Scotland can lead the world with visionary approach to planning
SEBASTIAN TOMBS, Architecture and Design Scotland
THE buildings and developments around us have a profound and enduring effect on our quality of life, reflecting the kind of society we are, and the kind of society we aspire to be. And the huge success of TV programmes like Restoration and Grand Designs underlines how much people care about this issue.
Integral to the delivery of this vision is the planning process shaping our communities, but we face new challenges to our planning system today. And it is vital that the planning system rises to address these challenges: global warming, the global economy, a technological revolution and the evolving needs – including for homes and green power – of a green and growing country.
This is about reaffirming the central role of planning in shaping all our communities, while recognising that communities have a vital role in shaping their environment – and building on the inheritance of our shared past, a heritage to be proud of.
The challenge of climate change means that new homes, jobs and infrastructure need to be planned in ways that cut carbon emissions, delivering a low-carbon economy. Climate change shouldn't be an add-on, but an integral part of the way we develop our communities. However, the experience of both Architecture and Design Scotland, and of the Commission for Architecture and Built Environment in England, is that, of the hundreds of planned construction projects that have been completed in the UK over the last two years, only a very small proportion of them made sustainability a priority and addressed the climate change threat.
In addressing this challenge, planning should deliver the right development in the right place, with sustainable transport, encouraging greater use of local renewable or low-carbon energy sources.
And it is vital that our planning system supports high-quality design. Good design is not simply a matter of style and taste. It is the creation of successful and sustainable buildings and places through an understanding of location, context and the intelligent and creative synthesis of a number of often conflicting requirements.
If we are to operate in a healthy living environment, we have to integrate green credentials into the design of our buildings and settlements and make it as important as every other step of the planning process, ensuring a radical redesign of our built environment to tackle climate change. People deserve homes, offices and public spaces that are beautiful and respect their surroundings, and, as we look to a Scottish Government target of, by 2015, building 35,000 new homes each year, good design has never been more important – in the long term we will be judged not by the quantity, but by the quality.
The best design is a catalyst for investment – a symbol of civic pride. There is a clear opportunity to make new buildings around us – from homes, to schools, to bus stops – inspiring as well as functional. And Scotland is well placed in this sphere, with a wealth of visionary buildings: one only has to look at some of the recent winners of the Royal Institute of British Architects Awards in Scotland – the Pier Arts Centre in Orkney, the Castlemilk Stables in Glasgow and Todlaw Supported Housing in Duns, for example.
We need to enmesh that kind of vision into the planning system, to encourage the development community to rise to the challenge by creating buildings and places which invest in the future, and of which the nation can be proud. Scotland should aim to be a beacon for the rest of the world in terms of ambition and quality of design across all our communities.
The Planning Act heralds a new dawn in planning, and, indeed, it is taking steps towards making the planning process quicker and more inclusive, with a greater focus on pre-application consultation and partnership between developers and communities. Improving people's lives through good-quality design and place-making will play a key role in this, shaping communities and our society for generations to come.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
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