Design Guide Review: Stratford on Avon

The new Stratford on Avon Design Guide (April 2001) is one of a breed of design guides seeking to take forward recent changes in national policy (PPG3, Places Streets and Movement, By Design, etc.) at the local level.

This version of the Guide, like its predecessor, has an added dimension in the inclusion of what may be considered best practice in urban design. These include the use of morphology both urban and rural and the explicit use of landscape character assessment as a basis for settlement location, layout, type and design. While potentially less accessible than for example the recent Surrey design guide, it does cover the entire gamut of possibilities from district-wide landscape assessment to the appropriate alignment of windows in a new build house.

As with the Surrey guide, it is inspiring to see amongst the first pages of the Stratford example, headings such as 'Fundamental Concerns' listing issues including

1.1 quality and design of the public realm
1.7 highways - a section which directly addresses and explains the implications of cul de sacs and non-hierarchical street layouts
3.3.1 sustainability
3.3.12 adaptability
3.3.16 robustness
3.4.1 settlement as a design resource
4.3.14 fronts and backs
4.3.18 plots and buildings that turn corners
4.5.9 landscape - viewed as an integral part of initial design

Again like the Surrey guide, perhaps the most exciting part is Section 6 Highways, where long-awaited, bold statements on highway design show how far Urban Design has come, for example

6.2.6 the overall design of development should not be led or determined by highway design
6.2.16 streets are to be conceived and designed as multi-functional spaces
6.2.17 kerb lines should relate to and be integrated with surrounding plots, buildings and other features such as trees and open space

There is also consideration of some of the more tricky aspects such as the relationship between design character and innovation, what is understood by 'quality' and so on.

As with other guides, although tempered by the discussion on character and innovation in design mentioned above, this publication uses a referential approach to design where:

9.1.18 'the family of details that should provide the starting point for proposals should be identified by an examination of existing details found in the particular part of the settlement in which the new development is to take place.'

All of the associated illustrations appear to be pre 1900, which begs several questions. What if development were proposed in a contemporary setting, would the details be equally as acceptable? What is the safeguard against the repetition of existing poor, cheaply executed or inappropriate design? What are the guidelines to determine appropriate and non-appropriate design in this context?

Another inspiring part of the document is the complete integration of landscape and vegetation, for example Appendices D and E contains a practical and usable list of appropriate species, mixes and planting information categorised by landscape character.

As with previous editions, this guide comes with 2 A1 sized posters summarising the key points so that the example of Stratford can be ready to hand at any moment.

The Stratford Guide is available in printed form only for £18.00 per copy, from:

John Marshall
Conservation Officer
Stratford upon Avon District Council
Elizabeth House
Church Street
Stratford-upon-Avon
CV37 6HX
Tel: 01789 260327
Email: john.marshall@stratford-dc.gov.uk

Copyright RUDI January 2002