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DETR links local design and planning for first time

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Urban consultancy firm, Urban Initiatives, is fine-tuning a good-practice guide on design in the planning system, in a unique venture with the detr, due to be published in early summer.

'Urban Design: Principles, Policy and Practice' will be the first time the detr has given design guidance to local authorities, said co-author Robert Cowan, a writer and urban-affairs consultant. 'Its line used to be that planning had nothing to do with design, but it has recognised there are aspects of design that are the proper concern of public policy,' he said. 'This manual says what those concerns are.'

The guide will look at design issues of development plans and briefs, and urban-design frameworks. It sets eight urban-design objectives as an ideal planning vision: character, continuity and enclosure, quality of public realm, ease of movement and understanding, adaptability, diversity, integration and efficiency.

It gives guidance on shop fronts, streetscapes, rear extensions and conservation areas. 'We talk about general objectives of urban design and how to apply them to a situation. It does not tell people how to design. It is about policy, and a creative designer may come up with something totally different from what was expected by the planners but that meets the policy aims.'

Cowan said: 'The key is not to interfere with the designers' ability to design. In the past architects have complained about planning getting in the way of design because they don't know what to expect. We want to be in a position where they can find out public policy requirements early on and act on them rather than find out about them at the last minute.'

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