This seeks to determine the reasonable and realisable needs and demands for space that exists within an area and to associate these demands with the known existence of vacant or under-used space and the potential for creating new space. This is intended to provide a sound rational for development decisions that follow.   It would cover: community aspirations, employment and business space demands, housing demand, education and health provision proposals.

Creating or maintaining buildings or spaces that are unused or substantially underused is wasteful. Yet in many urban areas there exists a vast resource of such space that is either poorly located, poorly purposed or simply undervalued and ignored. The community either does not or cannot envisage a use for these spaces.

Experience tells us that communities sometimes need guidance to unearth the potential of underused spaces, or else to recognise the futility of preserving spaces that do not contribute to the life and vitality of their area. This part of the Context Appraisal seeks to do two things:

  • To determine what reasonable and realisable demands for space exist.
  • To associate these demands with known vacant or underused spaces and/or the potential for creating new space.

Some aspects of this work are straightforward – for example, undertaking an audit of housing demand by tenure and type; or establishing the capital investment plans of organisations (such as a local health provider or Education Authority) with space needs that can be met within a particular locality.

Other information, such as the demands for specific types of workspace and determining how much of this could or should be provided within the local area, will require more intricate analysis that should be performed in association with the local planning authority.

In the interest of creating sustainable communities, such demands should be collated and used to determine how new development or investment can either accommodate this space or serve as a vehicle for its provision (for example, through the use of planning obligation payments).

It is also worth remembering that existing residential and business communities will have ideas and information of their own, and that early collaboration between a developer and the people living and working in the area is always worthwhile. Local residents may be especially interested in ways to improve environmental blackspots, increase the provision of children’s play space or reduce crime and antisocial behaviour. Allowing them to participate in the Context Appraisal enables them to better understand the sometimes competing demands from various interest groups. This can make it easier to achieve an effective consensus on priorities.

Completion of the Context Appraisal allows the design process to begin capturing the intelligence, data and local opinion that will help to shape the character and nature of the development. The completed Context Appraisal can also be used as supporting information for the planning application – and a sound rationale for any decisions that follow.

Page updated: 1/02/2018

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