"I don't like conflict, never have. I look at intransigent situations and see so much common ground, yet people focus in on the points of difference and make a big deal of them. So, through my career, I've spent a lot of time acting as an 'honest broker' to unlock situations which have become entrenched and positive outcomes seem a remote possibility. Often these are to do with planning - a system which to my mind is all too often adversarial, when it should be about bringing people together around a shared vision."
Garry Colligan, Practice Principal
Here are a couple of examples where we think we have made a positive difference.
Case Study: Advising a national retailer
In 2009 think place was appointed by Sainsbury’s to provide strategic urban design advice on projects that would have a particularly profound impact on sensitive situations: stores that would impact village centres, high streets and historic contexts. The results of this work has had a positive impact, guiding the client to approach these sites differently, which in turn has led to successful outcomes for the client and a more constructive relationship with local stakeholders.
For instance detailed planning consent has been granted for a new store in the historic market town of Bishop’s Waltham which typifies the issues we've been helping to resolve. The town has many historic assets and a high street with independent shops. The site is partly within a conservation area and a scheduled monument, adjacent to the Pilgrims' Way and near a site of nature conservation. When think place were appointed in 2010 scheme designs and pre-consultation with Winchester City Council had been ongoing for over a year and had reached something of a dead end. There was strong local opposition (headed by a local celebrity) which had received national media coverage.
think place built consensus with planning officers through an Urban Framework. This sought to understand the structure of the town and its wider context at a profound level and translate that into a series of principles that the project team could respond to with detailed designs. In doing so think place went beyond simply endeavouring to mitigate impacts. Rather the project was seen as an opportunity to address strategic issues in the town. If 28,000 people were to shop at the store each week, we asked: “wouldn't it be great if those people got a view of the palace and its historic landscapes?”
By taking a strategic approach, and concentrating on benefits rather than simple mitigation, think place showed how the development could link up parts of the town that have been segregated (by inappropriate development in the 20th century) and in so doing both promote greater footfall on the historic high street and re-discover the historic urban structure of the town.
Having agreed the Urban Framework with key officers, think place then provided a design review service, working with the project team to ensure detailed proposals were an appropriate response to the Urban Framework. To ensure continuity, think place continued to interface with planning officers during detailed design development.
In 2010 Winchester City Council passed a resolution to grant planning permission, a decision later upheld by the Planning Inspectorate. In 2011 a section 106 agreement was signed giving the scheme full planning permission.
Case Study: Persuading the Irish Prime minister to re-think the Dublin Metro
The initial consultation paper for Metro North included three stations in central Dublin: St. Stephen’s Green, Trinity and O’Connell Street/ Parnell Square. However, in value engineering the proposal, the Rail Procurement Authority decided to omit the station at O’Connell Street, depriving north-central Dublin of a much needed catalyst for regeneration. think place were instrumental in the campaign on behalf of Chartered Land (who have a significant interest in the area) to have the station re-instated.
Garry Colligan of think place met in person with the Irish Prime Minister, the Minister for Transport, the Chairman of the Rail Procurement Authority and the City Manager and having gained political support, the team successfully persuaded the Rail Procurement Authority to include a north-central Dublin station in plans for Metro North.