Skelton is an amalgamation of four smaller villages, with around 7,500 residents in total. It has an industrial estate to the north which provides a significant amount of employment. It also has a conservation area around Skelton Castle and a village green.

Brotton is mostly residential. The settlement forms along a railway track and a narrow street layout, meaning there is less scope for expansion. It benefits from a state of the art secondary school.

Challenge

The residents of the two places had wide ranging views and ideas about where they lived. Residents of Skelton wanted to strengthen their local centre and attract new investment to the industrial estate. Residents of Brotton were concerned about the future of their village centre and the possibility of excessive residential development. The difficulty was to achieve a good balance between what Brotton didn’t want and what Skelton did want – in other words, to consolidate the issues affecting residents of both communities.

Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council and the parish council agreed that by working in collaboration and genuine partnership, a neighbourhood development plan would give weight to the aspirations of the community whilst also fitting in with the borough council’s own existing local plan. This plan would be adopted as a Supplementary Planning Document. A working group was established to lead on the preparation of the plan.

Design Council Cabe was consulted to provide a fresh pair of eyes. They helped the working group to think differently about design through a series of workshops, so that the group were better equipped to craft an impactful neighbourhood plan.

What we did

Design Council Cabe set up workshops to help get the working group's activities off the ground. One of the most notable was a 'Place check' exercise whereby the group toured the area by bus, identifying what they did and didn't like about the parish. This helped everyone crystallise issues of concern as well as the opportunities of respective areas. In Skelton, there was a conflict over the use of a car park in the local centre between Skelton Estates and the Co-op. In Brotton, there was interest from housebuilders to construct new homes while there were some concerns that there were still empty older homes in the village.

Design Council Cabe advised on how the community could address these issues through specific policies in the plan. Discussions tackled the questions of: ‘What does good design look like?’ and ‘What makes a good place?’ In the last session, the Building for Life criteria was introduced so that the group could evaluate development proposals for their area.

Outcome

Design Council Cabe helped the working group to realise that they could set the design agenda rather than reacting to what was happening to their area. By understanding what good design looked like, members of the parish council gained more confidence in what they were communicating.

The parish council got in touch with youth groups such as Brownies, Rainbows and Guides as well as local schools, which proved very successful. Children made scrapbooks of the villages and put their ideas onto wish trees to show what they would like to be included in the plan. By engaging young people in exercises around what they thought about the area, this enthusiasm and interest then filtered through to their parents and other local people. As such, this exercise was hugely effective in generating interest in the plan.

The borough council used the information the parish council had gathered through the workshops and the community consultation to prepare the first draft of the plan which then went out for consultation and is now a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD). As this was an SPD the borough council was much more involved than if this had been a neighbourhood development plan.

The process of creating the neighbourhood development plan has made local people more aware of planning and how they can take a control of change. We feel more confident to debate design issues.

Margaret Whitehead, parish council

Design Council Cabe supported Skelton and Brotton Parish Councils during 2012.

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