Urb is ceasing business today.  A big thank you to my clients, colleagues friends and family who have shared the great adventure over the last four years.   My contact details remain the same.  Happy New Year to all!
Richard.

Urb is ceasing business today.  A big thank you to my clients, colleagues friends and family who have shared the great adventure over the last four years.   My contact details remain the same.  Happy New Year to all!

Richard.

High Street Renewal Fund by ATCM and UK Dept for Communities & Local Government - This nice little publication has 7 examples of High Street initiatives, showing the organisations, projects and leadership it takes to make big impacts on town centres.  It’s available from the ATCM web site here: https://www.atcm.org/programmes/town_teams/resources/high_street_renewal_fund

High Street Renewal Fund by ATCM and UK Dept for Communities & Local Government - This nice little publication has 7 examples of High Street initiatives, showing the organisations, projects and leadership it takes to make big impacts on town centres.  It’s available from the ATCM web site here: https://www.atcm.org/programmes/town_teams/resources/high_street_renewal_fund

Use Classes need change to promote town centre diversity

It is a fundamental principle of the Irish Planning code (like many other countries) that not all development requires permission, and hence a considerable body of law has evolved to ensure that straight-forward or minor developments, do not clog-up the system, and don’t have to face delays and costs associated with attaining permission.  ‘Exempted development’ provisions also encompass change of use, and have developed Use Classes similar to the UK system that groups similar planning activities.

The use classes for shops were adopted in 2001 (evolving from 1994 Regs) with the principle that the high street should be preserved for retail, and in particular to control financial services and offices presence on streets in order to promote high-street activity.

There has been fundamental change in the structure of the high-street in the last decade, firstly due to out-of-town retailing, and now by e-retail and m-retail.   Financial institutions are similarly cutting-back on branches in favour of on-line services.  These trends coupled with persistent economic stagnation suggest high-street retail vacancy will remain high for the foreseeable future. 

So  the Use Classes (which promote ease of change from other uses to shops) need to be tweaked/reversed to facilitate exempted development change of use from shops to enterprise, small office, leisure, education, galleries etc.  A more sophisticated Class system would see retail promoted on prime pitch, and these supporting ‘town centre’ uses on secondary streets (would be useful for retail strategies).  It would mean entrepreneurs could get into town centre spaces without a 3 month delay waiting for permission (or without risk of planning enforcement), and landlords would not have to deal with changes in the planning status of their property.

The Use Classes can be amended quickly, and this change would have a pro-active and positive impact for town centres.

The plan is useless, but planning is essential.

Local government structure and management around the world owe a great deal to historic military models.   For urban planning though, this great truism of Eisenhower is generally forgotten.  To keep with the military theme Colin Powell is attributed with the line “No battle plan ever survives the first encounter with the enemy”.

The necessity to constantly review assumptions, projections, impact and strategic decisions is at the heart of lean-business planning.  To quote Tim Berry (The Plan As You Go Business Plan) “If you don’t review your plan regularly, you’re wasting your time”.

How does this relate to town planning and the Development Plan?  Well once adopted, after torturous process, the plan is effectively handed over for others to do something with.  And if there is an economic depression (lets just say!) a plan that presume rapid  growth, and property development as an economic engine becomes passive and impotent.

The key to dealing with a rigid slow development plan system, is the same as with a business plan; planning is management; a daily activity, where the objectives are measured and reviewed and tested, goals are simplified and scaled to focus on what is achievable.  Rather than sitting back and waiting for development proposals to arrive, all partners in planning come together to review what is blocking progress, and what steps can be taken by the partner organisations (within their powers and influencing outside powers) to drive the changes necessary. 

Urban planning tends to get locked into single-scenario tunnel.  Experienced planners know that a plan is never realised in the way it was originally conceived.  Different players, uses and ideas always emerge over the life of significant projects.  Mature urban areas evolve and change continuously.  The Alternatives Process that is a statutory requirement of EU Strategic Environmental Assessment Regulations is good stress-test for plan-making.  But in the mean-time objective driven area management is planning can be.

Urb achieves landmark Referral decision at An Bord Pleanala

The planning definition of ‘bulky goods’ definition of bulky goods has got greyer and greyer in recent years, with ‘Retail Warehouse’ parks increasingly including retailers whose range of goods more closely resemble town centre comparison items than out-of-town bulky.

Under instruction from Sligo Chamber of Commerce, Urb submitted a Referral to An Bord Pleanala in March 2012 regarding Unit 5 at Sligo Retail Park operated by Home Store and More, on the basis that the range of goods sold by the new operator of this unit could not be considered as ‘Bulky goods’ and therefore was illegal in planning terms and had a significant negative impact on the town centre.

ABP in their decision of 23rd May 2013 under Ref. 21.RL.2988 have accepted Urb’s arguments and have ruled inter alia  that the type and class of goods being sold by Homestore and More is development and is not exempted development.

This decision is significant,  and not only has major implications for Homestore and More’s operations throughout Ireland but also retailers of a similar nature in Retail Warehouse Parks.

For more information contact richard@urb.ie