It’s fair to say that Cairn plc has led the way in recent months in creating high-quality new homes with an emphasis on design, innovation, sustainability and customer service. One of the secrets of Cairn’s success is the attention paid to the planning process – a vital part of any new development – and utilising the skills of the design team in this process.
Cairn’s Planning and Development Manager, John Grace, is in charge of bringing green and brown sites through the planning process to being ready for construction – a complex role that includes evaluating sites, preparing comprehensive due diligence, and assisting with acquisitions and legals. Paying attention to the planning process is key to creating developments that work not just for the future residents but also for the community at large.
“There are lots of challenges and they vary considerably from site to site,” John explains. “The best strategy is to start with solid baseline information for the site and have as much of this in place as possible for the design team. Each project begins with a site walk by our team. We then brief our land surveyors, and commission any expert surveys we need. Even if they are not strictly required for planning, we always like to know about the flora and fauna, archaeology, heritage and tree cover before committing to a planning approach.
“Even if they are not strictly required for planning, we always like to know about the flora and fauna, archaeology, heritage and tree cover before committing to a planning approach.”
“Perhaps most importantly of all, a successful planning outcome is often best achieved through dialogue with key stakeholders – the planners, residents, utility companies and state bodies – to identify issues and problems upfront, and to work through them before the application is lodged. In Cairn, we pride ourselves on a 99% success rate with planning applications, and much of this is down to the hard work put into building relationships and trust.”
The Role of Design
The design team, John explains, plays a key role in the planning process too. “We’ve found that appointing some of the best designers, engineers and planners to the team delivers the best results. Professionals with a diverse bank of knowledge will offer a range of options for consideration, working within any site-specific constraints to provide the most economic and appropriate designs.”
Plus, John says, local authorities and An Bord Pleanála are now insisting on high-quality design. “We consider each project as a neighbourhood and not just a development. We do this through high-quality green spaces, good amenities, and architectural character. Our in-house landscape and urban design experts help guide the design process using a range of innovative, practical solutions which achieve both variety and efficiencies in each development. Every site has its own unique story and identity, and its redevelopment forms part of that journey.”
Creating sustainable developments that please for generations to come is an important consideration – creating visually pleasing houses with great materials is one part of the equation, but Cairn pays as much attention to the layout of the development and green spaces too.
“We consider each project as a neighbourhood and not just a development.”
“In every development, it’s vital that the site planning delivers good urban layouts and meaningful green spaces,” John explains. “A project always starts with a identifying important site features, trees and hedgerows, and to get a feel for the character of the site and its locality. Right from the outset, we’re looking at how a site can be developed whilst respecting the existing environment, and where possible we’ll try to use any existing gradients, features, and boundaries to enhance the scheme.”
Architecturally pleasing houses, good-quality materials, meticulous overall planning of the development and beautifully landscaped green spaces – this is what makes a Cairn development so different to the rest.