A landscape-led approach to spatial planning
Eastleigh Borough Council
Background / Challenge
Eastleigh and its surrounding settlements are uniquely positioned between the coastal landscapes of The River Hamble, Southampton Water, and the South Downs National Park. These protected landscapes pose challenges to future growth across the borough with the threat to settlement gaps and the identities of the local communities they seek to protect.
As part of Eastleigh’s Local Plan review process, Deacon Design was commissioned to conduct a study on the existing settlement gaps to evaluate their appropriateness and propose modifications where necessary. The report was included as evidence in the Local Plan Examination and, following Planning Inspector’s thorough analysis and evaluation, was approved as robust and fit for purpose.
Guided by the settlement gap criteria outlined by the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire (PUSH), Deacon Design prepared a bespoke and detailed methodology to enable a comprehensive and systematic appraisal of the settlement gaps. The methodology was tested in collaboration with various stakeholders and approved by the Planning Inspector.
Landscape Led Approach
Whilst the original PUSH criteria for the designation of gaps form a good starting point and set out an agreed basis for a transparent and thorough gap evaluation, we have taken account of additional considerations applied across landscape architecture to apply a more sensitive and landscape-led approach to spatial planning.
We considered the following issues:
- Green Infrastructure (GI) opportunities that could be integrated into the gap designation process to strengthen and enhance existing settlement boundaries, providing appropriate transition to their rural context.
- Preventing the fragmentation of gaps by uncontrolled development between the existing settlements; and
- Maintaining the countryside setting for local communities where it is an integral part of settlement identity; and
- Rationalising gaps by removing the areas that are protected (such as protected woodland areas).
From the inception of the project, we believed that a landscape-led approach would be the key to achieving a better understanding of the settlement gaps and that transparency of judgements, clear presentation, and replicability should be at the core of the decision-making.
Desktop Studies and Field Surveys
We conducted rigorous data gathering exercises analysing key maps and published documents to inform our understanding of the relationship of each settlement with the surrounding landscape. These studies assisted our field studies to systematically record the subjective aspects of the gaps in field survey sheets.
Letting the landscape shape the gap
This tailored piece of work identifies a simple but robust approach to understanding the identity of a settlement and the associated landscape character and features which in turn can be enhanced to protect and support the future growth of our towns and villages.