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Leading Luminaries of the Design World Gather at Dorset CPRE Conference

Group photo taken after panel discussion at Dorset CPRE Planning Conference 13th March 2020 Group photo taken after panel discussion at Dorset CPRE Planning Conference 13th March 2020 Photo: © Rupert Hardy

17th March 2020

Leading Luminaries of the Design World Gather at Dorset CPRE Conference

The Dorset branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has staged a highly successful conference to examine the question that preoccupies many residents of the county: how to achieve new housing that is better designed and better planned than is currently often the case.

It was opened by Emma Bridgewater, CPRE’s national President, and featured a line-up of distinguished speakers. These included Ben Bolgar from The Prince’s Foundation, who traced the gradual acceptance in recent decades of the Prince of Wales’s once-ridiculed concerns for design and planning. The well-known designer Ben Pentreath (who has been very much involved in the Poundbury development on the edge of Dorchester) concluded that ultimately it was for landowners releasing the land for development to make sure that higher standards were observed, and that the new housing fitted better with local traditions. He was followed by the Earl of Moray (with Andrew Howard, Director of Moray Estates), who has blazed a trail in north-east Scotland by developing a new town on his land that does precisely this, and is as a result already extremely popular with local people. The internationally-renowned landscape designer Kim Wilkie made a plea for landscape to be central to any new large-scale developments.

A lively discussion involved these and other speakers, including Ben Murphy, Estate Director for the Duchy of Cornwall, Dominic Richards of Our Place, Paul Miner, CPRE Strategic Planning Lead, and David Walsh, Dorset Council’s Portfolio Holder for Planning. It was generally agreed that the small number of big developers who dominate housing development do not on the whole have the answers to the challenge, since they rarely employ proper architects and are more interested in big profits than aesthetics. All the presentations were filmed and will be made available at a later date. Small local builders such as those who displayed at the conference, including CG Fry, ZeroC, Morrish and Hastoe, were much more likely to be sensitive to the Dorset context.

The conference was attended by some of the county’s leading landowners, along with a number of Dorset councillors and a strong showing from Dorset Council planning department. It comes hard on the heels of the publication of the report of the government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission. This recommends a much greater emphasis on the need for new housing developments to be visually attractive, to take greater account of local and regional architectural traditions, and generally to be acceptable to the local people on whom they have the most impact. The CPRE very much hopes that attendees will draw the appropriate conclusions and put them into practice, while most seemed to agree that they all wanted “the right houses in the right places”.

 

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