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Lee, S., Sanderson, L., Stone, S., 2020.

Reclaiming the Road: A Research-by-Design Approach to the Problems of Small Settlements

Output Type:Other form of assessable output
Publisher:Manchester School of Architecture

The Continuity in Architecture Small Settlements Group have been able to help set planning policy for small settlements through the application of new urban design methods and local government/academic/industry partnerships. The research team began work following the introduction of the UK Government's Localism Act in 2011. We looked at its ambition to put planning in the hands of local people in the light of two decades of experience of teaching and research in Small Settlements. We asked the questions o 'How can researchers contribute to developing viable urban design proposals that serve the people of small settlements?'; o 'Specifically, how can creative design methodologies complement the work of Neighbourhood Planning Committees (NPCs) in expanding small settlements?' These questions had not previously been asked in the context of this new legislation, and of the particular challenges facing smaller towns and villages. A unique opportunity to influence policy-making through NPCs was opened up. In order to answer these research questions, the Continuity in Architecture Atelier teaching programme was used as the vehicle for the research enquiry. We designed the Masters design studio projects for a live client - the NPC in Bollington (Cheshire). This investigation led to specific findings about possible locations for social housing in the settlements, but more crucially ways to recover better public space for the residents - to reclaim the road. Our academic work was able to bridge a manifest skills gap and a scope gap in the activities of the NPCs. From this, the researchers then looked to innovative partnerships with industry to develop new proposals for a reconfigured public realm in the town. The study conclusions were published in March 2017. Academic quality was established through various peer-reviewed papers, notably the REHAB Conference (2019), where the paper 'Reclaiming the Road: People and Vehicles in Small Settlements' was given Best Paper Award, as well as EAAE-ARC and AMPS Conferences delivered during 2016-18, and further disseminated through exhibitions, articles, book chapters and interventions. We found that the value of the research was such that its findings were incorporated in the Bollington Neighbourhood Plan adopted in 2018 by Cheshire East Council - Planning Policy for the town following a 2018 Public Referendum. Important lessons for succeeding in research-by-design collaboration for small community settings follow from our work. The outcome of this research led immediately to a further three commissioned studies for Cheshire towns during 2018-20.