Sir Terry Farrell’s “Vision for Tenterden”

I attended Sir Terry Farrell’s illustrated talk on Friday 6 January 2012, as arranged by Tenterden & District Residents’ Association. Though of no real legal significance, I thought it worth a blog post, as a lot of interesting thoughts were presented.

I was slightly wrong-footed at the outset: though originally entitled “A Vision for Tenterden”, the opening slide had the title “Visioning Tenterden’s Future”. Swallowing my distaste, I settled down to listen.

“Change is hard, but inevitable”

Sir Terry first, firmly made the point that “change is hard, but inevitable”. There is no point at all in trying to prevent change – all a community can do is try to guide it, so that it has a positive, not a negative, effect.  He also suggested that the driver for change should be “bottom up” – driven by market forces and individual landowners’ wishes, more than by top-down planning; that said, he accepts the need for a level of planning is needed, if only so that we can “agree which way is up”.

From his introductory remarks and illustrations, he is a great supported of pedestrians and is passionate about High Streets. In addition to his various flagship projects, he also has considerable experience in small town planning and neighbourhood planning, including in Ashford and Folkestone. As a resident of Rolvenden Layne, he has a particular affection for Tenterden and is keen that it should preserve its character.

10 Principles

Sir Terry offered 10 principles for growing existing communities –
1. The landscape should be the primary infrastructure
2. New buildings must fit in to the existing streetscape
3. Plans for change should begin with what is already there
4. Disaggregation should be preferred to mass housing
5. Phasing is important – each phase should be complete in itself
6. Sustainability should be fundamental
7. Architectural quality is important
8. We should minimise the impact of cars
9. Social mix is important: we should build a balanced society
10. Planning should engage with the community

Sir Terry spent time expanding on all of these points, before turning specifically to Tenterden’s expected growth.  He emphasised that Tenterden has grown and will continue to grow – “growth is inexorable”. He suggests that the community has to “allow” for it, by way of having a clear idea as to how growth should be implemented, but not by imposing a restrictive plan.  He pointed out that cars have had a huge effect on town development, and suggested that effect should be minimised by (for example) disaggregating car parks, and slowing the speed of traffic along the High Street.

The Vision

Sir Terry’s vision for Tenterden involves five principles –
1. Start by mending the historic core
2. Grow the life of the town down the lanes
3. Continue the pattern of historic growth
4. Keep the strong links with the countryside
5. Create a car parking strategy and make walking routes to the town centre as short as possible

As far as Sir Terry is concerned, “the lanes are the key lifeblood of the town centre” and he therefore proposed “mini master plans” for them –

  • Bridewell Lane
  • Six Fields Path
  • Recreation Ground Road (with a “mini town centre” at the leisure centre end)
  • Church Road (and the station complex)

etc, making the lanes well-lit and safe and consolidating development along the lanes themselves, in the same way that the development of the High Street has been consolidated

He also feels it is vital to manage the traffic: pedestrians are more important than cars, so make the traffic go slower – don’t give the car an easy time!

Value the High Street

His final thought of his main presentation was that, as a community, we should value the High Street, especially the shops – without a vibrant High Street, Tenterden will not be the town we love.

Questions and comments

Sir Terry then took questions from members of the audience – most seemed to agree with his thoughts, though an appreciable part of the audience felt they had no say in how the town grows, and that it is all down to Ashford Borough Council’s whims; one even commented that “a big dormitory of detached houses dumped on a field south of Tenterden is what we are told is planned”.  This is far from the truth, as can be seen from the Development Plan Document, which is in line with Sir Terry’s suggestion that we should “look at infill [between the High Street and any large scheme to the south] and develop to the north of the High Street as well.”

All in all, a very thought-provoking presentation – thank you to Sir Terry Farrell!

PS (11 January 2012):  Parking

I see I omitted to mention the “decked parking” that Sir Terry recommended. This is not multi-storey car parks as commonly known, but a way of squeezing in two levels of car parking – one slightly below ground level, the other slightly above. This (nearly) doubles the car parking availability, while not significantly raising the height of it and not increasing the land used at all – a very useful suggestion in an era when traffic tries to dominate everything

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