Trust local people on design aspiration, summit advised

Planners need to raise the design bar not just on new homes but on associated infrastructure if they are to create a real sense of place in cities, today's National Planning Summit heard.

Good design: speaker urges planners make more use of technological innovations
Good design: speaker urges planners make more use of technological innovations

"We can produce innovative, well designed development. But we need to think about what communities need and want, and how as professionals we can enable that to happen," Design Council CABE associate director for strategic development David Waterhouse told an afternoon breakout session.

Waterhouse highlighted linkages between policy-making and development management, planning briefs that "fail to maximise public benefits" and a "narrow" focus on design matters among senior members and officers as issues that need careful consideration.

Scheme-led design that ignores wider spatial perspectives is another pitfall in current practice, he added. "You need to step back and think through the consequences of particular schemes for the whole borough or the wider city. Setting the place-making benchmark high is critical because we will be setting a precedent."

In the same session, Create Streets director Nick Boys Smith urged planners to trust local people’s responses on design. "Popular design is a good way of getting intuitively to good design," he argued.

Boys Smith also advised planners and designers to make more use of the wealth of data on responses to design made available by the technological revolution. 

"For example, you can use data to understand the kind of environments where people are likely to be physically or mentally healthy," he explained.

In a packed presentation, Boys Smith insisted: "This isn’t just about individuals’ impressions about what they like. At whole population level, you can get an accurate view of the kind of places where people feel good or bad. The desire for stuff that feels as if it comes from your area is incredibly strong. You can correlate how much people like where they live with their overall life satisfaction."

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