rory pushes for citizens to have greater role in designing housing developments

In a speech to a Cumbria housing conference, on 18th February, Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and the Border called for communities to be included much earlier in plans for housing development. He argued that citizens should be able to help determine the look and lay-out, and locations of  houses in the area. He was joined on stage by Mark Greaves, an architect from the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community. The joint presentation was made to local council planners, developers, housing associations, and residents at the Growth and Opportunity Conference held by the Eden Community Housing Advisory Board. And it had been inspired by the Prince of Wales’ visit to Wigton last year.

The Prince’s architect, Mark Greaves showed slides from two very different projects – Knockroon in Ayrshire and Poundbury in Dorset – to explain how communities were deeply involved from the beginning in the planning process and end design. Whilst the model of “enquiry by design” can mean a longer initial consultation phase, it typically leads to fewer objections and appeals later on in the development process.  The MP asked planners to pilot a similar approach in Cumbria, when considering large scale housing developments. He recommended that they approach communities before any designs have been agreed, and sit down with ‘a blank sheet of paper”, and devote at least a week, of intense discussion, to drawing ideas, and suggestions out of the community, on how they would like the development to look and operate.

Speaking at the event, Rory said: “We already have fantastic examples of what can be achieved when local communities are put in the driving seat of their local housing initiatives – be it the affordable housing model in Crosby Ravensworth or the Neighbourhood Plan in Upper Eden. The “Enquiry by Design” model championed by the Prince’s Foundation, offers yet another opportunity for community engagement in this process. It is fantastic that, following Prince Charles’ visit last year to Wigton, we have been given an opportunity to learn more about his Foundation’s approach to planning. And it was great  to see local councils and planning authorities expressing an interest in this model and recognising the value of more extensive community engagement in any new development project. I very much hope that, with council support, we could now put this model into practice.”


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