The design quality of buildings and the spaces around them, often referred to as the public realm, is essential to creating an attractive and sustainable environment. Good design gives an area its character and identity, and can create a sense of place and enhance our feeling of belonging to and respecting an area, providing safe and accessible buildings and spaces for all to enjoy. In essence quality design goes hand in hand with improving our quality of life.
Planning can influence the built environment to reduce obesity and improve the health outcomes of local residents. Local planning authorities can also promote healthier lifestyles by supporting opportunities for communities to access a wide range of healthier food production, influencing consumption choices, including reducing access to less healthy food options, and providing opportunities for increasing physical activity and participation in sport and improving mental wellbeing. A mix of housing types and tenures are also required to provide choice for residents throughout their lives. Moreover, with increasing pressure for new housing developments, and possibly development at higher densities within the town centre and other areas of the Borough, good quality design will become even more important.
There are 14 Conservation Areas in the Borough, six scheduled monuments and numerous listed buildings. These heritage assets contribute to the character of the town and are an important reminder of the town’s history. Our seaside heritage, including the Grade II listed pier are also important components of the tourist economy and play a crucial role in the identity of the town. Local planning authorities have a statutory duty to preserve and enhance the character and appearance of heritage assets. New development has the potential to lead to incremental changes in landscape and townscape character and quality in and around the Borough, but it can also be an opportunity to enhance the setting of heritage assets and better reveal their significance, we should therefore ensure that development has a positive impact on the historic environment.
Current planning policies require good design in all new development. Further detailed guidance and advice on design is set out in the Southend Design and Townscape Guide and the Streetscape Manual, which will be reviewed and updated as part of the local plan process to reflect changing circumstances.
If you would like to find out more on this issue we have prepared a Creating Good Design, Healthy Living and Built Heritage Topic Paper