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Our ‘built environment’ matters

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There has recently been concern within Government circles about the risks posed by using wooden cladding on buildings. New guidance has been issued in an attempt to prevent fires such as that in Barking, but will this result in an unnecessary loss of design options? The current plans for the new buildings on the Knowle site use wood in an attempt to blend into the site and to create a ‘sense of place’. Will their designs have to be reassessed and referred back to Planning? What are the requirements for Building Regulations Approval now?


The interest in good, and safe, building design is nothing new. In 1999 the Government set up the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) and when it came to an end in 2011 it was only because it had merged with the Design Council. Yet how many of us, and of our Councillors, are aware of the work on this subject and how it affects our town?

There is a wealth of information out there to help communities get the best buildings for their particular area, as can be seen on our webpage on Built Heritage; and opportunities for Sidmouth to apply for funding to improve our buildings and High Streets: but somehow it never quite comes together for us. Of course, applications for funding are only accepted if Councils are also involved.

The Place Alliance has been canvassing the views of Councillors all over the country and you can see their research here.  It is worrying, but not surprising that residents value good design more than Councillors do. Professor Matthew Carmona writes about the recent Government Housing Audit on his Blog and gives an overview of what they found about housing quality.

If you are interested in buildings, whether old or new, then we could perhaps set up a group who could support the District Council planners with specific, detailed, knowledge of Sidmouth. We already have experts on the work of Sampson  and a Sid Vale Association history group who are helping EDDC to put together a Local List of built heritage ( although it is going very slowly).

The Neighbourhood Plan, if adopted, will give us more control over our town, but we need to have the knowledge to make the best use of that control.

If working on this topic interests you then please get in touch.