Examples of Village Design Statements
A Village Design Statement provides an assessment of the special character of a village, parish or town in order to generate recommendations about the design of future development and opportunities for conservation and improvements to the existing urban or village landscape. With this in mind it is important to focus research on the historic processes that have shaped the place as it is today. A full history is not needed. A Village Design Statement will be similar in character to a Conservation Area Character Appraisal, which are prepared by the District Councils. In the Lacey Green and Loosley Row Design Statement the history of the religious life of the village was focussed upon as a major contributor to the building history of the village and to its many open spaces. You can see Lacey Green and Loosely Row Village Design Statement as a pdf document on the web. The Downley Design Statement the history of the village was outlined in terms of the changes in housing over the years, starting with scattered farms, with nineteenth century expansion and then further building in nearly all decades of the twentieth century. The Downley Village Design Statement is available from Wycombe District Council.
The history in Buckingham Vision and Design Statement explained the shape and character of the town for instance:
- Following a disastrous fire in 1725, much of the centre of Buckingham was rebuilt. This rebuilding has given our town its classic Georgian centre, now contained within a Conservation Area.
Buckingham Vision and Design Statement is also available as a pdf document on the web.
Ellesborough's Village Design Statement concentrates on both the buildings and the landscape around them, using information about the archaeology of the parish to inform recommendations for conserving views and open spaces in the parish:
- Preserve and enhance existing views in every direction, both from and into the Parish, as illustrated by the photographs and identified on the Map and summarised in Appendix A.
- Preserve the outstanding landscape of the area by not intruding upon or masking the scenic views across the Parish maintaining the aspects of Coombe Hill, Beacon Hill, the Conservation Area and the Chequers Estate.
- Keep significant open spaces "open" to avoid intrusion upon the views.
Click to see Ellesborough's Village Design Statement on the web.
A Village Design Statement will also comment on open spaces, footpaths, boundaries and trees as well as buildings. This was incorporated into the Downley document:
- One of the most attractive and distinctive features of Downley is the juxtaposition of varying types of property, set within open space, at an angle to a road, with hedged or open front gardens, framed by mature forest trees with possible underplanting.
Views are also important to stress to prevent development from blocking them or to identify areas where views could be improved. One of the recommendations in the Stone and Hartwell Design Statement was:
- Opening up views into and across the recreation Ground from Oxford Road would help integrate this space into the village; limited well-spaced planting around the south eastern and south western side would help define the space.
It is useful if recommendations on the future design of the village or town are incorporated into the text as well as being brought together at the end of the document. This can help focus the content of the text throughout the document towards explaining the thinking behind the recommendations. This method was used in the Ellesborough VDS, Lacey Green and Loosley Row VDS and Buckingham Vision and Design Statement. In the latter the recommendations at the end were also cross-referenced with the page they had originally appeared on earlier in the document so that it would be easier to look back at the supporting text:
- SPATIAL LAYOUT New development should use existing focal points, as well as create new landmarks, so it has an established point of reference with the town. (Pages 2 & 3)
- MATERIALS Local traditional brick colours and textures should be matched and used in new build. (Page 11)
- SCALE The scale of each scheme should be dictated by its location in relation to existing buildings, landscape features and physical setting. (Page 12)
The use of pictures should be more than attractive illustrations to the text. They can be completely integrated into the text to illustrate certain points to strengthen the document’s conclusions. This was done to admirable effect in the Buckingham Vision and Design Statement, which had not only contemporary and historical views of Buckingham but also, where appropriate, hand-drawn examples of desirable and undesirable design.
The purpose of the town design statement for Buckingham was summed up very succinctly in two sentences:
- The town manages to convey a lively urban character while retaining a rural atmosphere. However, we are very conscious that, unless thoughtfully managed, continuing growth and prosperity could overwhelm the rural features so valued by our community.
Jargon may well be a problem when writing Village Design Statements as many of the terms, also used in character appraisals of Conservation Areas, will be unfamiliar to most readers. These include things like enclosure (which refers to discrete spaces created between buildings), scale (which refers not only to the size of buildings but also to the use, whether domestic, civic etc…), and topography (which is the character of the terrain, whether flat, on a slope etc…). In the Stone and Hartwell Village Design Statement the concept of enclosure was explained in a separate box within the text:
- Most towns and villages are made up of enclosed spaces. Whatever their size, whether planned or as a result of historical accident, spaces may be tightly enclosed or loosely defined. They are most often formed by buildings, wall, trees or hedgerows, but the enclosure may be the result of curving of a street, the summit of a rise, of the narrowing of a gap – a ‘pinch’ point.
Getting the community involved
Buckingham Vision and Design Statement had to reach as many people as possible as the population was so much bigger than many of the villages involved in the VDS process. Their approach was multi-faceted:
- People from every street in our town participated in a town-wide, street-by-street audit with the aim of identifying the special characteristics of Buckingham.
- We set out a stall at three shows and fairs held in Buckingham during the summer of 1999 and met and talked to large numbers of people.
- Specifically, we sought the views of fellow citizens in the photo quiz, which was put together around the theme: ‘How Well Do You Know Buckingham?’
- The competitions, the discussion groups and the audit all provided a wealth of detailed information and opinions from the people in Buckingham on the growth of our town.
- The art competition for both adults and schools from Buckingham and the surrounding parishes on the theme ‘The Spirit of Buckingham’ was a great success, involving all age groups. Once again, local businesses donated generous prizes.
- Several hundred people participated in the two Town Workshops, held on Wednesday, 22nd September, to coincide with the annual Town Forum and on Saturday, November 6th.
- We received over 150 written submissions in which people gave their ideas on vision and design for the future of our town.
The Ickford Village Appraisal involved a mailed questionnaire, which was collected by hand by a committee member a few weeks after delivery to allow sufficient time for them to be filled in. They had given out three types of questionnaires, one for adults, one for children and one for youths. 68% of households responded with at least one questionnaire, 66% of adults, 79% of youths and 90% of children responded. Whether it was the method of hand delivery and collection or because the survey was about improving the village, this was a very good response rate. It also seems that the younger members of the community are more likely to respond. Many of them responded with very good suggestions for improvements to community life, such as one for a yearly village sports day. It is good to take the views of children and young people in the parish on board. They can identify opportunities to improve the quality of their lives as they are growing up that might, perhaps, be overlooked by adults. Children responding to the Ickford Appraisal suggested, nearly all as one, that the village should have a roller-blading area in the playing fields.
Some parishes set up a prize draw for those who answered the questionnaire, such as Little Marlow who offered a case of wine for respondents to the adult questionnaire for their Parish Plan and a £30 gift voucher to those answering the 11-18 year old questionnaire. An open meeting was called in the early stages of the Downley VDS which attracted a large number of people, about half of all those attending, from outside the village, so it is also useful to remember those who visit the village may also have a view on its design. This is particularly true in the case of a town design statement.
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