Monday, 7 September 2009

Dean Road & St. Mary's Hospital - USG Response

Following a meeting of the Urban Space Group, held on Thursday 20 August 2009 at the Renaissance Office, Falconer's Road, Scarborough; the following comments are submitted for the consideration of Scarborough Borough Council, with respect to the draft development brief for Dean Road and site of the former St. Mary's Hospital:

Dean Road Development Brief

We confirm that the Urban Space Group fully support the proposal from Evan Ferguson that the area should be largely given over to a sustainable urban housing development, and that the best way to progress this strategy would be through the organisation of an international design competition.

As Evan states in his letter to Hugh Smith, dated the 12th August 2009, we believe that there is much potential in exploring this idea for the residential elements of the site. The orientation of the site and of the existing road grid is ideal for a solar development, and the views to the castle and moor would guarantee a great deal of interest.

A competition, if run on an international basis and under the aegis of a professional organisation, such as the Royal Institute of British Architects, has a great deal to offer Scarborough:

1. It would attract the international design press and (at least) national media coverage, with the attendant benefits of exposure and advertising for the area.

2. It would reinforce Scarborough’s current title as 'most enterprising town'.

3. It would increase the land value of the residential portion, as interested teams of designers and developers should compete to build each portion of the site.

4. It would increase the value of each individual property within the development, with the cachet of being a competition-winning design.

5. It would increase tourism in the short, medium and long-term, as similar competitions have done all over Europe, and in Glasgow and Milton Keynes.

We are particularly keen to encourage this scheme, especially as we understand that through Sheffield University, Evan would be able to facilitate the drafting of the competition brief as part of one of their Master's degree community based "Live" projects this Autumn. Also we would recommend that we work closely with Yorkshire Forward and RIBA's competition office in Leeds.

With respect to any potential concerns regarding the drafting and management of such a competition, we would like to stress that we do not believe that it would be in conflict with or cause any delay to the production of the Development Brief for said area:

1. All that would be required is a few lines inserted into the Development Brief to the effect that a parallel Urban Housing Competition was being run and that developers were encouraged to adopt / pay attention to the winning schemes.

2. The six weeks for the "Live" Project runs from early October to mid-November, this would fit neatly within the timetable for finalising the Development Brief.

3. It would not restrict potential development by stating that particular areas must be housing, but on the contrary, would promote a freer and more constructive interpretation of the site.

4. Would by necessity encourage a higher standard of design and co-operation, a situation very unlikely to be achieved by just handing the whole site over to a single developer.

5. Potential infrastructure costs would not be a deterrent, as careful urban design layout would ensure that roads, drains etc. would be dealt with within individual competition areas as PART of each site, and not fall to the responsibility of the Council.

Finally, although Urban Space are primarily advocating a residential approach, we do believe that there is adequate scope across such a large area for the inclusion of other business (Class B1), community, leisure, health and small scale convenience retail uses, provided these are integrated within a cohesive and moderated overall plan for the site. Indeed, we understand that Policy S7 of the Local Plan already identifies the site of St. Mary's for a range of complimentary town centre uses, providing it meets with a number of stated requirements. In particular, with respect to:

'(b) direct pedestrian links are provided with Aberdeen Walk and the town centre...'

We would support the extension of this idea to create a green link from Aberdeen Walk, through the site and onwards to the west of the town.

However, we do not support or advise the setting of a large, extended supermarket within the centre of the site. As not only would this be a waste of a valuable and interesting development opportunity; a current traffic impact assessment report would we feel rule out any such utilisation of the area.

Further to this, we find particularly regrettable the comments made in paragraph 8.15 of Version 2 of the Dean Road Development Brief (our italics):

'Particularly if a substantial part of the site were to be occupied by a single user or users, housing would help to make efficient use of areas surplus to requirements, especially around the margins'


'The proportion of land could increase if the amount of land required for larger scale commercial or community uses proves restricted.'

The inferred relegation of housing to mere infill does not suggest that the current briefing being drafted is sensitive to local residential needs nor indeed reflecting best practice in urban design.