Urban Update 18 September 2015

Download Urban Update 18 September 2015


The ideal development design guide?
6 Cs workshop produces specification

The 6 C’s are six councils  (Derbyshire, Derby City, Leicestershire, Leicester city, Nottinghamshire and Nottingham City Councils) who several years ago came together to produce a residential development guide.  Since first published the world has moved on and the consortium is keen to update the document, and David Lock Associates, Integrated Transport Planning Ltd, and Phil Jones Associates have been commissioned to undertake the work.  Last week, a workshop of experts and stakeholders  was tasked with developing a consensus as to what the revised guidance should do and what it should cover.    

The discussion provided a valuable insight into how developers engineers, planners and designers view street design guidance, and the business of steering a development through the planning and highway adoption process.


  • Street design guidance should sit firmly within higher level policies, including council corporate strategies, sustainable community strategies and reflecting current concerns such as obesity, active lifestyles, and combatting loneliness through encouraging social contact.
  • Building for Life should be used to provide the framework for Street Design Guides
  • Planning and highways departments should act on concert.  This is a challenge where the planning authority and the highway authority sit in different councils.  Here it was suggested that a joint letter could be issued by both highway and planning authorities at the end of pre-application discussions providing advice.  It damages the reputation of local authorities when departments are unable to “get their act together”.
  • Provide developers with certainty by raising highway adoption issues early on.  (such as commuted sums required for street trees. (£1500 is standard in some areas))
  • Make buildability, serviceability, maintainability key objectives

One area continues to cause difficulties:  the vexed question of bin lorries.  The tendency in the past has been to treat the swept path of the bin lorry as the overriding design imperative   Obviously refuse needs to be collected, however this can translate into access by the bin lorry being the main design consideration: above the interests of disabled people, pedestrians, children and cyclists.  The waste collection side of the local authority must sit within the overall corporate plan and have regard to duties such as public health and the public sector equality duty.  Those authorities that specify bin lorries that are so big or unwieldy that it leads to streets that are unsuited to human need, run the risk of legal challenge. 


Underground Urbanism event shows up planning system’s lack of depth

What happens below ground may not be everyone’s favourite topic, but Wednesday night’s UDG event showed that it is one that needs to be addressed by all urban design practitioners.  Liz Reynolds of Urben provided an overview of the many different functions the underworld performs, from the obvious such as Boston’s Big Dig; Crossrail, and mega basements;  to the more subtle, such as underground parks (New York’s Low Line), underground agriculture, and the repurposing of underground spaces to create restraints, bike stores and even fountains.

Stephanie Bricker of the British Geological Society reminded the audience of the importance of the geology, providing a platform to build on (not always solid rock, but sometimes shrinkable clay, running sands, or soluble rocks prone to alarming sinkholes); the provision of water supplies and handling of waste water, heat,  and building stone.  The BGS has a number of initiatives in hand to support the mapping of underground assets, such as in Glasgow where the sewer and water supply pipe network is being mapped to identify areas where leaks might lead to a risk of contamination.  

Jerry Tate, of Tate Harmer provided a case study of the Thames Tunnel Sinking shaft, and the challenges of inclusive, and obtaining official consents from 11 different department in various agencies and authorities.  The plans are to create a usable space that will accommodate over 100 people theatre style,  giving this ground-breaking (in both senses of the word) piece of civil engineering a dignified and visible future.

Underground waste management facilities were discussed in comparison with the medieval practices of dumping domestic and commercial waste in the street where creates an eyesore, obstructs the footway and creates hazards for blind and partially sighted people.  We were fortunate to have David Bonnett, one of the UK’s leading experts on inclusive design, in the audience.

We use the underground world for all manner of functions that are essential for the successful operation of an urban area.  Even though the technology exists to precisely map and record underground assets, including GPS, BIM, laser measurement and ground penetrating radar, there is very little organisation or coordination in how underground development proceeds.  The time may come when a new metro project is blocked by someone’s mega basement.  The planning system produces reams of or ambiguous text and relatively imprecise two dimensional plans,  it reaches a frenzy when it comes to following procedure, and yet abandons to anarchy and chaos the essential subject of the planning of the underworld.  It is surely a situation that needs to change.   Planning and design should be firmly 3 dimensional, and both surface and subsurface.