Comment on: 12.07.18: Homes
I welcome the contribution Colin Marrs makes to a discourse on Paragraph 55 planning consents. There are some aspects of his commentary though that I take issue with, especially as they implicate design review.
I am a Landscape Architect and have chaired numerous reviews of P55/PPS7 schemes over several years. Only slowly is the quality of approach improving and there are still many instances where the ambition is simply in the wrong place and the client should have been discouraged at the outset. Colin Marrs implies that the Architect’s job is always to secure planning permission just because the client desires it and is prepared to pay. I am often struck by the feeling that a wealthy client has his/her hands on an already attractive piece of countryside and thinks throwing money at the job should secure permission, regardless of whether the place is right.
The wording in NPPF is fairly sound, although it benefits from thorough analysis in each case of application, but I would strongly favour a reversal of the two new bullet points, so that benefit to the landscape and setting is paramount: appropriateness of site selection should be a fundamental prequalification for going to the next stage of producing an outstanding or innovative design response. This is where professional landscape advice is so important and should be sought before Architect puts pen to paper. In some cases that should stop the show altogether, or relocate to a more receptive landscape, ideally one suffering from some form of neglect or degradation that generates scope for benefit.
My second nerve-jarring reaction was to the word ‘landscaping’ (a tragic presence in our vocabulary that is best banished altogether) and ‘landscape’ being something other than buildings. Buildings are part of the landscape, indeed they often define the landscape they become part of. Clients need to be guided in the ethos of landscapes having cultural meaning and that they have responsibility for respecting and nurturing its qualities. The sensitivity with which new buildings are inserted into a landscape will always be the first test of design review, followed by the other changes to the external spaces that generate new meaning for the resulting ‘whole’ landscape. Architectural style is more negotiable but must originate in that meaning and express it rather than determine it.