Local authorities in Suffolk share a commitment to delivering good growth. After successfully applying for funding from MHCLG, the county developed a brief to find a suitable consultancy to produce county-wide design guidance and a comprehensive training programme for the public sector. Our partners in our successful tender were Hemingway Design and Hudson Architects.
Our role was to lead a research programme to define best-practice in design guidance, review the tools used by local authorities to ensure good design and to identify the challenges the county will face over the next 20-30 years.
Building on this research we planned and delivered a series of roundtable and workshops to engage stakeholders in local authorities and the private sector in developing solutions to these challenges and identifying the tools and processes, including guidance, that would be the most valuable in terms of promoting and fostering design quality.
Three key themes emerged from the process:
Build communities not just houses – Having meaningful collaboration, engagement and participation with communities that are affected by development is critical. It needs to start early and involve a wide cross section of people, break through ‘silos’ of self-interest and make use of community officers within Local Authorities. Transparency in discussions, having a narrative and explaining what growth will actually deliver is important.
Plans and proposals should be truly local – Plans should be based on local need, social and employment, and specific to place. They should reflect the character of the locality and early assessment of this is important prior to designs being developed. Background characterisation and baseline information needs to be more widely available and easy to access and it must then be clear how proposals have responded to this.
Prioritise sustainability – This is a common demand for evidence-based decisions on where good growth should occur related to sustainable transport networks and other assessments. At the local level green infrastructure and community facilities are strongly supported. Building resilience to climate change should be encouraged and biodiversity was seen as key.
More information on the research, roundtables and workshops can be found on www.suffolkdesign.uk.
We are now working with the client team on the next phase of this work.