Design Panel Review
Planning application 15/13063
The CABE Design Review is an independent and impartial process for evaluating the quality of significant developments, urban extensions and major infrastructure projects across England. It is a tried and tested method of ensuring the highest possible quality of development, and is specifically referenced in the government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
Kingston Council (RBK) commissioned CABE to undertake a design review of the Eden Walk development.
The proposals were reviewed by the CABE Design Review Panel in a meeting on 3 September 2015. The formal response to that scheme followed two weeks later (see below). In their design review CABE delivered some support and some concerns over the proposed development.
After the review the proposals underwent further changes, for example the tall building has changed in appearance and lowered by four storeys; the height of car park roof / winter garden was also reduced.
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 CABE in the pre-application stage. Portsmouth Local Authority for example states this in their Tall buildings Supplementary Planning Document.
The Design Panels' concerns
CABE recognises the viability issues in delivering mixed-use schemes and supports the strategy of intensifying town centre uses. BUT they question the quantum proposed by the scheme: given the scale of the buildings there is relatively limited public space created, and will residents have an environment that supports good quality of life?
CABE is not convinced by the arrangement of the movement routes and connections, for example no route connecting the Old Post Office (Brook and Ashdown road) and the southern route somewhat duplicates Union Street.
Overall, they see the proposed buildings as disjointed. Looking up from the central circus, for example, the complex arrangement of buildings and forms is confusing. The canopy over the dining space looks over-designed for its size. A simpler, clearer set of architectural forms and features would create a calmer, more enduring place to live, work or shop in.
"We would also recommend paying further attention to the junctions of old and new in the scheme; durable materials, simply and effectively detailed, will be an important contributor to the scheme’s success."
The circular form of the central circus does not appear to work well in relation to the routes and built form surrounding it, generating some awkward angles in the new buildings. It appears that sunlight to the circus will be partially blocked by the new building to the south. The area around the United Reform Church could be exploited to a greater extent as it may well provide better conditions for a significant new public space, given its sunny aspect and position in the wider movement network.
CABE recommends taking a more ambitious approach to the public realm, by creating an ‘anchor space’ that will attract people and activity. They suggest investing in the public realm – in terms of planting, seating and some form of landmark, perhaps water-based – in a more generous and compelling way.
Page updated on 21 Nov 2015