How Design Council can help Hackneyites to plan

Nike Shoreditch showroom: statement in front garden and in foyer London

IF YOU are in a voluntary group standing up for your neighbourhood, especially on planning matters, this may be good news. But you have to be working in Hackney or Waltham Forest. These boroughs have had the foresight to sign up for something called “front-runner funding” from the Department of Communities and Local Government.

The Design Council — motto “bring the transformative power of design to the things that matter” — is offering free help. And despite a mild addiction to waffle (“delivery”, “community”… the language of meetings), the council looks as though it may achieve something here.

For example, it says on its website: “We’ve launched a network of 250 built environment experts (BEEs) who will support our work, delivering high-quality designed places throughout England.” [Uhm, “delivering” places? Oh,never mind.]

The experts include architects, planners, urban designers and landscape architects experienced in working with local communities [bingo!], and specialists in climate change, housing, heritage, public art, transport, parks, streets and squares.

Hanif Kara, who helped to design the UK Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo, is probably the biggest name to become a BEE, but you may have heard of others, among them Colin Haylock, Royal Town Planning Institute president, and Sarah Foster, a former Young Planner of the Year. The council says the experts will help to ensure that design plays a crucial part in the development of UK’s built environment. [Design “crucial”? Give over! To think that people get paid for writing such stuff.]

A council announcement says: “We can get involved at any stage in your project, from getting started to reviewing a draft plan. This could include exploring the potential of your place, delivering [more “delivering”] training on what is good design and how to achieve it, provide technical expertise on a particular topic, eg, housing, help to overcome sticking points, advice on writing briefs, visions and plans or being a critical friend to review any documents you have produced.

“We will work with successful applicants and their local authority to put together a bespoke support package of hands-on expert help.”

Anyone who has ever worked in planning or dealt with public bodies will know that such help can be invaluable, if only for learning the kind of language to use in writing [delivering, surely?] briefs. The pitch can be vital. The picture above from the Nike showroom in Shoreditch shows how not to do it, unless you are applying for a pretentiousness award.

* The deadline for applications is Mon 20 Aug 2012, 5pm. Best look first at the the Design Council website, which includes frequently asked questions (FAQs). You can also contact Nicola Mathers nicola.mathers@designcouncil.org.ukm and 020 7420 5257.

* Emboldened words in Loving Dalston articles are hyplerlinked so readers can see background or get further information.

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