Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Northstowe and the BBC? Guest Post by Cllr David Jenkins

There was a full day workshop on Monday to ‘test’ the Northstowe design code. David attended.

In the morning three firms of architects independently presented schemes for different plots. The idea was to see what was possible within the code. One firm took the opportunity to come up with a really imaginative response to a challenging site. Another plonked a portfolio of standard house builder typologies in an amorphous jumble, but without breaching any of the code’s stipulations. And a third pitched somewhere between the two extremes.

After lunch several South Cambs development management officers picked over each scheme as if giving a first pass at assessing a reserved matters application. Each team shared its thoughts and finally the day’s facilitator ventured some conclusions and general impressions. There seemed to be a feeling that the code was a bit too prescriptive in some parts and maybe a little too loose in others. So, about right for this point in the document’s development.

The next stage is for South Cambs Northstowe design partner, Terence O’Rourke, to take away all the comments, review and revise the wording, and come up with a second draft to be considered at a future meeting.

So what’s this got to do with the BBC? Nothing but a litany has developed of ‘bikes, bins and cars’ and it was good to see that this keeps coming back both in the code and in the schemes proposed on the day. What exactly does it mean?

Bikes: Northstowe is intended to be bike friendly. It needs to be ‘aggressively’ so and that means easy and secure storage of bike and access to them and a complete network of ‘Dutch standard’ cycleways. It should be as easy to get on a bike in the morning is it is to get in a car.

Bins: houses in most existing communities were designed before the wheelie bin. Northstowe is different. Its houses must be designed so that it’s easy for residents to use their bins and then to make them available on refuse collection day.

Cars: at last planners seem to be realising that car ownership and car use are different. Even though we might expect many Northstowe people to use alternatives to the car for commuting thay will probably still aspire to own cars. Therefore provision must be made for ample and convenient parking. We must think in advance about how we are going to avoid a jumble of ugly on-street parking.

David says: ‘This is what I call the process of living. We can’t just design assets which look good on paper. We need to design them so that they are easy to use and fit into people’s everyday life.’

Originally available on David's website and blog here.