Confessions of a zoning type planner

After having spent so many years of getting familiar with planning in the devolved nations – not with total success – it is kind of funny to see where the English (as opposed to Scottish) planning goes. At first, I only saw a set of urban forms, and I thought that I was seeing an updated illustration to Andrés Duany’s transects. Here are some examples of its use accompanied with the feature image of Carmona’s article taken from the National Model Design Code :

From right to left: transects in principle (source); area type examples in the Model Design Code (source, p13) and another random illustrative picture taken from a USA example with indicative sub-zones (source).

Then I started reading through the actual guidance and have made some mental notes I would like to share here. I really enjoyed to see the scoping chapter as I think it is clear on what to look at and include, something I often missed during my years.

Another look at the table also reveals that issues which may not covered by it and covered elsewhere, tend to be the more important when actually applying them. Take the ‘homes and buildings sessions’ for example, as a developer that would be my second point of reference after the ‘built form’ to find out how can I maximise the Floor-Area-Ratio.

Although, I have a slight suspicion that that coding by its nature gets really complicated when done on larger scales, meaning you will end up lots of sub-entries and a pathcwork of colours. Remind me to the old joke architect student at uni used to call us urban planners: colouring extracurricular craft group, which sound way better in Hungarian: színező szakkör, referring to the fact that you have to colour masterplans and local regulation plans maps down to tiny details at the end, sometimes on plot level. Especially when you have an older, more organically grown area with lots of different built urban and natural characters crammed next to each other like in the case of this example of the Budapest land use zoning plan.

City centre of Budapest: Buda is on the left, Pest on the right and the Margaret Island is embraced by the Danube. Stornger colours indicating higher density types like red (residential – large city), blue (urban centre – mixed), beige (residential – small town) and of course green for parks and green use areas. (Source)

We hade a go earlier on to decide whether coding is helpful or not and where the difficulties lie (see here), and with the help of Bíró Hajni (now the Vice-Convenor of the RTPI East of Scotland Chapter) even get planners from Scotland to review coding in the context of zoning (here).

Going forward I have one favourite pages in the new model desing guide book about nature and green spaces. while other forms of public spaces like roads, streets cross-section can be so elaborate, this as well as the water management/retention element and the green corridors between habitats are so often overlooked. (And desire lines…)

And there is one aspect of the 20/15 mins city approach as well which should be considered, but I am not quite sure how is it, the ‘mix’. Hungarian example shows, that zones and design codes can be include different uses – it is basically an allowance of permitted uses within the given zone/code like for example 4 residential units and 3 shops and 1 office in the same building in a small town – residental zone code, and this is repeated through the zone. Obviously, not everyone will go for it, but there is a possibility to use it like that.

Small enterprises, like cosmeticians, hairdressers an so on surely would appreciate that they can work from home. A bit like old shops when the owner lived next/up the business unit in the same building. However, in a more settled, establised clear-cut residential area this would mean a huge boost to ‘open-up’ the block and actually make it possible to cut down distances in order to reach amenities, shops and working places.

It seems ok to have mix within a building in high density urban Town/City centre or Local centre zone code environment, but less so in the Urban neighbourhood and suburban areas, where you can insert a dedicated building with a different use in the middel of the urban fabric.

So happy reading. 🙂

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