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1. Good planning does not, unfortunately, always lead to a good environment. Many additional factors can forestall the development so desperately needed. 2. Essex County Council have made a bold and imaginative move to radically reshape development within the County. All must surely gain real benefit from the initiative which could, I believe, unlock a significant supply of homes whilst empowering local homeowners in the process. 3. I am glad to see that the Council propose to relax some longstanding constraints, particularly concerning new dwellings and density. It should now be possible to design denser, more efficient, attractive and economical forms of development. I look forward to seeing the practical effect of these changes.

Original text from 1973 Design Guide for Residential Areas, Essex County Council Living Closer Together additions and amendments


Few Essex people are happy with recent housing developments in the county. It has a dreary suburban uniformity and lacks any specific Essex characteristics. It is unaffordable and unpleasant in character. In an effort to improve this situation, a new planning policy has been adopted. The aim of the new policy is to establish a planning framework within which a new suburban era of mutually beneficial suburban densification can begin.

Original text from 1973 Design Guide for Residential Areas, Essex County Council Living Closer Together additions and amendments


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1.0 Planning Policies

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13

SECTION

0.1 THE PLANNING CONTEXT 0.1.1 Density

SECTION

1.0

KEY TENETS 1.1 General Principles 1.2 Suburban Densification

21 21 26

2.0

PROCESS 2.1 Decision-Making 2.2 Control 2.3 Provision

29 29 30 36

3.0

CHARACTER 3.1 New Suburbia 3.2 Minimum Standards 3.3 Flexible Homes

39 39 41 43

4.0

RELATION 4.1 Plot-to-Plot 4.2 House-to-House 4.3 Council-to-House

45 45 48 49

5.0

AESTHETICS 5.1 New Essex Vernacular 5.2 Identity

51 51 55

15 18

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SECTION

1.0 SITE PLAN 1.1 Existing 1.2 Proposed 2.0 PLAN 2.1 Existing 2.2 Proposed 3.0 SAMPLE HOUSE PLANS 3.1 ELEVATION 3.2 SECTION

58 60 62 64 66 80 82


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1.0

Key Tenets 1.1

General Principles

1.2

Suburban Densification

The project Living Closer Together should offer an alternative vision for the town that achieves a balance between the regional and local need for new homes; both the existing and best possible future character and quality of the town; and community benefit. The new homes should be provided in a way that tackles the crisis of underoccupation in the town. This densification should represent a new future for the suburban condition, not an urbanisation of the town.

2.0

Process 2.1

Decision-Making

2.2

Control

2.3

Provision

The densification should be orchestrated and enacted at a local level. The quantity, specific location, appearance and neighbourhood-level spatial structure of the new dwellings should be decided with the involvement of the local residents. The densification should be choreographed and organised at a community and neighbourhood level, in order to maintain the town's cohesive character and achieve the best possible outcome. The new homes created by the densification should address the existing mismatch between household typologies and household stock. New homes should be radically affordable to reclaim the suburban legacy of accessibility.

3.0

Character 3.1

New Suburbia

3.2

Minimum Standards

2.3

Flexible Homes

In order to represent a new suburbia rather than an urbanisation the densification should be loyal to the key ideologies of the suburban legacy. The new suburbscape should continue the successful small-scale neighbourly structures of the original town. The densification should be held accountable to a high standard of both dwelling and neighbourhood. The new homes should priorities future flexibility of the homes. A key strand of the project is how underoccupation can be avoided in the future by designing homes that better fit the changing spatial requirements of the family.

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4.0

Relation 4.1

Plot-to-Plot

4.2

House-to-House

4.3

Council-to-Home

Each new house should be connected to its own plot. This should continue the specific suburban 'house' character, as opposed to the more urban flat or apartment. The project is Living Closer Together not living together and so should treat the relationships between the dwellings, whether new or old, with care, to maintain the 'each man's house is his castle' character of the suburb. The new dwellings should avoid adding a significant burden to the work of either the town or city councils.

1.0

Aesthetics 5.1

New Essex Vernacular

5.2

Identity

Visually the new homes should be a continuation and next chapter of the Essex Vernacular style, as originally codified and made popular by the 1973 Design Guide for Residential Areas. The style should develop this vernacular and not be a lazy pastiche. The homes should directly enable & encourage the sacred suburban practice of identity creation, both within and without the home.

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In many areas of Essex, new homes are being proposed and built in soulless new estates, while our old well-loved neighbourhoods suffer from increasing under-occupation. What constitutes good development has far too often ignored questioning how we live in and use space, as well as how we build it. By setting out a clearly related structure of planning and design policies, it is hoped that a high standard of suburban intensification can be achieved, that both offers a new lease of life to suburban neighbourhoods and maintains the character of suburbia that people love.

Original text from 1973 Design Guide for Residential Areas, Essex County Council Living Closer Together additions and amendments 15


0.1 a

Suburban housing, Feering, Essex, from the 1973 Design Guide for Residential Areas

0.1 b

Early plotlands-style housing, Hullbridge Road

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Early suburban housing, Longfield Road

0.1 c

'Anywhere' type housing, Boreham Village, Essex, from the 1973 Design Guide for Residential Areas

0.1 d


0.1.1

Density In a heavily urbanised county like Essex, it is essential that open countryside should remain near at hand for people to enjoy. The 1973 Essex Design Guide evidenced that it is at the lowest end of the density scale where a slight increase has the biggest potential for increased population density. Whereas the Development Plan Written Statement recommends an average net density of 13 to 15 houses to the acre, which prioritises "decent sized gardens" and "comfortable family housing". The Statement recognises that flexibility and variety of housing layouts can contribute to making higher densities easier, a quality enabled by the New Suburban Home typologies. The need for flexibility is compounded in the Living Closer Together scheme by the added complication of arranging new dwellings on a site still inhabited by the existing homes. Given the fact that most families want to live in traditional housing -- that is dwellings up to three storeys in height, with a garden -- there are two obvious starting points for increased densities: 1. The omission of all useless space on the public side of housing development. 2. The reduction of the ground cover of indidividual buildings -- by the increased use of two and three storey house types. 3. Reshaping the existing housing typologies to better suit modern families and households.

Original text from 1973 Design Guide for Residential Areas, Essex County Council Living Closer Together additions and amendments 18


1960s housing developent, Clements Greens Lane

0.1 e

1960s housing developent, Clements Greens Lane

0.1 f


1.1

General Principles 1.1.1

1000 Homes

1000 homes should be provided by 2036.

1.1.2

Fill Up not Out

New homes should be provided within the existing town extent.

1.1.3

Direct Alternative

The town’s alternative development plan presents a direct alternative to Chelmsford City Council’s plan.

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1.1.4

Local Control

Local residents should control where the new dwellings go.

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1.1.5

Local Benefit

The town and local community should receive the financial benefits of new dwellings in their neighbourhoods.

1.1.6

Quid Pro Quo

Homeowners who provide new dwellings should receive a direct benefit for doing so, either through the property improvements, an ongoing ground rent income, or both.

A need for improvement

As shown by these photographs from site, many of the properties in the town are in need of TLC.

The Polykatoikia: A precedent

This model of urban densification in Athens, Greece, saw developers tempting homeowners to redevelop their plots to higher densities through homeowners receiving both a new home and a minimum of one extra apartment, either to keep or sell on, as an incentive.

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1.1.7

Homeowner-led

New development should come from existing homeowners.

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1.1.8

New Suburbia

The densification should create a new suburban character, rather than urbanising the town.

1.1.9

Single-Family Suburbia

Only houses, defined as a clearly defined unit residing on a plot complete with private open space, with a limited number of shared physical boundaries, are permitted.

1.1.10

Flexible Family Homes

Homes should allow for how families’ spatial requirements change over time.

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1.2

Suburban Densification 1.2.1

No Such Thing As Spare

The new homes should make use of the town’s underoccupied ‘spare space’ as a new land supply for new dwellings.

1.2.2

Iterative Development

The densification should be phased over time.

1.2.3

Fill Up

Densification begins in the ‘spare space’ in the existing homes.

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1.2.4

Enabling Occupation

The primary role of any new structures should be to unlock the ‘spare space’ within the existing houses.

New structures can provide access, extra rooms as needed and vital services to support sharing 'spare' space.

1.2.5

Connection

All First Phase structures should connect to a minimum of one existing dwelling.

1.2.6

Exchange

New structures should seek to begin a process of bridging between the existing homes in order to enable the exchange of space between them.

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2.1

Decision-Making 2.1.1

Local Control, Pt. 2

The town is compartmentalised into decision-making zones.

2.1.2

Security

The smallest unit of decision-making is prioritised.

2.1.3

Collaborative Development

Development should be carried out in collaboration with neighbours.

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2.2

Control 2.2.1

Neighbourhood Centres

The town’s structure of four neighbourhood centres, town centre and two industrial centres is respected and continued.

2.2.2

Density Zones

The neighbourhood centres form the basis of density zones that masterplan where densification can best be achieved. should be phased over time.

Higher density areas are focused around the trunk road and town centre.

2.2.3

Island Sites

Densification is choreographed by the island sites created by the town’s cul-de-sac structure.

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2.2.4

Street-led Development

The decision-making zones are organised into a hierarchy which prioritises the opinions of immediate neighbours.

2.2.5

Central Hall

New homes are defined by a key central space: the hall. The possible locations and quantity of halls permissible within a development pocket are decided at a community level.

2.2.6

Mediating Walls

The halls are defined by key structural walls. These structural walls act as a planning technique that manifests limitations such as where future growth might go and protected site lines.

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2.2.7

Collaborative Development, Pt. 2

The number of new dwellings permissible increases as the number of plots collaborating increases.

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2.2.8

Transfer of Development Rights

Neighbours can share and exchange their quota for development.

2.2.9

Levels of Intervention

The method of introducing dwellings is stratified into three levels of intervention, defined by where the hall is located.

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2.2.9

Intensity Zones

Different areas are better suited to different levels of intervention due to factors such as existing site density and availability of access.

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Outbuilding Terracing opportunity Infill Extend

Front Garden Mews Court Cul-de-Sac Trunk Road

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2.3

Provision 2.3.1

Diverse Households

The new homes created should provide for demographics currently underrepresented.

2.3.2

Right-Size not Downsize

The new dwellings should convert the existing into more suitable accommodation.

2.3.3

Accessibility

All new dwellings should conform to a definition of affordable decided by the community.

Housing charity Shelter defines 35% of market rate as truly affordable.

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2.3.4

Tenure

Existing homeowners maintain the freehold of their plot. New dwellings are leased or rented through a housing collective to new residents. For more detail on tenure please see the South Woodham Focus.

2.3.5

Lifetime Homes

Every new dwelling should comply with Lifetime Homes.

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3.1

New Suburbia 3.1.1

Residential Dominance

The residential character of the suburban town should be maintained by concentrating new commercial development to the town centre or the station commercial corridor.

3.1.2

Loyalty to Structure

New development should honour the existing road structure.

3.1.2

Loyalty to Fabric

The existing structure of plots and development parcels should inform the new development.

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3.1.4

Contextual Horizon

The existing structure of plots and development parcels should inform the new development.

3.1.5

Lot Assembly

A visual variation of plot sizes and shapes should be maintained.

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3.2

Minimum Standards 3.2.1

Plot Size Requirements

Plots should allow for a dwelling that provides a minimum of 20m2 per resident.

3.2.2

Private Garden

Every dwelling should have an area of private open space.

3.2.3

Open Space Ratio

Each house should have open space, the minimum size of which to match the size of the main living space.

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3.2.4

Suburban Landscape

Special effort should be made to make us of space created above ground level for private open space including balconies, terraces and roof gardens.

3.2.5

Building Distance

All halls should be distanced by at least one room of ‘soft space’.

3.2.6

Entrance

All existing external openings should be maintained as far as possible.

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3.3

Flexible Homes 3.3.1

Double Rooms

All dwellings should have minimum two bedrooms.

An extra room allows space for visitors...

3.3.2

...or the pitter patter of tiny feet...

...or perhaps for a carer in later life.

Double Occupancy

All bedrooms should accommodate a double bed.

3.3.1

Double Rooms

All dwellings should have at least 1 room of soft space.

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4.1

New Suburbia 4.1.1

Plot Definition

Each plot should be clearly defined.

4.1.2

Plot Boundary

The existing minimum 2m wall defining the plot perimeter, as stipulated in property deeds, is maintained.

Restrictive Covenants

This extract from the deeds of 2 Troubridge Close shows the strict legal requirement for adequate perimeter walls or fencing.

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4.1.3

Ligament Development

‘Soft’ space should be constructed so that it bridges between halls or existing dwellings, thereby enabling the exchange of spaces between homes.

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Ligament Terracing opportunity

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4.2

House-to-House 4.2.1

Palette of Attachment

A permissible range of dwelling attachments is permitted and enforced.

4.2.2

Minimum Standard of Separation

All party walls between dwellings, both in new constructions and the partitioning of existing homes, should comply with a minimum standard of separation as defined by construction details provided in Construction Guidelines.

4.2.3

Right to Light

New dwellings should avoid obstructing any openings through which they do not connect with an existing house.

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4.3

Council-to-House 4.3.1

Rubbish

In order to simplify collection, waste and recycling collection is relocated to hubs, at the smallest scale of the decision making heirarchy.

Clustering waste collection saves council time and resources, thus is particularly effective in the context of icnreased population. Landfill is sited at the intersections between cul-desacs and trunk roads.

Recycling and food waste points are provided at the intersection between mews and cul-de-sac, and multiple cul-de-sacs, so as to incentivise these greener methods of disposal.

4.3.2

Services

All services required for new dwellings should be provided through the Wall elements so as to not add extra demand onto existing infrastructure within houses. Infrastructure improvements should be phased alongside densification to upgrade provision without prohibitive initial investment.

4.2.3

Parking

A minimum of 1 parking space per dwelling should be provided in perimeter parking clusters a maximum distance of 100m from the dwelling. It is best practice to provide a further 2 parking spaces in a neighbourhood centre parking cluster.

4.2.4

Vehicular Access

No house should be further than 45m from a vehicular access route.

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5.1

New Essex Vernacular 5.1.1

Honouring Existing

New dwellings should exist alongside and not visually supersede the existing homes.

5.1.2

Confidence

New dwellings should not be excessively deferent or referential of the existing homes.

5.1.3

Vertical Assembly

The existing language of vertical zones should be used to structure external cladding.

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5.1.4

Material Continuity

The new material palette introduced should relate to the existing.

The Polykatoikia: A precedent

The material palette displayed in the original 1973 Design Guide for Residential Areas.

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5.1.5

Height Difference

Where new structures are taller than the existing houses, such taller structures should take the form of a tower and not exceed 25% of the floorspace of existing neighbouring homes.

5.1.6

Garages

Garages should not be built as separate structures and should instead be considered another room of the home, so that it’s obsolescence doesn’t create ‘spare’ space.

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5.2

Identity 5.2.1

Visible Boundaries

Where homes are attached it should be clearly visible where one ends and another begins.

5.2.2

Expressive Homes

Homeowners are encouraged to lay claim to their facades as a site for display and peacocking.

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Living Closer Together: Design Guide  
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