Urban & architectural design policy document proposes new vision and direction – MEPA

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Urban & architectural design policy document proposes new vision and direction - MEPAA new proposed policy document (DC2014) which sets out a new direction in terms of urban and architectural design policy, guidance and standards was launched for an 8 week public consultation period by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) earlier today.

The DC2014 document is the result of a yearlong collaborative process led by MEPA and principle author Dr Antoine Zammit involving academia, Periti, decision makers and experts in the fields of sanitary law, transport and conservation.

MEPA said that DC2014 is not a merely a revision of the 2007 Development Control: Policy and Design Guidance but has taken on a completely new approach to the formulation of design policies, one based on context.

The document is divided into 5 parts and moves progressively from the broader contextual considerations to focus on issues of urban form, architectural quality and architectural elements. Within the proposed framework, the document adopts three types of provisions, Policy/Regulation (P), Good-practice guidance (G) and Technical standards (S). The policy provision carries the most weight in the assessment of development proposals.

On the other hand, the Good-practice guidance provision generally provides the intent and establishes the principle but that may then have diverse solutions to achieve such a principle while the Technical standards provision which supplements the other two provisions in terms of specific quantitative targets and which are non-controversial, objective, universally agreed numerical considerations, said MEPA

It added that the two parts of the document which focus on contextual design and urban form, are mainly characterised by policies in the acknowledgement that these parts contains critical aspects that have most bearing on the context/street and that can make or break a streetscape – they are the ‘main shapers of the street.’ These are therefore the parts that need to be controlled most, not to produce standardised buildings but so as to guarantee certain fundamental street principles and parameters.

“The part of the document which deals with architectural quality contains a mix of provisions, with a reduced number of policies and conversely a predominance of good practice guidance. The final part which deals with architectural elements is in turn primarily characterised by good practice guidance that could have different architectural solutions and does not contain any technical standards. A greater element of deviation is therefore possible within this section, particularly given the inevitable subjective nature of many considerations contained therein,” said MEPA

“The policy document provides clear guidelines for periti, developers and others on development interventions within Urban Conservation Areas (UCAs). DC2014 has enough safeguards and parameters to guarantee that the evolutionary changes occurring within UCAs are respectful of, and enrich, their historical context.”

The proposed DC 14 also strongly encourages the integration of an energy-conscious design that reduces the need to heat and cool a building. According to MEPA, “his can be achieved by ensuring a tight building fabric designed to the highest standards, accompanied by integrally-designed energy conservation and energy generation interventions that allow for the production of green clean energy renewable contributing to the EU’s 2020 ‘nearly-zero energy building’ target.”

DC14 Work Group Chairperson Perit Victor Sladden said “this is a positive document which is sure to cultivate a new approach when it comes to designing a new project. Our purpose is to become more conscious and responsive to the inter-relationship that exists in the spatial scale of urban design.”

He added “Every design project cannot be created and assessed in isolation but must be seen within the totality of its immediate context, which in most cases constitute the street. Streets are not only transitional spaces – they are important social places and their success is in turn vital to the success of the overall workings of an urban settlement.”

Once it becomes an approved policy document, DC2014 will supersede a number of supplementary planning guidance documents which include the DC 2007, Development Control within Urban Conservation Areas (July1995), Shop fronts (May 1994) and Traffic Generation, Access and Parking (Circular to Architects PA 3/93).

Last February, the Authority had published the proposed objectives which were to guide the formulation of this proposed policy framework. The Authority is publishing the submissions it had received from the public and other stakeholders, related to the proposed policy objectives.

The draft policy can be viewed on the Authority’s website www.mepa.org.mt/public-consultation. Individuals and organisations are being invited to send their submissions pertaining to this draft policy in writing to:

MEPA, DC2014, P.O. Box 200, Marsa MRS 1000; or through email address: dc2014@mepa.org.mt.

Submissions should reach the Authority by Friday, the 16th of January 2014

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