Delegates support Places Matter! over supermarket design

Over 100 delegates attended the Places Matter! supermarket forum in March which provided them with an opportunity to hear and discuss the design of food stores.

The event, organised by the publicly funded architecture and built environment centre for the North West and held at Lancashire County Cricket Club, provided a chance for developers, land owners, planning officers and retailers to hear more about the importance of supermarket design with a particular emphasis on the future impact of the Government's Localism Bill.

Martin Stockley, chairman of the Places Matter! design review panel, said: "Supermarkets are just as much a reflection of our society as are schools and hospitals. They have always been around so why are we now surprised when they want to build in our town. We must find a better way to work together to ensure better development."

Richard Woodford, partner at HOW Planning, added: "Despite the scepticism, Eric Pickles has stressed that the Localism act will definitely happen and it will give more power to the people! With such influence it is inevitable that Localism will have a direct impact on supermarket design and development, which are often amongst the most contentious of planning applications.

"However, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. It may make planners, architects and developers take more notice of design much earlier in the process."

Woodford also noted that although supermarket development currently comes under PPS4 for Sustainable Growth, it makes little mention of design and despite applications being subject to design and access statements the tool isn't used enough.

These comments were supported by Tom Miller, retired head of planning at Ellesmere Port and Neston Council, who agreed that design has always at the bottom of the agenda; referring back to the 1980s and 1990s when poor quality developments were built which have not lasted the test of time.

Woodford said: "Like it or not we all need supermarkets and they are one element of the development landscape that can almost be considered recession proof. However, with a new emphasis on the public to control their local surroundings we may finally see the value of design being pushed much further up the agenda."

Other speakers at the event included Geoff Alsop, managing director at Buttress Fuller Alsop Williams, who outlined the process of Sainsbury's supermarket development in Neston town centre, and James Blake, associate director at RSK Environment, who discussed the importance of sustainability benchmarking.

In a separate public survey carried out with 50 people by Places Matter! last month, it concluded that four out of five shoppers believe supermarket design is important.

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