Village Design Statements were introduced in 1996 by the then Countryside Commission to protect "the rich and varied character of the English countryside" that was believed to be under threat from standardisation and poor design. In order to understand, influence and improve rural design the Commission developed the VDS to focus attention on the three themes of regional diversity, local distinctiveness and harmony (between buildings, settlements and the wider landscape setting).
In December 2002 Tarporley was the first village in Cheshire to have its VDS approved as Supplementary Planning Guidance. Whitegate and Marton followed in 2003 and Hartford in 2005. Weaverham and Moulton followed afterwards.
Since early in 2004 the Society worked with village residents, under the leadership of Keith Sexton, and with the support of Vale Royal Borough Council, on developing a Village Design Statement for Hartford. This was done in close cooperation with the Parish Council who managed the development of The Parish Plan - which was recently published and distributed to all residents.
These two documents provide a statement of what is important for the people who live within the village. Whilst this VDS deals primarily with planning issues the Parish Plan covers the wider societal issues.
Village Design Statements are unique in that they offer a positive way for the residents to influence the way that the statutory planning system operates locally. Indeed, if adopted by Vale Royal Borough Council they become Supplementary Planning Guidance.
A Village Design Statement (VDS) is a mechanism that allows the views and wishes of the village to be taken into account when changes to buildings and landscape are proposed.
It is a tool to help manage change in both buildings, landscape and other development, whether large or small, in a way that reflects and harmonises with the local character of its buildings, spaces and landscape setting.
It is not about whether or not a development should take place; that is the job for the Local Plan. It is not meant to, and will not stop development and change from happening. It will however help influence how any new development fits into the village, respecting the qualities and characteristics that village residents have indicated that they value.
Many people contributed to the Hartford VDS by either working on the document itself or participating at the open meetings, and we are delighted that it has been brought to fruition.
The final document was submitted to Vale Royal Borough Council in early December 2004 and was adopted as Supplementary Planning Guidance at the meeting of the Full Council on 27th February 2005. (It had previously been passed by the Environmental and Executive Committees)