Exeter Cricket Club Development News Update

Last updated: 20th July 2014

Application: 14/0815/03 Exeter Cricket Club, County Ground, Prince Of Wales Road, Exeter, EX4 4PR: 

Exeter St James Forum – The Design Panel’s considered view.

The Exeter St James Design Panel has been formed by the Exeter St James Forum (ESJF) to promote high standards of design and development within the ward. The Design Panel is made up of design and development professionals and lay people resident within St James.

Colin Pill: Head of Landscape at Waterman Group. Expert in Townscape/Landscape & Visual Assessment and landscape planning and design. Member of the Design Review Panel for Somerset and Devon. Resident of Thornton Hill.

Paul Layton: retired teacher, ESJF representative Powderham Crescent Residents' Association.

Susie Bower: At Glasscapes designed sandblasted panels for domestic and commercial properties. Long interest and practice in art and design. Resident of Devonshire Place.

Pamela Wootton: in St James 1961; taught Zoology, Botany at Bishop Blackall [then a Grammar Sch]; later Warden of a University Hall [other side of campus]; chairman of Planning sub-committee of Exeter Civic Society; lives at top of Thornton Hill.

Frazer Osment (Chair): Partner of LDA Design, urban designer and masterplanner, recognised UK expert in design and development delivery advising developers, the Homes and Communities Agency, local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships and resident of Prospect Park.

Theo Goodall: Former head of urban design at ECC and resident of Velwell Road.

ESJF was the first urban forum to prepare and secure adoption of a Neighbourhood Plan under the 2011 Localism Act. The work of the Forum has received support from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and senior ministers in Government. The Forum is still in regular contact with DCLG which is following with interest the degree to which the Neighbourhood Plan is influencing planning decisions.

Under the provisions of the Localism Act the Policies of the Neighbourhood Plan take precedence over non-strategic policies of Exeter City Council within St James. The Neighbourhood Plan was supported by approximately 92% of people who voted in a Referendum on the adoption of the plan in May 2013. In determining the acceptability of current proposals for the Cricket Club in planning terms consideration should be given to policies EN1, EN2, EN5, D1, C2, SD2, SD4, H1 of the Neighbourhood Plan.

ESJF has taken a positive and proactive approach to sustainable development. Despite the allocation of the Exeter Cricket Club Site as Green Space in the previous ECC Local Plan and its status within the Longbrook Conservation Area, ESJF prepared an ‘exceptions policy’ which allowed for appropriate enabling development to secure the future of the Cricket Club provided that proposals met the ‘highest standards of design’. However Neighbourhood Plan did not remove the status of the cricket club site as green space but put the onus on any future developer to demonstrate ‘significant social, economic and environmental benefits from any loss of green space’ (Policy EN1) and ‘high standards of sustainable design and construction which responds to identified landscape and heritage values of the site’ (Policy SD2).

The Design Panel strongly supports the principle of enabling development on this site to secure the future of the Cricket Club and accepts that in order to ensure a viable development, and investment in the fabric of the Cricket Club, that a certain scale of development is necessary. The Panel has been consulted on early schematic options and is pleased that comments relating to the layout of the site appear to have been taken into account.

The Design Panel was given sight of the detailed proposals that are now the subject of this planning application before they were submitted to ECC but was not formally consulted on them. The Chair of the Panel provided informal feedback to the applicants on a number of detailed design issues that were of concern to panel members at this time. These included scale, materials, roof form and design, fenestration and contextual issues. However, although the applicants provided additional information to the Design Panel as a result of this informal feedback, no changes were made to the proposals before they were submitted to ECC as a planning application.

The Design Panel has now unanimously reached a view that the detailed design proposals do not meet the standards of high quality sustainable design and sensitivity to landscape, visual and heritage context as required by the policies of the Neighbourhood Plan. Whilst the detailed design proposals may be appropriate to a different urban context, they fail to adequately respond to the very special nature of the site and its status as Conservation Area and protected green space. The policies of the Neighbourhood Plan are very clear that the acceptability of development on this site is contingent on a sensitive and contextual design response and Policy SD2 of the Neighbourhood Plan was supported at referendum on this basis.

The Cricket Club site is possibly one of the most attractive and high profile development opportunities in Exeter. It has an exceptional setting adjacent to the University and the Hoopern Valley and the urban areas of St James. The site has stunning views and occupies a key location between the University the City. The development will replace a cherished heritage asset, the WG Grace Pavilion and have an irrevocable impact on the character of the County Ground. It will be visible from a wide area. In this context, the design proposals should be distinctive and responsive to site character, heritage and views. Across the UK developments within many sporting grounds have achieved exceptional design quality.

In the view of the Panel the proposals subject to this application do not respond to the special qualities of the site and represent a generic design solution not dissimilar to schemes that can be found elsewhere in Exeter and in many other towns and cities. The Design Panel therefore urges the applicant to revisit the detailed proposals in particular to:

• Ensure the proposals are driven by a clear design idea/vision that responds to the special landscape, visual and heritage qualities of the site;

• In particular, consider whether there is anything about the heritage of the site and the views that are available from it that should shape the detailed design;

• Reconsider the bulky roof form and massing in relation to key surrounding view points;

• Seek a materials palette that is visually lighter, in particular with regard to the slate capping of each block;

• Ensure that the separation of the blocks, which reads well in plan form and helps to break up the scale of the development, can also be clearly perceived in views of the site – the blocks appear as if they are one single large building;

• Address the concerns of local residents with regard to parking, servicing and drainage.
The detailed designs for the cricket pavilion and the student accommodation are linked in terms of materials and other elements. The above comments, which relate mainly to the student accommodation, would therefore be expected to also have an impact of the design of the cricket pavilion.

The above comments are provided to be constructive and to ensure that the development becomes a positive and valued feature of St James which meet the design standards that the community enshrined in the Neighbourhood Plan. The Design Panel hopes that ECC will be able to secure amended detailed design proposals through the determination period that it will be able to wholeheartedly support when the scheme goes before the planning committee.

The Exeter St James Design Review Panel
May 2014

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