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What planning and design devices are essential for mixed use centres?

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It is important for town centre planning to ensure that high level regulation provides a stable platform for design controls in town centres. What is required is a statement about the role of public space and the role of streets and buildings within town centres. In Australia we have Local Environmental Plans (LEPs or Planning Schemes) at the high level and Development Control Plans at the more detailed level. In New Zealand these high level plans are District or City Plans.

 

The higher principles are neded to reinforce the detailed design controls as in town centre planning it is impossible to deliver good towns without built form controls. It is also important that these are bedded down early BEFORE the politicians have to decide on any particular application for town centre development.

With respect to all town centre planning you must first determine what you want your town centre to do for you at all levels. How big is it? How do you intend to deliver more than just the retail component? Do you want higher density housing in the centre or do you want to preserve jobs capacity and not let the centre default to housing? Be deterministic in terms of how you want buildings to behave as they define your centre.

Design codes that are firmly rooted in local context are required as subsequent tools. Most design controls should provide for at least two storey buildings so as to ensure mixed use. However it is possible to deliver vibrant smaller centres with single storey typologies. Mixed use should not be seen purely as a vertical device. Streets allow for activity to "bleed off" at the edges and depending on the context and role of the centre it may be appropriate for mixed use (non retail) activity to occur on the edges and not in the core. This is why detailed zoning controls are often counterproductive in town centre planning.

europe2 130french la sketchredRetail architects are usually poor designers of street based centre buildings as they see them as a series of windows and placards and not a series of individual buildings working in harmony together.

At a high level you need a statement about the primacy of public space and the role of streets within centres. Public realm must be the primary means of movement around a centre and between individual retail stores, if you want more than just a shopping centre.

In town centre planning your controls need to be focussed on the relationship between buildings and public space and to ensure that the public space network is the primary choice for movement around the centre.