Marrons Planning adds urban design expertise with new appointment

News | New Joiner

Midlands planning consultancy Marrons Planning has bolstered its urban design service with the appointment of Jared McQueen-Pullen.

Having launched the new service less than a year ago, the consultancy is strengthening the team in response to growing demand for architecture and urban design advice.

Jared joins the team from Dudley Council, where he was responsible for setting the vision and standard for design within in the borough. Prior to that, Jared was senior planning officer at Birmingham City Council’s City Centre Planning Policy Team.

Notable projects Jared has worked on include the Rea Valley Urban Quarter supplementary planning document – a major masterplan to provide around 10,000 residences and a major river rejuvenation project, as well as working on £1 billion worth of projects for the placemaking and regeneration within Dudley.

In his new role, Jared will be working with strategic land promoters and developers on urban regeneration projects, land promotion and urban extensions. Seeing projects from feasibility through to planning approval, including creating masterplans and urban design schemes, Jared will be utilising his local authority expertise to help clients navigate the complex planning process.

Jared said: “Marrons Planning has enviable experience in delivering placemaking and development to a high standard, consistently delivering successful outcomes for clients and the communities they are involved in. The aspirations of the urban design team are truly exciting and I'm looking forward to working alongside experienced professionals within Marrons Planning and the wider Ampa group of brands.

I love the role that urban design has in shaping the future of places. As designers, it is our role to get the best out of the site as presented to us, working with its opportunities and constraints to achieve the best situation possible for our clients and the future communities who will inhabit them.

Jared will primarily be based at Marrons Planning’s Birmingham hub, but will be working with clients nationally.

Alex Craggs, who heads up the urban design team, said: “We are delighted to welcome Jared into the team. His planning and urban design experience is a dream mix for our clients and we look forward to seeing his innovative take on projects. We have significant plans for growth across our urban design service and throughout Marrons Planning and look forward to Jared being part of that journey.

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Alex is an RIBA Chartered Architect working for over 10 years in the planning and construction industry.

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Biodiversity net gain for developers – how to get ahead of secondary legislation

Planning

The National Planning Policy Framework already sets out a mitigation hierarchy: avoidance, minimisation, onsite restoration, offset and if these criteria cannot be met then technically planning should be refused.

Following the introduction of the Environment Act 2021, from November* 2023 the need to demonstrate at least a 10% biodiversity net gain (either on or off site) over and above a sites pre-development biodiversity value is set to become mandatory and apply to the majority of planning applications in England,

In addition, when the new Schedule 7A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 comes into force paragraph 13 sets to enforce that a standard pre-commencement condition is applied to all permissions granted in England, preventing lawful commencement of development until a ‘biodiversity gain plan’ is submitted to and approved by the Local Planning Authority.

What do developers need to do to get ahead?

Whilst the mandatory requirement is still some way away, now is the time for developers to apply best practice, and ensure biodiversity is an important and integral consideration when buying land and planning their developments, particularly in the case of greenfield development.

Although a finalised gain plan is not required at planning application stage, any development will need to provide an overview of its 10% biodiversity gain plan at application stage. At this point, it will need to be established if a net gain can be achieved on or off site, and thus, it is advantageous for developers to have an idea about the implications of any Biodiversity Impact Assessment (and any off site offsetting costs) before agreeing a purchase price for land and starting to design out sites.

In addition, it may be beneficial to submit the gain plan in full at the application stage, the advantage not only being that once planning is approved the net gain condition will be discharged and development can begin, but also it may assist with the planning process and the level of support that can be achieved for any development.

At planning application stage: Include details of the steps taken to minimise effects on biodiversity and how it will be enhanced. The consultation sets out the level of core information that is required at this stage including:

The pre-development biodiversity value

The proposed approach to enhancing biodiversity on-site

Any proposed off-site biodiversity enhancements (including the use of statutory credits) that have been planned or arranged for the development

For outline planning applications, it is also likely that additional information will be required in relation to the overall net gain strategy for the whole site and plans for phased delivery (where applicable).

You’ll also need to use the biodiversity metric 3.0 for calculating any impact – more detail can be found about this metric in Natural England’s User Guide.

At pre commencement planning condition stage: It is at this point a full gain plan must be submitted to and approved by the Local Planning Authority setting out the ‘detail’ for delivering that proposed at application stage.

The consultation sets out that the Local Planning Authority will only approve the biodiversity gain plan once they are satisfied that:

The biodiversity gain plan and completed biodiversity metric (submitted as the completed calculator document, not a ‘snapshot’ or summary) show a measurable net gain of at least 10% across all unit types (area-based, and where relevant, linear, and riverine habitats), having regard to policy on matters such as additionality

The information, including pre-development and post-development biodiversity values, presented in the biodiversity gain plan is complete and meets the statutory requirements

Any claimed gains (both on-site and off-site) are appropriately secured and allocated, including the point in the development process that these gains are to be delivered and a proportionate description of how enhancements will be managed and monitored

Some of the practicalities in terms of submission, timeframes and appeals process is yet to be fully published by the Secretary of State and there is speculation around exemptions, including likely exemptions for householder applications, change of use and self-build housing.

For more information about how the Environment Act and biodiversity net gain will affect your developments, contact Jenny Keen or another member of the planning team.

 

*Intended date following the two-year transition period outlined in the Defra’s January 2022 consultation

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Jenny is a Chartered Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) with substantial experience in the residential, retail and commercial planning fields.

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News

Marrons Planning launches urban design with new associate director hire

Midlands planning consultancy Marrons Planning has extended its portfolio of services with the appointment of architect and urban design expert Alex Craggs.

Specialising in bespoke residential projects and master planning urban design schemes, RIBA chartered architect Alex will take the role of associate director and be heading up the new Marrons Urban Design service, which will complement the consultancy’s existing planning services: including planning applications and appeals as well as promoting developments and planning strategy.

With more than 10 years’ experience working with a range of clients from strategic land promoters and developers to private clients and home owners, Alex will be responsible for setting up the new service line and growing the team in the future.

Andy Gore, Partner at Marrons Planning, said: “This is a really exciting new venture for Marrons Planning and one that will allow us to provide illustrative layouts, design and access statements, promotion documents, concept plans and more.

“We’re well known for providing planning advice that helps inform our clients’ decision making process, driving projects forward and using our close working relationships with Local Planning Authorities to help unlock strategic sites; but now we will also be able to provide our clients with brilliant designs that are underpinned by a deep understanding of commercial complexities, local authority requirements and planning strategy.

“We’re thrilled to have Alex join our team.

Alex has experience working in a variety of sectors including residential, conservation, mixed-use, commercial and leisure, taking projects from inception through to completion.

Alex, who was previously associate director for BHB Architects said: “I was attracted to Marrons Planning because of their enthusiasm and track record in gaining successful outcomes for their clients. I’m excited to bring design expertise to Marrons Planning to allow them to offer their clients a high quality design offering in conjunction with their established planning services.

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Guides & Advice

National Design Code: What is 'beautiful'?

With new priorities for both the government and homeowners triggered by the pandemic, the planning sector has had to adapt. To meet these changes, the government has issued a 10-point plan to improve living standards, named the National Design Code. This forms part of the Planning Practice Guidance. It aims to help developers reach higher liveability standards and create 'beautiful' homes in thriving communities.

The Design Guide illustrates how well designed places that are beautiful, greener, enduring and successful can be achieved in practice. However, what does 'beautiful' really mean, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of this new code?

What is the National Design Code?

The National Design Code outlines 10 points for developers to follow when designing a home. The two main focuses are quality and sustainable building. However, it also highlights the need to keep properties in tune with local communities as well as create homes that meet peoples' evolving needs.

Each of the 10 principles shows what the government's goals are for properties in the coming years. They are:

 

  • Lifespan - Creating homes that are made to last.
  • Context - Enhancing the location and taking advantage of local characteristics.
  • Identity - Making every home attractive and distinctive.
  • Built form - Considering surroundings to create a coherent development.
  • Movement - Making accessibility a key feature.
  • Nature - Enhancing nature and green spaces.
  • Public spaces - Creating a place with the community at its heart, offering a range of social areas.
  • Uses - Mixed use of the land.
  • Homes and building - Building for tomorrow, with functionality and sustainability in mind.
  • Resources - Using resources efficiently to maximise their uses.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

The ambitious framework discusses 'beautiful' places. Beauty is, of course,  a subjective quality. However, according to the government's chief architect, a beautiful home will be one that perfectly addresses the 10-points outlined.

Beauty may be subjective, but quality is not. Perhaps using the Code as a base to design on will be the best use of the framework, giving projects direction without forcing designers to lose their flair.

What are the pros and cons?

The major pros of the proposed National Design Code include the emphasis on the role that local authorities and communities play in the design of places, and the clear framework that it provides to house designers.

On the other hand, the emphasis on local culture could be a difficult goal to achieve. Councils will have varying aspects they would like to focus on and different resources available, so it may be a challenge for developers to reach a finalised plan that ticks every box.

There's also the possibility that the framework could force developers to 'design by numbers', creating housing developments with little personality.

Although the National Design Code provides developers with a great foundation, it's important for designers to bear in mind that 'beauty' is subjective. However, by building on the 10 points and working closely with local authorities, developers will be able to achieve the results desired by both the government and homeowners.

Watch our free webinar, with an expert guest panel, on whether the proposed changes will make a positive impact.

Contact us

For any further information contact Richard Cooke or David Pendle in our dedicated planning consultancy team, Marrons Planning.

Our updated guide to recovery and resilience covers everything you need to navigate your business out of lockdown, unlock your potential and make way for a brighter future. Further advice in relation to COVID-19 can be found on our dedicated coronavirus resource hub.  

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Building for a Healthy Life: putting wellbeing at the forefront of housing

Building for a Healthy Life: putting wellbeing at the forefront of housing

Lockdown has highlighted that the UK housing crisis isn't purely about quantity, it's also about quality. A form of revolution is needed, with developers adding residents' wellbeing to their priority lists, as well as speed.

Luckily, the recent launch of 'Building for a Healthy Life' (BHL) could be the answer.

Read the Building for a Healthier life toolkit publication here.

The impact of unsuitable housing

Well-lit private spaces and nearby green areas are no longer added extras, they are necessities. For the many people who live in urban areas with limited access to these, the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health, having stopped them from being able to escape their four walls.

Space saving is often the main focus for city developments, ensuring maximum capacity in a minimal area. However, this approach doesn't consider wellbeing and instead relies on residents being able to leave to meet their wider basic needs.

This one-size-fits all approach to the housing crisis is not an effective solution, and it's time to try something new.

What is Building for a Healthier Life (BHL)?

Backed by Homes England, BHL has been created to replace 'Building for Life 12' (Bfl 12). Simply put, the goal of these new guidelines is to encourage housing developers to weave health and wellbeing into their plans.

BHL's predecessor, BfL 12, was made up of 12 set questions designed to help assess the quality of housing schemes. Aspects such as facilities, tenure types and private spaces were covered, but many used it as a quick tick-box system, rather than truly considering how they could improve their sites.

However, BHL appears to have moved away from this question and answer process.

'How-to' guides for healthy spaces

The purpose of BHL is for architects and planners to submit evidence that shows exactly how wellbeing elements are to be implemented.

By providing visual aids that act as "how to" guides for healthy spaces, BHL enables developers to pick and choose the design cues that they feel would benefit their own housing schemes.

Wellbeing considerations

There is one thing that BHL has taken from BfL 12, and that is the idea of having 12 main considerations for developers. These have been split into three categories:

  • Integrated neighbourhoods;
  • Distinctive places; and
  • Streets for all.

Individual elements include 'homes for everyone', 'well defined streets and spaces' and 'green and blue infrastructure'.

Each element should be taken in context with the development, rather than followed as a checklist, to ensure the result will fully benefit all residents.

Building long-term housing is essential

In future, decision makers must ensure that wellbeing considerations are included in development plans wherever possible. Although speed is still necessary to tackle the housing crisis, homes built for the long-term must become part of the solution. Hopefully, BHL and the pandemic will lead to more developers building with health in mind.

Helping you to achieve the best outcome

If you're in the early stages of a development, we can help you to utilise the toolkit. Our team of specialist town and country planners will guide you through the process and work alongside you to demonstrate to the decision-maker why your scheme has been designed in a specific manner.

Contact us

For advice and support on how you can use BHL to your advantage, or any other planning query, contact Sachin Parmar  and Brian Mullin in our planning consultancy team Marrons Planning.

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