The practice of Urban Design and Planning requires an understanding of what is good design and brings together a wide range of disciplines, expertise and experience in order to promote urban change that takes account of how towns and cities operate as well as their physical characteristics. Urban Design is as concerned with the process of change as it is with the three dimensional product of development.
It looks at change that includes not only new developments but also the maintenance and workability of existing places and goes beyond a development’s immediate client to encompass how the urban area works as a whole. Therefore there must be an appreciation of the cities social, cultural, economic and political forces and the way design skill can be combined to create solutions that work for everyone. The important link between Urban Design and Planning provides the ideal opportunity of putting into practice a design-led approach.
The key points are:
- Councils must ensure a high quality environment;
- Councils need to promote greater consideration of design, particularly urban design;
- Designs that add interest and variety and which reflect local context should be encouraged;
- Planning application proposals must have proper regard to their relationship with their surroundings;
- Planning application proposals must avoid presenting blank frontages or being inward looking; and
- Car parking must be designed to fit into the existing townscape and be placed away from the street frontage
Design issues emphasise the importance of the quality of the built environment and the crucial impact on the way they function. Well-designed buildings, streets, and neighbourhoods are essential for successful social, economic and environmental regeneration. New urban developments must therefore be designed to higher standards. They should be integrated with their surroundings, optimise access to public transport and maximise their potential by increasing density. They should seek diversity, encouraging a mix of activities, services, incomes, tenures within neighbourhoods. Priority must be given to high architectural standards and to the design of public spaces between developments where people meet and move about. Key principles for good urban design include:
- Innovation: to seek environmentally sustainable solutions through innovative design;
- Movement: to promote the movement of people by walking, cycling and public transport to reduce both dependencies on the car and air pollution;
- Locality: to embrace local distinctiveness, promote quality and protect existing features of cultural, visual and historic importance; and
- Landscape and ecology: to conserve, create and integrate open space, townscape, landscape and natural habitats to mitigate the impact of development.
These key principles for good urban design should form the basis for assessment of Planning Applications and should be included in the set of tools planners currently use to determine Planning Applications. Where pre-application discussion is sought, applicants should be encouraged to submit more than the standard requirement of site, elevation and plan. It should include site and street context and 3D information and urban design rationale.