Village Design Statement information

We have been invited to be the first community in the North Devon “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” to produce a Village Design Statement. Put simply, a Village Design Statement (VDS) would be our chance to tell the planners what we think is special about Lee and Lincombe, what are the characteristics of its landscape, its buildings, its way of life that make it the place which we value and which we want to protect, promote and nurture.

A VDS is an advisory document, produced by the local community, not by the planning department. It sets out clear and simple guidance for the design of all development in a village, based on its character. It cannot and should not prevent change from happening, but it can help to manage change for the better and to influence how any new building fits into the village. VDSs are intended to make an input into the operation of the statutory planning system, so that new development is in harmony with its setting and makes a positive contribution to our environment.

All proposed development would still, of course, have to take account of the constraints imposed by planning legislation, by the rules governing conservation areas and AONBs and by the policies of the local planning authorities. Equally, the Lee & Lincombe Residents' Association will continue to examine planning applications and to intervene and comment in order to promote and protect the interests of our community. But a VDA could be an opportunity for the community as a whole to be proactive; for us to contribute a structured account of what we see as the distinctive character of our village and its surroundings; and to set out the principles which we think should guide future design and development.

Around 200 English communities, from Cumbria to Cornwall and from Shropshire to Suffolk, have already drawn up VDSs, which vary greatly in style, length, scope, ambition and – for all I know – quality. But they all have in common the fact that they depend for their success on the time, energy, imagination and commitment of a broad cross-section of the community, led by a dedicated core team. It can easily take a year to develop, research, write, edit and publish a VDS and, although the District Council and AONB Partnership can offer help and support in the form of expertise, advice and funding, the whole point is that, ultimately, it should come from us.

If you want to know more about what is involved, those of you with internet access can go to the Lee & Lincombe Residents' Association’s website (please follow the link from where you will find links to Natural England’s guides to producing VDSs and also to some of the VDSs already published on the web. Alternatively, I have a few paper copies which you are welcome to look at; do contact me at Ivy Bank or on 862 453.

Most importantly, however, we need to discover whether there is enough interest in the village to make such an exercise possible and worthwhile. Without wide support it could not claim to speak for the community. Without the active participation of a small project team it simply can’t happen at all.

We would like to hear from you

· whether you support the idea of drawing up a Village Design Statement and would be prepared, for instance, to answer the occasional questionnaire; and

· whether you would be prepared to join, or even lead, the project team. No special qualifications are needed, but energy, a bit of time and an open mind would certainly come in handy.

Please react, however briefly. For instance “a: Yes, b: Yes” would already be perfect. For us, the easiest would be an e-mail to But a note or a quick phone-call to me would be fine as well. Or tell me in the pub (but make me write it down!).

We were chosen because we are seen as an active and vocal community. We need to decide pretty quickly whether we say yes. If not, the AONB and the Councils will go elsewhere and we can sit back and let others, rather than ourselves, shape our future. What do you think?

The English Nature (formerly Countryside Commission) guide to VDSs is at

Example village VDSs include: