Hi my name is Stephen Harness and as you might remember if you’ve read one of my earlier blogs I’m a town planner for DIO.
The Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 set out the aim that we reduce the size of the built estate by 30%. You may have seen that Mark Lancaster, Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans, announced last week the first 12 sites DIO is releasing under the MOD’s Footprint Strategy. This is an ongoing piece of work to create a smaller but better estate by looking at which military sites are under-used and can therefore potentially be sold. By disposing of under-used sites we are able to target investment at those which remain.
With that in mind, it seems a suitable time to talk about how we develop and consolidate military bases to allow some to be sold.
In 2013 I was awarded funding from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to undertake some research into the topic. I went on fact-finding visits to former military bases: in 2014 I visited Washington DC and Virginia; and in 2015 I travelled to New Zealand and Australia. On these trips I met more than 30 people from the three countries representing the military, planning authorities and business groups and liaised with researchers and planning institutes across the world.
I looked at a range of factors including provision of bus and cycle routes, use of open public spaces, retaining historical connections and structures and many more. The end result was a piece of research into best practice in the redevelopment of military sites, linking this to the initial design and layout of sites.
The main findings have been summarised into master planning principles to be followed in the design and consolidation of military sites as well as identifying best practice in their redevelopment for other uses. My new guidelines aim to make better use of land, including increased integration of military and civilian communities, while also making facilities and sites more sustainable and resilient to change.
My main conclusions following my visits were that plans for development:
- need to be based on longer-term timescales – at least 20 years - and on commonly understood sustainable design principles. They should focus on the unique aspects of the site, its history and integration with the surrounding area, whilst supporting the diversity of the community and its economic base
- need to be taken forward in a partnership with an open and transparent process
- need to integrate facilities with the local community to ensure that the plan is flexible, resilient and can adapt to long term changes in demand.
I recently volunteered to co-ordinate a series of professional development events for the DIO Town and Environmental Planners so I’ll be presenting the findings of my research and discussing how they can be used to inform the development of Estate Master Plan guidelines for DIO. My research is already being used in an informal manner in the preparation of Estate Development Plans on two sites, but following our event we hope to adopt a more formal approach based on the findings of my fellowship.