Ebbsfleet Public Realm Strategy
- Meeting of Strategic Environment Cabinet Committee, Tuesday, 19 November 2019 7.30 pm (Item 18.)
- View the declarations of interest for item 18.
The Chair welcomed the Head of Design – EDC to the Committee and reminded everyone to speak clearly when using their microphones.
The Head of Design – EDC gave a detailed presentation to the Committee on the Ebbsfleet Public Realm Strategy; the presentation can be accessed through the below link:
Following the presentation, Members had their questions answered by the Head of Design – EDC:
· A stewardship policy was being discussed by EDC with the ambition of setting up a legacy organisation that will take on the responsibility of the management companies that were responsible for the maintenance of green spaces in non-adopted residential streets for all planned future developments. For the residential streets that have been adopted, EDC were exploring options to take over the maintenance of the green spaces on behalf of KCC
· The EDC employed a professor from Sheffield, who was an expert in the field of sustainable planting, to review the Public Realm Strategy and give advice on the types of trees that would be climate change resilient until 2060. The Strategy factored in the costs of maintenance to all planned trees as well as setting out the different types of trees that would be needed in relation to the different sized streets
· Additionally, the Strategy detailed technical guidance on the below ground maintenance of the root systems of the trees so that they don’t grow out of control after a number of years and cause structural issues in the developments. The extra work to the trees and the roots would increase the upfront capital cost but reduce the future costs of overall maintenance fees
· The issue of using local firms to supply plants and other shrubbery will be taken back to EDC to be discussed so that advice can be given to the developers to source locally although the EDC have very little influence over their direct suppliers
· The evaluation framework was often used when there was a disagreement between the consulting teams and the design teams. A workshop is convened with various teams of different specialists at KCC and scores given across all nine areas as a collective responsibility rather than individual specialisms; that method removed all adversity and allowed for a collaborative approach. If there was a disagreement during the design process then the scoring would be undertaken at the application stage
· The phrase ‘EDC is presenting the Public Realm Strategy to Gravesham Borough Council for endorsement, to maximise the material weighting of the document within the planning system’ meant that, with the endorsement of the relevant local authority and engagement from a public consultation, more weight could be given to the document in the planning decision-making process and be far more likely to achieve the desired outcomes laid out in the framework. Additionally, if the EDC did not have the endorsement of Gravesham Borough Council, then they could be challenged much more easily by developers / landowners within the planning system
· The presentation given was just an executive summary of the official Public Realm Strategy document which was 180 pages long and has been available on the EDCs website since June 2019 in PDF format. As the document was technical in nature, it is intended that the document be split into independent web pages to make it easier to search and comprehend
· The intention was to develop a small complimentary guide setting out to the public how they can engage with the consultation; that is being planned for rollout in February 2020
· There are 2000 homes in the Garden City which are occupied and will be the target of the consultation; the residents were eager to get involved in the development of new homes in the area. Additionally, Dartford, Gravesham and neighbourhood residents groups would also be involved as the neighbouring communities. All of those groups will form the basis of the engagement programme
· The Strategy referenced accessibility for disabled members of the public in best practice standards but didn’t define any specific standards yet. The EDC had started a piece of work on accessibility and a paper will be submitted to the Board setting out what the preferred approach was for accessible design with regards to buildings and spaces. The aim for the future was to have a document that outlined a best practice that was over and above the standard building regulations
The Chair thanked the Head of Design for an informative presentation and urged him to take the following points back to the EDC for consideration:
1. As mentioned previously, the point of the EDC advising developers to source their products such as plants, trees and paving etc locally was essential
2. 65% of the space in the Garden City was classified as public realm or parks so the EDC were urged to continue to develop their community engagement plan to ensure all possible views were considered
3. A plan had to be in place to ensure the management companies that would have responsibility for the maintenance of the public realms were good companies that would listen to residents and not allow all of the green spaces to wither away after ten years
The Head of Design – EDC assured the Chair he would take the first two points back to the EDC and offered a further explanation in relation to the third point:
· The EDC fully recognised the concern over the management companies and that is why the stewardship of the public realms was currently being worked on. The EDC were looking at different models to ensure the green spaces were looked after by a trustworthy management company. One approach being investigated was to develop a trust that had a public governance system built into it that would provide sufficient revenue for the management companies to sustain the maintenance of the facilities for the foreseeable future
The Director (Planning & Development) advised that the Chief Executive of the EDC had given GBC access to the research undertaken by the professor that gave details of sustainable planting in this time of climate change. The plants can be utilised as natural barriers to prevent access in certain areas and enhance access in other areas; the opportunity has been followed up with the Director (Housing & Operations).
The Chair thanked the Head of Design – EDC for his time and information and hoped that he would report the progress of the Strategy back to the Committee in the future.
After a short discussion, on the endorsement of the document as whole or just the principles seen in the presentation, it was agreed that the Strategic Environment Committee would endorse the principles of the Public Realm Strategy.