Design Panel Review
The South East Regional Design Panel (SERDP) supports local planning authorities, developers and communities through impartial, constructive and expert design review of policies, plans and projects.
Kingston Council (RBK) commissioned SERDP to undertake a design review of the Old Post Office site, with the knowledge and agreement of St George. The panel visited the site and surrounds, saw the model and presentation from the architects and the later design of the taller tower. They also heard the planning aspirations from RBK's Viv Evans and Tony Feltham.
The scheme was already well advanced with a full planning application already submitted, but this was the first time it had come to external design review.
The panel met on 2nd March 2015 and produced their report shortly after (see below). In their design review SERDP delivered some support and some concerns over the proposed development.
About Design Panels
Good design is central to good planning. Local planning authorities need to provide guidance on what they consider constitutes good design and this was already strongly encouraged in national policy (in 2008). Part of the solution is making greater use of Design Panels. Design or architect’s panels, serving one or more local authority, have been in existence for many years, operating in accordance with Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) guidelines, or more independently. Local design panels can provide greater certainty to applicants, improve the quality of applications and help to address the skills shortage in planning, with particular benefits for large scale developments. - extracted from the 2008 Killian Pretty Review
It can be standard practice for local authorities to consult Design Panels such as SERDP - although more usually in the earlier, pre-application stage. Portsmouth Local Authority for example states this in their Tall buildings Supplementary Planning Document.
The Design Panels' concerns
Concerns included the over-development of the site, the arrangement of the blocks, the quality of accommodation and the way the whole development will fit in with its surroundings.
"Our Panel's disquiet is that the architectural quality of the tallest tower is not yet sufficient to justify its very considerable prominence in the local and wider townscape. The lower but still bulky tower to the north also has an uncomfortable relationship, fighting with the listed buildings to its sides and not offering enough to Ashdown Road."
"The 13 storey block will be an ungainly intrusion on Ashdown Road. It fails to meet the requirement of the SPD to be sensitive to the scale and material pallet"
More Design Panel concerns
The tower must set a benchmark for architectural quality. They felt the revised lower version has merit, particularly in some views. They said the tower was slab-like when seen from east or west, where it was dominant in the townscape. They counsel for simplicity. "The composition risked being of not such exceptional quality to justify its prominence."
Open projecting balconies at higher levels was questioned.
They were not convinced of the Apple Market example for the space around the listed post office - for example the orientation of the space and the effect of sunlight and overshadowing from the taller buildings to the south.