20 Mar 2018
To quote my colleague Dominic Smith in his recent blog about the Language of Public Consultation:
Consultation and engagement with local communities plays an ever increasing role in the planning system and the preparation of planning applications
As part of Lichfields’ graphic design team, I produce quality consultation materials for face to face and digital events every day.
The use of high quality technical drawings and 3D renders of a proposed scheme helps to bring a scheme to life. However, they can be difficult to interpret for those who aren’t used to reading them. It’s therefore important that we explore other ways of engaging with stakeholders and communities to ‘put them at the heart’ of the scheme they are reviewing. Here are some ways in which this can be done:
Historically, whilst extremely helpful, cost and time have been barriers to supplying hand-made scale models for consultation use. In recent years, the growth in 3D printing (which has been compared to the second industrial revolution) has seen a rise in businesses using 3D printing as a tool to produce models easier, faster and cheaper. See my blog 3D Printing in construction, health and manufacturing for further detail. Scale models give you the freedom to walk around a project, pick up individual elements and to view it from any angle. By using 3D printing, models are now far easier to produce accurately and economically to engage more widely in the planning process.
Considering the size and materials
The variation of materials that can be used to create objects in 3D printers are as wide and varied as the objects they can produce. As such it is very difficult to state set costs as there are a number of variables. Plastics are by far the most commonly used material for smaller objects but more robust materials such as metals are used when the object is larger. I have created the below animation which summarises the considerations for sizes and materials. While this blog has focused on creating more solid, architectural models, 3D printers can also be used to print organic materials such as food or even replacement organs or bodyparts.
VR & AR – The virtual is now an affordable reality.
There are two ways to access the virtual world.
There is the ‘Ready Player One’ method (or Virtual Reality – VR) which was at first developed for the gaming industry and involves putting on a pair of goggles to give you an immersive 360 degree experience inhabiting that world. VR production company ReWind was an early adopter of VR as a public consultation tool back in 2015 by using it to create a virtual tour of Furze Croft in Weybridge, a property that boasted former residents Tom Jones, John Terry and Elton John. Attendees of the Masterpiece Fair in London experienced a 360 degree VR tour of the building.
The second format is Augmented Reality (AR),which, rather than inhabiting a virtual world, allows the virtual image to be overlaid on top of the normal world by looking through a virtual window. The most famous version of this tech to date is Pokemon Go (ask your children!).
Lichfields is at the forefront of creating high quality materials for use at public consultation and engagement events. However, a developments’ benefits lie beyond statistics. These new technologies have the potential to impact hugely on the property industry and in the case of AR to also make the consultation process more accessible by reaching those unable to attend an event in person. In addition to exploring new technologies, we provide a full event design and digital service to our clients. I, for one, am excited to see where these technologies take us.
Header image: © Generation 3D | A 3D printed model of Birmingham City Centre
16 Mar 2018
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), consulted on in 2011 and published in 2012, came as the UK economy was emerging from the deepest recession in a generation. Today, that period of recession continues to cast a long shadow in terms of impact on the public finances and productivity levels, and is now complicated by the economic uncertainties created by Brexit. In his Spring Statement earlier this week, the Chancellor Philip Hammond summed up that there is “light at the end of the tunnel”, but the latest Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts point to a prolonged period of somewhat sluggish growth ahead (see Lichfields’ analysis).
In that context, the Government has chosen to make limited substantive change in terms of directing planning policy for the economy and business through its recently published draft NPPF. An “economic objective” remains the first overarching objective of the planning system (paragraph 8, point a). However, the wording has been broadened to expressly refer to the need to, “support growth, innovation and improved productivity” (emphasis added). Productivity is a concept rarely explored in any great detail in plan-making or decision-taking, but the added emphasis seems appropriate given the national imperative on the issue.
In line with the draft NPPF’s new structure, economic considerations (including the rural economy) now have their own chapter (6). In the current NPPF, “building a strong, competitive economy” is the first element of delivering sustainable development – tellingly, it now follows the chapter on delivering a sufficient supply of homes. In terms of content, however, the wording of the draft chapter looks familiar when compared to paragraphs 18-22 of the current NPPF. In line with the wider amendments to the current NPPF, the text has been reduced and simplified.
The widely-cited line that the planning system should do, “everything it can to support sustainable economic growth” (paragraph 21 of the current NPPF) disappears, but the general direction – and note the further reference to productivity – remains clear:
“Significant weight should be placed on the need to support economic growth and productivity, taking into account local business needs and wider opportunities for development.” (paragraph 82)
Also notable is the specific reference to the Government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper. This is not surprising, and is sensible; as written in an earlier blog, Government very much sees the Strategy as cutting across all areas of policy-making. In the same vein, planning policies should now have regard to Local Industrial Strategies (paragraph 83, point a). The Industrial Strategy, and how it is manifested locally, is therefore set to become more influential in plan-making and a potential material consideration. Local authorities and sub-regions will therefore want to be proactive in bringing forward Local Industrial Strategies not only to help realise growth opportunities in their area but also given the weight they might carry in making future planning decisions.
On employment land more specifically, the NPPF currently states that, “planning policies should avoid the long term protection of sites allocated for employment use where there is no reasonable prospect of a site being used for that purpose” (paragraph 22). This no longer appears in the economy chapter, but now features in expanded form in chapter 11 on “making effective use of land”. The sentiment is largely the same but the test has been sharpened: regular reviews of allocations are required and, even prior to plan reviews, applications for alternative uses should be supported where unmet needs for development could be provided for. Furthermore, in “areas of high housing demand”, the use of existing employment (and retail) land for homes is supported where this does not “undermine key economic sectors or sites”.
Taken overall, the draft NPPF looks very much like ‘business as usual’ when it comes to planning for the economy – there’s little in the way of new detail or prescription. As they start to come forward, Local Industrial Strategies will need to give consideration to how local plans can help deliver wider economic objectives, particularly improving productivity. The Government appears to view employment land as something of a sacrificial lamb in the quest to meet housing needs (in contrast with the much stronger policies to protect employment land proposed in the draft London Plan, as detailed in recent research by Lichfields). It’s also less clear how well the approach proposed nationally sits with the Government’s clearly stated intentions to support economic growth and productivity.
Ultimately, local authorities will need up-to-date and more comprehensive evidence to inform their judgments about the need for, and relative importance of, the employment land in their areas, particularly in the face of added pressure for release to other uses. Economic evidence looks set to remain key to planning decision-taking.
See our other blogs in this series:
National Planning Policy Framework review: what to expect?
Draft revised National Planning Policy Framework: a change in narrative
NPPF consultation proposals – what could they mean for town centres?
NPPF consultations – what could they mean for designers?
Draft NPPF: heritage policy is conserved…
Draft NPPF: implications for aviation?
Lichfields will publish further analysis of the consultation on the draft revised NPPF and its implications. Click here to subscribe for updates.