Jul 21, 2021

Building Beautiful Places 'must be locally led'

Dominic Ellis
5 min
As UK vision for building beautiful places is set out, LGA urges decisions to be locally led

The Building Beautiful Places plan unveiled by the UK Government will mean quality design will be "paramount" with local communities put at the heart of decision-making to help shape their towns and cities.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is being amended so residents and planners will find it easier to embrace practical aesthetic design while rejecting the ugly, unsustainable or poor quality.

The changes set an expectation that all councils should develop a local design code - an illustrated design guide that sets the standard for a local area - with input from local people.

The process, outlined in the NMDC, demonstrates how and when local communities can be involved in developing a design code, using digital tools and social media, as well as face-to-face workshops, roundtables and exhibitions.

With an increasingly digitised planning system, local people will also be able to better navigate and access the planning process with online map-based plans – allowing people to visualise plans for development and participate more fully in the planning system. Two new web apps recently launched to help homeowners improve and extend their homes.

The changes are designed to promote community spirit, improve physical and mental wellbeing and help the environment. The government announced:

The National Model Design Code - a toolkit to enable every council and community to create their own local design requirement. Guidance is provided across all aspects of new development including tree-lined streets, sustainable drainage and design to support walking and cycling.

Updated planning framework published which will place greater emphasis on beauty, place-making, the environment, sustainable development and underlines the importance of local design codes.

The Office for Place which will drive up design standards, testing and piloting the National Model Design Code with more than 20 local councils and communities.

The Advisory Board, made up of industry experts and chaired by Nicholas Boys Smith, which will  advise on the work of the Office for Place and options for a potential independent body.

Greater emphasis than ever before will now be placed on quality and design in the planning system. Local communities will be fully involved in how they want new developments to look and feel, with a much greater emphasis on environmental sustainability.

The changes to the NPPF set an expectation that good quality design should be approved, while poor quality should be rejected and includes an environmental commitment to ensure that all streets are lined with trees.

These measures mean the word “beauty” will be specifically included in planning rules for the first time since the system was created in 1947 – echoing an era when a greater emphasis was placed on delivering attractive buildings for people that installed a sense of local pride.

Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said the Government’s vision is for a planning system that make beautiful, sustainable and life-enhancing design a necessity, rather than a luxury.

"Our revised NPPF will ensure that communities are more meaningfully engaged in how new development happens, that local authorities are given greater confidence in turning down schemes which do not meet locally set standards.

"This is about putting communities – not developers – in the driving seat to ensure good quality design is the norm, and the return to a sense of stewardship – to building greener, enduringly popular homes and places that stand the test of time in every sense."

Nicholas Boys Smith, Chair of the Advisory Board for the Office for Place, said the quality achieved remains "stubbornly inconsistent". "We must do better, more often for the benefit of communities, to contribute to the economic success of our towns and cities and to look after our planet," he said.

Cllr David Renard, Housing Spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said councils have constantly delivered throughout the pandemic and are key to helping the Government build back locally as we all recover from it.

This includes delivering the high-quality affordable housing we desperately need, built in the right places and supported by the right infrastructure. He said the LGA also supported innovative design to achieve climate-friendly homes and to improve the quality of homes and places.

“Design tools can be helpful, but decisions about the design of planning need to be locally-led and are best made by local councils together with their communities. As the Government’s National Design Guide advises, any specific details and measurable criteria for good design is most appropriately set out at a local level.

"The requirement for councils to have a local design code will also require additional resources and skills, so it will be important that councils are fully funded and supported to provide the extra capacity needed. We would also like to see the Office for Place body include local government representation, so it can benefit from the expertise and knowledge from a local level.”

Phillip Box, Public Affairs & Policy Officer at UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), said true sustainability and beauty are clearly intertwined, and this relationship should be central to our discussions around achieving a more sustainable built environment.

"When the two principals work together, they create spaces that have value, both for nature and for the people that live there," he said, adding it welcomed changes announced to the new National Model Design Code and the general direction of travel evident in the changes to the NPPF.

"However, it is disappointing to see that suggestions to go further, in order to comprehensively align the NPPF with achieving our national net zero target, delivering climate adaptation and biodiversity recovery through development, were not taken forward."

Yesterday it opened applications to apply for the Task Group which will help shape the content of the first deliverable of the Resilience and Nature Based Solutions programme: the measuring and reporting of physical risk. 

  • More than half (55%) of the UK population don’t know what a smart city is, despite global spend reaching $124 billion in 2020 and at least 18 cities across the UK already having rolled out smart technology, according to a report by Milestone Systems.

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Jul 26, 2021

Laing O'Rourke starts work on new Everton stadium

Dominic Ellis
3 min
Laing O'Rourke begins work on new 52,888-seat Everton stadium, after UNESCO stripped Liverpool of World Heritage status citing waterside developments

Everton Football Club takes possession of its new Bramley-Moore Dock site today and contractors Laing O'Rourke are set to begin the first phase of the construction project.

In a tweet, the company said: "We're excited to have a start date for the first phase of work and looking forward to harnessing our experience of Digital Engineering Manufacturing and delivery of stadia to create a world class stadium for Everton and their fans!" The stadium will hold 52,888 seats on completion.

The first phase will see enabling works to prepare the dock site in readiness for the build.

Work will include the repair and preservation of the Grade II listed dock wall, stabilising of the hydraulic tower located on the site, the development of welfare facilities for Laing O’Rourke construction staff, the preparation for demolition of existing non-listed structures, and raking of the dock floor. Pipework will also be installed that will be used for the infilling of the dock.

Once these works are completed, Laing O’Rourke will begin the process of infilling the dock.

Everton’s new stadium will deliver a £1bn boost to the city’s economy and provide up to 15,000 jobs for local people (12,000 during the construction phase). It is estimated that it will attract around 1.4m visitors to the city and more than £255m will be spent through the local supply chains.

It will also accelerate other local development, such as Liverpool Waters and Ten Streets, worth more than £650m and provide an annual boost of £2.1m in Council Tax receipts and Business Rates income of £1.7m per year.

Last week UNESCO stripped Liverpool of its World Heritage status, citing the development of its waterside. "The project has since gone ahead along with other developments both inside the site and in its buffer zone. The Committee considers that these constructions are detrimental to the site’s authenticity and integrity," it stated.

In response, a Liverpool City Council taskforce said UNESCO’s decision is flawed on a number of levels, not least for the lack of evidence to justify the claims that the city’s World Heritage site has deteriorated.

"The taskforce also highlight what they say are various false assertions and arguments by UNESCO over a lack of consultation and strategic master planning for the waterfront, and why its request for a moratorium on development contravenes UK planning law," it states.

The north-west is a key area for Laing O'Rourke, with Manchester Airport recently opening its new ‘super-terminal’ to the public. 

As construction partner to the complex transformation programme, the company's remit included overseeing the extension of Terminal 2 by 150 per cent capacity, as well as delivering a new aircraft pier, multi-storey car park, outbound baggage hall and all associated external works. The terminal was handed over to Manchester Airports Group in March 2020 on time and in budget.

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