08 - 10 - 2021

Featuring BPTW’s Architectural Partner Neill Campbell, Planning Consultancy Partner, Gerry Cassidy, and Consultant Katie Parsons for The Housing Forum.

For the second instalment of a series of workshops The Housing Forum’s Councils Network are running for local authorities across the UK, BPTW Partners Neill Campbell and Gerry Cassidy and BPTW Director Katie Parsons discuss effective design and planning management for local authority developments. The workshop also featured case studies and practical tips from Adam Tucker at London Borough of Sutton, and from Jason Green and Daniel Kinghorn of Leeds City Council.

The session aimed to communicate best practice to support council development teams in refining and enhancing their processes, leading to better project outcomes and improved housing quality. You can watch the presentation below.

Managing the design and planning process

BPTW’s workshop addressed project development from strategic definition to planning submission and initial technical design from both an architectural and planning perspective. Using the RIBA stages as a basis, the session covered the key elements needed to successfully manage a design process, including identifying the primary gateways and decision-making requirements that are fundamental for a project to progress effectively. Critically, the relationship between and responsibilities of the client and consultant team were analysed, and key risk areas were identified at each stage. The development processes needed for pertinent requirements such as BIM, design for assembly and manufacture (DFMA), and sustainability were also woven into each development stage to bring an understanding of how to best incorporate these topics at the right time for maximum benefit.

The workshop identified some of the challenges of navigating the statutory planning approval process as a local authority developer, focusing on internal relationships and the tensions between transparency and deliverability. The importance of establishing the corporate appetite for planning negotiations, the key political drivers and the inter departmental ‘terms of engagement’ in a way that is fully understood by the wider consultant team was also highlighted.

BPTW recently secured planning permission for 17 Passivhaus homes at Morse Close for LB Newham.

Key design management takeaways

Key design management takeaways included:

  • taking the time to be clear on priorities, looking ahead and considering challenges that might be faced later down the line for each stage;
  • appointing the design team for the right work stages and ensuring that all consultant appointments align;
  • keeping the project brief updated and at the heart of the project;
  • seeking interdepartmental agreements on direction and proprieties;
  • securing defined gateways and sign-off procedures to ensure they align with the project programme to avoid abortive work;
  • using transparent sign-off procedures with every party involved;
  • identifying the sustainable design requirements and factoring them in from the start;
  • confirming the level of BIM required at the outset;
  • agreeing the level of OSM at an early stage.
Hanworth Park House for LB Hounslow will offer circa 280 homes as part of the council’s pledge for 500 affordable homes.

Key planning takeaways

To conclude, the workshop identified top tips for an effective planning process including:

  • briefing your planning consultant before speaking with officers;
  • agreeing a PPA fee beforehand;
  • obtaining pre-application advice before you tender for a consultant team;
  • establishing your s106 route before cabinet approval;
  • considering a strategic pre-application meeting with your planning consultant;
  • not submitting an application unless you have officer support;
  • always getting member sign-off before consultation;
  • co-opting a planner;
  • not hiding behind your consultant team;
  • agreeing only one contact with the planning officer;
  • not underestimating corporate sign-off procedures and programming them early.
Roman Rise for Homes for Lambeth provides 31 affordable homes on the Central Hill Estate in Crystal Palace.

BPTW is an active participant of The Housing Forum and its Partners and Directors have contributed to many talks and events to raise the quality of housing in England. You can read more about their contributions to The Housing Forum, such as BPTW’s work for The Housing Forum’s Councils Network, on our Insights page.

Neill Campbell is an Architectural Partner at BPTW. As a result of his extensive experience of council housebuilding, Neill regularly presents to professional bodies, such as the NLA, The Housing Forum and Future of London, on residential development across London and the South East.

Gerry Cassidy is the Planning Consultancy Partner at BPTW. With experience spanning over 30 years in public and private planning, Gerry sits on the RIBA’s planning advisory group and is a frequent contributor to planning industry thought leadership groups.

Katie Parsons is a Consultant for BPTW. She has been instrumental in the design of affordable residential and regeneration schemes across London and has recently provided the architectural direction for BPTW’s growing work in Cambridge and Hertfordshire.