Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence

Memorandum by Nottingham City Council (CAB 07)

  Nottingham City Council wishes to present the following evidence to the Committee.

  Nottingham is one of the "core cities" of England with a large, successful and distinctive city centre. The Council has ambitious regeneration plans and is currently subject to considerable development pressure involving some of the biggest redevelopment schemes outside London. However the quality of many of the schemes coming forward is poor, or at best just acceptable. This in part reflects the relatively low rental levels in Nottingham, particularly for offices, and the consequent pressure on costs. It also reflects a narrow and often inward looking focus by some developers on single uses, rather than the mixed use advocated by Government and the local authority. Further more, the scale of many proposals does not relate well to the grain of the historic city centre. The quality of design is often lazy and unadventurous, and the quality of details and materials frequently poor. This is a major cause of concern to the City Council, which has put improving the quality of urban design and new architecture high on its regeneration agenda.

  Nottingham has had a productive and valuable relationship with CABE since its establishment. We have found CABE to be very open, approachable, non bureaucratic and unstuffy. It is easy to ring up and get useful advice, and officers are very ready to come up from London for meetings, site visits, workshops etc. This support and advice is extremely valuable to cities like Nottingham, which are dealing with very complex development issues for which they have only limited in house experience and skills. It is especially important that CABE is able to give practical advice based on realistic understanding of the development industry and the market place. In my experience, their advice is genuinely appreciated by developer teams, and helps in finding practical solutions where the local authority and developer have reached an impasse.

  Our experience with CABE has included

  1.  General advice on our overall approach to urban design issues and master plans, including the establishment of a very effective Urban Design Forum.

  2.  Detailed involvement in the brief and subsequent planning application for the re-development of the Broad Marsh shopping centre. This is one of the largest such schemes in England and CABE rightly identified it as being of national importance.

  3.  Similar advice on the current application for a three million square foot scheme of redevelopment of the Eastside.

  4.  Attending design review sessions with developers. These have been particularly useful. I am impressed with the understanding and insights that the Panel have given on complex schemes. This has been real added value which has significantly improved the quality of schemes, in my view.

  5.  Advice on design competitions including the specific services of an "enabler" to help run the international design competition for the Old Market Square, Nottingham's most important space. This advice and support has been invaluable and we are confident that a truly excellent scheme will result.

  6.  Guidance in very high quality publications and web site, which greatly assist in creating imaginative development plans and in day to day negotiations with applicants and developers.

  Our conclusions are that CABE are a key element in the overall "Urban Renaissance" strategy and that it has been very influential and successful in "raising the game" in architecture and urban design. It is providing real leadership, which is fundamentally important and highly valued by the local authorities in the front line.

Adrian Jones

Assistant Director Planning and Transport

Nottingham City Council.

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