Walk and Talk with the Architect

This event took place on  3 November 2018, led by Ben Woodings BA (Hons) Arch, Grad Dip Arch, of Chaplin Ferrant Architects.  23 people attended the event (some for part of the time).

Ben began with personal comments based on his observations from the morning walk around the village: a compact village, no ribbon development, good quality boundaries and low level roof lines. Densely occupied.  The Marsh Lane terraced development was generally regarded as successful ; the garage site controversial (though constructed with good materials).   Also noted that the in-filling of the 1960s and 1970s had not been of such good quality.

Quality issues particularly in relation to UPVC window: in previous years UPVC had been rather chunky but plastic windows were now available with more slender profiles.  Timber might be regarded as preferable but there was more choice.  Ben confirmed that, contrary to expectation, UPVC was recycled.

We learnt some useful information about the current planning process in Breckland.  Noted that the Council’s activities were mostly outsourced to CAPITA thus potentially reducing (or diluting) awareness of local preferences, history and design.  Local Parish Councils therefore had a more significant role to play in determining the suitability of planning proposals for their community.  And, since Council officials were overloaded, planners would welcome a community’s design guide in a Neighbourhood Plan.

There was a lengthy discussion on quality.  Ensuring high quality is not just about materials and detailing but is all encompassing.  Aspects such as how buildings are situated or arranged on site, their mass, shape and style etc are equally important.  Even how well windows are arranged and proportioned is important in a good quality scheme.   New building design should not have an adverse effect on neighbouring properties through poor design and inappropriate scale.

Action points:

  • Ben suggested that the Neighbourhood Plan might put together a palette of acceptable features such as boundary features, hedges, walls (rather than close boarded fencing) and parking. Other features to consider included electric charging points and bin storage.
  • The Parish Council could be provided with a tick list of key criteria (say 4-6 issues) which might be applied to planning applications. These could include:
    • Have the developers discussed this application with the community, with neighbours and with the PC?
    • Does it meet high standards of design and quality, especially when near listed buildings?
    • Is there adequate parking?
    • Other?
  • The PC should have scrutiny of any suggested design changes during the planning process
  • North Norfolk design guide to development is particularly well written:
  • Blofield parking policy

What we liked in the village:

  • Hedges, traditional material walls, boundary fences (e.g. ironwork around Brewsters)
  • Compactness
  • Marsh Lane brick and flint faced terrace
  • Materials used in old garage site especially uPVC windows (not necessarily visual impact of whole development
  • Some new developments are high quality

What was not liked in the village

  • Anonymous design of some new houses (could be anywhere)
  • No place for bins in some new houses, poor parking provision