Planning matters blog | Lichfields

Planning matters

Our award winning blog gives a fresh perspective on the latest trends in planning and development.

Lessons for the future

Andrew Darby 24 Jun 2022
Town planning was a very new discipline when Lichfields was established in 1962 - and schools were a whole lot different. Celebrating our 60th birthday in 2022, these days the education sector is a key area of expertise for Lichfields; helping to create places for future generations to learn, as well as places to live. From advising schools, colleges and universities, and managing major new academic, residential and sport developments, we have guided a range of education projects through the planning system - the requirements of which have changed a lot over the past six decades. Gone are the cold corridors, crammed classrooms and tarmac playgrounds, and in are 4G pitches, PV solar panels and rain gardens. As the UK’s post-war schools reach the end of their lifespan, we are now planning the schools of the future, working with contractors like Bam Construction on various new buildings under the Department for Education’s ‘School Rebuilding Programme’ (‘SRP’). Image credit: Ryder Architecture / Render 3D Each school responds to a range of requirements outlined by DfE, creating a learning environment that meet the demands of the current education system, but which flexes and adapts to future teaching methods and an ever-changing curriculum. Increasingly critical to these projects has been a focus on delivering buildings that are sustainable and which address the challenges of the climate emergency. DfE’s Sustainability Annexe outlines the sustainability criteria, required to secure the necessary funding for the replacement of eligible buildings with new schools for the future. Working with architects such as Ryder, recent projects have embraced a range of cutting-edge building technologies, including:   Meeting minimum standards for daylight, assessed through climate-based daylight modelling, to provide a high-quality internal environment and minimise the use of artificial light;  Mitigating overheating risk in warmer seasons and minimising heat loss during colder seasons through the optimisation of glazing area, shading, glass performance and window layout;  Maximising airtightness and levels of insulation to minimise heat loss;  Providing sufficient natural ventilation to mitigate overheating in warmer seasons, and allow for sufficient air changes in cool seasons whilst not resulting in excessive heat loss and in turn the need to heat spaces, through the provision of opening windows and / or louvres and heat recovery ventilation units;  Mitigating the risk of glare and ensure that natural ventilation systems can operate when shading devices such as blinds are in use;  Providing a roof with integrated photovoltaic cells which requires the roof to be of a flat roof construction rather than pitches.   Our latest project - Whitley Bay High School   Image credit: Ryder Architecture / Render 3D Working with BAM Construction - our latest and sixth future school project at Whitley Bay High School, we worked within the DfE’s specification and the scheme was granted planning permission by North Tyneside Council in March 2022. The school will incorporate photovoltaic panels, air source heat pumps and hybrid ventilation, as well as a range of energy efficient technology, such as hybrid ventilation and heat recovery; low energy LED lighting; and maximised use of natural light. With programming always critical to the delivery of education projects, the project was approved well within the timescales required to ensure a start on site by the DfE’s target date.   Image credit: Ryder Architecture / Render 3D   Put your hand up! Lichfields has built an enviable track record assisting in the delivery of school projects, and look forward to another 60 years of creating high quality learning environments for future generations! If you require advice on a similar project, please get in touch and we will be be happy to help.  


Moving on up? Levelling-up town centres across Northern England
It has, without question, been a challenging year for our town and city centres. As the global pandemic continues and lockdowns come and go, a raft of the nation’s most famous retailers have disappeared from high streets across the country. As in the rest of the developed world, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a ‘game changer’ for the sector. With the growth in online shopping over the last decade or so, most centres had already devised strategies based on re-focusing their offer away from retailing and toward a leisure and food and beverage-based offer. However, successive lockdowns have acted as a catalyst in speeding up changes in shopping behaviour, and impacted directly on the leisure and hospitality sector to the extent that it is now quite unclear how centres will function as restrictions ease. In the North of England, our town and city centres have suffered more than most in recent years. While Covid-19 has sped up the process of change, even prior to the pandemic many centres were already experiencing major challenges due to both changes in shopping behaviour and weak underlying economic conditions. The Government’s Levelling Up Fund Prospectus, published in March 2021, identifies a total of £4.8 billion to be invested over the coming years to support town centre and high street regeneration, local transport projects, and cultural and heritage assets across the country. In addition to the Levelling Up Fund, as part of the Government’s wider package of interventions, there are three key funding streams, which have already seen a great deal of uptake across the North: Future High Streets Fund – This fund seeks to allocate £830 million to help deliver transformative changes to struggling high streets; Towns Fund – 100 cities, towns and areas have been invited to bid for part of this £3.6 billion fund designed for proposals which drive economic growth. In many places, town centres are integral to these schemes; and High Street Heritage Action Zones – Seeking to transform High Street buildings which can help to fuel economic, social and cultural recovery. Town centre stakeholders are responding with a range of radical and ambitious projects. These include strategic interventions by local authorities, including through the acquisition of shopping centres and use of Compulsory Purchase Order powers. With innovative and ambitious strategies now in place in many towns – and Government funding available to support delivery - there are grounds for optimism over the future of our town centres. Lichfields’ Insight, ‘Moving on up? Levelling up Town Centres across Northern England’, reviews the various different funding bids currently under consideration. Using this research, we have identified six key themes which underpin the different plans and strategies currently under consideration. These are: Health and Wellbeing - With the demise of retail, we need to find a reason to draw visitors into town centres. As well as more pleasant and healthy outdoor spaces and experiences, this could also involve locating other essential services close to transport hubs where they can help to maintain footfall. Education - Universities and colleges have long been key parts of daily life in our city centres. Opportunities exist to locate student populations in the heart of these centres, where they can contribute to vitality and viability. Tourism - Many of the North’s town and cities have fascinating visitor attractions and dramatic physical and geographical environs. An ambitious and coherent tourism strategy should seek to make the most of these unique assets to drive trips to their town centres. Heritage - The North has a rich and varied history, the remnants of which live on in many of our town and city centres. They can make a real contribution to the environment and attractiveness of these towns as visitor destinations. Digital and creative - Whilst retail may never return to its previous levels, flexibility is required to re-purpose the floorspace left behind by these vacancies. Utilising new funding streams and planning reforms, space should be made to accommodate innovative small businesses which will contribute to the vibrancy and culture of town centres. Town centre living - As retail space recedes, we need to ensure our town centres remain attractive places to live. As well as making an invaluable contribution to housing supply in our urban areas, maintaining a meaningful 24-hour population in town centres will in turn drive demand for services and facilities which contribute to the vitality and viability of the centres. With these themes in mind, our Insight provides evidence across the North of innovation, optimism and ambition in the town centre sector, which means the future may not be as bleak as many sceptics would have you believe.