated in advance to an invited group rather than holding an open meeting with an unprepared audience. In all the towns a final workshop presented the draft proposals of the strategy for debate. A feature of the workshops, which, at best, involved only ten percent of the population, was the division of a large group of people (up to two hundred in some cases) into small groups of eight to ten seated around a table with a facilitator. This format enabled people to participate who would be normally being inhibited from speaking in a large public meeting. It also annoyed some local politicians who resented being deprived of the opportunity to dominate a large audience. Because of the difficulty of attracting young people to the meetings, parallel workshops were held at all stages of the work with the pupils of local schools. The results of the workshops were an essential complement and check on the work of the design team but they cannot be allowed to replace professional analysis, discussion and judgment. It can be tempting for hard pressed planners and architects to adopt positions of simply reacting to the meetings and using them as an excuse for abdicating their professional responsibility for explaining technical constraints and possibilities. The Public and Private Realms The French POS were very much instruments for controlling the private activity of citizens on their own land. They did not, for example, include any reference to the environmental improvement schemes which were proposed for public spaces in the towns or the other public initiatives which are possible in the highly interventionist French political culture. In contrast, the English plans were devoted almost exclusively to interventions which would take place in the public realm for example the staged transformation of a car park into a town square at Kington. Attempts to suggest that it might be necessary to control the action of private individuals in order to maintain the quality of a town (even though this had been recognized by the public participation meetings as being of importance) by producing detailed design guidelines for development, were virtually ignored by the District Council Planning Departments and they were beyond the remit of our projects

Asnieres: projects and buildings carried out according to the POS

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PROCEEDINGS OF THE US/ICOMOS INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM

MANAGING CONFLICT & CONSERVATION IN HISTORIC CITIES
INTEGRATING CONSERVATION WITH TOURISM, DEVELOPMENT AND POLITICS
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, USA ‡ 24-27 APRIL 2003

Implementation The POS depends for its success on its democratic adoption and implementation by the commune. Thus a plan which may appear restrictive and even negative has to be seen alongside a programme of works and initiatives undertaken by the public sector. In contrast the Town Council of an English town has very little power to implement proposals on its own account. In England a major part of each project was to find base funding and set up an organisation to take forward the plan proposals - this usually takes the form of a non profit company or Trust with charitable status incorporating local stakeholders from both the private and public sectors.

New forest interpretation centre at Cinderford (left) and bric a brac market at Fakenham

Conclusion In France the emphasis was on establishing a legally sound method which, while controlling quality, would have to resist the interrogations of the préfect of the Departement with respect to its legality rather than the substance of the planning content. The only technical control was that it should not contradict the regional Schema Directeur which clays down broad policies for the distribution of population and employment and the conservation of natural resources. In England the emphasis was on a document which could convincingly argue for funding from various sources, including the private and voluntary sectors. In all the towns a range of projects was proposed which used the quality of the natural and built environment for economic ends by attracting visitors to spend money in the locality. With the exception of conservation areas, the British planning system allows very little codified control over the detail of physical form. The French system permits a high degree of control provided the democratic choice is made to exercise that control through the POS. This clearly determined the degree of prescription in the two sets of projects. The French work was strictly regulative; the English could only be illustrative with respect to form. Attitudes to public participation also differed. In Britain there were programmed opportunities to allow a wide range of publics to contribute at all stages of the process while in France the plan making choices were primarily those of the elected representatives and in particular the Mayors. In the British case the economist was the leading professional while in France it proved to be the lawyer because of the need to innovate within a system with a high degree of legal constraint. In Britain it is very rare that a lawyer becomes an integral part of a design team - they usually only appear in situations of dispute. This departure from the traditional team structure has important implications for professional activity and an association has been established in France with the objective of bringing the notary into the planning team. In the past notaries had a major planning role. They were the town planners and the names are recorded of those who laid out the bastide towns of medieval France; this innovation in a sense represents a return to a past tradition in resolving the problems of today.
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PROCEEDINGS OF THE US/ICOMOS INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM

MANAGING CONFLICT & CONSERVATION IN HISTORIC CITIES
INTEGRATING CONSERVATION WITH TOURISM, DEVELOPMENT AND POLITICS
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND, USA ‡ 24-27 APRIL 2003

References Forest of Dean District Council (1993) Forest of Dean District Local Plan. Cullen G. (1961) Townscape . Architectural Press. McGlynn and Samuels (2000) The funnel, the sieve and the template: towards an operational urban morphology in Urban Morphology, Vol 4(2), 79-89 Merlin P and Choay F (1988) Dictionnaire de l'Urbanisme et de l'Amenagement . Presses Universitaires de France. Samuels I (1993) 'The Plan d'Occupation des Sols for Asnieres sur Oise: a Morphological Design Guide' in ed. Hayward and McGlynn, Making Better Places. Urban Design Now . Butterworth Architecture. Steinebach M (1993) La Mixite Urbaine dans les Documents d'Urbanisme . Direction de l'Architecturc et Urbanisme (DAU).

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