The eight, not-for-profit and independent organisations that make up The Design Network in England, have launched their first combined prospectus for the service.
The Design Network Prospectus details the extensive range of services offered across the country. Those include design review support for Building for Life 12 and other services which enable local communities, developers, designers and local authorities to deliver sustainable housing and economic growth.
The Prospectus also profiles 11 of the 400 Design Review projects undertaken by the network over the last 2 years – many which have been recognised as best practice models and all of which offer a fascinating insight into how practically the service operates at a local level.
Integreat Plus based in Yorkshire, designed The Prospectus on behalf of The Network: Richard Motley, Director of Integreat Plus, “The Prospectus clearly outlines the impact the Design Network is already having on the delivery of quality design outcomes. Our combined offer across England ensures a highly professional technical and comprehensive design led support service is available for business, communities and Local Authorities to achieve their economic, social, and environmental place based ambitions.”
The Design Network was launched as a formal body in 2012, but the partners have worked together on common projects and on best practice partnerships for almost 10 years.
Julie Tanner is Chief Executive of OPUN, the Design Network member for The East Midlands: “Changes in funding over the past few years has meant that our operational agenda has changed considerably. We are now all working towards full sustainability and so have adopted a more commercial focus, an enterprise model for the future. The Prospectus clearly lays out our services, our credentials and working ethos.
“Featuring the Case Studies has been important to us. Like any other business, we want to promote our successes, share how we have added value to projects, found solutions that have unlocked developments that have stalled at impasse, contributed to award-winning developments.
“More than that they clearly demonstrate that the localism agenda is working and better quality outcomes are most likely when support is offered locally and able to adapt locally.”
The Prospectus can be downloaded from each of the Network member’s websites and can be found at www.opun.org.uk and also at:
There are various professionals who work in partnership with OPUN – under different guises – to provide training, expert art and design advice or input into neighbourhood planning amongst other things. In this series of features, we introduce you to these individuals so you can get to know more about who is behind the OPUN brand. This time round, it’s Chris Twomey who is in the spotlight… Chris is Managing Director of Lathams in Derby, a reputable and well established practice that specialises in architecture, conservation, urbanism and landscape. He also chairs OPUN’s Design Review Panel. Chris has a passion for developing design solutions that are sustainable and appropriate for their context, and it is this ethos that he champions through OPUN. “I’ve been involved with OPUN since 2008, and have always found it extremely rewarding to help those involved in development schemes to realise and promote their vision for an area and for the communities who live there. “We’ve dealt with some challenging developments over the years, including large food stores for example, sometimes seeking seek to put an ‘out of town’ format store into a town or city centre. Working closely with the design teams, OPUN’s Design Review Panel has successfully challenged this trend and enabled more appropriate building typologies to be developed. “All too often, we also see houses designed for no-where, but built everywhere, and it’s that ‘one size fits all’ approach to design that doesn’t help when it comes to creating great places. With this in mind, we are currently advising a number of house builders on major urban expansion schemes, ensuring that character and identity are at the forefront of their thinking.” “As the Chair of OPUN’s Design Review Panel, my job is to help promote good design and to create a positive environment where we can assess the merits of different schemes through a fair and open review process. “We’re seeing an upward trend, with many developments that we’ve peer reviewed first time round coming back to the panel with revised plans for further input. “This is great to see, and it means our clients value OPUN’s expertise in ensuring that place-making is paramount, maximising the social, economic and environmental value for all.” During his career, Chris has worked in practice in London and Australia, before relocating to Derby where he has been based for the past ten years. He particularly enjoys tackling the larger housing and regeneration projects and working closely with communities and he is currently leading on the largest housing PFI project in the country in Pendleton, Salford.
There are various professionals who work in partnership with OPUN – under different guises – to provide training, expert art and design advice or input into neighbourhood planning amongst other things.
In this series of features, we introduce you to these individuals so you can get to know more about who is behind the OPUN brand. This time round, it’s Chris Twomey who is in the spotlight…
Chris is Managing Director of Lathams in Derby, a reputable and well established practice that specialises in architecture, conservation, urbanism and landscape. He also chairs OPUN’s Design Review Panel.
Chris has a passion for developing design solutions that are sustainable and appropriate for their context, and it is this ethos that he champions through OPUN.
“I’ve been involved with OPUN since 2008, and have always found it extremely rewarding to help those involved in development schemes to realise and promote their vision for an area and for the communities who live there.
“We’ve dealt with some challenging developments over the years, including large food stores for example, sometimes seeking seek to put an ‘out of town’ format store into a town or city centre. Working closely with the design teams, OPUN’s Design Review Panel has successfully challenged this trend and enabled more appropriate building typologies to be developed.
“All too often, we also see houses designed for no-where, but built everywhere, and it’s that ‘one size fits all’ approach to design that doesn’t help when it comes to creating great places. With this in mind, we are currently advising a number of house builders on major urban expansion schemes, ensuring that character and identity are at the forefront of their thinking.”
“As the Chair of OPUN’s Design Review Panel, my job is to help promote good design and to create a positive environment where we can assess the merits of different schemes through a fair and open review process.
“We’re seeing an upward trend, with many developments that we’ve peer reviewed first time round coming back to the panel with revised plans for further input.
“This is great to see, and it means our clients value OPUN’s expertise in ensuring that place-making is paramount, maximising the social, economic and environmental value for all.”
During his career, Chris has worked in practice in London and Australia, before relocating to Derby where he has been based for the past ten years.
He particularly enjoys tackling the larger housing and regeneration projects and working closely with communities and he is currently leading on the largest housing PFI project in the country in Pendleton, Salford.
Since the launch of the new Building for Life (BfL) standards last September, OPUN has been playing a crucial role as a leading national training provider, helping many groups bring forward well-designed housing schemes that meet this national benchmark.
To date, OPUN has delivered 6 training sessions across the country to local authorities, parish councils, community groups and house-builders. Every event has been well-attended, with lively debate, thought-provoking exercises and site visits, and extremely positive feedback on the new BfL12 approach to design quality.
These are equipping them with the skills and knowledge needed to implement the guidance; ensuring the twelve questions and traffic light system are used to their maximum benefit in evaluating the impact of a proposed scheme on the local community.
As Garry Hall in OPUN’s learning team explained: “In partnership with Nottingham Trent University, OPUN was instrumental in developing BfL12. That’s why we’re seen as a trusted partner to help those on the ground understand and implement the new standards.
“The vision of BfL12 is for new housing developments to be attractive, functional and sustainable places. We believe this common sense approach brings real value to BfL12 process, and we are delighted to be playing such an active part in rolling BfL12 out to those who will benefit most.
“Our ultimate goal is to assist house-builders and local planning authorities to work more collaboratively to obtain ‘greens’ across all 12 standards.”
OPUN offers numerous learning opportunities for both community and professional audiences, to:
- help them understand the value of their surroundings and improve the places in which they live and work;
- give people information to make the right decisions in improving the built environment;
- support authorities in working through locally relevant and site or topic specific issues.
As well as being extremely affordable, courses are also delivered by experts in their field and can be tailored to meet specific needs.
Coming up in the next few months are BFL12 sessions.
Also on offer is a course especially designed for RIBA members and built environment professionals wanting to gain an insight into how best to present their schemes at design review. Click here to find out more.
OPUN is also looking to recruit new board members over the summer – watch this space for details!
Remember to check out the events calendar on www.opun.org.uk for all the latest events and information updates, or contact Garry (phone: 07980 743523).
OPUN has seen a huge demand for its Design Review Services over the past 12 months, with 48 schemes being put forward by 16 local authorities across the East Midlands since April 2012. That means the panel of experts at OPUN have been extremely busy, providing independent advice and support to at least one development proposal each week!
“We’ve seen a huge spectrum of projects coming through the pipeline, and have carried out a number of desktop assessments as well as full panel reviews,” explained Dharmista Patel, OPUN’s Head of Design Support Services.
“These have ranged from infrastructure schemes involving bus stations, to student accommodation, housing, enterprise centres and large scale mixed use regeneration initiatives.
“Despite the ongoing economic challenges, this just goes to show that councils and developers are still keen to bring forward development schemes and get the design right at the start of the planning process.
“We’re delighted that our services are seen as offering value for money and are an integral part of the approach to ensuring that good design is at the heart of the planning system to improve the quality of places and ensure greater prosperity for all.”
Julian Marsh, from Marsh Grochowski architects, is a keen supporter of Opun’s Design Review Service. He explains: “It brings calm rationality to planning situations that are difficult, sometimes emotional and often full of prejudice. Our design for a new low energy theatre for the Nottingham Girls High School was a case in point.
“Set within a conservation area on a prominent site, the project was initially fully supported by the Local Authority. But faced with vociferous opposition from residents, it started to backtrack as pressure was applied by Councillors and unnecessary design changes were demanded to appease the residents.
“A desktop review by Opun showed the Planning Committee both the good points of the scheme and outlined some reservations. This, in turn, gave a prescriptive list of appropriate amendments that should be made to improve it, completely independently of the views of the local residents. On the basis of OPUN’s suggested amendments, planning approval was given.”
Helen Oaks, Urban Designer for Derby City Council, sees Design Review as a vital ingredient of her work: “As part of the quality assurance process, we present most regeneration projects including masterplans, architecture, public realm and public art to the Opun design review panel to get an objective view on design quality. Partnership working has been seen as the key to our projects successes. The makeup of the Panel provided a strong mix of built environment skills, experience and disciplines that met with the schemes requirements i.e. architect/urban designer, landscape architect, and arts experts.
A series of city centre public realm projects were taken to review in early February 2013. Three city centre public space projects were considered in one half day session, including the arts-led Tunnel Vision project, which gave positive comments about engaging with young people in a creative way.
The review also considered the schematic design of the Aquatics centre, raising issues regarding legibility, and suggesting links with wider riverside; this has resulted in a wider focus being considered.
The review has assisted Derby City Council by reinforcing the strengths of projects, whilst re-focussing some aspects, and has ensured an efficient momentum on the projects, so that they can meet timescales in line with a tested design vision.”
Similarly, Barry Gaffney, Urban Designer for Leicester City Council said “At Leicester City Council we have long recognised the importance of Design Review and the benefits it provides to all parties involved in the development process. OPUN have delivered a valued service by providing independent and impartial design advise. By having access to industry experts, solutions have been found for contentious issues. Their Design Review service has provided us with confidence in our own approach, as well as enlightening developers on the benefits of good design. In addition to being creative, their advice has always been highly professional, dependable and pragmatic.”
If you’re a local authority, developer, consultant or any other group seeking design and planning advice, then OPUN’s services are for you. To find out more, contact Dharmista or phone 07967 638 786.
Manor Kingsway in Derby was singled out at a parliamentary event last night (Wednesday 6th February 2013) as one of the first five UK developments to meet the revised new national benchmark for well-designed housing in England (Building for Life 12) criteria for design quality, safety and community.
Planning Minister and Grantham & Stamford MP Nick Boles is an advocate for more high quality homes to address the nation’s acute housing shortage, and he highlighted this particular scheme as a great example of a development that’s fit for current and future generations.
The Architecture Centre for the East Midlands OPUN, the Home and Communities Agency (HCA), Derby City Council, Kier Partnership Homes and Stride Treglown Architects have all been involved in bringing Manor Kingsway to fruition, and all were delighted to have received this accolade.
Work will start on site at Manor Kingsway this coming autumn, and will deliver 700 new homes including an extra care facility plus shops and offices in the redevelopment of a hospital site.
Julie Tanner, Chief Executive, OPUN – which led revisions to the original Manor Kingsway masterplan, played an instrumental part in developing BfL12 and is now one of the leading national BfL12 training providers – commented:
“This project is a super example of partnership in action, and shows that getting the right people around the table at an early stage in the planning process will pay dividends in the long term.
“Through our independent design review service, and in applying the BfL 12 standards, we’ve been able to offer practical solutions so the final development will be attractive, functional and sustainable, meeting the needs of local people both now and in the future.
“We’re delighted that BfL12 is proving so successful in enabling the public and the private sector to bring forward high quality housing schemes, and that Manor Kingsway in particular has been recognised at a national level for leading the way.”
Simon Wingate, Technical Director, Kier Partnership Homes:
“We are delighted that the value of good design and place making is being recognised, measured and rewarded. We have long held this belief that through a collaborative approach and shared vision, housing standards can be improved throughout the country.”
Councillor Sara Bolton, Chair of the Planning Control Committee, Derby City Council:
“Derby City Council is very proud of the accolade for the emerging Manor Kingsway re-development. The project is the result of a long term commitment to the site’s regeneration and the particular dedication of a number of individuals, some of whom are now retired, at the planning authority. The project represents a sound development management approach from the plan making process, through various applications and committee meetings to the delivery of shared objectives.”
Graham Dobbs, Head of Midlands North, HCA:
“A collaborative approach from the project partners – HCA, Kier Partnership Homes, Derby City Council and OPUN – has been the key to gaining improvements for the Manor Kingsway scheme. We’re pleased this has now been recognised with a Built for Life award in the Midlands, but more importantly it is resulting in a better designed development that will benefit the new residents as well as the existing community around the site. We look forward to seeing the first homes being built later this year.”
Dominic Eaton, Director, Stride Treglown Architects:
“We appreciate that to achieve a fully compliant Built for Life 12 Scheme, the design rationale has to begin with the intention of fulfilling the 12 criterion from the very start. These principles form the basic DNA of the scheme and have to be at its very core and cannot be added retrospectively as a tick box exercise.”
Speaking at the event, Nick Boles MP said:
“We need to build beautiful houses that people are happy to live next door to if we are to persuade local communities to accept enough house building to meet today’s urgent need and that of future generations.
“Building for Life standards show the importance of good design both of buildings and of the public realm, and the benefits it can bring for both the building industry and communities. They are an incredibly useful guide for all involved in development. I’m delighted to commend the first five developments that meet the revised criteria for design and quality.”
Andrew Bridgen MP, member for North West Leicestershire, who hosted the event, added:
“One of the most important things each generation can do for the next is to build high quality homes that will stand the test of time. This is about launching the new Building for Life as a quality tool based on shared objectives.
“The Scheme has been developed based on concerns of residents typically found in an MPs post bag. This ‘Building for Life’ Scheme now offers a pure process based on what people care about, privacy and private space, amenity and safety.
“But focusing on such fundamentals it offers a community-focused design tool to ensure existing and new residents moving in are happy and raise minimal concerns about the impact of a new development.”
BfL was relaunched in September 2012 by the Home Builders Federation, Cabe at the Design Council and Design for Homes, and is the third iteration of the industry owned and Government endorsed guide for developers and local authorities for new home and neighbourhood design. It was revised to ensure it is best suited to the needs of the reformed planning system under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and Localism Act.
More information about Manor Kingsway
700 homes including an extra care facility plus shops and offices in the redevelopment of a hospital site promoted by HCA. Site promoter: Kier Partnership Homes, planning authority Derby City Council, consultant Stride Treglown Architects.
The 35 ha site was previously the Manor and Kingsway Hospital. Phased re-development of up to 700 dwellings including 50 extra care, retail and commercial units. 100 dwellings in phase 1. Part of the masterplan is an arboretum, making use of established Victorian planting. The original hospital buildings used an indigenous Derby brick also to be used in new scheme, while the old hospital building contained ‘Dutch Gables’ which are reinterpreted on some buildings within the layout. Derby City Council led a collaborative team composed of project managers at the HCA, OPUN (the local design review enabler) and architects, initiating with a brief to be “Robust, Contemporary and Confident”. OPUN led revisions to the original masterplan so that it became more legible with defined character areas, notably the public open space, wide tree-lined boulevards and landscaped play areas and used the new Building for Life as the heart of the design process.
Home zones and shared surfaces extensively used to give pedestrian priority. The heart of the masterplan is where the retail, apartments and extra care is located around a central public square. Buildings are unfussy, simple, well proportioned and detailed with a simple pallet of good quality materials.
The other four schemes highlighted by Nick Boles MP include:
- Church Fields, Boston Spa – 170 houses on a greenfield site in a conservation area in North Yorkshire
- Seven Acres, Clay Farm/Great Kneighton, Cambridge – 128 houses and apartments as an early phase of a large extension to the urban boundary of the city of Cambridge
- Starvehall Farm, Cheltenham – up to 330 homes plus an additional 60 to be provided as extra care units plus a 60-bed nursing care home on greenfield land within Cheltenham limits on land newly brought into local plan
- Roussillon Park, Chichester– 252 homes on a redeveloped MOD barracks land to the north of Chichester city
Building for Life 12 (BfL12) is led by three partners’: Cabe at the Design Council, Home Builders Federation and Design for Homes, supported by Nottingham Trent University. http://www.designcouncil.org.uk/our-work/cabe/localism-and-planning/building-for-life/
The Design Council is a charity which enables people to use design to transform communities, business and the environment for the better. www.designcouncil.org.uk
The Home Builders Federation (HBF) is the representative body of the home building industry in England and Wales. www.hbf.co.uk
Design for Homes is a social enterprise which researches what works best for the layout, design and construction of new homes. www.designforhomes.org
Homes & Communities Agency (HCA): www.homesandcommunities.co.uk
Derby City Council: www.derby.gov.uk
Stride Treglown: www.stridetreglown.co.uk
Eight not-for-profit organisations that promote better and more sustainable places to stimulate economic growth have come together to form the Design Network.
The Design Network is an alliance of eight bodies that provide design advisory services throughout England.
The move comes as a result of increasing demand for independent, impartial and affordable design advice for local authorities, developers and architects.
The new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which came into effect in April put good design at the heart of the planning system to improve the quality of places and ensure greater prosperity for all.
With the NPPF recommending that design review arrangements should be in place to support the planning system, the formation of the Design Network will signpost local authorities, developers and communities to where independent, established Design Review Panels exist across England.
Each Network member has a proven track record of delivering successful Design Review Panels. This service ensures that planning and development proposals for building and public spaces are sustainable, cost effective, user friendly, attractive and fit for purpose.
But their work goes well beyond Design Review. The Design Network members also offer a broad range of services to help local authorities, developers, consultants and communities bring forward schemes which will deliver growth and maximise the social and economic benefits to an area.
Training, community engagement, economic development, design workshops, advice to local authorities, neighbourhood planning support, and sessions on the new Building for Life 12 standard all form part of the Design Network offer.
The eight organisations have been working together for at least five years, but have now decided to strengthen their common identity as the Design Network to better signpost to where independent design support can be provided.
- Creating Excellence – covering the South West
- Kent Architecture Centre – covering the South East
- IntegreatPLUS – covering Yorkshire & the Humber
- MADE – covering the West Midlands
- North East Design Review & Enabling Service (NE DRES)
- OPUN – the architecture centre for the East Midlands
- Places Matter! – covering the North West
- Shape East – covering the East of England
Each organisation has a strong relationship with the professional bodies in their regions, and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Landscape Institute have already signalled their support for the move towards an integrated Design Network.
Alastair McCapra of the Landscape Institute said: ‘‘Design Review is a proven way of ensuring that the landscapes we create are designed in a way that looks elegant and functions successfully. Every aspect of the built environment benefits from this process. The Network is a great way of ensuring that this service is widely available.”
Harry Rich, Chief Executive Officer of RIBA, commented: “The quality of the built environment affects us all. Design Review is a respected method of improving the quality of development by offering constructive, impartial and expert advice. The RIBA actively supports design review and is pleased to be working with the Design Network.”
Commenting on the formation of the Design Network, members added:
David Tittle, Chief Executive of MADE said: “MADE, like the other Network members, has a strong reputation in its region, but we have found that Government, national bodies and larger developers don’t always recognise what we have to offer. As the Design Network we can raise awareness of the work we do throughout England.”
Julie Tanner, Chief Executive of OPUN said: “OPUN is pleased to join the Design Network, it reaffirms our common goals in offering independent design review to support good quality housing coming through the planning system in England. Housing growth is high on the Government’s agenda and The Design Network can signpost locally to where independent design support can be guaranteed.”
Richard Motley, Managing Director, IntegreatPLUS said: “The Design Network will offer a comprehensive design led support service for business, communities and Local authorities to achieve their economic social ,and environmental place based ambitions.”
Network Members’ contact information:
0151 703 0135
07515 066 107
0191 260 2191
0191 261 7441
Two landscape architecture students from the University of Greenwich have won a national competition to design a new square in Kirkby in Ashfield as part of a wider initiative to regenerate the town centre.
The scheme will contribute to Ashfield District Council’s corporate priority of improving the prosperity and shaping the future of town centres as well as revitalising markets.
It will build on the success of recent and current developments in Kirkby town centre, including the Morrisons supermarket (which saw the demolition of the former precinct), and a Wetherspoons pub which will transform the derelict cinema building. Visits to the town centre are increasing and the Council is keen to build on this going forward.
Leader of Ashfield District Council, Councillor John Knight, said: “We recognise that Kirkby is in need of investment. That’s why we’ve established a ‘Town Team’ to work with local businesses and organisations.
“This particular initiative aims to create a focal public space, make Kirkby more attractive and accessible to visitors and enhance the economic viability of the town. By working with OPUN and design students from across the country, we’ve been able to draw on up and coming talent to develop fresh ideas for improving the town.
“Kirkby suffered for years from the blight of the former precinct area but we are starting to see real changes in the town, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a sustainable future for Kirkby.”
Councillor Cheryl Butler added: “I am delighted that the Council is working with OPUN on such a groundbreaking initiative. This project is one of many that show the local community that Kirkby-in-Ashfield is turning a corner.”
Competition winners Anna Sieczak and Patricia Paegle were singled out by OPUN – the Architecture Centre for the East Midlands – for their innovative proposition. This detailed how the space could be transformed to kick start the re-development of the area.
Their joint proposal included ideas to divide the square into six integrated zones, bringing together the entrance, meeting and market areas alongside a cultural, events and recreation space. Commenting on what inspired their design, Anna said: “We wanted to create a dynamic urban space that is safe, integrated and has plenty of opportunities to play and interact.
“Water, waves and flow were important aspects for us in putting our ideas together, and we spent a lot of time researching, designing and selecting suitable materials. We really enjoyed being a part of Kirkby’s regeneration and were delighted to win the competition.”
Members of OPUN’s design review panel, who assessed the competition entries, were impressed by Anna and Patricia’s thorough approach to the task.
“Research has shown that good design plays a very important part in creating prosperous places that are sustainable, user friendly, attractive and fit for purpose,” explained Dharmista Patel, Head of OPUN’s Design Support Services.
“This entry captured all these things. It demonstrates an excellent understanding of the immediate and wider site context, and a well thought out design which will encourage independent businesses to an inviting new space and surrounding streetscape.”
Elements from the winning design, and the two shortlisted designs – entered by Richard Sobols from Newcastle University and Elia Hermoso de Mendoza from the University of Sheffield – will now be used by Ashfield District Council to develop a final design for the new town square.
A public consultation will be held in early 2013, prior to the appointment of a contractor through a competitive tender process, with works due to start on site in 2013. The competition was open to anyone who was studying subjects relating to the built environment. In total, 11 entries were received over the summer, with six being shortlisted to present to OPUN’s Design Review Panel in October.
The Panel consisted of an architect, landscape architect and an Urban Designer. Each finalist presented their ideas to the panel before taking part in a question and answer discussion about the quality and suitability of their ideas.
There are various professionals who work in partnership with OPUN – under different guises – to provide training, expert art and design advice or input into neighbourhood planning amongst other things.
In this series of features, we introduce you to these individuals so you can get to know more about who is behind the OPUN brand. This time round, it’s Fiona Heron who is in the spotlight…
Fiona is an experienced designer, landscape architect and sculptor with a wealth of experience in both the public and private sectors. Her initial M.Sc. in Marine Biology at Liverpool University cemented her interest in natural form.
Fiona’s creative approach developed more fully through an MA in landscape architecture at Sheffield University. Fiona is a Chartered Member of the Landscape Institute and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Following her studies, she spent a number of years working as senior landscape architect with Nottingham City Council before moving across to the private sector.
She eventually set up her own practice working as landscape architect, artist and consultant for all aspects of urban design and strategy. Her work also spans integrated art, sculpture, and fine art photography.
Here, Fiona tells us about what inspires her, why she got involved with OPUN, and talks about her passion for creative design solutions.
“I’ve always been interested in art and design, even as a child, and over the years this has been refined through my work within the built environment. Good design in the places and spaces we live and work in isn’t cosmetic – it has to work practically and emotionally within the existing environment and surrounding area.
“Some people see design as a bit of a nebulous concept, often believing it involves the finishing touches rather than forming an integral part of a scheme. OPUN is working hard to address this misconception, helping authorities and communities appreciate that good design isn’t just about personal taste; it’s about making sure development has an integrated purpose for both now and the future.
“Design is an evolving process; there are often a number of solutions to a problem. It’s about coming up with an option which addresses how good architecture, landscape and urban design can be achieved within a local context and difficult economic climate.
“My work with OPUN followed an involvement with several design bodies, one of which was Nottingham City Council’s design review panel. I’ve always enjoyed the opportunity to peer review different schemes prior to the planning application process. Not only does it offer a fresh set of eyes, it keeps me up to speed and is a valuable learning tool for my continued professional development.
“OPUN is setting up a new arts panel in which I am involved. There’s certainly more demand from clients to understand how a creative input can really positively influence quality – not just looks and feel.
“I’ve also recently been involved through OPUN in helping Northampton Arts Organisation develop their new facility that will bring real economic and social benefits to the community.
“It’s very fulfilling to be involved in a process which can make positive changes and, with OPUN’s support this will continue across the East Midlands
If you would like to find out more about OPUN’s design review panels, please contact Dharmista Patel.
The Architecture Centre for the East Midlands, OPUN, in partnership with East Midlands Councils (EMC), has announced its design support package for 2013-14. This will help all councils in the region access these important, independent services at an affordable price.
The Melton Mowbray based charity provides essential and impartial design advice so authorities, developers and communities can ensure their schemes meet everyone’s needs before the planning application stage.
OPUN has a proven track record in this area, and is one of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and Design Council CABE’s preferred suppliers to provide design review services locally.
Through EMC, and at a cost of £3,600, OPUN will provide councils with:
- an independent, bespoke design advice service throughout the year
- up to two discounted design review panel sessions for specific developments
- a designated OPUN point of contact
- tailored training packages, including for Building for Life 12 (the new national benchmark for well-designed housing in England)
- advice on art, the public realm, design policy and community engagement
- the option to sign up to a Good Design Charter, demonstrating a commitment to ensuring places meet the social, environmental and economic aspirations of local people.
Julie Tanner, OPUN’s Chief Executive, said: “Evidence shows that badly designed buildings and places often lead to social issues and further cost implications down the line for the taxpayer. There simply isn’t the money available to rectify these sorts of problems, and so local authorities know they have to get schemes right first time round.
Since April, OPUN has seen an increase of 66% in the number of design reviews it has carried out. The organisation puts this down to the fact that councils continue to face fundamental change but still recognise the importance of good design in creating prosperous towns, cities and rural areas.
The new planning rules – also known as the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) – have also played a part in this uptake. That’s because there’s a major emphasis on sustainable development, with responsibility being placed on local planning authorities to make arrangements to assess and support the design element of projects accordingly.
Andrew Pritchard, Director of Policy and Infrastructure at EMC, commented: “EMC is the representative and consultative forum for all 46 authorities in the region, providing support to Councils to improve their services.
“A design-led approach secures better outcomes in planning delivery and a speedier process for all concerned. OPUN offers an extremely good service and excellent value for money, which is why we have brokered this discounted design support scheme for EMC member authorities.”