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Planning Theory & Practice
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Design Control Policies for Small Areas: The Dacorum Residential Area Character Study
Tony Hall; James Doe To cite this Article: Hall, Tony and Doe, James , 'Design Control Policies for Small Areas: The Dacorum Residential Area Character Study', Planning Theory & Practice, 1:2, 235 - 256 To link to this article: DOI: 10.1080/14649350020008413 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14649350020008413
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Planning Theory & Practice, Vol. 1, No. 2, 235± 256, 2000
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Design Control Policies for Small Areas: The Dacorum Residential Area Character Study
TONY HALL & JAMES DOE
ABSTRACT Over the last 15 years, increasing emphasis within planning has been laid on the layout and physical form of settlements. Unfortunately, planning systems in developed countries have not, in general, possessed signi® cantly powerful methods to respond to this trend. Various moves have been made in a number of countries to correct this situation. One attempt to ® ll the gap has been the design area approach devised in the UK by the ® rst author. This was introduced into planning practice by the second author at Dacorum Borough Council in the form of its Residential Area Character Study. The method behind this study is fully described. The study has been used in development control practice and subsequently absorbed into the local development plan. Contrary to what might have been predicted, this has proved a remarkably trouble free process and reasons for this are advanced. Introduction This article relates the results of a collaborative effort between an academic and a practitioner to introduce small area policies that related directly to urban form. We hope that it will prove both useful to practitioners and a further stimulus to academic thought. For at least the last 15 years, there has been an increasing re-emphasis within town planning in developed countries on the layout, landscaping and three-dimensional design of settlements. During the 1980s, there was a re-awakening of the importance of urban design, not only in terms of aesthetics but as a way of providing greater security, sociability and a higher quality of life. These matters are important for public participation as the physical outcomes of the planning process are what ultimately the public relate to and by which they judge its success. During the 1990s, increasing concern for sustainability took the matter further. If the sustainable city is to conserve energy, to promote bio-diversity and do all the other things required of it, then its layout, planting and three-dimensional form must be designed to facilitate this. The problem for planning systems throughout the developed world has been that they have either grown away from, or have never properly addressed, the policies, procedures and techniques necessary to achieve these ends. The plans used to control development have employed two-dimensional maps to show homogenous land-use allocations. Methods of analysing and prescribing urban form, such as townscape techniques, have been available for many decades but not generally used in development plans. In extreme cases, there have been no local plans at all.
Tony Hall, Anglia Polytechnic University, Bishop Hall Lane, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1SQ, UK. James Doe, South Bedfordshire District Council (formerly of Dacorum Borough Council).
1464-935 7 Print/1470-000X On-line/00/020235-2 2 Ó DOI: 10.1080 /1464935002000841 3 2000 Taylor & Francis Ltd
there have been notable attempts in North America to develop new ways of achieving urban design goals. It is in Europe where experiments in genuinely new plan methods (as opposed to new emphasis on design guides and review procedures) can be found. the design area technique developed by Tony Hall. and why is the general environmental quality so poor? Was there a way of bringing about urban quality of European levels? The planning systems of North-West Europe do. are: does this go beyond the aesthetics of buildings?. The Limitations of Existing Planning Systems Outside the UK. Nevertheless. 1997. contain small area plan units of which the Dutch Bestimmingsplan is perhaps the best-known example. and the dominant role of the central government. Florida. It provides a more ¯ exible and powerful vehicle for conveying detailed policies towards residential character. Doe Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 To say that there should be more detailed plans to control urban form is one thing: to devise a way of doing it another. Although. indeed. The questions that have been raised (Habe. It enables a plan area to be disaggregated on the basis of policy towards the physical characteristics rather than land-use notation. During the 1980s. during this period. nevertheless there was. In the event. these are limited in scope and cannot represent the whole range of urban design concerns. 1992) as epitomized by the settlement of Seaside. The Dacorum study has been used in British planning control and incorporated into the Borough’s local plan. Some US and Canadian cities have developed broader and more sophisticated approaches to achieving design goals (Punter. 1999) but these laudable attempts have yet to be consolidated into a systematic planning method. the 1990s in the UK brought a return to a plan-led system and a greater emphasis on design. The British experience has been more extreme than elsewhere because of its discretionary. American cities frequently have. rather than plan-determined. in addition. 1998). There were repeated calls for `simpler’ plans and a housebuilding industry that was ever ready to defend its freedom of action. government policy discouraged intervention on matters of design (Punter & Carmona. However. the key lessons from the experience have been the ease which it was introduced and the lack of opposition that it has encountered. approach. 1990). The absence of real controls on design. indeed. 1996). they rarely contain three-dimensional guidance and controls and there is suspicion that quality owes more to cultural norms and professional traditions than to explicit planning methods (Hall. British readers may. Hall & J. be surprised by the high degree of control to be found in most US cities (Wakeford. From the 1970s onwards. the determining factor in granting consent for development. and its application in British practice by James Doe for Dacorum Borough Council. What is set out here is one approach to the problem. processes for design review for judging the quality of proposed development. Some of the most signi® cant European efforts have been in France and these are summarized in a separate section below. and the lack of methods and procedures for producing relevant policy. in contrast to the 1980s. still a resistance to incorporating detailed design controls within plans. The prediction might have been that the Dacorum study would have faced repeated challenge at every stage. 1989). The most publicized American efforts have been directed at building codes. However. notably by Duany and Plater-Zyberk (Kreiger & Lennertz. though. where it existed. created a hands-off situation . it is common for planning systems to employ detailed land-use controls on a zonal basis. local plan coverage was not a requirement nor was a local plan.236 A.
Unfortunately. There was the realization that that there were other academics in these ® elds feeling their way in the same direction. 1998). but existing methods do not encourage their use. There is little recognition of the variation in the intensity of development control from place to place. has necessitated renewed attention to the processes of physical planning. design policies in British local plans have become fuller and more extensive (Punter & Carmona. Limitations on resources always meant that this was never as far reaching as one would have liked. It is also the case that. Searches were then made of current practice to see if any had anticipated the results. mode. Tony Hall began to study these matters in the late 1980s (Hall. pressure for change built up. 1990c). The outlines then have to be ® lled out with new techniques. The results were tested through worked examples. the desire to achieve more sustainable patterns of settlement has led to the pursuit of more compact urban form incorporating mixes of uses (Urban Task Force. and potential developers in particular. However. in recent years. however. progress was made. 1990a. there is still a lack of explicitly published policy that could guide the process of design. Searches were made of other academic traditions and these came to rest in urban morphology and urban design. From the shape of the holes in practice the outline content of what should ® ll them can be deduced. The Design Area Approach There are a number of possible explanations for the lack of appropriate methods (as opposed to political will). A local planning authority’s design policy can often only be deduced in retrospect from the reaction of the planning authority to proposals for development. There is no generally accepted conceptual structure or language that could enable practitioners to convey complex guidance for particular localities in an unambiguous manner. for strategic planning. This causes great inconvenience to both the public in general. One is the absence of the type of the extensive methodology that exists. for example. 1990b. The gaps in current practice were identi® ed by comparing the actual methods and content with desirable planning goals. not least because of a substantial increase in the demand for housing. However. rather than goaloriented. the signi® cant and continuing increase in the demand for dwellings. It is true that design guides have a long history but they deal with a restricted range of topics. If one can develop a frame of mind where preconceptions are removed and international comparisons are made then the shortcomings suddenly become startlingly apparent. Nevertheless the results were often Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 . Nevertheless. To create new plan methods and content was. More recently. The research method was as follows. particularly for those localities that are neither historic nor in a town centre. neither the design guides nor the standard format of local plans are suf® cient in themselves to meet the current challenges. the 1990s saw a process of gradual national coverage by local plans and their policies made the primary consideration in planning control. 1999). in particular urban morphology. from the late 1980s in Britain onwards. In contrast to the more laissez-faire policies of the 1980s. Moreover. a challenging creative process and there was always the consciousness of being at the beginning of an immense task. The implications of policy for small areas are rarely made explicit.Design Control Policies for Small Areas 237 with the planning system working in a reactive and mediating. and is inimical to effective design control. The need is to develop a method that would allow these ideas to be absorbed. and a desire to locate them within existing urban areas. There are sources from other ® elds of study that could be employed. as in other countries.
personalization with plot. This is the redevelopment of existing urban areas where plots are aggregated. It would facilitate the production of policy for features. The boundaries of design areas would not be pre-set but would vary according to the content of the design objective. Standard forms of objectives were thus identi® ed. con® rming the view that others had seen parts of the problem and had contributed part of the answer. The interaction between design goals and local features should be expressed in terms of design objectives. It would also facilitate variation in the intensity of planning control from place to place. re¯ ecting their particular circumstances. and the control procedures leading to their implementation. conservation of existing character. The basis of the new approach was the recognition that urban design was a pluralist activity involving negotiation between many parties.238 A. The ® nal stage was testing in the real life planning situation and this was one of the purposes of the Dacorum study (Hall. Negotiation was best facilitated by the use of clear objectives rather than rigid rules. something that had been a recurring issue within British planning practice. The alternative objectives were generated by considering ® rst the different levels of intervention and. second. It was increasingly apparent that level of intervention was a central component of design control and the concepts used to deal with it could be taken from those used to handle incremental change. These ideas have been developed further. speci® c form or style. and the distinction between intentions and outcomes elaborated into a four-way split: the objectives. the relationship between the goals and objectives was improved. In this. redeveloping an area of houses and gardens as ¯ ats and maintaining this form while allowing extensions to houses as residents choose. Doe surprising and encouraging. such as roads. the criteria for their achievement. height-bulk envelope) do not necessarily conserve the existing form and are consistent with redevelopment that aggregates plots and changes street patterns. in increasing order of controller intervention. The problem was how to generate objectives that would be speci® c to small areas. and buildings replaced. through a more comprehensive methodology (Hall. This may involve the replacement of small buildings by large ones and an increase in density for residential areas. which were normally to be found on land-use boundaries and not seen as design elements in their own right. The issue that is most likely to give rise to public reaction is one on which most land-use plans are silent. road layouts added to or revised. The key invention was made at this point: the design area. It then appeared that this rather simple idea had considerable power. not least the general public. 1990c) and second. 1996). by identifying the different qualities desired within these levels. The boundary of each design area would be determined by the interaction between the nature of the design objective and the existing urban form. Hall & J. 1990a. say. There is a difference between. The objective termed personalization within plot aims at preserving the existing form while encouraging diversity and individual initiative within plots. ® rst as a case study of Chelmsford (Hall. 1996). 1990b. The ® rst two types of standard objective (minimum intervention. A possible list. could be: · · · · · minimum intervention. Objectives concerned with urban conservation seek both to preserve the existing plot boundaries and infrastructure and control change within plots. material advising on how they might be achieved. restriction to height/bulk envelope. Subsequent Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 .
this approach was considered `permissive’ as design details were not controlled but were left to the discretion of the development control of® cers. This was a large addition of 3500 dwellings to the east of the existing city. 1999). 1993). The planning regulations speci® ed: · · · size and spacing of buildings in blocks. economic growth and massive redevelopment during the 1960s and 1970s did great damage to it. Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 Innovations in French Practice Amongst the most interesting examples of parallel developments in current practice have been certain innovations in France. These examples aimed at ensuring that new development respected an existing historic pattern. however. Certain innovative examples of POS have employed morphological controls to reproduce historic form. a community of Á 2400 people 35 km north of Paris (Samuels. In this last case. Farthing (1999) compared the extensive development north of Bristol. road layout siting of local facilities. building heights in pursuit of townscape harmony. Legislative changes in 1993 introduced a third generation of POS that could accommodate control of physical form. However. The principal vehicle for local plans in France is the Plan d’Occupation des Sols. they did not neglect the Anglo-Saxon townscape school and regulated views and vistas in the urban landscape. conservation and the quality of urban form and the public realm (Trache. ratio of built to unbuilt space including speci® cation of street set-backs. There were four elements of prescription: · · · · minima and maxima for plot widths and surface areas. Although British planning of® cers might ® nd it astounding. which divides the plan area into zones and speci® es the regulations for development control within each zone. the POSQ can show concern for mixed-uses. with the St Eloi extension to Poitiers during the 1980s. layout of neighbourhoods. Although the analysis and prescription drew on French tradition in urban morphology.Design Control Policies for Small Areas 239 development of these ideas has drawn increasingly upon urban morphology as a theoretical base (Hall. 1999). 1997). The term Qualitatif has been increasingly used to describe such plans. The arrangement of green spaces and walls and the clusters of buildings all served to create a distinctive character. 1996) and Montreuil. a community of 12 000 people 40 km south of Paris (Kropf. The same technique. or POS. One of the ® rst was the plan for Asniere sur Oise. the roof shape and bulk of new building were uniformly controlled using three-dimensional drawings as aids. Where they are used. has been used to control large-scale green-® eld development in France. the town had a historic pattern of plots based upon the horticultural activities that were characteristic of the area before the Second World War. . four options for the relationship between density and plot size and the disposition of public and private open space. Unfortunately. a community of 10 000 people to the east of Paris (Trache. where there was very little physical control or design input. covering an area of 123 ha. The revision of the POS in 1993 presented the opportunity not only for the preservation of the remaining features but also to guide future growth in a manner consistent with the historic pattern. Similar approaches were adopted in Mennecy.
railway and canal where they pass through the Chiltern Hills. notably the French architect Mellisinos who was to be subsequently involved with Montreuil. After production of the draft version (Dacorum. 1995b). settled upon the design area approach (Hall. analysed the character of each area and produced appropriate design objectives. especially among the residents of Berkhamsted and Tring. Doe density. As a large `new town’ it did not share the antique ambience of Berkhamsted and Tring but did have a historic signi® cance of its own and one that was becoming more and more appreciated as the immediate post-war period receded into the past. During the 1980s signi® cant resistance developed to the prospect of `town cramming’. 1990c) as the theoretical basis of the new planning guidance. The problem was aggravated by an aware and vocal resident population. Berkhamsted and Tring. Almost all of the area of the Borough outside the main urban areas is covered by either the Metropolitan Green Belt or the Chiltern Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Dacorum Residential Area Character Study Dacorum Borough contains the towns of Hemel Hempstead. 1990b. the study was subjected to thorough public consultation. The need for differing policies for these towns was clearest in regard to the position of Hemel Hempstead. it was also subject to a . lying astride one of the old routes from London to the north-west for road. It also took note of the approaches adopted by other planning authorities. None of these had been speci® ed north of Bristol. with populations of 18 000 and 11 000 respectively. Although the St Eloi extension was based on a POS of 1978. The Council also needed to take account of the changes that were occurring in central government policy. which now has a population approaching 80 000 people. However. The Council subsequently adopted it formally as supplementary planning guidance (Dacorum. tenure of dwellings. 1995b). dating largely from the 1950s. The Borough was at that time preparing its Borough Local Plan (Dacorum. the District Plan (Dacorum. one of the Council’s of® cers. In this. James Doe. Berkhamsted and Tring are historic towns. as an inadequate vehicle for sustaining a development control policy that would deal with issues of restraint and local character as experienced differently in the three main towns. Hall & J. the Council saw the local plan. in both existing and revised forms. 1984). At a later date. It too would need protection from town cramming in a way that recognized its own particular character. The result was the Residential Area Character Study (Dacorum. the planning thinking stemmed from the same currents of thought and personalities that led to the POSQ of the 1990s. The Borough had a comprehensive local plan from 1984. Its location in a prosperous yet highly constrained part of south-east England made the question of how to accommodate the increasing demand for new dwellings particularly acute. 1995a) which subsequently replaced it. Although it was broadly restrictive in nature (most of the residential character areas were to have their `character maintained’). there was little opposition expressed by the development industry. Hemel Hempstead was a Mark 1 new town. he divided the towns into design areas. namely an increased awareness of the importance of environmental factors and the return to a plan-based system. 1990a.240 · · · Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 A. size of dwellings. 1998a) and then employed it in development control decision-making. After a search for new techniques and approaches.
Design Control Policies for Small Areas 241 comprehensive review as a part of the process of incorporating it in the subsequent revision of the Borough Local Plan (Dacorum. maintain. Following the setting of the goal and aims. Berkhamsted and Tring. to enhance and raise the visual pro® le of locally recognized or perceived areas. yet · · · · ® rm enough to exercise control over development. ¯ exible enough to allow scope for innovation in design. Doe established objectives for each town. Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 The Study Method Setting the Ground Rules The ® rst stage of the method was to set general parameters of investigation. applied with relative ease and not be ambiguous or over-complicated. and · based on clearly identi® ed and recognizable areas that re¯ ect the variety of character in the Borough. able to provide `guidance’ for those seeking planning permission. layout and realistic choice. to identify areas or parts of areas of the towns where different styles and forms of development were most appropriate. (c) town objectives. although consistent with the town objectives. Policies were to be: · · · in accordance with national policy. to facilitate variety in layout and design between de® ned areas. These study parameters led to the establishment of substantive study objectives to guide its scope and operation. They were set at three levels in the following hierarchy: (a) study goal. (b) study aims. The exception to this general approach was the status given to `local perception’ and neighbourhood qualities in producing the design areas. to avoid the recognized problems of over-development and `town cramming’. The town objectives became the starting point of a more detailed policy base designed . change the character and appearance of de® ned residential areas within Hemel Hempstead. 1998b). enhance and where considered necessary. The study aims were: · · · · · to achieve a high standard of design of buildings and spaces according to the character of de® ned areas within the towns. The study goal was: To use the development control process to improve. understood by all parties involved in the development process. James Doe based the study broadly on the physical features of the towns and their constituent design areas. and not on their social and economic characteristics. a positive tool rather than a negative set of policies.
Urban design qualities: · · · · · · · · · · layout and density. Doe Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 to shape the new development in the residential areas. Prior to deciding where and how the character areas should be drawn. These factors were seen as the principal in¯ uences on overall area character at a general or `broad brush’ level. Prior to the start of survey work. degree of continuity and spacing between them. he drew up a list of characteristics to be investigated as part of the survey and character appraisal. Although the consultation draft referred to `design areas’. The town objectives had particular reference value in interpreting the area policies for use in the decision-making process. their constituent areas and the established local plan policy approach (Dacorum. He then revised them in the light of the survey work to correct and develop them as necessary. Working within the scope of the overall study objectives. he created a preliminary picture of how the towns consisted of residential areas of differing characters. Generation of Character Areas Following the establishment of the study parameters. He modi® ed the design area approach somewhat in applying it to the Dacorum context. landmarks. 1995a). Neighbourhood qualities: local perception of areas. age. by the time of its adoption as supplementary guidance they were being termed `character areas’. This was concerned principally with urban design factors.242 A. car parking provision and traf® c ¯ ows. but also (and this was important) with how an area was perceived in terms of its neighbourhood qualities. presence and type of non-residential buildings. and what the character and features of each area were. This led on to the creation of speci® c policies for each design area. type and design of buildings. From this background preparation. views and vistas. In all. Doe used these factors in an initial desktop exercise to devise preliminary character areas in all three towns prior to survey work being carried out on the ground. incidence of spaces both open land and amenity areas. He drafted them ® rst through a desktop exercise using local knowledge of the towns. Hall & J. A survey of the three towns was then made to test the assumptions and local knowledge and make modi® cations where necessary. 58 . Doe developed a policy framework so that development in areas of similar character could be controlled effectively. a short written description was made of each area based on the above factors and making use of local knowledge. the character areas provided the level at which policies for controlling development in residential areas would be implemented and were central to the operation of the area policy statements. focal points. provision of landscaping and planting. form. These were shown on a standard Ordnance Survey 1:10 000 scale base map to provide visual representation of how each town could be analyzed in terms of character areas. He assembled parts of the towns possessing similar qualities into a series of contiguous groups to form character areas. important edges.
aims and town objectives. The ® rst step was to consider an overall policy approach for each area (see Table 1). with 29 in Hemel Hempstead.e. character areas were originally identi® ed. The development of an area’s policy approach can be traced through the ¯ ow chart. Each of these `development forms’ can be run through the policy formulation process on the ¯ ow chart in Figure 2. These main forms can usefully be structured in terms of a `hierarchy of the built environment’ consisting of three levels: . These qualities had to be considered against the study and town objectives that guide the overall direction of policy. but was limited by the practicalities of implementation and legal constraints. individual policies for handling proposals for change. Doe worked up detailed. With a policy approach in place.Design Control Policies for Small Areas Survey results 243 leads to appraisal and definition of Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 Area character helps to define helps to define Goal and aims Town objectives results in decision to Change character Improve character Maintain character produces Policy approach for each design area Figure 1. the goal. The policy formulation process he adopted is shown in diagrammatic form by Figures 1 and 2. 17 in Berkhamsted and 12 in Tring. i. It derived primarily from the consideration of area character arising from the area character appraisals. and the study objectives. The main forms of development and change within residential areas are listed in Table 1. Doe drew mainly on the results of the survey work. The de® nition of character provided an assessment of those physical and neighbourhood qualities that it may be desirable to maintain or change in some way. Policy Formulation For the creation of policies. Policy formulation process: creating policy approaches. Figure 2. but also took into account the study objectives. This process is shown by the ¯ ow chart.
This level was termed `layout’. such as individual buildings and dwellings. substantial domestic extensions with high visual impact and the provision of . to underline the importance of these components as making up the basic structure of each area. Layout 2. the network of roads and provision of structural open land. This includes small-scale development. Hall & J. Policy approach No Options Prevent the change Control the change Encourage the change Creates option Is this No Legitimate? Practical? No Yes Yes Yes Consider Another Option Create policy Figure 2. Detail Is the change appropriate? relative to 1. Doe Forms of environmental change within Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 Hierarchy of the built environment 1. Level 1 Major components of change in the built environment appear here. Town objectives 3. and contains the main features which can change within the area layout framework and have in¯ uence beyond the extent of individual plots. This consists of forms such as large developments. Level 2 This is termed `area morphology’. Goal and aims 2. Policy formulation process: developing individual policies.244 A. Morphology 3.
such as architectural detailing. The ® rst. provided a basic introduction setting out policy towards the different forms of new development. Components of area morphology add shape and detail to the area layout. including those found under levels 2 and 3 of the hierarchy of the built environment (see Table 1) could be judged against these. plot amalgamation and in® lling. . with the speci® c principles to guide new development divided into three parts.Design Control Policies for Small Areas Table 1. Structure · Green® eld development · Comprehensive redevelopment · Road network · Structural open land b. landscaping and parking provision within the curtilage of dwellings.e. but the distinctions established by the hierarchy form a useful structuring method for the purposes of policy formulation. Speci® c policy guidance was then provided in the second part. development principles. These are essentially changes within plots. Level 3 This contains the area’s detailed features. Generally. Clearly there is some overlap between these categories. All forms of development that take place in residential areas. development within the plot provided policy guidance for smaller-scale proposals but within the curtilage of individual plots. Changes to structure · Plot amalgamation · Backland development · Plot separation and density · In® ll development Level 2Ð Area morphology (within layout structure) · Substantial extensions to buildings · Buildings within curtilages · Garage blocks · Communal parking areas · Amenity spaces/play areas · Garden sizes · Conversions of buildings to ¯ ats · Provision of non-residential buildings · Provision of public landscaping · Pedestrian network and footways · Traf® c ¯ ow Level 3Ð Detail (within plot) · Minor extensions to buildings · Building design features · Crossovers · Provision of private landscaping · Private parking/hardstandings and forecourts public landscaping. i. scope for residential development. Third. they constitute additions to mainly morphological components. green® eld. Development forms: hierarchy of the built environment Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 245 Level 1Ð Layout a. private planting. redevelopment. but do not radically change or alter it. representing the lowest level of change within the hierarchy. Each policy statement was arranged in a similar way.
· advisory information was not included. The ® rst test. Likewise. To assess whether the form of change was desirable or appropriate. If all the options failed these tests. Hall & J. (Political views. of legitimacy. then the creation of policy became impossible and consequently no policy was introduced concerning the particular form of environmental change under consideration. a particular component of character may have been absent from. if an aspect of change was undesirable or inappropriate then it should be prevented or controlled.246 A.) Second. However. then the policy should either encourage or if necessary control it in some way. whereas in Dacorum the study extended only to residential areas. · roads were seldom identi® ed as character areas. Design and Character Areas Compared Doe’s approach to policy formulation by character area possessed some differences from Hall’s original design area approach on which it was based. for each design area Hall suggests a range of alternative Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 . His selection process was broadly similar to the Dacorum study. although all forms of land use in the Chelmsford case study were covered. Depending on the answer to this question. he selected one of three broad options for policy formulation. The other was the treatment of alternative objectives. One was that the study was concerned only with residential land-use. he made no particular or special requirements relating to that particular form of change. Hall’s notional design areas were selected on the basis of the areas possessing of `similar characteristics’ and having the `same alternatives’ in respect of how policy or objectives could guide new development. in an area. One example was ª the need to retain and conserve all items of architectural and landscape heritageº . including those of the community at large had a valuable input to the study at the consultation stage. In his case study of Chelmsford. These were whether changes should be encouraged. town objectives and the policy approach. the process of option selection began again until one was selected that possessed legitimacy and practicality. These were: · the study applied only to residential areas. encompassed issues such as whether a policy arising from the selected option was legally acceptable. These options were then tested in the policy formulation process. Was the selected option achievable? Could it be realistically implemented? Could a policy arising from it be easily understood? Where the option was judged to be unacceptable. If the change was desirable or appropriate. Hall then set out main objectives for policy in design areas. or not judged important. which again has parallels with the individual approach to policy advocated in each character area in Dacorum. Of these. In both these cases. This part of the policy process allowed for such views to be expressed. · alternative objectives were not proposed or discussed. · the character area boundaries sometimes followed road lines. · no urban design philosophy was made explicit. two were the more signi® cant. · objectives were not labelled as such. Doe Doe considered the effect of the forms of change against area character by examining each one from the three levels in the built environment hierarchy. prevented or controlled. he considered practicality. Additionally. it was measured against the study’s goal and aims. in accord with established policy at all other levels and was likely to be politically acceptable.
This more modern part of Northchurch was identi® ed as a separate Character Area (number 19 in Figure 3) from the very outset of the study. which has been designated as conservation area for many years. where alternative approaches and viewpoints arose and could be considered and tested against the study methodology. Although the study was concerned with the physical improvement of the built environment. this was where the Dacorum study differs. There is evidence of strong 1930s and 1940s design characteristics. Northchurch. This was based on the formulation process explained above. The policy statements provided a pre-stated agenda for the control of new development. Together. it was considered uneconomic. The extensive and detailed survey work provides a ® rm base on which to justify the appraisals of area character. on the basis of the survey work and de® nition of area character. This would hopefully raise and consolidate local area identity. became the Council’s particular approach towards each character area to re¯ ect local as well as Borough-wide character. at this very localized level. in terms of its own identity. There is a 19th century core to Northchurch. Doe also saw the character area concept as a vehicle for raising the pro® le of those character-based factors that went towards creating local identity. To successfully implement the area-based policies this was of considerable importance. had been fully open to public consultation. as the policies created would in effect become a series of local political decisions concerning how new development should proceed in the residential areas of the Borough’s three towns. Both settlements grew up on the valley ¯ oor of the River Bulbourne and are linear in layout. containing all its objectives and policies. they have a combined population of about 19 000. In this way.Design Control Policies for Small Areas 247 objectives from which to generate area policies. contained within the community to which they belong. In the Dacorum study. and have greater con® dence in the development control decisions that the Council makes. on the whole. Consequently. unnecessary to create a range of alternatives for each of the 64 de® ned character areas. but the strength of design uniformity or `code’ Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 . The formulation of policy therefore. The settlement experienced major expansion in the inter-war period when an almost gridiron like series of residential streets was built and dwellings sprang up. The Northchurch Character Area is typical of inter-war layouts in that it attempts to replicate the suburban ideal of detached and semi-detached houses in bungalows sitting in generous plots. support. the study proposed one particular approach and detailed policy for each character area. given its distinctiveness compared to the 19th century and earlier core (the boundary can be seen from the map in Figure 3). Where possible. moreover. the character areas were created to re¯ ect the way an area was perceived locally. is now effectively part of the wider urban area of Berkhamsted. Widespread use of the area policies in this way should help the general public to understand. changes to the appearance and. This largely arose from a person’s sense of place which comes from their physical as well as social surroundings. arrived at through organized research and consultation. but following. although once a village in its own right. character of an area or town have an important consequent social dimension. important and inherent part of the study. public consultation was a valuable. strict building lines with dwellings facing onto the public road (see Figure 4). Improvements to area character should improve local perception of that area. Doe took the view that the study. Northchurch: An Example of a Character Area The arrangement of character areas for Berkhamsted is shown by Figure 3. and at its preparation stage.
The character appraisal and policy statement are reproduced in Table 2. a revised scheme was prepared by the housebuilder that complied with the density range within the policy. It complied with most requirements of the Character Area policy. where one large amorphous `central’ . The extensive size of some of the plots within the Northchurch Character Area has made them attractive candidates for not only in® lling but also redevelopment through plot amalgamation. 1997). This advice was grounded in the area character appraisal and policy from the study document. it is its absence that causes problems. a short line of houses behind and perpendicular to it. What was remarkable was how few major tests the policy encountered. Observers might have expected numerous challenges through the appeal process from frustrated developers. Doe has been diluted over the years through in® lling from all decades onwards since the inter-war period. If the policy is restrictive then it is the landowner that suffers rather than the developer. there were few. More signi® cantly. The application was approved. It enabled them to provide technical evidence and back-up to the arguments they advanced on development in residential areas (Doe. an appeal was lodged which was in turn dismissed on this ground. The initial planning application. The Revision of the Study The discussion draft of the study (Dacorum. The conclusion that should be drawn is that positive policy-led planning is not a problem for developers. 1995b) was published it became a reference tool for the Council’s development control of® cers. Hall & J. This local knowledge was used to hone the de® nition of `area character’. It is the way of avoiding `planning by appeal’ . no decision based upon the Character Area approach has been overturned through the appeal process. lengthways from the road. except for one key criterion. The case in question concerned the assembly of two plots with detached dwellings to create a rectangular-shaped site extending backwards. Policy advice to development control case of® cers was to refuse the proposal on grounds of the serious impact the extent of development proposed would have on the character of the area. and a small group at the foot of the cul-de-sac. In the event. which rendered it seriously out of character. If they know the policy in advance the price of land will re¯ ect its effects. An additional reason may be that the potential robustness of policies based upon close reasoning and survey material can be a deterrent to challenge. Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 The Use of the Study in Planning Control Once the discussion version of the study (Dacorum. 1995b) was issued for public consultation in 1996. This was particularly the case in Tring. The responses received resulted in amendments being made to policy and the creation of 12 new Character AreasÐ a net gain of 10 Character Areas where larger areas were replaced by subdivisions. The study could be seen as largely restrictive in scope (see Table 3) with few Character Areas offering signi® cant scope for redevelopment. An example from the Northchurch Character Area can be used to illustrate the effect of the policies. Subsequently.248 A. by a volume housebuilder. The views of local people on description and approach were taken very seriously. The layout featured one house fronting onto the road. The application was refused. that of density. comprised a development of detached dwellings based on a longitudinal cul-de-sac.
It also suggested that it should adopt a more dynamic approach to facilitating development. Their argument supported the more sophisticated area based approach embodied in the Character Study. One clear reason was the lack of extensive areas of brown® eld land within Hemel Hempstead. Its remit was to explore the possibilities of delivering new housing in the County’s towns through `planned regeneration’. as part of review work on the Hertfordshire structure plan review. This review was informed by the work of Chesterton and Urban Initiatives (1995) on the `planned regeneration’ of Hertfordshire Towns. Maximizing the level of development from urban in® ll sites in a planned way was. This study was commissioned by Hertfordshire County Council and the 10 Hertfordshire Borough and District Councils. sometimes. where change of character is deemed appropriate. There was a need to optimize the use of urban land.Design Control Policies for Small Areas 249 Character Area was divided into seven separate Character Areas following local representations. 1995a) was under review at this time. One of the four categories listed below was inserted under the `Scope for Residential Development’ heading in the policy statement for each Character Area: · minimal changeÐ usually comprehensively planned (and thus more modern) areas. The potential dif® culty was that the national government had been resistant to incorporating detailed design provisions into Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 . particularly from the Town Council. The Incorporation of the Study into the Local Plan From the beginning of work on the study. Testing of the ® ndings by Doe resulted in the introduction of a descriptive `model’ of residential area types. 1998a) and became a de® nite material consideration in the planning process. It was clear to the Council’s of® cers that accommodation of the structure plan target of 7200 houses over the period 1991± 2011 in Dacorum would not be possible without revisions to Metropolitan Green Belt boundaries. if the sort of levels of housing that the Consultants were proposing might be achieved. 1998) where new housing was to be located and allowing for sensible use of urban land for housing without leading to sporadic and unco-ordinated town cramming. The Northchurch Character Area was described as `limited opportunity’. The local plan (Dacorum. It showed that. Some of the ® ndings did inform the structure plan process in the context of the quantum of strategic land releases. crucial in limiting the amount of land to be taken from the green belt. The revised study was adopted as supplementary planning guidance in February 1998 (Dacorum. or. a local planning authority would have to abandon traditional mechanical approaches to control through density and back garden lengths and private amenity space standards. opportunities for in® lling. Doe carried out a review of the Character Areas to categorize them in terms of the role they had to play in delivering new dwellings. It focused on the opportunities that might arise from further development or redevelopment of residential areas. therefore. · very limited opportunityÐ where there are occasional gap sites for in® lling but no plot amalgamation opportunities. as opposed to the `recycling’ of industrial land for housing. plot amalgamation and redevelopment. some potential for plot amalgamation. · limited opportunityÐ some gap sites. · opportunityÐ not a `free-for-all’ but least constrained. The issue was one of accommodating structure plan housing targets (Hertfordshire. there had been a long-term intention to incorporate it in the local development plan.
The Character Areas for Berkhamsted . Ó Crown Copyright MC 0100033125 . Source: Reproduced from the Ordance Survey Map by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of the Controller of Her Majesty’ s Stationery Office.250 Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 A. Hall & J. Doe Figure 3. .
Continued.Design Control Policies for Small Areas Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 251 Figure 3. .
Non-residential buildings Shops at the local centre in the High Street. Lyme Avenue and Tring Road. The area lies adjacent to open countryside in the Green Belt on its south-western side. Low. although the use of plain. Mainly medium sized dwellings. around Ashby Road. Mainly formal. Generally good provision of public landscaping aided by planted roadside verges. Home Farm Road. open feel mainly through dwellings being set well back from the road and by roadside verge planting. although there are some two-storey ¯ ats at and close to the local centre. Siting of dwellings is conventional with gardens front and rear. towards the higher end of the medium range (2 m to 5 m). The core of 1940s and 1950s dwellings broadly found in the south-eastern part of the area provides it with strong design identity. This pattern extends to most of the area. Enclosure by low walling and planting common. Long perspective views obtainable along the High Street. the style of buildings is simple. Grassed and planted roadside verges are common. high incidence of bungalows. Mostly provided through individual spaces within private curtilages. Peter’s Place.252 A. designs and ages are more varied. Small local centre in the High Street acts as a focal point to the area. Within the north-western part. particularl y along the High Street in the northern part of the area. Dell Road. Some large houses present. The Northchurch character area appraisal and policy statement A residential area of medium sized dwellings set in a mainly ordered. There are examples of in® ll development from this period onwards. Up to two storeys. Design styles are often repeated along roads. open `avenue’ feel to certain roads in the area. and to the whole of Northchurch as a community. Dell Road. Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 Housing Age: Most development is from the 1940s and early 1950s which provides the area with a strong identity. `The Limit’ mobile home park is situated at the north-western end of Covert Road. although layout in Tring Road. Birch Road. . Limited to the A4251 and Darrs Lane. Rear gardens of dwellings back on to the countryside. These contribute to a generally wide. Older development from earlier 20th century periods is found in the north-western part of the area. Spacing is largely regular between dwellings or pairs or groups of dwellings. Design: Type: Height: Size: Layout: Density: Amenity Open space: None within the area. The core of 1940s/1950s development is based on a series of parallel roads with buildings following strong building lines. The area is given a wide. helping to provide a soft edge to the Green Belt. uniform brickwork on most dwellings is alleviate d in part by angled front bays and front tile hanging. Doe Table 2. Two-storey detached and semi-detached houses and bungalows are most common. Birch Road. There is a strong established belt of trees between the area and the A4251 High Street. and the dwelling facing onto the road. Hall & J. Here. Generally well set back from the road. Amenity land: Front gardens and forecourts: Landscaping and planting: Views and vistas: Landmarks and focal points: Traf® c On-street parking: Off-street parking: Through routes and ¯ ows: Generally moderate. Covert Road and St Mary’s Avenue. Home Farm Road and Ashby Road is more informal in nature. Policy statement Approach: Maintain de® ned character. at around 15 dwellings/ha. formal layout with regular spacing and building lines with both suburban and semi-rural qualities.
there are no special design requirements. Encouraged throughout. Dwellings should front the highway with gardens to the front and rear. Proposals for new development should enhance and where appropriate supplement the existing provision of landscaping. Non-residential buildings Shops at the local centre in the High Street should be retained. the use of angled front bays and tile hanging is encouraged. Perspective views along the High Street. . Local centre in the High Street should be retained as a focal point. Opportunities limited. Development within the plot Extensions: Should normally be subordinate to the parent building in terms of scale and height. within the medium range (2 m to 5 m). Covert Road and St Mary’s Avenue should be maintained. Should not normally be sited forward of the front wall of a dwelling which fronts a highway. depth and layout common to those of nearby and adjacent plots. Should normally be provided within individual private curtilages. Opportunities limited. Front areas should be provided at a size. Detached and semi-detached houses and bungalows are acceptable. Medium sized dwellings are appropriate and are encouraged. Existing roadside verges should be retained and enhanced. except for ¯ ats and terraces which are not appropriate and will not be permitted. the use of architectural themes and details on those buildings is strongly encouraged in new development. Regular spacing should be maintained. Redevelopment: Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 253 May be acceptable on certain sites where the Development Principles are satis® ed. Peter’s Place. In particular. The prevalent building line should be followed. New access links to the A4251 are discouraged. Elsewhere. May be acceptable. Detail: Curtilage buildings: Means of enclosure: Private landscaping: No special requirements. Type: Height: Size: Layout: Density: Amenity Amenity land: Front gardens and forecourts: Landscaping and planting: Views and vistas: Landmarks and focal points: Traf® c On-street parking: Off-street parking: Through routes and ¯ ows: No special requirements. No special requirements. Should not exceed two storeys. Enclosure of front areas is acceptable.Design Control Policies for Small Areas Scope for Residential Developmen t Area of Limited Opportunity Green® eld development: No opportunities. Further provision throughout is encouraged. the roof style should follow that of nearby and adjacent dwellings. A soft. provided. landscaped edge to the Green Belt should be maintained and enhanced and where necessary. The existing layout pattern should be followed. Should not exceed 15 dwellings/ha. Also. Plot amalgamation: In® lling: Conversion of dwellings into smaller units: Development Principles Housing Design: In parts of the area where there is a clear repetition of design styles of dwellings from the 1940s/1950s period.
adopted them against the inspector’s recommendation. Again. The Government Regional Of® ce did not object. complex and prescriptive. They were included in a separate volume to the main written statement but subject to the same exposure as the rest of the Plan. especially with regard to design (Punter & Carmona. 1996). The policies are now used by the Council’s development control of® cers and referred to in Committee reports on applications for planning permission. they had dif® culty getting their much more modest proposals through a public enquiry (Hall. James Doe. Character Areas by policy type Hemel Hempstead Character to be maintained or improved Character to be maintained or improved with opportunities of localized change Changes to character proposed or allowed Total 27 6 1 34 Berkhamsted 16 1 1 18 Ð 12 Tring 11 1 local plans. 1998b). Source: Photograph. de® nitely so during the 1980s. Part of the Northchurch Character Area showing the typical form of bungalows with hipped roofs. Doe Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 Figure 4. They did not approach the scale and systematic nature of the Dacorum study but. The deposit period was from December 1998 to January 1999. One. in 1995. nevertheless. Although at the beginning of the 1990s the government had moved away from the more market-led policies of the 1980s to a plan-led situation. 1997). Table 3. there has been no real test case to date. Redbridge. it still discouraged plans that were in any way detailed. . Some local planning authorities had experimented with isolated examples of residential character areas. Hall & J. The Character Appraisals and Policy Statements were worked into the deposit draft of the local plan (Dacorum. The experience in Dacorum a few years later was completely different. surprisingly and signi® cantly. The objections received were mainly from residents objecting either to the description of the area’s features or character or to the identi® cation of their residential area as one of development `opportunity’.254 A. There was no objection from developers as might have been expected.
From one perspective. (1999) Land-use plans and the implementation of new urban development: a comparative study. 195± 219. 60(2). (1997) The Dacorum Residential Areas Character approach. almost none from developers. Hertfordshire County Council (1998) Hertfordshire County Structure Plan Review 1991± 2011 (Hertfordshire CC. A. What is necessary everywhere are plans that go beyond land-use zoning and address the control of urban form directly. Punter. pp. The incorporation of the Character Area approach into a statutory development plan was not challenged by the central government. University of Shef® eld. It proved possible for a typical district council in south-east England to undertake the work within its usual resources. (1997) Dealing with incremental change: an applicatio n of urban morphology to design control. Hemel Hempstead). Hall. A systematic method was devised and has now been clearly set out for others to follow. (1997) West coast cities of the USA. Hemel Hempstead). Habe. Journal of Urban Design. 287± 309. pp. Hemel Hempstead). (1990c) Design controlÐ a call for a new approach. It is dif® cult to envisage the same level of government approval during the 1980s. & Lennertz. . Urban Design Quarterly. 4(6). M.C. Hertford). 24± 27. 717± 737.C. A. 61(3).Design Control Policies for Small Areas Conclusion 255 Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 The primary lesson to be drawn from the experience of Dacorum Borough Council is that producing a local development plan incorporating area-speci® c policies to control physical form is a feasible endeavour. Doe.C.C. & F. Farthing. historical character and development control. W. Hemel Hempstead). 62. pp. Hall. It has now been used effectively in planning control with few challenges through the appeal process. pp. Rizzoli). remarkably. Hall. Dacorum Borough Council (1995a) Dacorum Borough Local Plan (Dacorum BC. 34± 37. Kropf. Spon). 14± 18. (1992) Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk: Town and Town Making Principles. Dacorum Borough Council (1998a) Supplementary Planning Guidance on Developmen t in Residential Area (Dacorum BC. References Chesterton and Urban Initiatives (1995) Hertfordshire Dwelling Provision through Planned Regeneration (London. Punter.R. J. C. K. Arguments are often advanced that plans should be simpler but in Dacorum a more complex and detailed form of plan has been produced and is being used. (1996) Design Control: Towards a New Approach (Oxford. Harvard Graduate School of Design (New York. J. (1990b) Generating design objectives for local areas: a methodology and case study applicatio n to Chelmsford. A. Dacorum Borough Council (1995b) Residential Area Character Study. both the design area approach and the Dacorum Residential Area Character Study have provided useful material on which to base innovations in other countries. It is too early to judge the effect of this plan on the physical environment but on the evidence presented here the reader may predict the likely outcome. none successful. Hall. 2(3). pp. 76(39). S. European Planning Studies. Anglia College Enterprises). (1989) Public design control in American communities: design guidelines/design review. Dacorum Borough Council (1984) District Plan (Dacorum BC. (1990a) Generation of Objectives for Design Control (Chelmsford. N. Kreiger. pp. Town Planning Review. this shows how much planning in Britain has changed over the last 10 years. Dacorum Borough Council (1998b) Dacorum Borough Local Plan First Review to 2011 Deposit Draft (Dacorum BC. (1997) The Design Dimension of Planning (London. Although produced in response to the paucity of design control policies and method in British practice. Hemel Hempstead). Chesterton Consulting). Butterworth-Heinemann). & Carmona. The Planner. March. 63. Paper delivered to Planning Futures: the Future of Planning. Urban Design Quarterly. Hall. Discussion Draft (Dacorum BC. A. A. J. A. Essex. 221± 239. E. There were few objections made during public consultation and. (1996) An alternative approach to zoning in France: typology. R. pp. Town Planning Review.
(1990) American Developmen t Control (London. I. March. . 70. Wakeford. McGlynn (Eds) Á Making Better PlacesÐ Urban Design Now (Oxford. Hall & J. Doe Downloaded By: [University of Sydney] At: 12:03 14 June 2007 Punter. Butterworth-Heinemann). Urban Task Force (1999) Towards an Urban Renaissance (London. France. HMSO).256 A. Trache. H. Urban Design Quarterly. Samuels. (1993) The plan d’occupation des sols for Asnieres sur Oise. in: R. pp. University of Shef® eld. J. 33± 37. (1999) The Vancouver experience. Hayward & S. (1999) Promoting urban design in development plans: typo-morphological approaches in Montreuil. R. Paper delivered to Planning Futures: the Future of Planning. Routledge).
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