Planning for Places: The potential for the Ministerial Advisory Group (MAG) to assist the capacity for good design in the local government core strategies of new district council areas.

Emily Smyth

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    I was invited by the MAG to present this paper at their Symposium “Planning for Places” at the Navan Centre, Armagh, 7 September 2010. The Ministerial Advisory Group (MAG) exists to champion the provision and maintenance of the highest standards of design quality in architecture and the built environment in Northern Ireland. The MAG’s main roles are to advise the DCAL Minister on the development and implementation of the Architecture and Built Environment Policy; review progress on certain key priorities as identified by MAG; advise Government on policy implementation; conduct Design Reviews of pre and post planning applications; and implement those actions set out in the Policy. The MAG also contributes its expertise in the areas of advocacy, communication and education. I am one of 8 Members of the MAG. One matter that the MAG has identified for consideration is the capacity of government to create valued places through good design. The MAG has recognised an opportunity in the proposed Reform of Public Administration (RPA) in Northern Ireland, which will see increased responsibilities of local governance. This symposium specifically aimed to stimulate consideration of design in the core strategies of local government in Northern Ireland following RPA.The MAG believes that by working with councils it can raise expectations for good design in buildings and places across Northern Ireland. Delegates included senior council and government officials, community representatives and professionals. Speakers included local and national experts, including CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) which has been working with English local authorities to see how design quality can best be embedded in emerging strategies.The following is taken from the Chair’s report of the Symposium: Several themes recurred throughout the symposium: people and their “involvement” or lack of it, (“people make places”); “communities” and how to define them; finding and securing the “essence” of places; the need for both Plan-making and Implementation to include all aspects of the relevant places (“joined-upness”); the importance of conservation in all its forms. Several speakers drew attention to the importance of place AND of learning about the places from local people. Kathy MacEwan (CABE) presented how the people of Tower Hamlets defined their “areas of belonging”, and right at the end of the meeting Emily Smyth reminded us that essence comprises both tangible measurable things and intangibles, which only local people can tell us about. Armagh has surely more intangibles than most places so it was a good place to learn this truth.
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherMinisterial Advisory Group for Architecture and the Built Environment for Northern Ireland
    Number of pages25
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Sep 2010


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