Kent is a diverse county, with significant variations in land values, a significant proportion of people living in what is frequently outstanding countryside and with excellent connectivity, not least from the only high-speed network in the country.
The design quality of new development varies widely and Kent County Council commissioned Design South East to provide advice on how the county’s public and private sector could deliver consistently higher quality across the county, irrespective of location and/or values, particularly in new housing development.
Though partly commissioned to test the value of a refreshed Kent Design Guide, the scope was not restricted to design guidance. Nor were any assumptions made about the future of the Guide; our role was to understand what policies and tools the public and private sector thought would be of most value in the context of the next 20 years of Kent and Medway housing growth and once identified, to facilitate collaboration on how these policies and tools could be implemented.
Our response was to engage the key stakeholders in the challenge. We planned and facilitated two workshops; the first with local authorities and the second with local authorities, developers, housebuilders and consultants.
The first workshop provided an opportunity for local authorities to hear from applicants about what they would value from the local planning system. Working in groups, participants addressed a range of topics, including how what challenges the county will face in the next 20 years. The outcome of the first workshop provided the agenda for the second, which focussed on developing shared solutions to these challenges.
These workshops attracted participation from local authorities, developers, housebuilders – including volume housebuilders – agents, consultants and statutory consultees, with over 80 people at each.