2007 news articles

Election of Executive Committee Members

At the AGM the following members were re-elected:

Representing the Local Authority members:

Sharon Cosgrove Oxford City Council
Bill Cotton Swindon Borough Council
Chris Hargreaves Birmingham City Council
Sam Howes Chichester District Council
Brian Human Cambridge City Council / EHTF Chair
Ian Poole St Edmundsbury Borough Council
David Reed Canterbury City Council
Rob Surl Shropshire County Council
Richard Tuffrey High Peak Borough Council

Ian Ayris, Newcastle City Council and John Wrightson, Worcester City Council were also proposed and elected.

Representing Civic & Amenity members:

Ian Heggie Stratford on Avon Society & WMASA

Representing the partner/sponsors:

Nick Hayward RPS Planning, Transport & Environment

Co-opted Members:

Steve Bee English Heritage
Brian Smith EAHTR
Prue Smith Project Consultant
Mike Loveday HEART

David Jobbins (Christchurch Borough Council) and Tony Wyatt (Newcastle City Council) stood down, and Brian Human (Chair) thanked them for their support and wished them well in their new private sector posts.

Brian Human was re-elected as Chair, with Sam Howes and Chris Hargreaves as Vice-Chairs.

At the meeting of the Executive Committee held on 31st October, the dates for meetings in 2008 were agreed for:

  • 8th February
  • 16th May
  • 11th July
  • September - tbc if required
  • 31st October

Study Tour to Netherlands

In partnership with the European Association of Historic Towns & Regions (EAHTR) we are able to offer an opportunity to explore the management of historic towns in some of Europe's beautiful cities!

Details of the planned trip are being confirmed and members are invited to make an expression of interest by email in order that dates and bookings can be firmed up, after which a non-returnable deposit of £75 will be required.

Two dates are being considered: 4 - 6 June or 11 - 13 June 2008.

The proposed programme will begin with delegates meeting in Amsterdam at mid-day on Wednesday, leaving you to choose the best means of travel from the UK for you.

Proposed visits and presentations on shared space and other topical issues include Utrecht, Hertogenbosch, Dordrecht, Delft and Rotterdam.

Bed and breakfast accommodation, private coach travel in the Netherlands, returning to Amsterdam on Friday late pm, with all bookings and administration will be in the region of £275.00 per person.

Please email htf@uwe.ac.uk subject: 'Netherlands' by 21 December 2007 to express an interest, we will then be in touch with further details.

Other projects and events for the coming year are currently being developed. We hope to be in a position to confirm the following in the near future; see the website for details.

Cityscape 2008: contributions to the conference and seminar programme February 27-29.

Retail Development: launch of a guidance document and return visit to Princesshay, Exeter in March.

Conservation Area Management Plans: further training in partnership with UWE in April.

Transport Management: parking, road charging, Park & Ride, modal shift, ULTRA & PLT systems are all possible topics for exploration in Durham in May; including: -

Streetscape: launch of a guidance document on the theory and the practice with contributions from experts in the field.

Tourism Management: resort regeneration, sustainable tourism, the Cultural Olympics opportunity, Government support for tourism and more, to be explored at the newly restored Midland Hotel in Morecambe in June.

'Townscape in Trouble': have the conservation issues raised 15 years ago been adequately addressed and what are the new issues challenging our members? October.

Big Sheds' here to stay?

retail warehouse

Urban designers have tended to ignore the 'non-places' of towns and cities; those spaces we find along busy roads on town fringes characterised by 'big sheds' and urban wasteland. These 'big sheds' are usually large, cheaply built structures with little architectural merit and scant regard to their context. Yet these are the places many people shop (in retail warehouses and supermarkets), or work (in business / industrial parks). These places are also gateways to many towns and cities, forming a key part of our first impression of the town or city. We have to accept that such places are here to stay, but I believe we can improve them through an urban design-led approach tailored specifically to their requirements, and better integrate them into the fabric of our towns.


  • Some principles that might underlie this fresh approach could include:
  • Consider context, existing character and heritage
  • Ensure good building lay out in relation to surrounds
  • Design buildings to maximise flexibility
  • Encourage a mix of complementary uses at a range of scales
  • Consider legibility and design for 'viewing at speed' (ie from a passing vehicle) as well as 'on the ground'
  • Carefully consider best arrangement of parking, loading and access
  • Pay attention to architectural detailing and landscaping.

    I believe urban designers have a role to play in 'big shed' areas and it is time to consider afresh principles for these developments.

    Richard Crappsley,
    Urban Designer,
    Colin Buchanan

Traditional Construction and Eco Towns: Upton Exemplar Project

UptonUptonThe Prince's Foundation organised this event in Upton as part of their ongoing Poundbury seminar series. It was held on site in Upton on 4th September and featured speakers from The Prince's Foundation, English Partnerships, Alan Baxter Associates, Pell Frischman, Quartet Design and Cornhill Estates. The event also involved extensive walkabouts of the site and visits to some of the newly completed eco homes.

The Regional Spatial Strategy for the East Midlands identified Northampton as a town suitable for major population and employment growth. Upton is part of the south-west district of Northampton and is a strategic extension to the town wedged between the existing edge of the town and the M1 motorway. Originally farmland, it was acquired by the local Development Corporation and was eventually passed on to English Partnerships, the Government's national regeneration agency. In 1997 outline planning permission was granted for a 'traditional' town extension consisting of 1,020 homes, 700 sq m of retailing, a primary school and other local facilities. The scheme was due to go ahead when English Partnerships decided that the original scheme for which outline planning permission had already been granted was simply not good enough. Since they had already been working with The Prince's Foundation on a new approach to planning new developments called Enquiry by Design, they decided to try it out in Upton.

The process involved a week long event comprising two days of workshops with local stakeholders and professionals to develop the concept for the new development, two days for the technical team to work up outline designs, and a final day to seek feedback from the original participants. This led to a number of changes to the original master plan that eventually included 1,200 energy efficient homes (i.e., more than in the original planning permission), together with a primary school, neighbourhood shops, a country park, playing fields, an interpretation centre and a local centre. Some 22 percent of affordable housing was pepper-potted throughout the site. The key principles guiding the re-design were creating a mix of uses, using adaptable building forms, introducing sustainable drainage and promoting energy efficiency. These principles were written into a series of design guides. Since the entire site was owned by English Partnerships, they were able to insist that all developers followed these design guides and also made section 106 contributions towards the affordable housing, sustainable drainage, public transport, the primary school and other public realm enhancements. The Upton design code is available by going to www.northampton.gov.uk and putting Upton Design Code in the search box.

The final stage in the process involved marketing the site to potential developers. They used a fairly standard two-stage bidding process. Bidders submitted their proposed designs in stage one and, once they had qualified, this was then followed by their financial bid. A Steering Group set the overall policy and direction for the evolving development, while a Working Group handled all ongoing queries. An open dialogue emerged with developers at all stages of the implementation process and continued through until detailed planning permission had been given. By mid-2004 six of the eight sites had been granted detailed planning permission and the local public transport service was in place. So far, 228 housing units have been completed, including 47 affordable units.

Several innovative aspects of the Upton scheme were noted at the meeting. First, the sustainable drainage scheme was impressive. Instead of burying the drainage in pipes, it is carried in swales (wide channels with sloping sides) which have been carefully landscaped. They operate like village streams which capture the surplus water, encourage evaporation and discharge the surplus into the river Nene. The swales encourage wildlife and wild plants which permeate from the river nature reserve into the development. The formal treatment of runoff is supplemented by permeable paving both the base and the paving allows water to permeate through into the underlying strata. Second, the layout encourages walking and places most community facilities within easy walking distance. Another innovation was to make the road in front of the primary school into a private road so that it could be closed to traffic during school hours to enable children to safely use the town square on the other side of the road. Third, many houses have solar water heating, photovoltaic cells on the roof to generate electricity, rainwater harvesting (for toilets, washing machines and gardens), heat recovery ventilation and grey water recycling. Finally, at least one developer had installed clothes lines. Why? Because research had shown that, if you installed them, 70% of homeowners would use them whilst, if you did not, only 30% would install and use them -- a further way of saving energy.

How successful has the Upton experiment been? There were obviously many lessons to be learned, but my own view is that the jury is still out on some of the key features of the development. English Partnerships were a bit ambivalent about how well the present scheme compared in financial terms to the original outline planning permission. They argued that they might have lost some money on the early development sites, but hoped to make up for this on the later ones. The developers likewise argued that the design standards were pushing the affordability limit. They would have chosen smaller houses (1,600 sq ft instead of 2,000 sq ft) and higher densities to make them more affordable. Indeed, they argued that the design standards were too inflexible and sometimes discouraged innovation. Everyone liked the sustainable drainage, but the permeable paving was questionable. The pores soon clog up and then it no longer works. The grey water recycling was also problematical. The water had soap in it and the system soon broke down. Grey water recycling needs a special technology. Finally, the restrictions on parking one car per household were a good idea, but difficult to live with.

Overall, this was an excellent event and everyone who attended went away filled with inspiring ideas that might be applied in their own home-town.

Maximising the value of industrial heritage in historic towns: restoration, regeneration & reuse

Report of the Annual Conference held in Newcastle 17-19 October 2007

In his summary at the end of the conference, Brian Human (Chair) said that it had been wide-ranging and international, demonstrating that this was not a new idea but an ongoing tradition.

The conference began with networking opportunities on Wednesday, and the proceedings were opened on Thursday by Cllr Peter Arnold, Lord Mayor of Newcastle, after which Keith Falconer of English Heritage, looked at the value and relevance of heritage and the benefits of working with English Partnerships and the RDAs, as well as specialist developers, to make the most of opportunities for adventurous change.

Rob Colley, of Drivers Jonas, explained his contribution to 'Heritage Works' and the transition from the original economic use of a building to a new economic use, and the importance of measuring indirect value.

Michael Coupe, representing The Prince's Regeneration Trust, looked at examples of adaptive reuse and the importance of community engagement. This was a theme which was entertainingly demonstrated by Ian Ayris, of Newcastle City Council, with songs and images which portrayed the perceptions of industrial towns, which often needed to be overcome whilst retaining local distinctiveness and the pride of the people living and working with the buildings. Kate Edwards gave a detailed account of a local example of restoration, regeneration & reuse in the development of the Seven Stories national centre for children's books. She explained the practical difficulties which had been overcome through passion and dedication and had achieved both the conservation and enhancement in the Ouseburn Valley.

In the afternoon, delegates were offered guided tours of the local projects, followed by facilitated discussions with the expert speakers. The conference dinner featured a local performance artist and poet, Ira Lightman, well known locally for his work at Spennymoor.

On Friday speakers from Europe and each country in the UK offered examples supporting the theme of the conference. Following Brian Smith's presentation on the INHERIT project which connected Newcastle, Gdansk, Verona and Goteborg, Anders Svensson explained the conversion of an old industrial area in Goteborg. They talked about the key themes of the project: identity and diversity, partnership working and strategic thinking.

The vital cultural associations of the Stephenson Quarter, which had been teased out through extensive research and site analysis, were illustrated by Andy Roberts of Waring & Netts, Architects. He emphasised the importance of working from a strategic overview to the fine detail in order to achieve a successful project. The importance of respecting and recording the past was reiterated by Eleanor McAllister, from Clydebank Rebuilt. Although, she said, people did not want to return to it, but to 'reference heritage' whilst moving forward.

Judith Alfrey, representing CADW, talked about the project to restore industrial workers' housing in South Wales, which offers a very direct route into understanding how people lived. She was able to admit that sometimes compromises had to be made but that local distinctiveness could still be maintained.

From Ireland, Paul McTernan of Colin Buchanan, made a passionate contribution looking at the Irish Industrial Heritage within the context of the new Ireland. Rapid growth and a booming economy had offered little protection for historic buildings, and the impact of short break tourism was driving a consumerist approach. The emergence of good practice could be seen in the Shannon Navigation case study, but many challenges remain.

Brian expressed his thanks to all of the speakers on a fascinating topic and offered those delegates staying on after lunch further guided tours of Newcastle highlights.

Speakers presentations are available here.

Future of the EHTF Chair

A paper was presented to the AGM in Newcastle on 18th October, which had resulted from discussions at the Executive Committee; Brian Human (Chair) summarised this, commenting that the role of the Chair had become increasingly important as the organisation expanded but this was in parallel with the increasing pressures on local authority officers at all levels. Various options had been explored, with their financial implications. The conclusions and recommendations were discussed and the AGM agreed:

To change Section 5 of the Constitution to read: '.. Officers of the Forum will normally be full-time employed staff of local authority members. If the circumstances dictate, the AGM may elect as Chair / Vice Chair an ex-local authority employee of appropriate experience and standing and not currently employed full-time by a commercial organisation.

In the event that the Executive Committee considered that the Chair should receive an honorarium or expenses this will be included in the nomination details to be considered and voted on by the AGM.'