To consider the report of the Leader of the Council seeking to apprise Members of the conclusions and recommendations of the Historic Places Panel (HPP) in the report received from Historic England presenting the conclusions and to advise them of the proposed action plan.
32.1 The Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Environment introduced the report, and informed Members that back in October 2021, the Historic Places Panel (HPP) visited Gloucester and had provided a copy of a report of its visit which summarised its findings, conclusions, and recommendations. He informed Members that the HPP had a broad spectrum of independent expertise within the built environment and heritage sectors across the UK. The Leader of the Council referred to the conclusion outlined at 3.4 and noted that the report was broadly favourable.
32.2 The City Growth and Delivery Manager referred to Appendix 1, which included the Recommendations of the HPP and the City Council’s response to acknowledge and address the recommendations. He provided an overview of each of the 18 recommendations and the proposed actions.
33.3 In response to a request from the Chair as to what was meant by ‘Design Coding’ in recommendation 18, the City Growth and Delivery Manager explained that design codes were similar to a miniature local plan. He further explained that such codes were created to design guided development and helped to identify key design issues.
33.4 Councillor Hilton expressed surprise that the City Council did not employ an in-house urban designer and noted that this was a matter which had also previously been raised during a Planning Policy Members Working Group meeting. He asked for clarification as to the estimated cost of employing a full-time urban designer. The City Growth and Delivery Manager confirmed that it was likely to be a Principal Officer grade post in the region of £60k per year.
33.5 Councillor Hilton noted that the City Council’s previous arrangement with Tewkesbury Borough Council costed around £15k a year and therefore noted that an in-house urban designer would bring an additional cost of £45k. He asked whether the City Council would benefit from this expertise and whether it was likely that an in-house urban designer would have a positive impact on the quality of developments in the city. The Leader of the Council acknowledged that the city could benefit from directly employing an urban designer and that it was worthwhile discussing the provision with the Planning Service. He noted that the Council would still have to find £45k to fund the role.
33.6 Councillor Melvin expressed the view that the City Council would very much benefit from having a dedicated in-house urban designer and raised concerns about some recent building developments in the city. It was her view that this role would be better off kept in-house and a local connection was important.
33.7 Councillor Tracey suggested that the council might want to consider undertaking a project to ascertain a breakdown of the population in the city. She suggested that this might identify pockets of the city where young people were living, which might help with looking at how to bring residents into the city centre. She expressed the view that Gloucester had much to offer as a city.
33.8 Councillor Sawyer referred to the recommendation concerning design codes and agreed that a city-wide design code was a challenge due to Gloucester’s varied buildings. She wondered whether consideration could be given to selecting a small number of designs to help bring the city together, and expressed a particular interest in the regency style of some Gloucester buildings. She noted that an in-house urban designer might well be able to help with this. The City Growth and Delivery Manager noted that a range of design codes might be needed, and that form and function of buildings was also important.
33.9 Councillor Taylor referred to the recommendation to employ an in-house urban designer and commented that an input from an urban designer would be very helpful for Planning Committee Members when considering development applications. A discussion ensued amongst Members regarding the potential of Alney Island.
33.10 Councillor Pullen referred to recommendation 5 concerning the involvement of young people and communities. He asked whether consideration might be given to requesting that the City Archaeologist visit schools to engage with young people directly. The City Growth and Delivery Manager confirmed that the City Archaeologist already undertook lots of networking and was due to engage with the community during the upcoming History Festival. He was also mindful that a significant element of his role was to advise on planning applications from an archaeology point of view. The Leader of the Council pointed out that the City Council already had actions in hand to address many of the recommendations of the HPP.
RESOLVED that the Overview & Scrutiny Committee RECOMMENDS that:
(1) Cabinet accepts the recommendation of the Historic Places Panel to consider employing an in-house urban designer to augment the council’s capacity in offering development advice.
(2) Cabinet revisits the proposal for design coding to be progressed on a site by site basis, and accepts the recommendation of the Historic Places Panel to produce design codes at a more strategic level.