Committee Report NSC

[JG1]                                                                                                                               Item 6.1

 

North Somerset Council

 

REPORT TO THE STRATEGIC Planning and Economic Development Policy & Scrutiny Panel

 

Date of Meeting: 6 October 2008

 

Subject of Report: Urban extensions to Weston-super-mare and in Yanley – interim report

 

Town or parish: all

 

Officer/Member presenting: Councillor Clive Webb

 

Key Decision: No

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

  1. That the Strategic Planning and Economic Development Policy and Scrutiny Panel agrees the recommendations of the Working Group set out below and refer them to the Executive for consideration and action. 

 

  1. That the Executive considers the recommendations alongside the preferred option for the Council’s Core Strategy.

 

  1. That the Executive reports back to the Panel within 2 months with a response to the recommendations.

 

  1. That the Panel agrees that the Urban Extensions Working Group continues its investigations and report back with a full report in December 2008.

 

Suggested Recommendations to the Executive:

 

In its work on the two new urban extensions in Weston-super-Mare and Yanley, North Somerset Council should:

 

1)    Be in the “driver’s seat”, one step ahead of developers:

 

Ø      We need a masterplan as well as area action plans for the developments.

Ø      We must apply every tool available to us to ensure the developers follow our masterplan.

 

2)    Establish Mixed-Use Developments with Local Character and Identity:

 

Ø      Jobs, retail, services and facilities must be provided locally.

Ø      In Weston, employment-led development should be interpreted to mean that no residential developments can take place until actual jobs have been provided.

Ø      Larger scale employment sites and buildings should be developed prior to or at least alongside residential houses.

Ø      From each dwelling it should take no longer than 10 minutes to walk to the nearest neighbourhood centre. One large district centre is not sufficient as it would fail to create the local communities and “walkable” facilities, which smaller local centres can provide.

Ø      Only local shops should be provided, Weston is close enough for major shops and supermarkets. Bristol seems to have the same attitude to Yanley.

 

3)    Provide Sufficient Sustainable Transport Links and an Intelligent Road Design

 

       a)    Road Design

       We should:

Ø      Seek inspiration from Poundbury and parts of Portishead to develop a road network which 1) uses natural feature such as road bends and the positioning of buildings to calm traffic instead of traffic lights and other street furniture; and 2) allows for street parking, but only in certain parts of the roads to prevent cars from dominating the street scene.

Ø      Use Grampian conditions to ensure that the road network is in place before residential and business areas are developed.

 

       b)    Parking

       We should:

Ø      Accept that low parking provision has little effect on car ownership and consequently include ~2.7 car parks per residential unit in the design.

Ø      Ensure that car parks are designed as public spaces, which can be transformed into other uses, should sustainable travel options encourage households to rely less on cars. For this purpose, we should avoid garages as they 1) increase the amount of hard-surface, 2) are rarely used for car parking, and 3) limit alternative use of car parking space.

 

       c)    Public transport

       We should:

Ø      Agree public transport routes before finalising the road design.

Ø      Use Grampian conditions to ensure that public transport is in place before residential and business areas are developed.

Ø      Consider requiring developer contributions towards free public transport for a fixed period, for example one year.

Ø      Consider how to increase the capacity on current trains and bus routes.

 

       d)    Cycling and Walking Paths

Ø      Cycle and walking paths should be provided throughout the developments to enable sustainable transport, particularly to and from the new schools.

Ø      The lack of cycle path provision along the whole of the cross-airfield link should be addressed.

 

4)   Use the New Developments as an Opportunity to Enhance our Natural Environment:

 

Ø      Use green infrastructure as a starting point for the developments, and draw on existing mature landscape to give it form.

Ø      Ensure each dwelling has no more than 300 meters to the nearest green space.

Ø      Aim to provide 1 HA of green space for every 2 HA of hard-surfaced sites.

Ø      Establish a new national nature reserve to mitigate the effects of the new developments.

Ø      Ensure developers contribute to developing the green infrastructure by presenting them with the costs up-front.

Ø      Ensure that the developments are carbon-neutral and explore how to use local energy sources.

 

5)   Use Design Features that Allow a Feeling of Open Space within High-Density Developments:

 

Ø      Provide vistas throughout, few garages, and avoid solid walls between buildings.

Ø      Develop parking courts to minimise the impact of cars on the street scene.

 

6)    Integrate Affordable and Open Market Housing:

 

Ø      “Pepper pot” affordable housing units throughout the areas.

Ø      Ensure that affordable units are no different than privately owned dwellings by using the same design.

[J2] 

1.      Summary of Report

 

The Executive will be considering the preferred option for the Council’s Core Strategy on 26 October 2008. Among other things, the Core Strategy will set the context and guidelines for the urban extensions to Weston-super-Mare and in Yanley, southwest of Bristol. In this report, the Urban Extensions Working Group makes several recommendations about how the developments should be approached based on best-practice developments around the country.

 

The Group recommends that the Strategic Planning and Economic Development Policy and Scrutiny Panel agrees the recommendations, so the Executive can consider them alongside the preferred option for the Council's Core Strategy.

 

2.      Policy

 

Within The Regional Spatial Strategy for Southwest England North Somerset has to increase its number of dwellings by 26,750 by 2026. To accommodate 2/3 of this growth, the Council plans to establish two new urban extensions, each comprising 9,000 new dwellings: one in Weston-super-Mare and one southwest of Bristol, near Ashton Vale. The Core Strategy will clarify the Council’s approach to the two extensions by setting out:

 

Ø      Objectives and strategies for the conservation and development of North Somerset up until 2026.

Ø      The spatial vision and objectives; policies; and a monitoring and implementation framework for North Somerset.

 

The Strategy is general in scope and does not include site specific plans – masterplans and area action plans will do this for the two urban extensions.

 

3.      Details

 

The Urban Extensions Working Group has investigated how North Somerset as well as beacon councils such as West Dorset District Council have delivered urban extensions during the past 10 years. We’ve also worked with our officers to establish which approach they intend to take to the future extensions to Weston-super-Mare and the area southwest of Bristol. This is what we have learned so far:

 

Site visit to Poundbury, an urban extension to Dorchester

 

In Poundbury, the Working Group was particularly impressed by:

 

1)     The integration of employment, retail, services and housing

-        Large employment sites and buildings were developed prior to or alongside residential houses, making these large buildings/sites a natural part of the urban space.

-        For each ~500 houses there was a neighbourhood centre with retail facilities and office space, making local facilities truly “walkable” and giving areas their own character.

-        Industrial sites were separated from residential areas by a buffer of light industry and offices, making them less intrusive.

-        Offices located in residential areas had similar designs to houses and flats. As such, they blended in very well.

 

2)     The road network

-        In Poundbury, the Highway Engineers had used natural features such as road width, bends and positioning of houses to calm traffic in residential areas. For example, speeding is prevented by a 60 meter limit on uninterrupted straight lengths of road. That way less street furniture is needed and as such, the streets are less likely to appear cluttered. Also, during our visit we experienced how comfortable and safe this system makes pedestrians feel.

 

3)     Car parking provision

-        A provision of 2.7 spaces per dwelling had been built into the design, yet cars did not dominate the street scene as most were catered for in courtyard car parks.

-        The road design took into account that many people park on the roads. But to prevent cars from dominating the street scene, only parts of the roads were wide enough to accommodate parking.

 

4)     The design

-        Although parts of Poundbury are built to high densities with many three- and four-storey buildings we never felt enclosed; rather, the way the buildings relate to each other allows for viewpoints towards a wider landscape from almost every spot. This is enhanced by the very few garages and avoiding solid walls between or in front of houses.

-        Also, the urban designers and developers have transformed functional entities such as roads and parking courts into proper public spaces. They are not just areas for cars, but for a wider range of human interaction. Instead of trying to change people’s behaviour by minimising car parking space, the development acknowledges that people are likely to own cars. But the car-parks have designed so they can ultimately be used for other purposes if sufficient public transport and cycle/walking path provision succeed in changing people’s mode of travelling.

 

5)     Affordable housing

-        35% of Poundbury’s housing units are affordable. They have been integrated with the rest of the development: spatially, they are ‘pepper potted’ within the open market housing and they do not differ in design and appearance.

 

       The Group was less impressed with:

 

1)     The layout of green space

-        Green space was allocated mostly on the boundary of the development. We believe our urban extensions would benefit from also having green spaces in between the dwellings; perhaps even a green infrastructure around which houses would be built.

-        Having a green infrastructure which shapes the development also gives better conditions for a variety of species and landscape types to flourish, particularly when using existing mature landscapes as a starting point.

 

2)     Public transport

-        West Dorset had not provided sufficient public transport links during the first stages of the development. As a result, reliance on cars is still high in Poundbury.

-        West Dorset has learned from this, and for the latter stages they intend to: 1) agree public transport routes before finalising the design of the streets; and 2) require developer contributions towards bus routes.

 

3)     Cycle paths

-        The main cycle and walking path went in a loop on the outskirt of the development. As such, it didn’t provide very direct access for residents to Dorchester Town Centre. Consequently it appeared more as a leisure facility than an alternative mode of transport.

-        The masterplan had not addressed how to connect Poundbury to the rest of Dorchester. As a result, you could get to the edge of Poundbury on the loop-path, but not into Dorchester town centre.

 

Site visit to Portishead

 

The Working Group was impressed by:

 

1)     The use of green space and art

-        Green space and art had been used to give the new areas identity, drawing on Portishead’s character and history, particularly at Port Marine and the Fishing Village.

 

2)     The new employment created alongside the housing

 

The Group was less impressed by:

 

1)     The lack of neighbourhood centres

-        Residents in most parts of the developments would still have to go into Portishead town centre for all shopping needs and services.

 

2)     The road network

-        It did not give pedestrians the same comfortable feeling as in Poundbury.

-        Also, the road width is too narrow in places, making the area seem congested.

 

3)     Parking provision

-        It’s too low, particularly considering the low provision of public transport.

 

Meeting with Broadway Malyan Consultants

 

Broadway Malyan are our newly appointed masterplanners for the urban extensions. They have been tasked with developing a masterplan for the two urban extensions.

·        The Working Group is happy that our Planning Team has appointed masterplanners for the extensions. Our investigations so far tells us that good developments start with a plan for the whole area, which covers all aspects of a new town such as economic development; infrastructure; biodiversity; public space and facilities. Broadway Malyan covered all relevant aspects and the Working Group is happy that they’re aiming for a high-bar solution for the two areas.

·        The Group now awaits their substantial plans for the areas including how to raise funding for the aspects of the developments, which developers traditionally have shown little interest in (for example infrastructure; green space; facilities).

 

Meeting with members of the Council’s Highways Team and Sustainable Transport Team

 

From the discussions with members of the Highways and Sustainable Transport Teams we learned that:

·        The Council can use so-called ‘Grampian Conditions’ when approving planning applications. They ensure that the developer deals with areas such as infrastructure before implementing the development.

·        The proportion of parents driving their children to school is related to where schools are located.

·        “Taster tickets” for public transport can be used to promote sustainable transport among new residents.

 

The Working Group is still concerned about the (lack of) capacity on the trains and buses connecting North Somerset to Bristol.

·        Many of our new residents will be commuting to and from Bristol everyday, but there is little evidence that the trains can take more passengers than they currently do.

·        The bus provision isn’t solid enough to provide for thousands of new residents.

·        Buses need to travel along the same roads as cars. Motorway junction 21 and A370 and A38 are already congested, and with more commuters this will only worsen, making it difficult for buses to get to and from Bristol within decent times. Bus priority lanes could improve the situation, but this is difficult to provide as many local roads including the A370 are single carriageways.

·        Looking at the Weston Package bid, which – if successful – will provide much of the infrastructure needed for the Weston extension, it is worrying that cycle and pedestrian links have been provided only for the last leg of the journey into Weston’s town centre. The remainder of the cross airfield link provides for cars and buses only.

 

Meeting with the Council’s Landscape Architect and Ecologist and Natural England

 

From the discussions about green infrastructure and ecology we learned that:

·        Natural England thinks North Somerset is on the right track when it comes to providing green infrastructure in new developments. This ties in well with our impressions from Portishead.

·        Although the urban extensions are a challenge to our green space and rural landscapes they are also an opportunity to enhance North Somerset’s green environment, for example by establishing a new national nature reserve to mitigate the effects of the new developments.

·        The green infrastructure should 1) be the starting point for a development, and not randomly allocated to sites left-over by developers; 2) run throughout the developments, creating links from one habitat to another; and 3) draw on local landscape types and protect already existing species and habitats.

·        Allowing communities to take ownership of their green infrastructure can prove a very efficient way of managing green space.

·        National guidelines state that residents should live no more than 300m from their nearest green space and 10k from the nearest large green area.

·        One way of ensuring that developers contribute to establishing green infrastructure is to present them with the costs up-front.

·        Masterplans do not always have the same status as Area Action Plans when it comes to negotiating with developers.

·        Green infrastructure can make not only residential areas but also employment sites much more attractive to those considering moving in.

·        Natural England is very keen to work with us to make sure that green infrastructure is prioritised within our new urban extensions.

 

4.      Consultation

 

The Working Group decided not to carry out consultations with residents, as this they would be very likely to duplicate the consultations, which council officers have carried out from the beginning of the project.

 

5.      Financial Implications

 

The development of urban extensions in Weston-super-Mare and Yanley has substantial financial implications for North Somerset. These could be positive as well as negative depending on issues such as the quality of the urban design and how successful this is in generating employment opportunities and economic growth; the outcome of the negotiations with our developers; and the ability to raise additional funding for facilities and infrastructure. 

 

6.      RISK MANAGEMENT

 

See officers’ report.

 

7.      Equality Implications

 

The design and delivery of the urban extensions have immense impact on how equal the residents and employees will be. For example, will the new areas provide housing for all ages, physical needs and incomes? Will all residents have access to nearby green space, facilities and local shops? Will there be leisure facilities for all age groups, including young people? Will the developments cater for those who are unable or unwilling to drive private cars by ensuring that everyone has access to alternative ways of transport? Will everyone have access to sustainable housing, where carbon-neutral designs allow heating and energy bills to be at a manageable level? Will all new employment sites be accessible for people with physical disabilities?

 

8.      Corporate Implications

 

The extensions will have large implications for the council’s service delivery.

 

9.      Options considered

 

The Working Group has considered adopting a more traditional approach to urban extensions, but rejects this option as it would lead to more car traffic and congestion; more dormitory suburban developments with little public space and social cohesion; large, negative impacts on our environment; and unfortunate divisions of affordable and private market housing.

 

Author

Working group membership:

Cllr Clive Webb (chairman)

Cllr Tony Moulin

Cllr David Pasley

Cllr Dr Mike Kellaway-Marriott

Cllr Bob Cook

 

Contact Officer:

Jo Gadegaard

Scrutiny and performance Officer

( 01275 88 4282
8 Jo.Gadegaard@n-somerset.gov.uk

 

Background Papers

West Dorset District Council (2006): Poundbury Development Brief

The Town and Country Planning Association (2007): Best Practice in Urban Extensions and New Settlements

Matthew Taylor (MP) (2008): Living Working Countryside: The Taylor Review of Rural Economy and Affordable Housing

North Somerset Council (2007): The Core Strategy Pre-Production Brief and the Pre-Production Brief Consultation Results

 

 

 

 

 


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