Now that the design and access statement process has bedded down in the planning control system, we should move on with further developments.
This may bring on more complaints about over-regulation, but that has already been addressed in the recent Barker report on planning. Instead, we should, as designers, be demanding a system that promotes good, strong design and produces a built environment of a consistently high calibre through quality assurance.
The material considerations in planning application forms may now have been streamlined to match the criteria in design and access statements, but they still lack a qualitative focus. Nobody wants planning to interfere with design expression and style, so applicants are caught up in providing planners with objective criteria, which are not always relevant to the design of proposals.
Even the title of a first-stage application – “outline” – is vague. Instead, we should call it “concept” and that term should be part of the full planning application as well. A concept should describe how larger proposals relate to the surrounding context in a single focused idea. We might then end up with better mass housing layouts and urban schemes.
If the Barker report leads to small developments being removed from the planning control system, that should placate the complainers who should then be prepared to make an extra effort to provide written justification for their schemes.
Richard Harbord, Norfolk