I had an interesting and stimulating day a few weeks ago, taking a group of town and district councillors around potential areas of development in Wincanton. The process, called a PlaceCheck, draws out people’s views on what are the important features of a place that need protecting and factors that need to be addressed in any development, such as flood risk, zoning and traffic access.
The PlaceCheck was led by Jo Witherden, Dorset Planning Consultant and assisted by Landscape Architect Sarah Barber.
Over the course of a day we visited 8 sites, taking around 20-30 minutes walking, talking and making notes. We had forms asking the same questions for each site.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Barber
This is a really useful tool that I believe would benefit most Town Councils, whether undertaking a Neighbourhood Plan or not.
Seeing areas & sites on the same day, and thinking about them using the same criteria, gives an objective a view as possible. Historic planning concerns were discussed but they are just one element of the big picture. There were of course some differing points of view about certain sites but also a positive approach in thinking about what is possible that would be good for the town.
The results are being collated at the moment, and this will form part of the Evidence Base of the Neighbourhood Plan.
This kind of guided workshop could help Town Councillors make better, more informed decisions in future on planning and wider issues.