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Essex man: the next generation

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The Essex Design Guide, the influential 1970s guide to planning and appropriate development, has just been updated

One of the most influential documents of the 1970s in terms of planning and appropriate development has just been updated. The Essex Design Guide, which first appeared in 1973, has been spruced up by a working party of the Essex Planning Officers' Association and aims 'to encourage the best practice in design and layout of residential and mixed-use development'.

While the latter part of the guide deals with building form and with services and access, the earlier section looks at the criteria for planning development sites larger than one hectare, and brings in many landscape issues. It describes the types of development that are typical for differing densities, from rural situations, through 'Arcadia', to boulevard planning, 'unsatisfactory suburbia', urban situations and to city scale. It then sets out the criteria for achieving all of these, with the exception of suburbia. On significant schemes it says: 'A larger development should be designed around a landscape structure. This should take as its starting point any existing land forms, water, vegetation and built features, which would act as form-givers for the development with the purpose of achieving uniqueness of character.

'The landscape structure should encompass the public open space system but should also provide visual contrast to the built environment and constitute a legible network based, where appropriate, on existing trees and hedgerows. A block of trees visible above rooftops, for example, helps the legibility of a development from outside.

'The landscape structure should, in addition, create a network of wildlife corridors linking with public open spaces and nearby countryside. Where based on retention of hedgerows, these should be within the public realm (not just in back gardens). The links should be fairly continuous (ie, short breaks are possible) and should contain mixed indigenous tree and other plant species and some long grass, which provides protection for wildlife and attracts some species of nesting birds. Attention should be given to the creation of interdependent plant communities.

'Where there is an exposed edge to open countryside, the planting of tree shelter belts around the edge of developments, especially on the north-east side, can reduce heat loss from dwellings within 150m in cold weather. Indigenous woodland tree species should be used, together with a mixture of evergreen and deciduous planting.'

It recommends that the design of the surface-water run-off system be considered in conjunction with the landscape structure, as balancing ponds for storm water can form a valuable ecological and landscape feature.

The guide also recommends the use of deciduous trees wherever possible, and provides lists of preferred planting species.

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