TransForm Places

A quick round-up of 2013

January 14, 2014adminNews

Well, another year gone and what interesting times these are to be working in the built environment. 2013 was a good year for us, with plenty of exciting projects undertaken and lots of new initiatives lined up for 2014. Here is a quick recap:

Didcot SUE

Didcot has plans to grow the town by over 2,000 new homes, and TransForm Places are acting as expert advisor on design issues. Key to the success of any new development will be integration with the existing community, allowing new residents to support the town centre and to make those trips by modes other than the private car.

Oxford Barton SUE

BartonTransForm Places ran a number of workshops designed to explore ideas as to how the proposed urban extension at Barton, Oxford could come forward in a way that creates a sustainable community. Key to this will be the treatment of the A40, the integration of the new development with the existing community in Barton, and the accessibility of the City and its facilities for new residents.

Carterton ‘Design Your Neighbourhood’ Project

Tidworth©BenBlossom-9507A fascinating project with a great group was conducted under DC-CABE’s ‘Design Your Neighbourhood’ programme, which was designed to support community groups looking to improve their local area. We undertook a series of worships, seminars and site visits which culminated in an action plan for making incremental improvements to the town centre and beyond.

BfL12 Training with OPUN

IMG_0905BfL12 is gaining momentum and recognition as the industry-standard for assessing design quality in residential developments. TransForm Places have been supporting organisations across the country in training people on the new system, with events in Bristol, Leeds, Birmingham, Kent, and Exeter. We will be running more events this year so keep an eye out for places as demand is high and places are limited.

BOB-MK BfL12 Training

IMG_0955Our relationship with BOB-MK continues to grow, with TransForm supporting their training and events program each year. This year we ran a BfL12 training session for members of the BOB-Mk network and had a full house. The session included workshops, presentations and a site visit.

Wycombe BfL12 Training

IMG_1413Wycombe DC take design quality seriously and have a good track record of implementing national initiatives at the local level. With this in mind, TransForm undertook three training session that brought together officers, elected members and people from the development industry. These sessions concentrated on using BfL12 to improve the quality of development in and around Wycombe and on how BfL12 can be used to better understand how a design is performing.

Going forward

Looking forward into 2014, we have some absolutely fascinating projects in the pipeline. The University of Northampton is moving to a new location in the town centre, and TransForm Places are working with them to make sure this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capture the regeneration benefits of such a large investment is realised. We will keep you up to date on progress. We will also be continuing our involvement with the Didcot SUE, working with all stakeholders as the master plan is developed. In addition to this, we are embarking on Neighbourhood Planning support with a number of communities, and are working with housing providers to help them better engage with their residents.

Of course, we will also be running our usual programme of training with BOB-MK and others, so keep an eye out for events as they are planned.

Finally, on behalf of the team, I’d like to offer my thanks to all of you who have supported our work and allowed us to carry on offering impartial design expertise. Here’s to a good new year.

Garry Hall.

Bad layouts make bad places

May 9, 2012adminNews, Opinion

Connected developments are, in the main, better developments. Whilst there is such a thing as over permeability, connected movement networks offer a better way of doing things. They have been at the core of best practice for a good while now, so we should be seeing more of them, not less.

However, sometimes things go wrong. In the two examples below, they have gone really wrong. The first example we’d like to show you is from Hamilton, where the developer saw fit to go fencing…

Maybe they had some left over. Maybe there is some kind of joke that we don’t get but which is really very funny. Or maybe an already slightly iffy layout has been messed up even further by a wilfully bad design that took more effort to get wrong than get right.

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What we are left with is a garden fence jutting out insanely across the street, severing one from the other and doubtlessly providing a nice graffiti wall in the process. We don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Next up, have a look at this little beauty, also from Leicester. It took us a while to get our heads round what was going on, as at first glances it looks like it all joins up. But alas our optimism was short-lived; none of the routes around Chainama or Augusta connect and there are fences, bollards and bits of green S.L.A.P* all over the shop to make damn sure you get the message: No. Through. Routes.

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This is a shame as what this area sorely needs is to be better connected. The whole area is served by just two points of access and to get anywhere doubtlessly means a car trip. What a waste of time and energy.

As much fun as it is to sit back and poke fun, there is a serious message here; messing up layouts has profound negative long-term effects and there are simply no excuses left in this day and age. You can freely download guides on how to put places together, and the principles behind it are breathtaking in their simplicity.

So please, concentrate on getting this bit right. Good things will follow.

* Space Left Over After Planning: all those cruddy maintenance nightmares that you see dotted about the place in masterplanned developments. No one wants to look after them, they serve no purpose other than to annoy people, and considering the value of land, make no sense at all.

Design Review gains support

October 5, 2011adminNews

The role and functions of the nations various Design Review Panels has received overwhelming support from Local Authority planning officers, with some 96% of respondents citing benefits. More telling, the same survey revealed that 67% saw the main advantage as being access to specialist expertise, and as the localism agenda gains traction, we could see the use of Panel experts increase.

Richard Simmons, chief executive at CABE, said: ‘The Decentralisation and Localism Bill will give local people much more influence on planning decisions. So if decision-making is being devolved to the local community it is vital that it has the design advice it needs.’

The findings, published as part of the ‘Helping local people choose good design’ report, mark the end of the first year of the Design Review Network, an affiliation between CABE and eight Design Review Panels across England. According to the report, this past financial year saw 204 or 2/3 of Local Authorities use the Network. The eight Panels that form the Network are:

Opun, East Midlands
Inspire East, East of England
Ignite, North East
Places Matter!, North West
Kent Architecture Centre, South East
Creating Excellence, South West
MADE, West Midlands
Integreat Yorkshire, Yorkshire and Humber

The number of reviews carried out by the Network was 676, which is around the same number as previous year and this in spite of the downturn in construction that has seen stalled projects and a reduction in the delivery of new homes. Importantly, around 1/3 of Reviewed schemes were returning, having been previously reviewed in the past. This indicates two things; that design review is an iterative process, and that previous experiences of design review were positive. It’s this kind of buy-in that is will critical in supporting the future of the network and review in general.

You can read the full report here:

ACN Appoints New Chair

October 5, 2011adminNews

The Architecture Centre Network has appointed a new chair. You can read the full press release below:

Architecture Centre Network, the development and advocacy organisation for 23 architecture and built environment centres in the UK, is delighted to announce Peter Bishop as the organisation’s new Chair.

Peter is Deputy Chief Executive of the London Development Agency. He was appointed as the first Director of Design for London in 2006, and in 2008 as Group Director of the London Development Agency, responsible for design, land development and its environmental, housing and public space programmes.

Over the past 20 years, Peter Bishop has been a Planning Director in four different Central London Boroughs and has worked in major projects including Canary Wharf, the development of the BBC’s campus at White City and the Kings Cross developments, one of the largest and most complex sites in London. Peter lectures and teaches extensively and is a visiting professor at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment at the Nottingham Trent University.

Peter Bishop comments: “Good design should not be considered as a luxury. Architecture centres play a pivotal role in supporting individuals and communities in shaping their local areas to form tightly knit, lasting and vibrant places. I look forward to my new role with the Architecture Centre Network to support their work and place them in the heart of the new emerging urban agenda.”

Bridget Sawyers, Chief Executive of Architecture Centre Network said: “I am delighted that Peter has accepted the role of Chair of the Board of Architecture Centre Network. His knowledge and ideas as a key player in design excellence will be invaluable in positioning the organisation in engaging people with architecture at an exciting time, as we reach out to a wider range of partners with new local, national and international projects.”

Tariff pays Carbon Offset Cash

October 5, 2011adminNews

The Milton Keynes Tariff has paid it’s first contribution to The Milton Keynes Carbon Offset Fund, which enables older homes to improve their energy efficiency through subsidised loft and cavity wall insulation.

The payment of £79,118 came from the completion of the new John Lewis distribution centre at Magna Park in the Eastern Expansion Area.

John Lewis, Chief Executive of Milton Keynes Partnership (MKP), said: ‘Up to £3 million of Tariff money will be paid into the Carbon Offset Fund as a result of the development that is planned in the expansion areas and this will help many existing homes to become more energy efficient. Once again Milton Keynes is demonstrating that it is taking a pioneering approach to encourage low carbon living.’

Don Morgan, Planning Director of Gazeley and Land Securities, the developers of Magna Park, said: ‘We were the first company to pay the new planning tariff and it is very satisfying to see this money now being put to good use by making some existing homes more energy efficient. Our own buildings are some of the most energy efficient of their kind in the world. As a result of the development of Magna Park the energy use in some older housing units in Milton Keynes will be improved through our contribution to the Carbon Offset Fund.’

In line with MKC planning policy D4 developers pay contributions into the Carbon Offset Fund based on the additional carbon emissions generated by their buildings. The Fund is managed for Milton Keynes Council by the United Sustainable Energy Agency, based at Knowlhill.

Since the Milton Keynes Carbon Offset Fund was introduced in 2008 developers have paid over £400,000 into the Fund. So far this money has been used to insulate around 2,500 existing older private homes, as well as sheltered housing across the city.

Cllr Mike Galloway, Cabinet Member responsible for Growth at Milton Keynes Council, said: ‘This is great news for Milton Keynes. The Carbon Offset Fund gives more residents the opportunity to directly benefit from the area’s development. Residents’ homes can benefit from being warmer in winter and cooler in summer.’ This kind of innovative method of securing and employing planning gain funds should see homes in MK gain a direct benefit from new development.

New recognition for Urban Design Professionals

October 5, 2011adminNews

The Urban Design Group, established in 1978 and working to promote urban design across the disciplines and ensuring all built environment professionals work to the common goal of better placemaking, have now launched a new accreditation system. Under this new system, built environment professionals can apply to become UDG ‘Recognised Practitioners’.

The requirements for recognition status are based on education and experience, with a sliding scale between the two that enables unqualified but experienced urban designers to apply along side those with relevant qualifications at MA/ MSc level. UDG wishes to attract professionals ‘from a wide range of backgrounds including architecture, building conservation, engineering, and transportation, landscape architecture, planning, development control, surveying, regeneration an development. Many of the new generation of professionals have more than one professional affiliation, and they expect and are required to develop new skills and areas of expertise throughout their career’.

The guidance explaining how to apply states that ‘being a Recognised Practitioner will give professionals a sense of identity; greater influence on professional practice and public policy; and a strong sense of common purpose’. ‘Recognised Practitioner’ status costs £80 per annum (and additional £40 for members), and candidates are invidted to apply here.

mksm Excellence Awards 2009: the winners

October 5, 2011adminNews

TransForm Places partnered mksm to bring you the 2009 Excellence Awards, and we are pleased to report back on events and announce the winners. The presentation evening was held on Wednesday 2 December 2009 in the wonderful Waddesdon Dairy, Near Aylesbury. The event was hosted by the mksm executive team, and attended by key politicians and senior representatives from across the mksm area, as well as the awards scheme finalists. Hilary Chipping, mksm Director said:

“I’m really pleased with the quality of all the entries in the first year of our excellence awards. I would like to thank everyone who entered this year. The high quality of entries meant the awards Panel had a very tough job deciding on the winners, but this goes to show the ability of mksm’s partner bodies to deliver great schemes, even during difficult economic times”.

In fact, the task of choosing a winner was so tough that we ended up with a joint award to two of the schemes!


About the awards

The 2009 mksm excellence awards have been created to recognise best practice in building and open space design at a range of scales – from parks, squares and neighbourhoods to single buildings, works of public art and larger housing, mixed-use and commercial schemes. Judging panel – The panel was headed up by John Weir, Chairman of TransForm Places and panel members included representation from CABE, Levitt Bernstein and mksm.

2009 Finalists:
• Burton Wold Wind Farm, near Kettering
• Bury Mount, Towcester
• Castle Quay, Bedford Town Centre
• Corby Pool, North Northamptonshire
• Icon, Daventry
• Oxley Woods, Milton Keynes
• Stanwick Lakes Visitor Centre, North Northamptonshire
• C4.1 Vizion, Milton Keynes

2009 Winners:
Best Future Potential Award
Described by the judges:
“Innovative technologies inside the building will be a great source of information for monitoring, plus this is an exciting building architecturally.”
Winner: Icon, Daventry

iCon, Daventry – winner of best future potential 2009
2009 Excellence in Building & Open Space Design Award (Sponsored by The Environment Agency)
Described by the judges as:
“A great value scheme and a wonderful building that responds well to its setting. The on-going success of the centre only serves to highlight the quality of the experience.”
Joint winner: Stanwick Lakes Visitor Centre

Inside Stanwick Lakes Visitor Centre, joint winner 2009
2009 Excellence in Building & Open Space Design Award (Sponsored by The Environment Agency)
Described by the judges as:
“Wonderful both in terms of the quality of the residential environment and architectural detail and in terms of the approach to project funding and delivery.”
Joint winner: C4.1 Vizion, Milton Keynes

Vizion MK, joint winner 2009

New design review network launched

October 5, 2011adminNews

Design Review is an important tool for ensuring quality and CABE and eight regional design review panels have joined together to create a national network of design review panels to further this agenda. This will provide all local planning authorities with access to independent practical design advice. The network will collectively review more than 800 schemes a year. CABE has supported regional design review panels since 2005 and affiliation formalises the relationship. It will ensure that the panels work closely together, and a consistent service is provided to developers and planners across England. Affiliation commits each organisation to observe key principles of design review, including a focus on the impact on those using a building or place and the public at large, as well as sharing the lessons from design review on a regular basis.
This affiliation recognises the high-quality service provided by regional panels and it will ensure that more schemes benefit from the best possible design advice. Richard Simmons, CABE chief executive, said that design review panels have proved themselves to be a great success story. He added: “Just one example is the Falmer Academy in Brighton, where the comments made by the South East regional design panel have resulted in a really imaginative planning application. This affiliation recognises the high-quality service provided by regional panels and it will ensure that more schemes benefit from the best possible design advice.”

The eight regional design review panels that have affiliated to CABE are those in the South East (run by the Kent Architecture Centre); the South West (run by Creating Excellence); the North East (run by Ignite); the North West (run by Places Matter!); the West Midlands (run by MADE); the East Midlands (run by Opun); the East of England (run by Inspire East); and Yorkshire and Humber (run by Integreat Yorkshire). Going forward, TransForm Places will be offering support services to the established design review panels for Kent AC and OPUN.

Affiliation will also contribute to the government’s commitment, as set out in World Class Places (the Government’s strategy for improving quality of place) to strengthen advisory support on design quality for local authorities, the public sector and developers. The strategy, published in May, sets out to ensure that regional support for quality of place, including design review, is strengthened. We hope to begin our work with the review panels early next spring.

mksm Excellence Awards 2009 entries

October 5, 2011adminNews

TransForm Places are partnering mksm in bringing you their first annual Excellence Awards to be presented in December at a special event in the sub-region. Entries have come from all over the mksm area and include projects from such diverse sectors as public space, renewable energy, residential development and exhibition centres.

The Excellence Awards have been set up to showcase the very best that the sub-region has to offer, to bring attention to all those schemes that are leading examples of what needs to be done to achieve the aspirations of all those working in the mksm area, and to demonstrate that the sub-region is leading the way in the built environment.

Short listing will be taking place over the coming months, and the short listed schemes will be showcased here on our website including photographs, project information, and contact details for those wishing to learn from the examples given here.

TransForm Places gets a new website

October 5, 2011adminNews

It’s that time. Our old site – commissioned in 2009 and designed via a competition – needed updating so that is exactly what we have gone and done. The new format is designed to be clean, flexible and easy to update, and I think you’ll agree that it looks fantastic.

We’re still in the process of building it but will be showcasing our recent work on here very soon so you can see what we have done to help others. We’ll also be adding news and opinion pieces and we hope that you’ll check back regularly for the best discussions on current topics.

If you have any feedback on the site then get in touch as we welcome constructive criticism and general tips.

Get in touch:

TransForm Places Ltd
1a The Avenue
MK45 1BP

+44 7970 363141
Recent projects:
  • Workshop 1, Nov 28th 2011
  • Manual for Streets training with OPUN
  • Avon / Nunn Mills Masterplanning
  • Priors Hall Design Coding
  • NBC Tall Building Strategy
  • Site Visit Club
  • Urban Design Fundamentals
  • MfS Walking Tour
  • Manual for Streets (Jan 11)
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