Development and Tall Buildings
Six Key Heritage Project Considerations
Whether designing new or regenerating an existing building a key design objective is always to create a positive relationship with neighbouring buildings.
Successful designs complement existing architecture, scale, and street level characteristics. Where the building is significantly taller in its location, development impact can be far reaching, bringing into consideration visual intrusion on structures and settings that may not immediately apparent at ground level. An early review of heritage assets, close-by and in a wider catchment area, to better understand key designations and vistas that may be important to consider when progressing towards planning could allow early consideration of sympathetic design works that may better respect local identities and character. (right: The Shard, London, below: buildings opposite Southwark Cathedral, London)
General guidance for designing new developments with tall buildings provides six determining factors that are important to limit harmful impact upon heritage. Historic England provides a comprehensive guidance pamphlet but, in brief, themes include:
1. A review of the distinctive qualities and values of a place which includes historic character and context.
2. A proper understanding of the significance of the historic environment and any potential impact on this significance
3. What the visual impact might be on the streetscape, town, or cityscape, but also to include the wider urban and rural landscapes, and views. This includes the setting of heritage assets.
4. An assessment of the combined and cumulative impacts on heritage assets from existing, consented and proposed tall buildings.
A professionally scoped Heritage Statement, incorporating a heritage settings assessment, which is submitted to support a planning application would allow for a clear response to the first four considerations above and assist in the overall works of the project planning and design teams. In addition, where the development is sited within a Conservation Area or itself includes a Listed Building, a Heritage Statement would automatically be a requirement of Planning and could assist in providing:
5. Functionality: an assessment of the impact/gains of the design, including embodied carbon and carbon cost, construction, and operation
6. An assessment of environmental conditions relating to development changes and their impact including potential to create wind tunnels, over-shadowing, glare, or to impact air quality, and further, how these may affect both the physical properties of heritage assets and how they are experienced.
In addition, developers may need to conduct archaeological investigations, if there is a possibility of uncovering below ground remains of archaeological significance during construction. Pre-planning discussions with the Local Planning Authority (LPA) should give guidance on whether this may be a requirement. If it is, then an initial assessment would typically be requested in the form of an Archaeological Desk Based Assessment, which would guide the development of a mitigation strategy to limit or avoid impact on archaeology.
Context, Character, and Design Innovation
Creating local visual integration can be challenging. Understanding the local urban context, characteristics, scale, and amenity of an area will help ensure the development complements or enhances the existing streetscape character.
While respecting heritage considerations, developers should also strive for design innovation. By striking a balance between respecting the historic environment and embracing contemporary architectural solutions, developers can contribute positively to the urban fabric while preserving the heritage significance of the area. Achieving a harmonious relationship between new structures and heritage assets such as, landmarks, historic vistas and skylines, public space vantage points and road plans will support community engagement and benefit the local economy. (right: The Irish Centre, Birmingham, CGI courtesy of Court Collaboration Ltd)
Public Engagement is Key
Proactive engagement with local communities, and all stakeholders is essential to understand differing perspectives. Early consultation with the relevant local planning authority and professional heritage consultants is recommended to ensure compliance with the specific heritage guidelines and regulations in their area.
AB Heritage is a member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists.
Notes / References:
A Primary legislation, the ‘National Planning Policy Framework’ (NPPF), and the government’s ‘Planning Practice Guidance’ (PPG) set the backdrop against which new development is managed in relation to the historic environment. In addition, tall buildings are specifically addressed in the government’s ‘National Design Guide’(NDG)3, and ‘National Model Design Code’ (NMDC)4 including ‘Guidance Notes for Design Codes’5. This legislative and policy framework is implemented through the plan-making and the development management processes.