Architecture for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty:
what kinds of buildings look right on the Roseland?
Introduction by Helen Hastings, Friends of Pendower Beach
Kath Statham, landscape architect, a member of Cornwall Council’s public space team and a specialist in landscape character assessment.
Paul Holden, architectural historian and chairman of the Cornish Buildings Group
Tim Hancock, chartered architect, current RIBA South West chair and a regular member of the Cornwall Council Design Review Panel.
Question and answer session.
Brief update on the Roseland neighbourhood plan by Jon Smith, chairman of the Roseland Plan Steering Group
Introduction by Helen Hastings, Chair.
I know you’ve come to hear what our very interesting panel of speakers have to say, so my own remarks will be brief. By way of introduction I want to say a few words about Friends of Pendower, our ethos and how it relates to what we’ve been doing, above all how it relates to neighbourhood planning.
Our constitution states that our objectives are ‘to promote for the benefit of the public the conservation protection and improvement of the physical and natural environment of Pendower Beach and its environs designated as part of the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’.
Most of you will know of our activities in 2011 to influence the future development of the Pink Hotel and of the work we’ve been doing this year to limit the extent of development of the Nare Hotel. The Nare application in particular has involved a great deal of hard work.
But to think that our objective is to stop two individual applications would, I believe, be to misunderstand what we’re about. If we are to take our constitution seriously, I believe there are three aspects that must take priority:
First, we must understand fully what policies exist to protect our Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which includes Pendower Beach. So we have to trawl through documents like the National Planning Policy Framework, or ask our friends and advisors for help in understanding them.
Second, we must do our best to make sure that the policies are implemented. This is where it gets complicated and political, because of the power held by other institutions: local government and business. These organisations have agendas which, needless to say, don’t prioritise protection of the landscape. It sometimes seems to me that certain developers think of policy as a little local inconvenience to be circumnavigated or ignored. They know that if they can get one application through it will provide a justification for the next. This is why, in my view, every single application which ignores landscape policy must be fought, whether it’s a hotel on Pendower or a housing development in St Mawes. We can’t afford to say ‘it doesn’t matter if we just let this one through’.
Peter Mansfield, then chairman of the Cornwall AONB Partnership, who is here today, said memorably at the AONB forum in March: “The policy has never been more encouraging, but the decisions have never been more depressing”
But before we get too depressed, the third aspect, as I see it, lies in the word ‘improvement’ specified in our constitution. This is where neighbourhood planning comes in. I believe it’s a unique opportunity to strengthen policy and its implementation at local level. The Roseland Neighbourhood Plan, once it comes into force, will be a ‘material consideration’ which all planning decisions on the Roseland must recognise. If not we will want to know why. The Plan’s strength lies in the fact that it truly reflects the views of local people, not one vested interest or another, but everyone who lives here. So it’s vitally important that everyone fills in the questionnaires which you’ll shortly be getting, to make sure that their voice is heard.
Already in preliminary interviews and responses for the Roseland Plan, local people have stressed how important the landscape of the Roseland is to them. Buildings form an essential part of that landscape, but what kinds of buildings do we want to see? This is where consensus fragments into many different opinions. Perhaps however the discussion we’re about to have will give us some solid information on which to base our opinions, to help us when it comes to completing the Neighbourhood plan questionnaires.
SPEAKERS’ BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES
Kath is one of a team of Chartered Landscape Architects working in the Public Space Team, part of the Environment Service of Cornwall Council.
She moved to Cornwall in 1994 having previously worked in local government in Worcestershire and has held a number of varied positions over the last 19 years. Initially employed to design and implement landscaping schemes in open spaces across Cornwall, she went on to manage the Mineral Tramways Heritage Project, a £6 million scheme to conserve engine houses, mine shafts and create 28km of multi use trails around central Cornwall.
Over the last five years she has concentrated on more strategic landscape architecture promoting landscape character assessment and encouraging positive planning for future development where the rural landscape adds value to proposed developments.
Here is a link to her presentation
PAUL HOLDEN, FSA.
Paul is House and Collections Manager for the National Trust at Lanhydrock. As an architectural historian he has published in numerous scholarly journals and is a regular contributor to Country Life magazine and the Georgian Group Journal. Paul has published two books, The Lanhydrock Atlas and The London Letters of Samuel Moluneux 1712-13 and is currently writing a book on the country houses of Cornwall. He was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 2010 and currently serves as chairman of the Cornish Buildings Group and is a member of the Truro Cathedral Fabric Advisory Committee.
As a Chartered Architect Tim is passionate about affordable design and achievable architecture. He has worked for large architectural practices in the Midlands and multi-disciplinary architects in Cornwall before setting up Atelier 3 in 2007. Tim brings a wealth of experience to the practice in master planning and planning policy. He leads creative design at Atelier 3. Tim is the current Royal Institute of British Architects South West Region Chairperson and the former RIBA Cornwall Branch Chair. He is also a regular member of the Design Review Panel for Cornwall Council.
Warmest thanks to everyone who came to our meeting. We had a great attendance, probably about 80 people in the hall of whom at least half were members. Thanks also to all those who weren’t able to make it but expressed their support. It really does make a difference to know how much interest there is in what we’re doing.
The AGM itself was brief. The agenda and minutes can be viewed ....* Just for clarification, the report and accounts which our treasurer presented relate to 2012. In the new year we will produce a report on our activities during 2013.
Our appeal for a new treasurer to replace Mary Asfour produced immediate results. We are delighted to welcome Jerry Goodwin and thank him warmly for volunteering.
It’s also great to have a new face and new ideas at our committee meetings. So I’d like to repeat what I said at the AGM. It would be marvellous to have one or two new people on the committee. The meetings are not too frequent and usually good fun (unlike some committees you may have sat on!) so do drop me an email if you’re interested in getting involved or would like to find out more.
The open meeting focussed on the significance of landscape and architecture in relation to neighbourhood planning. I introduced the speakers by describing the relationship between our work to safeguard Pendower and wider issues of policy and decision making. Neighbourhood planning plays a key part in this process.
Kath Statham, a member of Cornwall Council's public space team, dealt with the practicalities of assessing the character of a local landscape. She stressed the need for evidence to back up local opinion. She described the rich variety of landscapes in Cornwall and said that neighbourhood planning was an opportunity for communities to discover what was important about their localities. She gave examples of work on Cornish neighbourhood plans which were already under way.
Paul Holden, chair of the Cornish Buildings Group, spoke of iconic buildings in Cornwall that have shaped the landscape. He gave some examples: Caerhays Castle, St. Michaels Mount Abbey, Porth en Alls at Prussia Cove and the Headland Hotel on Fistral Beach. He observed that each of these deservedly famous buildings had been built without planning permission. In considering what kinds of buildings might look right, Paul wondered whether current planning procedures would allow imaginative architecture to enhance the Roseland landscape.
Tim Hancock spoke passionately about the need for affordable housing in Cornwall that was both well designed and energy efficient. He said that his practice has refused to work with developers who did not share his commitment and gave examples of work done by his practice.
You can find out more about the speakers by looking at the biographical notes we’ve included....*
We were delighted at the energy of the question and answer session. Points raised included building on brown-field rather than green-field sites, the threat from wind turbines, the issue of second homes and how to promote good but affordable design for social housing. Tim mentioned a design quality conference that was due to take place. Perhaps the killer question was whether any of the panel had ideas on how to improve the decision-making processes of Cornwall Council, such that committees and planning officers actually put their landscape policies into practice. Paul Holden said he in touch with John Pollard, leader of Cornwall Council. It’s to be hoped that through the various contacts we have with the Council we can encourage it to address this disconnect between policy and practice.
Finally Jon Smith, chairman of the Roseland neighbourhood plan steering group, said everyone would very soon receive a neighbourhood plan questionnaire. This was the chance for the whole Roseland community to have their say. He urged everyone to fill in the questionnaires and encourage all their friends and family to do the same.
Warmest thanks to all those who made the evening a success. The only thing that didn’t work as we’d hoped was our recording equipment, so I’m afraid we can’t give you an audio version of what was said. However all the slides are available and Kath Statham has provided notes to her presentation. You can also read the chair’s introduction....*