Core Strategy - Consultation Draft

Delivering Strong and Inclusive Communities

CS12: Achieving High Quality Design and Place-making

CS12: Achieving High Quality Design

Well designed buildings and places

North Somerset Council is committed to achieving high quality buildings and places across all of North Somerset in particular to support comprehensive regeneration at Weston-super-Mare.  High quality architecture and urban design will be sought from development demonstrating a robust design process to generate solutions that have clearly considered the existing context, and contribute to social, economic and environmental sustainability.  As part of a comprehensive place-making strategy new development should function well supporting sustainable land uses and improving image.  Poor design standards in individual buildings and larger schemes are not acceptable.

Proposals of all scales will be required to demonstrate sensitivity to the existing local character already established in an area particularly regarding villages close to growth areas and proposals should take the opportunity to enhance the sense of place and local identity through a well thought out design.  Where the existing design characteristics are not considered of a high quality, new development should actively aim to enhance the area through good design.  Schemes must be based on a thorough site appraisal.

Development proposals should demonstrate a commitment to designing out crime through the creation of safe environments (both private and public) that benefit from natural surveillance, visible streets and open spaces, lighting and other security measures, utilising the principles highlighted within the Home Office Safer Places guidance. Achieving Secured by Design certification will help to demonstrate how designing out crime has been taken into account.


At Weston-super-Mare planning and development should seek to improve the image of the town to support economic regeneration and attract investment to support the employment-led approach to development and address deprivation by contributing to the quality of life through the creation of quality buildings and places.


Development should be phased to ensure enhancement and investment is secured.

Further detail will be set out in other Local Development Documents alongside this strategic policy direction to guide decisions.  Developments should benefit from a rigorous design process in discussion with the local community and the council where appropriate making use of masterplanning, design frameworks and other delivery mechanisms to guide development.

Residential Development

In designing residential developments of 10 or more dwellings the Building for Life Gold standard should be achieved.  Applicants should demonstrate how they meet the criteria of the standard and the granting of planning permission will take into account meeting the stated standard.

This policy contributes towards meeting the objectives of Planning Policy Statement 1: Delivering Sustainable Development.


Planning Policy Statement 1: Delivering Sustainable Development (2005) provides a clear national policy framework for increasing design quality and emphasises the indivisible link between good design and planning. This principle is carried through the North Somerset Local Development Framework with the understanding and premise that delivering additional homes and all other land uses and infrastructure has to be delivered with quality design as a priority if places are to be shaped as sustainable, and socially, economically and environmentally responsive.

The emerging Regional Spatial Strategy emphasises that all development in all locations should be of the highest possible standards of design. This is essential if we are to create places that work well, where people want to live, work and visit. Well designed buildings and places not only provide pleasant environments but they also function better supporting economic, environmental, and social aspects.

Under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, local authorities are required to reduce crime through various strategies. It is recognised that the fear of crime, whether real or perceived, can adversely affect people's quality of life, and affect the choices they make such as whether to walk or drive and where they go for services and facilities. This in turn can affect a wide range of sustainability issues. Policy CS12 reflects the council's priority of making streets and communities safer as set out in the Corporate Plan (2008-2011). Within this priority there is a stated action to help to promote good quality design in new developments to help promote community safety.

High quality design is increasingly linked to sustainable construction practices, and indeed achieving higher levels of sustainability. For example energy efficiency measures are changing the way buildings and places are designed and constructed. Indeed buildings that have been designed to very high environmental standards have a different aesthetic including integrated renewable energy technologies, innovative approaches to passive ventilation and day lighting, and through the use of sustainable building materials and construction techniques. All buildings should be designed to be fit for purpose, and adaptable for long term use to suit changing occupier needs over time. This puts the emphasis on producing buildings that are robust, use quality materials and demonstrate an efficient use of resources. The 'embodied energy' in building materials should also be actively reduced through careful selection of buildings materials.

The Building for Life standard comprises 20 criteria that provide a framework for assessing the quality of new residential and neighbourhood development. To achieve the Gold standard 16 out of the 20 criteria should be answered positively. By comparison a poor scheme would achieve less than 10 criteria. This standard should be used to develop proposals for residential schemes and the council will monitor how many of its permitted schemes achieve certain stated standards of the assessment.

The Core Strategy approach

The policy approach aspires to a step change in the quality of new development including residential environments, recognising its role in place-making and its relationship to how places function, and how people interact with them. It is intended to guide the development and decision making process and applies to all scales of development. It complements specific area-based policies at Weston Town Centre and the Weston Urban Extension and seeks to raise design quality to induce other 'spin-off' benefits including for the economy. This is important in terms of realising regeneration and achieving the required investment, and for the enhancement of Weston as an employment location.

The policy aims to deliver action in conjunction with a range of policy areas covered in this strategy recognising the importance of design in promoting healthy neighbourhoods, contributing to the quality of life, increasing environmental standards, and when applied to larger schemes aims to deliver places that function well, reduce emissions and add value to places.

With regard to designing out crime, the policy applies to all new development from the design of individual property to make it secure and to deter opportunistic crime, to large scale developments, parking areas and public areas. The approach is one of integrating 'designing out crime' principles at an early stage so that they form a key element of creating sustainable development.

New developments are encouraged to achieve Secured by Design accreditation, or demonstrate that the key principles have been taken into account in their design. New development areas will minimise the fear of crime, leading to safer communities.

Men on building site

How and where the policy will be delivered

The strategy is aimed at development of all scales across the district recognising that all developments contribute to the quality of places and people's experience of them. However due to the scale of development and levels of investment being made, it is expected that the Weston urban extension and development at Weston town centre will demonstrate exemplar standards.

At other market and coastal towns and villages throughout North Somerset, development should respond to the local context and enhance the distinct identity demonstrated through a thorough Design and Access Statement. Characterisation work may take place to identify the defining characteristics of places in North Somerset to support decisions on how new developments should enhance. In many places parish plans are invaluable in terms of a source of guidance on character, distinctiveness and local priorities.

The character of an area is created through its landscape, geology, and land uses within, its buildings and spaces (public and private), social and cultural activities, its heritage ingrained into the built and natural fabric, and the qualities that influence people's experience of a place. Local character and distinctiveness may be established through existing building layouts, urban grain, materials, and predominant styles. The recognition, protection and enhancement of these features are essential ingredients in creating environments that provide people with a connection to history and support a social identity.

Proposals for all development other than householder or for a material change of use will be required to demonstrate quality design through a Design and Access Statement including the process of design thinking from concept to final scheme, demonstrating how the design has evolved. The best practice guidance on Design and Access Statements should be viewed which gives further guidance on their role. See Design and Access Statements, how to write read and use them, 2006, CABE.

Urban design

Sound urban design principles should be used to generate schemes that create a quality public, semi-public and private mix of places that are attractive, durable and function well. The layout, density and scale of development should be planned with passive design in mind where orientation, aspect and thermal mass can be optimised to reduce energy demand. For further guidance see the Urban Design Compendium 1 and 2 published by English Partnerships and the Housing Corporation which includes useful case studies.

Developers are encouraged to engage with the local community appropriate to the scale of the development proposed using mechanisms such as Enquiry by Design, in addition to discussing proposals early in the development process with council officers.

Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) prepared for the Weston Urban Extension should set out more detailed design and place-making principles linking to the delivery of wider policy agendas. In addition subsequent DPDs will include more detail on implementing design policy and other SPDs may be prepared if necessary.

Alternative options and contingency planning

There are no alternative options considered for this strategic policy due to its more general application relating to all development across the district, and its fundamental aim of raising the quality of design across all development. There will however be more detailed choices to make in terms of how design policy and standards will be implemented, for example through design coding, design frameworks and masterplanning through Supplementary Planning Documents.  These choices will be explored through SPD process and other Development Plan Documents (DPD) including the Development Management DPD.

Monitoring and Review

  • The number and proportion of total new build completions on housing sites [of at least 10 dwellings] reaching very good, good, average and poor ratings against the Building for Life criteria.
  • Lifetime Homes accreditation
  • Number of buildings receiving architectural awards (e.g. RIBA/RICS)
  • Secured by Design accreditation/ award for buildings and developments.