Case Study details:

Updated - 11th July 2013




This year's shortlist includes some striking designs by leading housebuilders.


The awards programme is a partnership between the Department of Communities and Local Government, the Department of Health, the Greater London Authority, the Homes and Communities Agency. Also involved are all the key industry organisations including NHBC, the Home Builders Federation, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Royal Town Planning Institute.


In all the judges have shortlisted 60 schemes from across England from several hundred entries


.The Housing Design Awards were cited in both the recent government Housing Strategy and the debates on the Planning and Infrastructure Bill as a key part of how government intends to keep pushing forward design innovation and quality and this year's shortlist is strikingly innovative.

“I have been impressed by the thoroughness of the Design and Access Statements, and the supporting conservation studies, which have gone to the heart of how Boston Spa first emerged and assumed its early form.”


“... the streets would each have their own, distinctive character, while the open spaces, or features within them, would become obvious landmarks ....”

Updated - 7th February 2013


On Wednesday 7th February John R Paley Associates were invited to Portcullis House, Westminster to receive the new Building For Life 12 ‘Built For Life’ status. The project team accepted the commendation from Planning Minister Nick Boles.


Planning Minister Nick Boles said "Building for Life 12 standards show the importance of good design both of buildings and of the public realm, and the benefits it can bring for both the building industry and communities. They are an incredibly useful guide for all involved in development. I'm delighted to commend the first developments that meet the revised criteria for design and quality.


John R Paley Associates designed the 170 house development on a Greenfield site in the Boston Spa conservation area for National house builder Taylor Wimpey.



Project Details


Church Fields is an 8ha site within the conservation area of Boston Spa. The site is allocated within the Leeds Unitary Development Plan Review (July 2006) as a Phase 3 housing site, H3-3A.25.


John R Paley Associates were appointed in September 2008, and undertook a series of site visits to develop an understanding of the site, its context and the built fabric and structure of Boston Spa. The information gathered by these sites visits was augmented with historical research into the evolution of the town over the past 250 years and combined with experience gained on smaller projects within the immediate geographical area.


The philosophy underpinning this process centred upon invoking a sense of place defined through the spaces between buildings, their heights, textures, forms and solidity. The application of this philosophy would be on a pedestrian scale, connecting the riverbank with the high street in various ways, with subtle but unique detailing of the built form as expressions of individuality that are rarely observed in many modern housing estates.This evaluation process concluded that to successfully integrate this development into the eclectic fabric of Boston Spa, the design approach to the structure of the layout should reflect the characteristic way in which the town had, and is still continuing.


During the consultation process, conservation comments were received from English Heritage which stated, “we are satisfied that the proposal in its current form would meet our primary requirement of reinforcing local distinctiveness.” And “the house types and layout have been developed using local vernacular detailing, based on an assessment of the landscape setting and historical development of the village”


The outlined design philosophy was described within the Design & Access Statement and applied to this self-contained site invoking a sense of place defined through the spaces between buildings, their heights, textures, forms and solidity. The relationship of the development with the Church was carefully considered. Connections between the riverbank, the high street and existing communities were proposed. The structure of the layout reflected the underlying historic field pattern and grain of development, whilst the siting of plots reflected the incremental development of the town. The built form itself was expressed with an overall unity of character that reflected the historic vernacular and use of materials, but also in its relationship with the layout and local character zones that underpin the structure of the town.The built form also introduced subtle elements of individuality to successfully integrate this development into the eclectic fabric of Boston Spa, generating appropriate micro-character areas throughout the scheme.Overall, the design approach applied to both schemes reflected the characteristic way in which the town had, and is still continuing to develop. Parcel by parcel, street by street, house by house.


There have been two applications on this allocated housing site both of which have been refused by Leeds City Council. Following closure of a Public Inquiry, where the Design and Access Statement was described as “exemplary”, both schemes are currently with the Planning Inspectorate for determination in 2011.The information below was updated March 2011Planning Consent was granted by the Planning Inspectorate following a 14 day Public Inquiry for both Scheme A (170 homes) and Scheme B (153 homes) on the 8th March 2011.


Appeal Ref numbers - APP/N4720/A/09/2117381 and APP/N4720/A/10/2120991


The Appeal Team:


Mr Peter Village QC

4-5 Gray’s Inn Square


Mr Richard Sagar

Walker Morris


Mr Mark Johnston

Dacres Planning


Mr Andrew Paley 

John R Paley Associates Design & Landscape

(Mr S Link, Mrs V Sykes, Mr L Brown, Mr I Harrison) 


Mr David Lewis 

David Lewis Associates Conservation 


Mr Phil Owen 

WSP Highways 


Mr Iain Tavendale



Boston Spa – Quotes from the Appeal Decision


“On the first By Design objective, I find that, in key respects, the two developments would respond to and, to an extent, reinforce the existingcharacter of this area.”



“My findings on the design approach that has been adopted by the appellant in connection with this objective are in line with the views expressed by English Heritage”



“My overall finding is that the proposed developments would meet the seven objectives of By Design and that, in those terms, they have the potential to create a successful place.”


“Turning to the form and layout of the developments, I consider that the proposed streets and new frontages would be in keeping with the existing street scene and pattern in older Boston Spa. Thus, in common with those older streets, many of the proposed dwellings would be sited close to the highway, with others behind short front gardens. Also, the new streets themselves would match the existing hierarchy. Thus, the two vehicular accesses would be new laterals off the High Street, each tightly framed by corner properties and, between them, there would be a third lateral providing a pedestrian/cycle connection to the principal route. These individual streets, and the subsidiary east - west links that would connect them, would themselves display considerable variety in terms of dwelling type and spacing; they would be places with their own character and identity.”


“I find that this development has the potential to provide a high quality of public realm”



“My overall impression, however, is that the proposed dwelling types are individually well proportioned and generally in character with the range of older buildings elsewhere within the Conservation Area.”


“I consider that the individual house types have a Boston Spa ‘feel’ to them, most apparently in terms of their symmetry, their window proportions, the materials used and their generally simple detailing. At the same time, the many house types, with their widely varying heights and massing, reflect the considerable variety of eighteenth and nineteenth century Boston Spa.”



“To my mind, the framing effect of this new housing frontage would provide the viewer with an even greater focus on the Church as one approaches the centre of Boston Spa. On balance, I consider that there would be a net, positive contribution to the significance of this heritage asset.”



“In terms of rear garden shape, the land associated with some of the corner properties, in particular, departs considerably from the normal ‘rectangle’. However, I see no reason why these should not form the basis of a perfectly acceptable garden, as the appellant has shown in the suggested garden designs for Scheme A’s plots 4 and 88.”


“I conclude that the two schemes would represent good, inclusive design in the terms set out in PPS1 and By Design, that they would comply with the policy principles of PPS5 and that they would satisfy the statutory obligations of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.”

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