Town Planning Review

Centenary paper: Planning and good design: indivisible or invisible?: A century of design regulation in English town and country planning

Town Planning Review (2010), 81, (4), 343–380.

Abstract

Taking its cue from recent government advice on design, and referring back to previously published work on the history of design control, this paper reviews the state of urban design in contemporary planning practice in England. It focuses primarily upon more recent development since 1985 through the Conservatives' Quality Initiatives, New Labour's Urban Renaissance, and an unprecedented flow of design advice (from CABE). It asks a rhetorical question: is 'good design indivisible from good planning' as government policy now proclaims, or does it remain largely invisible by virtue of a potent mix of political short-termism, economic imperatives and low skill levels. The paper reflects on the evolution of design control practices from obsession with elevations through to broader notions of urban design and the public realm, place making and now the pursuit of sustainable urban forms. It reflects on the relatively new consensus about appropriate urban design principles and practices, and the widening scope of government advice. However, it questions whether the majority of local councils are adequately committed to positive planning and proactive development management, and whether local planning authorities have the resources, skills and policy/guidance frameworks to deliver the high-quality, sustainable urban design and place making to which central government now aspires.

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Punter, John