Design for Gravesham
The Committee was presented with a report that provided them with an update on the development of the borough wide design code, Design for Gravesham.
The Assistant Director (Strategic Regeneration) took Members through the report which summarised the background to the project, stakeholder engagement to date, the emerging, draft vision and principles of the document prepared by place-making specialists Levitt Bernstein and the associated next steps in the document becoming a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), subject to approval of Cabinet.
The Associate Director and Senior Architect from Levitt Bernstein delivered a presentation explaining further details about the design code and its impact on Gravesham; the presentation was included within the agenda and could be accessed through the below link:
The Chair added that elected Members from both political parties attended the first two stages of consultation for the design code and robust discussions were had on the subject between Members and the public.
The Chair stated that the Assistant Director (Strategic Regeneration) had brought along two hard copies of the emerging draft of a summary document for Members to review. The Chair assured Members that they would each receive a hard copy of this document. The Assistant Director (Strategic Regeneration) explained that the draft document presented at the Committee tonight, described the emerging vision and principles for the code and included an example page of one of the key elements from each principle.
The Chair reminded Members that the document was still in its draft form and further changes would be made to respond to the second stage of stakeholder engagement.
Following questions and comments from Members, the Associate Director and Senior Architect from Levitt Bernstein explained that:
· Design for Gravesham is a borough wide design code. It is a once in a ten-year opportunity to steward community and place led regeneration by creating a Policy document that sets out Gravesham’s expectations for high quality and sustainable regeneration and development that delivers holistically for people and place in Gravesham - responding to the needs of Gravesham’s diverse community and the borough’s unique identifies, places, towns, villages and neighbourhoods. The Design Code will be adopted as a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), subject to approval of Cabinet. The document will then be used by planning officers in the assessment of planning applications. The development of a borough wide design code responds to the government’s Regeneration and Levelling Up bill, which at time of drafting, is in the reporting stage in the House of Lords.
· The national model design code and its principles were considered and used as a model for the design code for Gravesham, but Gravesham’s code is unique to the area and the vision and principles have been drafted in response to engagement with the community. The Assistant Director (Strategic Regeneration) added that the latest draft of the document referenced the national design code and how it was used to assist in creating the design code for Gravesham.
· LB noted that the design code was borough wide and instead of highlighting specific sites or areas for development, it focused on an all-encompassing list of ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’ for proposed development/regeneration to respond to.
· A design code specialist had been engaged in the development of the latest code; he gave Levitt Bernstein helpful feedback, mainly around increasing the clarity and conciseness of the message that was being conveyed, which has been incorporated into the document.
· One of the common themes throughout the engagement phase was a desire to improve access to the riverside; the public enjoyed going to the prom and the surrounding riverside but access to the area via cycling or walking wasn’t as good as via car. LB noted that the draft design code responds to this. Discussion had also been held with KCC about improving active travel and the public realm for walkers and cyclists. The Chair added that the document shouldn’t be seen as a ‘war on cars’ but until the cost elements of public transport was regulated better it was important to ensure mixed modes of transport including cycling and walking were available to residents in Gravesham
· Levitt Bernstein had taken into consideration the Roger Scruton Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission and the place making strategies underpinned the main document; the main draft document referenced place narrative, topography and landscape which all fed into the bigger ideas for the borough. The Assistant Director (Strategic Regeneration) added that the design code would support holistic regeneration that would respond to local needs and support a rich mix of opportunities to enhance quality of life and livelihoods, place and environment.
· The Chair advised that it didn’t matter if the developers had their own design code as they would still have to review Gravesham’s design code and factor that into the process when creating the overall design of a development. Developers having access to the design code early on would ensure the development was created, from the start, with Gravesham’s requirements in mind.
A number of comments were raised by the Committee:
- Under ‘Emerging Vison’, the map should include reference to the Mosque and amend ‘Culture’ to ‘Culture and Religion.’
- Under ‘Design Principles’, it lists ‘lighting’ under ‘Public Space’ but further reference was needed as to how the development would be made more secure as that was a key priority for women and young girls walking around the Town at night
- Overall, the document didn’t feel like ‘Gravesend’; some Members felt it had been created with a ‘London lens’ as it was apartment heavy, and tree lined streets had not been referenced.
- The presentation lacked any references to beauty, placemaking, the provision to ensure developments reflected the local character of the borough or what made Gravesham unique.
In response to Members comment, Levitt Bernstein agreed to review and amend the map and consider how the design code can be strengthened to draw out further the unique character of Gravesham.
The Assistant Director (Strategic Regeneration) thanked Members for their feedback and advised that the Gravesham layer was incredibly important and this would be further strengthened in the draft code. He also highlighted that the community engagement undertaken had themed the emerging vision and principles and further engagement was planned. The draft code references throughout the heritage of the borough, the Prom and riverside open spaces, alongside its historic town and characterful Kentish villages.
Regarding security of new developments, the Code would work in tangent with Secured by Design (SBD), which is an official police security initiative that worked to improve the security of buildings and their immediate surroundings to provide safe places to live, work, shop and visit.
In reference to a concern regarding the lack of reference in the presentation to beauty and preservation of local character in the Borough, the Chair explained that all of the necessary references were in the main draft document however the document was vast and it had been condensed for the presentation. The Chair assured Members that the Council had listened to residents and what people wanted. The ultimate goal of the code was to ensure that it represented Gravesham and its interests with regards to sustainable development that reflected the character of the borough; Levitt Bernstein was partly chosen (as the specialist developers of the code), as they recognised that Gravesham was a collection of unique places with a rich heritage that needed to be considered within the code.
Concern was raised by a Member that the Committee were being asked to comment on a document which excluded vital information from the main draft document, but the Chair assured the Committee that they would all have access to the main document in due course as part of the planned consultation later this year.
In response to concern raised by a Member, the Chair assured the Committee that the design code would be a decision by Cabinet and therefore be open to being called in by the Overview Scrutiny Committee for review; it would not be dealt with by emergency provisions and be open to scrutiny and discussion. Due to the Committee cycle, it might not be possible to bring the next draft of the document to the Strategic Environment Cabinet Committee in November 2023. However, all Members would be able to feed in further comments on the design code during stage three of the constitution which would run for a period of four weeks and start later this year.
The Senior Architect, Levitt Bernstein assured Members that all public feedback had been noted including the feedback that had been left on social media posts rather than the actual survey. An executive summary document had been created which amalgamated all of the public responses during stage two of the consultation.
The Chair concluded the item and advised Members that the relevant documents and links would be circulate outside of the meeting and they would attempt to get the next draft version of the document submitted to the Committee in November 2023.
Members noted the draft document.
- SE Cabinet Committee_25 Sept 2023_DesignforGraveshamupdate_version1.3, item 6. PDF 284 KB
- 230914_Design for Gravesham_SECC Presentation_low res, item 6. PDF 10 MB