Design review panel set up to advise on quality of designs for the government’s proposed eco-towns

CABE has announced today (10 November 2009) that a special design review panel has been set up to provide expert advice on the quality of designs for the government’s proposed eco-towns.

CABE and BioRegional produced joint guidance in September last year. What makes an eco-town?was inspired by the Challenge Panel and sets out the principles for the agencies involved in developing proposals.

Working with Communities and Local Government (CLG) and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), CABE has set up a dedicated eco-towns review panel to review the proposals for the four designated eco-towns: Whitehill-Bordon in Hampshire; Rackheath in Norfolk; North-West Bicester in Oxfordshire; and St Austell in Cornwall. CABE will provide design advice to the relevant local authority.

The specialist panel brings together a vast wealth of expertise and experience. It will be chaired by Sunand Prasad, former RIBA president, with CABE commissioner Richard Cass as vice chair. Other members include: Chris Twinn, director at Arup and co-founder of the company’s sustainability group in building engineering; Bill Gething of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios; Peter Studdert, director of joint planning at South Cambridgeshire District Council; masterplanner and urban designer Jon Rowland; and architect Gerard Maccreanor of Maccreanor Lavington.

Sunand Prasad, chair of the panel, comments: “The eco-town programme is all about learning by trying out sustainable, low carbon planning and design solutions that are more difficult and time consuming to try out in heavily constrained existing settlements. However, the ultimate point of this learning is to find solutions that we can apply widely. A successful eco-town will be a place where people want to live, not just one that ticks the boxes.”

Other panel members have been drawn from the Eco-towns Challenge Panel and include Sir Peter Hall, president of the Town and Country Planning Association, and Sue Riddlestone, director of BioRegional Development Group. Members bring broad expertise including on: landscape; green energy; transport; biodiversity; sustainability; planning; urban design; masterplanning; and architecture.

The reviews will be part of CABE’s national design review programme, but form part of a specially designated eco-town panel which will comment on the specific issues involved in eco-town designs. The panel will apply its specialist knowledge to examine the urban developments in a broad way; they will be looking for schemes that demonstrate that the towns will be coherent, enduring and high-quality places to live, while also achieving exemplary standards of sustainability and environmental responsiveness.

Diane Haigh, director of design review at CABE, said: “We look forward to seeing design proposals that give form to the whole proposition of an eco-town in the UK context. It is in the public interest that these schemes should be reviewed by CABE’s independent panel - if they can convince this array of experts, they should stand every chance of achieving their aims when finally developed.”

The panel’s first review will be on 2 December 2009.

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