When we became aware that the Council was publishing a Concept Plan and Design Guide for phase 2 of the Monkton Heathfield Development for consultation, we saw an opportunity to try to ensure that the Garden Town principles were fully reflected in this huge new development. In many ways, there could not be a better opportunity to do so as it is a green field site, outline planning applications have not yet been submitted and there are far fewer constraints on the design possibilities.
We decided to commission Create Streets to carry out a critical review of the Concept Plan and Design Guide. Create Streets is a world class social enterprise and design consultancy whose goal is ‘to help neighbourhoods, communities, landowners, councils and developers create and manage beautiful places of gentle density that will be popular and are likely to be correlated with good well-being and public health’. https://www.createstreets.com/
Create Streets know Taunton well, having worked closely with Arts Taunton on several projects in the town before, including our successful charrette in October of last year, jointly hosted by SWT Council and RIBA. They are internationally recognised as experts in their progressive approach to bottom-up, human-scale developments that put people and place-making first. They also have the ear of central government: their CEO, Nicholas Boys-Smith, was the co-chair of the government’s recent “Building Better, Building Beautiful” commission – a far reaching document that has the potential to change planning in the UK drastically for the better. In short, Create Streets are world-leaders.
We also decided to talk to the local Parish Councils for the area to ensure that the voice of the local community was represented in this process. I am delighted to say that West Monkton Parish Council agreed to jointly commission the review with us.
Create Streets have now carried out their review and submitted their report. We think it is excellent and we are very excited by it. It makes a number of recommendations for improving the Concept Plan and Design Guide – some very simple to adopt, others more challenging. We believe that the report provides an opportunity for the Council to sponsor a development that meets all modern standards of excellence: is green and sustainable, beneficial to the health and well-being of residents and visitors alike, and is fully befitting of Taunton’s Garden Town status.