Context Appraisal & Design Access Statements

The Context Appraisal requires an examination of the pattern of streets, morphology, materials, building heights styles and identity together with the existing pattern of uses (floorspace, density etc). In addition, topography, landscape character and bio-diversity structure are expected to be analysed. In relation to ‘context’ the Statutory Instrument states that this means not just the physical context of the development but also the social, economic and policy context of the development. 

Clearly there is considerable overlap between the Context Appraisal process and the Design and Access Statement. 

Design and Access Statement Context Appraisal
Applications for major development, as defined in article 2 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure (England) Order 2015 Required for sites of 0.1 hectare and over    
Applications for development in a designated area, where the proposed development consists of: one or more dwellings; or a building or buildings with a floor space of 100 square metres or more
Applications for listed building consent.
For the purposes of Design and Access Statements, a designated area means a World Heritage Site or a conservation area
Applications for waste development, a material change of use, engineering or mining operations do not need to be accompanied by a Design and Access Statement
Physical Context 
Physical context - they physical nature and character of the area including its landscape, buildings, open spaces, movement networks and historical environment   Functional context: topography, green space, play space, landscape, heritage assets, movement, areas liable to flood 
Built form context: buildings heights, styles
Social Context 
Social context – who uses the area and how, including what uses and community facilities are available, social mixes and local aspirations    Functional context: health, education, community facilities
Community context: community aspirations, education and health investment priorities 
Operations context: schools/GPs/community capacities 
Economic Context 
Economic context – how the local economy functions and its relationship to the viability of the proposal. Land values and their effect on development options can be covered here   Functional context: economic development initiatives 
Operational context: business space availability 
Community context: business space demands, housing demand 
Access - explain the considerations given to access issues, including access to the existing transport network, access for disabled people etc; and consultations carried out in these respects   Spatial context: proximity to public transport corridor
Functional context: vehicle, pedestrian, public transport routes 
Operational context: car parking management 
Policy Context 
Policy context - local, regional and national objectives, policies and guidance – and details of how these have shaped the development   
Design Concepts
Design Principles and concepts – intended to show how the amount, layout, scale, landscaping and appearance of proposed development relate to contexts identified above   
Crime Prevention 
Should demonstrate how crime prevention matters have been considered in the design and how the design reflects the attributes of safe, sustainable places set out in ‘Safer Places –the Planning System and Crime Prevention’   
Landscaping proposal - explaining the purpose of landscaping private and public spaces and its relationship to the surrounding area   
To include an account of consultations that have taken place with community and professional interests (planning, access, heritage officers) and the way that these have influenced the proposal Operational context: public space management 
Functional context: biodiversity structure, public art installations & strategies 
Functional context would identify shortfalls and make it possible to plan for making good deficiencies

The above table shows that although the topic titles may differ, there is much that is common to the two processes. Design and Access Statements would be necessary for a larger number of sites because of their lower size threshold.

The level of detail of what is required to complete a Context Appraisal may result in the need for information being collated on a wider range of physical/operational issues (e.g. public space management, public art) than is suggested for Design and Access Statements. 

An element included in a Design and Access Statement which the Context Appraisal does not cover is the ‘Policy Context’ – the local, regional and national objectives, policies and guidance. In addition, the Statement requires a connection to be made between the context analyses and the form and content of the proposed development. These aspects are likely to be covered by anyone submitting a proposal under UPS procedures but the Design and Access Statement would require these processes to be explicit – to show clearly how the development proposal has been influenced by context.   A Design and Access Statement also needs to show how crime prevention measures have been considered in the design of the proposal. The Design and Access Statement will justify the proposed landscaping scheme, explaining the purpose of landscaping private and public spaces and its relationship to the surrounding area. 

In these respects a Design and Access Statement includes an analysis of the proposal itself and this is a major difference between it and a Context Appraisal. 

Whilst these processes may yield similar results, the steps beyond the context analysis stage differ: there being an understanding in the Essex Design Guide that shortfalls identified in a Context Appraisal will be addressed in the development content of the site, whereas the Design and Access Statement would not make such a direct connection. 

The Context Appraisal process is intended to capture as complete an understanding as possible of the intelligence, data and local opinion that will help to shape the character and nature of development on a site. Design and Access Statements are intended to explain and justify the design and access principles and concepts on which a development proposal is based, and how these will be reflected in the individual aspects of the scheme outlined above. 

The comparative levels of community engagement may be different between the two processes with a clearly identified input identified in the Context Appraisal but with community input less clearly defined in the Design and Access Statements: it is, however, clear that the DAS expects a reasonable level of public engagement - ‘Involvement’ being one of the four key components of the process (the four being Assessment, Involvement, Evaluation and Design).

Design and Access Statements should explain how it supports local aims and how the development will relate to the aspirations that people in the locality may have for the site.

It should demonstrate that the views and aspirations of local communities have been taken into account.

A good statement will be able to show that the applicant has spoken to local communities.

Page updated: 6/02/2018

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