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Co-operation is the rule in working with planners

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I am writing about Gabriele Bramante's falling out with Croydon's planners. I recall that she also fell out with her clients, the Citizens Advice Bureau, over the offices she designed for them in Chessington (aj 29.8.96).

Sporadic accounts of conflict between planners and architects have appeared in the aj over the years. But, surely, high quality urban design can only really be achieved by a collaboration between all of the players involved: developers, architects, local authorities (including their planners and highway engineers) and the local community.

For new development to work, it has to be in context with its surroundings. The relationships between it and adjacent and nearby buildings, with the general street scene and spaces between, have to be right. The way in which this assessment is carried out is through the planning system, which is accountable, despite what Ms Bramante says. It is based on legislation, government guidance, case law, and includes the right of appeal. Advice on design issues is set out in a detr Planning Policy Guidance Note (ppg1) for design policies, against which development proposals can be assessed. Also, it states that applicants should submit written and illustrative material in the form of a design statement to accompany a planning application.

In my experience, most architects appreciate the need for planning and design controls, and are prepared to work with local authorities to achieve a good development that meets the needs of their clients and is acceptable in planning terms. Rarely have I come across the sort of confrontation between professionals that is reported from time to time in the aj.

Many local planning authorities actively encourage good design, and at our annual design awards scheme in Bromley, the 1998-1999 award for best building went to the lda (now renamed la architects) scheme at Beckenham Spa (aj 2.9.99). Incidentally, the public library next door to the spa dates from the inter-war period, not the 1970s.

Chris Evans, Bromley

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