Design consideration needed to protect north Powys’ local environment and communities

Areas of north Powys are under threat from building projects that have no regard to their local environments, according to a local architect.

While positive enhancements have been made to areas of Welshpool and Newtown in recent years through private and public sector investment, a spate of commercial and residential developments has brought into question the design standards that have previously helped protect local environments and communities.

Local architect and businessman, Doug Hughes, of Mid Wales building design and planning consultants Hughes Architects, said a lot of previously good planning and development work in the area was being hampered by developments “inconsistent” with local planning design policy.

He suggested setting up local design panels to help enhance such developments with independent, professional advice during the planning process.

“The area around the canal at Welshpool is a prime example. It’s an area for local people and visitors to enjoy – a gateway into the town. There are a lot of older, established properties in the area and high quality public realm work attracts people into the town.

“But the retail development work being undertaken close to it has resulted in large retail units not aesthetically consistent or in keeping with the immediate local environment being developed,” said Mr Hughes.

“There should be more consistency in the approach to planning such developments in the area to protect what we have and to ensure sustainable and appropriate commercial and residential developments in such areas.”

He added: “Development is important for the economic and social growth of our communities. But these need to be carefully balanced with what we already have in terms of our built environments and in some cases there doesn’t seem to have been a great deal of thought put into how the two merge together.”

He highlighted the use in some part of the UK of Local Design Panels. These work with the local planning authorities to obtain independent, impartial expert professional and lay informed advice on draft development proposals. The objective of the panels is to improve schemes, not redesign them.

“Maybe when it comes to planning and design matters in certain, more sensitive parts of our communities, we should consider the approach of a design panel that taps into independent, professional advice and enhances such projects. That way the impact and ways of preventing what we have ended up with in some locations might not happen,” said Mr Hughes.