Alveston Court, Stratford upon Avon

MADE supported the local authority’s concerns about a poor-quality scheme that was proposed for the site, which helped the client to determine the direction it wanted to follow. The panel then reviewed the entirely new scheme that resulted. "MADE was a great help to us," says Ronnie Mulryne, chair of the board of governors at King Edward VI school. "They helped in the formulation of design and in allowing the planning department to move towards a recommendation." The project was always going to be contentious. The school wanted to sell a portion of its playing fields for development as housing for the elderly, to raise money to improve the remaining playing fields for school and local community use. It also wanted to start restoration work on the early 15th-century Guildhall, as well as build a new library. This would allow the school to cease using an existing building on its site as a library and open it to the public, which is highly desirable since this is where Shakespeare went to school.

Stratford-on-Avon District Council were not in favour of the development, unless the project could be shown to be of exceptional quality and the benefits of any scheme could be balanced against the loss of part of the playing fields.

The school had started working with a developer specialising in retirement homes. "We were concerned about the scale of the development", recalls Charlotte Gallagher, urban design officer at the council. It was felt that the design advice wasn’t being sufficiently taken on board. As a way forward she suggested that the application went to design review, which it did in September 2008.

MADE’s panel was highly critical, but the developer decided to submit the planning application anyway. This was turned down. A further meeting with MADE’s Head of Design Excellence and one of their expert panel contributed to the client’s decision to work with a new developer, specialising in retirement homes. This new developer wished to build a smaller number of higher-value units. The school suggested to the developer that it might work with the architect Wright & Wright, who were already designing the new library, and the developer agreed.

The new scheme subsequently went back to design review, which ‘generally considered the building design to be exemplary’, although it had some suggestions about the landscaping. "It had been made clear that this time we would carry out a design review at the pre-application stage," says Gallagher. As the sole urban designer within the council she found the whole process valuable. "It provides the opportunity to discuss schemes with other built environment professionals and is a forum for the encouragement and generation of ideas that lead to higher quality design of development," she says.

...a forum for the encouragement and generation of ideas that lead to higher quality design