York snub spells raised standards

Urban retail developments are to be subject to tougher design standards, after a decision by the Government to reject a development in York for ‘low standards of design’ and architectural ‘insensitivity’.

York’s proposed Coppergate Riverside shopping centre scheme, designed for the local council by architect Chapman Taylor, was rejected last week by the Government following a lengthy public inquiry.

According to the Commission of Architecture and the Built Environment design review committee chairman Paul Finch, a ‘reluctance to insist on high standards of architecture and urban design’ let the scheme down.

Cabe first consulted on the planning process in 2000, but when detailed developments were put forward, it was ‘disappointed’. The standard of architecture was ‘unconvincing’, says Cabe director of design review Peter Stewart.

He says the organisation is fighting for higher standards in urban design and says ‘the [decision] is indicative of tougher standards, which we’re certainly pressing for’. The fact that Cabe’s push for better quality design has been supported by the Government is encouraging, he adds.

But he plays down the broader significance of the York decision on future projects, because the historic nature of the site, ‘one of the most important in England’, is unusually ‘difficult’.

The decision comes as the Government focuses on regenerating city centres. The success of inner-city retail developments such as the Bullring are paving the way for others to follow, and could signal the end of the traditional, suburban shopping centre.

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