Our selection as a “Design Code Pathfinder” brings with it £30,000. Not much as such things go but a help. A design code is probably most use where there is new development expected as it can specify many aspects of what is to be built. The Steering Group spent a lot of time considering what have the most impact in our Neighbourhood Area and what was doable with the resources available.
The London Plan picks out Finsbury Park as an area where housing development is desirable and Islington and Haringey have “site allocations” in the area around the transport hub. (A site allocation is planning-speak for a site where the planning department feel a particular development is desirable/likely to be approved. It does not mean that anything will happen unless a developer comes forward.)
The Steering Group decided that we would attempt a Design Code for the area around the station (see our Project Plan as submitted to Department for Levelling Up, Homes and Communities (DLUHC)). It would be part of the eventual Neighbourhood Plan that will cover our whole Neighbourhood Area.
Our design code may specify provision of green spaces, shop fronts, aspects of pedestrian, cyclist, and traffic movement – the public realm in other words. We cannot prevent tall buildings but can influence the layout perhaps. The new spaces around City North are not inspired with uninteresting facades, dead frontages and something of a wind tunnel. We would hope that our design code will make future developments pleasanter and better contributions to the area.
We are employing Imagine Places (www.imagineplaces.co.uk) as our consultants for the preparation of the design code. They are very experienced with neighbourhood planning and design codes.
A good design code has to reflect what the community wants. Similarly a neighbourhood plan must arise from local views and opinions. This means lots of engagement. We have already had an online general questionnaire (thanks to the 142 people who have filled it in! – we are now analysing and summarising the replies). More specific questions will lead to further rounds of consultation.
On 29th July (later this month) we will have a stand outside the Station Forecourt (Station Place) in the afternoon and will start getting people’s opinions about the station area. We have noted a number of responses to the questionnaire highlight how unpleasant the area around the station and particularly under the railway bridges is.
This session will be followed by workshops for 50-100 people to allow a detailed discussion of our thoughts for the area around the station. A central, affordable and accessible venue is important. We have a couple of ideas and welcome suggestions.
The DLUHC see design codes as being a central part of a revised planning system. A code sets out rules that must be followed. They ran an initial pilot in 2021 involving 14 planning projects. The pathfinders is a second pilot with 25 participants: of these 21 are local authorities and 4 are neighbourhood forums (we are the only central London one: South Woodford are a bit further out). DLUHC are not used to dealing with voluntary organisations where members are not available during office hours as they have jobs. They are gradually getting more flexible.
We hope that being part of a National pilot programme will give us a bit more clout to get more co-operation from agencies like TfL and Network Rail that have an important involvement with our area.