Look! St Albans – local design guidance in the making

Look! St Albans: Inspired by the past . . . picture your future!

It is always a joy attending HTF conferences; meeting others with a passion for our historic places, learning from them and exchanging ideas.  This definitely was the case at the ‘Historic Towns and Smarter Growth’: conference held in Cambridge April 2009.

I listened to James Hulme, Director of Policy and Research from The Prince’s Foundation for Building Communities.  I immediately thought their ‘Enquiry by Design’ process and their clear and sympathetic understanding of our historic fabric would be extremely useful in St Albans, and have kept in contact since in the hope that this could be achieved.

Fortunately through funding by the DCLG as part of the ‘Communities and Neighbourhoods in Planning’ programme this became a real possibility. St Albans Civic Society approached The Prince’s Foundation last summer with the view of accessing their considerable expertise through the funding.

Significant areas of our city centre were ready for redevelopment.  There was much concern with the seeming lack of architectural merit within many of the planning applications that had so far been submitted.

The City Centre Steering Group was formed from local organisations including the district council, who asked The Foundation to help in articulating specific design rules for new buildings and spaces in the City Centre.

To make sure we fully included all the community we invited people to upload their images of the typical, unique, weird and wonderful about the city to our Flickr web-page http://www.flickr.com/photos/lookstalbans , or asked people to bring them to our two public open design sessions held at the end of February.  Interestingly more chose to bring them along!

How to get involved flyer page 1We are delighted that with the aid of the council children from Aboyne Lodge Primary & Nursery School also took part.

The open design sessions and the two day workshops were highly successful and the report co-authored with the community is due to be completed early in May.

How to get involved flyer page 1The guidance will aim to steer developers and architects in a clear but flexible manner to greater certainty and a more straightforward permissions' process within the city centre.

The initiative drew a great deal of support from the local community and the steering group are delighted by the recent comment from Daniel Goodwin, Chief Executive, St Albans City & District Council.

“I am very pleased at the lead that the City Centre Steering group has taken with the Prince’s Foundation on the Look! St Albans project. This is exactly the sort of community initiative that the council’s members and I want to see and which typifies the strength of community linkages in the District through the involvement of a wide range of organisations. We have been delighted to be able to support Look! St Albans with input from council officers and logistical arrangements, but this has rightly been very ably facilitated by the Civic Society team and the Prince’s Foundation. We look forward to the project’s recommendations and working closely with the steering group to make them a reality.”

It is envisaged that the final outcome will become detailed local design guidance for the St Albans City Centre.

Vanessa Gregory
HTF Individual Member and Voluntary Public Realm Lobbyist
April 2012