Royal Deeside : Ballater and The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment
The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment (PFBE) defines itself as follows. 'The PFBE is an educational charity established by HRH the Prince of Wales to improve the quality of people's lives by teaching and practising ecological and timeless ways of planning design.' It has been involved with over 60 urban design, architectural, regeneration, healthcare and heritage projects throughout Britain; contributing to the enhancement of their design and build quality as well as the greater community involvement in the planning process.
Birkhall, one of the homes of the Duke of Rothesay (as the Prince is called in Scotland) lies close to Ballater and it is appropriate that the town has been the subject of a PFBE exercise. The exercise started in 2006 and the latest stage was an Enquiry by Design workshop conducted in September 2009. The report of this workshop is is now available. To download a pdf copy of this report (4.5MB) click here.
Ballater is a modern large village / small town which was started around 1800 to support the nearby spa at Pannanich Wells. It was designed with a grid layout and expanded rapidly when Queen Victoria purchased nearby Balmoral Castle and when, shortly afterwards, the railway arrived in Ballater. For much of the 20th century there was little expansion so that the village displays a strong Victorian appearance. This was recognized when the centre of Ballater was declared a Conservation Area. However, from about 1985 the village started expanding into the flood plain to the east. Many of the new buildings did not blend with the old and concerns were raised that unplanned development might cause the village to lose its appeal
In 2006, aware of the PFBE's work at Poundbury in Dorset, the Ballater and Crathie Community Council invited the PFBE to perform a study in Ballater. A series of public meetings culminated in a 'Ballater Sustainable Growth' exercise performed in November 2006. It is probably fair to say that the results of this study were not widely supported by the community as there was a belief that the town was not ready for the degree of expansion envisaged. Sadly, also, confusion arose with the publication of a Deposit Local Plan by the Cairngorms National Park in which an additional 250 new 'housing units' were proposed for Ballater, many of which would be located in the flood plain of the River Dee.
The Enquiry by Design exercise carried out in September 2009 was, however, a good example of how external advisors and a local community can work harmoniously and constructively together. At the final public meeting there was general support for many of the ideas that had been proposed during the workshop. The atmosphere was possibly helped by the fact that Ballater had recently conducted an appraisal 'Ballater One Voice our Future' (BOVOF) which had helped to pinpoint many of the town's strengths and weaknesses. The PFBE proposals for slightly less development, planned with care to blend with the existing village, should provide a good base for going forward.
The workshops conducted by the Prince's Foundation in Ballater were sponsored by Scotia Homes, builders of two small private housing estates in Ballater.
For more information on the Prince's Foundation see its website
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