All posts by Tim Stonor

Architect & Urban Planner | Managing Director, Space Syntax Limited | Deputy Chair, Design Council | Visiting Professor, University College London | Director, The Academy of Urbanism | Fellow, Royal Society of Arts | Advisory Board, Norman Foster Foundation | Resident of Faversham

Does Faversham deserve the best? Of course it does. 

We’re told we should do our best. And that’s right. But I believe we need to do more than that. We should do the best. This means we need help to do more than we can do alone. We need to surround ourselves with people who can form a team to do the best. 
Does Faversham want a plan that’s fit for purpose? Of course it should have one. But how about a plan that is at the top of the game? That sets highest standards? That wins awards?

I believe Faversham deserves the best. Not just our best – the best. 

Cyclists – you’re not welcome in Faversham

Boy do some elected members in @SwaleCouncil & #Faversham Town Council not like cyclists! All sorts of insult & scaremongery was manifest at yesterday evening’s Local Engagement Forum. 

Here’s a selection of their views: Cyclists kill. Cyclists are anti social. Not just the young ones but the old ones too.

I intervened to point out:

– towns and cities throughout the UK are positively encouraging greater levels of cycling because they see cycling as part of their sustainability strategy, part of their economic regeneration strategy, part of their health strategy

– the UK’s population is changing with greater levels of younger people and young families who want to cycle if they are given the option

– if Faversham is seeking to ban cyclists then it is going backwards

– cars kill, injure and intimidate much more than cyclists yet we don’t talk about them in these pejorative ways

– rather than victimise people who choose to cycle we should be encouraging a culture of civilised behaviour throughout the town

– the 20s Plenty campaign is key to this 

– and, by the way, on the point that Faversham isn’t the Netherlands, Bristol has the UK’s highest levels of cycling. Bristol has hills. Faversham has slopes. 

The senior police officer there, speaking in a personal capacity said that if it was up to him he would deregulate rather than regulate. Remove signs not add more of them. He quoted the case of Ashford where the urban design approach there has led to lower levels of injuries and fatalities. He thanked me for intervening. 

It makes me wonder – if we left it to experts like this officer, how much better, more civilised, convivial and economically successful could Faversham be?

Getting rid of yellow lines – if Horsham did it then why can’t Faversham?

Look at this beautiful image of Horsham in West Sussex…

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The street is paved in high quality materials. There are no yellow lines. There’s planting. It looks like a place you’d like to be in.

What more could any place want?

Look at the trees in planters – they’re moveable. They can be placed anywhere according to the needs of the day. They can be moved by the emergency services if they’re ever in the way.

This is the benefit of careful design: thinking the problem through and finding a solution that works under many different scenarios. The elegant hand of beauty.

And isn’t this exactly what Faversham needs too?

What is especially remarkable and relevant for Faversham is that East Street in Horsham didn’t always look this pretty:

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Look at the double yellow lines, the tarmac, the dull municipal road signage. The single tree. The heavy hand of plodding transport planning.

If Horsham can get rid of its yellow lines then why can’t Faversham?

The answer is: we can. We just need to choose to do so.

We need to accept that there are other, and better, ways to control parking that respect the historic fabric of the town, that celebrate life and that seek the best solution for the place – not the dull, municipal average.

The future of Faversham Creek

Address to the Faversham Creek Trust event on board SB Repertor – speaking notes

Tim Stonor
2nd September 2015

Good evening. It is an honour to have been asked to speak this evening and I’m grateful to Lady Sondes, Sir David Melville and Chris Wright for their invitation. As I prepared for this evening I wondered if I had ever given a talk on the water. I thought I hadn’t and then I remembered I once spoke at a conference on board a cruise ship between Genoa and Marseille. I’m pleased to say I’d trade the crystal waters of the Côte D’Azur for the muds of the Côte de North Kent any day. 

We are lucky to be here and lucky to be part of Faversham. Simon Foster mentioned the work I’m involved in that’s looking at the UK 50 years from now. This may seem like a long time but it’s a drop in the ocean/Creek for Faversham. Here we have at least 9,000 years of continuous human habitation. There aren’t many other places in the UK that can claim this. In fact we don’t yet know of any that can.

And why did people first come here and then stick around for so long? It’s the Creek. First for the hunting: its game, its fish and its fowl. Then for its waterborne trade. We are one tide from London, where merchants could poise offshore, like greyhounds in the trap, waiting for fire signals from London to tell them their stock prices were high enough to catch the next tide in.

This place is important. This water is important. Many of us feel this viscerally. Others still need persuading. How can we do that?

I have seven thoughts. Continue reading The future of Faversham Creek

How should Faversham think strategically about its future?

Draft in progress…

First of all, ask the question:

“What is the problem that needs solving?”

What are Faversham’s needs? Schools? Healthcare? Affordable housing? Establish a list of requirements. Be prepared to negotiate. The spirit of civic engagement.

Follow a set of design principles that history suggests deliver positive outcomes…

If not here then where else?

If here then what else is on or near the site that can benefit from the new development eg the sports hall of a local school or a nearby shop or business that can see better trade to help support the local economy?

What is missing in the local neighbourhood that could be provided by the new development eg educational, healthcare or employment uses?

Principle: explot adjacencies and inter-dependencies…

How can new road connections and road junctions benefit the existing situation eg by providing additional cross-town routes to add capacity to the existing infrastructure. 

Analysis: most streets in towns are through streets, not cul de sacs. As a result, most streets have a combination of a) movement heading to or from them as well as b) movement passing through. For most streets in towns, this blend is normal. Problems occur when some residential streets have to carry too large a burden of through movement while others carry too little. The through streets can feel hostile, especially when the design of the street allows vehicles to speed eg South Road. In contrast, through streets increase the overall accessibility of developments, which can benefit house prices and reduce property crime. 

Principle: most new streets should be designed as through streets. Through movement should be controlled at low speeds so that it does not speed through areas.  

How can new development be designed to reduce the need to drive eg good walking and cycling paths, including pedestrian crossings at the edges of the development so that people can walk and cycle into the town centre and into other residential areas of the town?

Principle: the connected grid…

How can the streets and open spaces of the development be designed to support biodiversity eg to create an attractive and convivial environment where people choose to walk and cycle rather than to drive?

Principle: 20mph streets…

Land use
How can uses be mixed so that we don’t just get houses?

Principle: mixed use development…

A Planning Committee for Faversham Town Council

In public contributions at this evening’s Faversham Town Council meeting, Gulliver Immink suggested the Council forms a Planning Committee to better inform itself on development applications across the town before they come to the Council for decision. At present the Council considers complex applications one by one, in short order and without the opportunity to digest the multitude of issues they raise, not least the way that one application impacts on others and on the existing town. A Planning Committee would help to prepare the ground for Council meetings, analysing applications alongside each other so that a picture of Faversham could be formed in the round.

In response, Councillor Simmons said that he didn’t think such a committee would save anyone any time in making a decision. But surely this isn’t just about saving time – it’s about getting it right.

And perhaps a Planning Committee might indeed save time. Time spent at the early stages of the planning process can pay dividends through more effective public consultation, a stronger influence on planning proposals and, as a result, a better long term outcome for the town.

The answer to Faversham’s housing needs: a “Local Place Partnership”?

The think tank ResPublica has today published a report on the creation of local plans to tackle the housing crisis:

The report, title “Devo Home” recommends the creation of “Local Place Partnerships”, dedicated to housebuilding and place-making.

Other recommendations include: 

– Citizens should be able to instigate Local Place Partnerships and take control of housebuilding and development in their areas. 

– the Homes and Community Agency should transfer surplus public sector land directly to Local Place Partnerships to ensure swift release and efficient use

– the use of local government pension funds to invest in new homes and development.

– where appropriate, the creation of cross-development plans that can take a ‘larger than local’ approach to development.

– introduce the use of Local Development Orders to capture the uplift in the value of land and offset the cost of affordable housing and infrastructure projects.

– trailblazing the use of new technology and methods to engage communities and give them real power over the shape and direction of their areas.

Does any of this sound like a Faversham Plan created through a Faversham Conversation? I think it has many echoes that reflect a common need among communities to reshape the way that local planning in done – to move it off the back foot and to play a few strokes again. 

If it’s working for the England cricket team, then why mightn’t it work for Faversham?

How to deal with Faversham’s pressing housing numbers – get on the front foot!

Faversham is attractive to housebuilders. Its chocolate box good looks put it ahead of Sittingbourne and Sheppey in the Swale Borough Council urban beauty parade. 
The planning inspector’s recent decision to allow housing south of the A2 – overturning Swale Council’s refusal – has opened a stable door.

The housing is coming!

Swale Borough Council’s quite reasonable response is to commission a high level “Character Assessment” to make it more difficult for developers to justify future proposals.

But the inspector’s decision means that the stable door has not only been opened but the horse may already have bolted. Character Assessment or not, even more housing is very likely.

And so – to borrow the analogy used by one speaker at this evening’s Local Engagement Forum – the Character Assessment may prove as useful as a chocolate fire guard.

If so, how should Faversham respond? Because it looks like the housing is coming.

Should we continue an “organic” approach (aka a haphazard, defensive and unpredictable one)?

My view is that we should skip off our back foot and get onto the front.

If the housing is coming then what Faversham needs is not an entrenchment but a plan for its future. Not just a housing plan but a plan for its education, health care, business, retail and civic facilities. A plan to take Faversham forward for the next 50 years. A plan for the place as a whole, not only its “objectively assessed housing needs”.

And this means an infrastructure plan for transport, energy, water, waste and data.

Otherwise Faversham faces an ever tightening noose of traffic gridlock. To counter this, it is highly likely that roads will be needed; perhaps another junction with the M2; a public transport plan; an active travel plan to promote walking and cycling.

A Faversham Plan to set an agenda for the town:

– to take to the market

– to promote sites that the market may not have yet seen the viability of

– to coordinate a future for the town in a way that may never have been done before but which is needed now more than ever because of:

– the special circumstances that have been created by the pressing national housing needs

– the national government’s will to deliver housing numbers

– and Faversham’s particular attraction to housing developers.

Faversham – divided town of kings? Or, Faversham – disappeared town of kings?

The Local Government Boundary Commission is carrying out an electoral review of Kent County Council. Radical changes are proposed for Faversham.

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In the current situation, the “Faversham Division” closely matches the urban footprint of the town. This can be seen in the green line that encircles Faversham in the map above. The Faversham Division is then surrounded by the “Swale East Division”, an entirely rural division.

The proposals create a new division, named “Mid Swale”, which stretches from the edges of Sittingbourne in the west to the middle of Faversham in the east. Mid Swale therefore includes all of Faversham’s Priory Ward  and St Ann’s Ward and the western part of Watling Ward.

“Swale East” is reduced in overall size but extended to take in Faversham’s Abbey Ward and the eastern part of Watling Ward.

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Faversham therefore sits across – is divided by – two divisions: Mid Swale and Swale East. Note – there’s no mention of Faversham in either of these names. Faversham has disappeared as a Kent County division.

Electoral boundaries can be read as a symbol of urban status. Zoom out and look at the current situation:

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Faversham can clearly be seen  in the upper middle part of this image, sitting among a network of urban settlements, including Sittingbourne, Canterbury, Deal and Ashford.

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Now take a look at the proposals: Sittingbourne, Canterbury (modified), Deal and Ashford are still there. But where’s Faversham?

What does this say about the town’s status? It’s certainly not a promotion.

The divided town of kings has disappeared.

What do you think about the proposals? To have your say, please visit the Local Government Boundary Commission website.

The Faversham Conversation is also running a poll on the proposals. Please vote below: