Brentwood Borough Council is planning for growth through a number of major allocations, including the Dunton Hills Garden Village. Following a competitive tender we were appointed by the council in early 2019 to set up and manage a new design review panel for the borough. The brief set out the focus of the service; to help deliver high quality applications on the major allocations, starting with Dunton Hills. In response, we recruited a diverse, multi-disciplinary panel to work flexibly with the council. More information on our work with Brentwood Borough Council can be found in the Partnerships section.
To provide the right skills and to ensure consistency of panel members we selected eight panel members from the borough panel who had the range of expertise required to help guide the development of the new garden settlement. Given the early stage in the evolution of the design, the challenge was to advise and guide the applicant and to broker an agreement between the applicant and local authority on the design principles for the site. We recommended that though design review would play a role at a later stage in the process, the right approach at the initial stages of development was a programme of thematic design workshops with the applicant and council; through which the panel could focus on the formative issues, bring stakeholders together and help to broker agreement. The result has been improved movement frameworks, a more convincing relationship with the landscape and the development of distinctive characters and boundaries to neighbourhoods.
We are now moving from workshops into a series of design reviews which will take place at key points along the project timeline, with the option to use workshops as and when needed.
Typical of our approach to our work with local authorities, we are also helping to strengthen dialogue and skills by delivering a parallel programme of events including a workshop on design guidance, a conference to help neighbouring local authorities share their knowledge on garden settlement and training for elected members.