Weston-super-Mare Town Centre Regeneration - Draft Supplementary Planning Document (SPD)

Weston-super-Mare town centre regeneration Draft SPD

Section 1: Living, Learning, Lifestyles

Background

The themes of living, learning and lifestyles were identified in the Prospectus for Change as the main focus for bringing about the regeneration of the town centre. Each of these are considered in turn, setting out the main opportunities, issues and requirements for new development.

Living

2.1 Encouraging more people to live in the town centre

Encouraging more people to live in the town centre is fundamental to the vision for the town centre. This will need to be of significant quantity if it is to have an impact on shops and services and bring about the change in vitality the centre needs. This SPD sets out three new major mixed use development sites where the council and its partners are proposing new homes;

Station Gateway – this could be up to 500-600 new homes
Dolphin Square – in the region of 220 homes
Walliscote Place – approximately 70 new homes

Additional redevelopment opportunities, conversions and smaller sites are also anticipated to come forward as momentum builds. The SPD aims to incentivise developers and investors to bring forward high quality residential schemes by demonstrating what can be achieved, carrying out infrastructure improvements and proposing that, for a limited period, developments under 250 residential units throughout most of the central area will not be subject to financial contributions towards cumulative infrastructure provision (Section 106/CIL contributions) or affordable housing provision. Full details on infrastructure delivery are set out in Section 3.

Figure 2 sets out the sites which include residential development which have been allocated in the consultation draft of the Site Allocations Plan (March 2016). As part of this consultation we would be interested to hear from owners or developers of other potential sites within the defined SPD area.

 

2.2 Mixed and balanced community

The ambition for the town centre aims to improve the quality of housing available in order to attract a more mixed and balanced community. Central Weston currently has a high proportion of privately rented accommodation and much lower owner occupation than elsewhere in the district or other central areas such as Portishead. Much of the private rented sector is poor quality. The majority of the housing proposed on the large sites above will be aimed at people wishing to buy market housing and for younger people wanting starter homes thereby helping to achieve a more mixed and balanced community in the centre. These people will be attracted by the new housing choices and lifestyle. Buy to rent will be discouraged on sites being developed in partnership with the council.

 To view a larger version of the map, please click on the map below:

26872 Weston Town Centre Master Maps 1 2

2.3 Ensuring a quality place to live 

The proposals set out in this SPD seek to improve housing choice and to lift the quality of design. All residential development will be expected to at least meet and if not exceed minimum design standards set out in the Core Strategy (2012) and Development Management Plan (2016) and the Residential design guides. The design of the building and its context are important aspects of design. The SPD therefore sets out to help developers and individuals proposing development to understand the important characteristics of the area in which it is located by establishing Character Areas and setting out principles to be followed in each. Details are set out in Section 2.

 

2.4 Residential Parking

Parking adds value to property and is often a requirement of those looking to buy a home, however, particularly in some residential conversions, it will not be practicable to provide the target levels set out in the Parking Standards SPD. The Parking Standards SPD recognises that in sustainable locations such as the town centre other types of travel will be used but that residents will often still own a car. Sites within the SPD area are accessible by other means of transport and developers will not be required to demonstrate this. In determining the level of car parking provision within Weston SPD area, in addition to the Parking Standards SPD, the following guidance is given;

  • New build schemes will be required to provide a minimum of one space per dwelling unit in line with the current North Somerset Parking Standards. Schemes of 10 or more units will also need to meet the following requirements;

Superfast charging points
10% of the total parking spaces should include superfast charging points with a minimum of 1 space. In order to future proof car parking areas ducting should be included to support the provision of charging points for 40% of spaces in the longer term. Charging points should be highly visible but not disrupt the aesthetic value of the location and would need to be located where one charging point can serve the maximum number of spaces.

Car clubs
Establishment of a car club scheme and car parking facilities to accommodate this. On site 5% of spaces should accommodate a car
club car with a minimum of 1 space and this should be located adjacent to the electric charging point as the council’s aspiration is for electric vehicle car clubs.

  • Conversions of existing buildings where it can be demonstrated that it not practical to meet the minimum requirement of 1 space per unit applicants will be required to maximise on-site parking provision and provide alternatives to private car ownership and parking on site including enhanced provision for car clubs and requirements for access to electric charging points; doubling the requirements above. In addition, we require developers to investigate off-site provision including leasing arrangements in private car parks and engagement with public transport providers as this is an area where on-street parking is particularly constrained and although modal alternatives are available they will need to be encouraged. We require developers to promote the car-free or sustainable travel nature of sites that are approved with reduced parking.

 

2.5 Improving existing residential areas

Some existing residential areas within the SPD boundary are in need of improvements. Often these are areas where there are high concentrations of poor quality rental properties. Part of the Weston regeneration SPD is included in an area of restricted subdivision where further subdivision of housing is not permitted. Policy DM39 (Areas of Restricted Subdivision) also aims to ensure that outside these areas the conversion of properties to self-contained properties and Houses in Multiple occupation (HMO’s) meet strict criteria. Details are available in the Development Management Policies Plan (July 2016).

An additional licensing scheme has been introduced in part of Weston central ward which has a high concentration of poor quality rented multi occupied housing. This will help improve standards and help address some of the issues caused in this area. This scheme will last until the end of 2018. Full details are available at http://www.n-somerset.gov.uk/hmo-licences. Figure 3 shows the location of both of these areas.

Where the community is motivated to get together to carry out improvements to their properties and neighbourhoods the council will endeavour to support and encourage this. Further improvements similar to those recently carried out at The Centre are being considered, and suggestions from interested groups are welcomed.

Click map for a larger version:

26872 Weston Town Centre Master Maps 1 3

 

2.6 Living requirements

In order to improve the quality of residential provision within the town centre regeneration area all development will be expected to comply with the following:

  • Place making – all developments should contribute to place-making, creating places with a strong sense of identity and local distinctiveness, which are well designed and function efficiently in line with Policy DM32. People should want to live in these areas and patterns of development should help build local community identity and cohesion.
  • Mixed and balanced communities – Weston Central ward currently has a high proportion of people living in poor quality rented accommodation and a much lower proportion of owner occupiers than elsewhere in the district. The aim is to improve the quality of the homes available, increase the proportion of owner occupation and encourage the use of housing products which will enable people especially first time buyers to access the housing market. The council will work with partners such as the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to deliver starter homes.
  • Healthy housing – The need to ensure healthier lifestyles is becoming an increasingly important factor in the design of new development. Ensuring safe cycle and pedestrian routes, easy storage of bikes, and other large sports and leisure equipment, access to outside space, fresh air and sports and recreation activities should be ingrained in the place-making process from the outset.
  • High quality housing – The design and planning of all development proposals should demonstrate design quality which meets the needs and aspirations of 21st Century living, meet and preferably exceed minimum quality standards and be responsive to its context. Housing design should adhere to the design principles for the character area in which it is located as well as the overall masterplan.
  • Spacious accessible and adaptable housing – where practical and viable all new build housing should as a minimum meet the nationally described space standards and comply with Policy DM42.
  • Sustainable housing – Energy efficiency, insulation, water and waste management will be required to meet set standards. Sustainable travel options will feature in the new designs. Electric charging points, car clubs and bicycle storage will all be expected as part of the design of major development schemes.
  • Intelligent housing – where appropriate new technologies should be incorporated into the design of dwellings, this will connect the key electrical appliances and services allowing them to be remotely controlled, monitored or accessed.
  • Affordable housing – To rebalance the housing mix in the town centre and deliver a range of high quality housing, development will focus on alternative modes of affordable housing such as starter homes. For most sites for a limited period there will be no requirement to deliver affordable homes as traditionally defined and set out in Core Strategy Policy CS16. Refer to Section 3 for details. Initiatives by Housing Associations and other delivery partners to provide affordable homes will continue to be sought and supported.
  • Aspirational housing – the Council will seek aspirational houses and flats1 in the regeneration of Weston, in line with Policy DM34, to help create an attractive image and establish a high quality status for the town. Although these will only make up a limited amount of the new stock it will help to change the image of Weston, help establish a new quality standard, and ensure that the current gap in the availability of dwellings in the upper tax bands is rebalanced.
  • Student housing – As Weston grows as a university town so too will the demand for student housing. Purpose built quality accommodation which meets the needs of modern day student expectations and which will attract students to Weston will be required. Providers should work with Weston College to ensure both the amount and quality of accommodation is met.
  • Smaller housing schemes – Making better use of vacant space above shops and other premises within the town centre would not only provide an important source of housing but also ensures the centre is not deserted in the evenings and provides additional surveillance. Where high quality schemes are brought forward these will be supported. The Council is supportive of vacant ground floor units outside the Primary Shopping Area in residential style streets converting to residential use, particularly where this helps to consolidate the shopping area. Indeed greater flexibility to change uses to residential has been part of the governments’ changes to permitted development rights. See link2 for more details.

1 The definition of aspirational houses and flat is found in the Development Management Policies Sites and Policies Plan 2016

2 https://www.planningportal.co.uk/info/200130/common_projects/9/change_of_use/2 

Learning

3.1 University centreimage89

Weston College was granted University Centre status at the end of 2015 bringing Weston-super-Mare a step closer to becoming a university town. This means that the college is able to expand its higher education provision to run courses on a much greater scale and at a higher level. The new Law and Professional Services Academy will operate from the remodelled Winter Gardens and former Arosfa Hotel, bringing significant numbers of new students into the town centre. The aim is to follow this with further expansion in the future.

The granting of University Centre status is regarded as a major achievement and will enable education at all levels with higher education acting as a catalyst for regeneration. Securing a prestigious base for the university in the heart of the town will make a significant difference to both the town and the surrounding communities, increasing activity, footfall as well as addressing a current local skills gap.

Weston College currently provides education to 30,000 learners with over 860 students enrolled on degree level courses. The Academy is expected to bring an additional 35 teaching and support roles, 250 students and other auxiliary roles such as catering and cleaning. This growing student population will bring vitality and activity to the centre and will have a positive effect on its urban character.

 

3.2 School places

Additional housing in the town centre of the scale being proposed will require expanded primary school provision including a safeguarded school site. It is proposed that the new school site should be located within or close to the Station Gateway area, the exact location would be
decided through the detailed master planning of this area.

Additional early years provision will also be required. Demand for secondary places will be assessed as part of the overall requirement throughout Weston for secondary school provision.

 

3.3 Learning requirements;

  • University – The council will work with Weston College to ensure further phases of university expansion take place in the town centre regeneration area. Community use of the facilities should be made available where practicable to ensure local benefit.
  • Student accommodation – This should be provided in purpose-built quality accommodation in association with the college to ensure quality standards.
  • Primary school provision – The increase in people living in the town centre will inevitably lead to a need for more school places. Modelling indicates that increased provision will be required. Possible expansion of an existing school and site for a new primary school in the vicinity of Station Gateway is required. Work to establish the precise location is ongoing.

Lifestyles

4.1 A great place to live

Weston town centre already has the basic assets which make it a great place to live;

  • It has an outdoor lifestyle focussed on the beach and rural hinterland; and
  • An underrated quality in its architectural, heritage and cultural assets;
  • It is comparatively more affordable than Bristol or Bath;
  • Great accessibility (less than 30 minutes to Bristol by train with over 40 trains per day, 3 miles to the M5, 30 minutes to the airport by car).

 

4.2 Delivering employment

The need to ensure that employment provision is provided alongside housing is a fundamental principle governing planning policy throughout Weston-super-Mare3. Delivering this in the town centre is more complex as the need to increase the number of people living in the town centre, viability issues, and site scale and location makes the suitability of on-site provision less appropriate. Nonetheless employment provision in the centre is and will continue to come forward. The Dolphin Square development, the University and the development of a creative hub all provide employment opportunities unrelated to housing developments. As housing develops and the regeneration initiative gathers momentum employment in service and related jobs will also increase. In order to encourage the regeneration of the town centre to take place there will be no direct requirement for developments within the defined town centre regeneration area to provide or contribute towards employment provision. However, employment opportunities will be carefully monitored to ensure adequate employment is being provided overall, in line with housing numbers.

The proposed approach to support economic growth within the town centre involves actively encouraging the move of Weston towards a knowledge, information and ‘creative’ economy, capitalising on its proximity to Bristol and potential spill-over demand, as well as building on existing enterprises in the town.

The Council will therefore;

  • Support the establishment of a creative hub building for small creative business start-ups
  • Support flexible workspace provision in the town centre encouraging the provision of flexible managed workspaces
  • Digital and creative sectors – Support the set-up and development of digital and creative sector businesses
  • University – Support the University Centre in the town centre and innovation spin-offs
  • Carry out public realm improvements to support economic enterprise and investment 20

 

4.3 Lifestyle provision

With its university centre status and growing town centre offer, Weston has potential to attract a wider demographic profile. Further changes are, however, required to promote and develop an attractive lifestyle offer which appeals to both existing and potential residents. This will include a wider range of bars and restaurants and higher quality evening economy; attractive pedestrian friendly public spaces; cultural facilities and events; modern recreational facilities, and a good range of retail outlets.

Large events, leisure activities and extreme sports are already part of the Weston scene and will continued to be supported. The highly successful 2015 Dismaland experience attracted an international audience and has stimulated efforts to ensure the Tropicana is reinvented as an arts and events venue.

 

4.4 Lifestyle requirements;

  • Shopping – Policies contained in the Development Management Policies Sites and Policies Plan Part 1 aim to focus the shopping area in a more concentrated area acknowledging that the retail area in Weston is widely dispersed and that less retail floor space is likely to be required in future. Within the primary shopping area a greater range of uses are supported allowing food and drink and evening economy uses. Improvements to the High Street and better links to adjacent areas and the seafront are proposed. Regent Street and Spider Lane are proposed as the primary pedestrian links between the High Street and the seafront. Proposals to link the Sovereign Centre with the seafront and create a more prominent entrance from the seafront would be supported. Outside the primary shopping area there are areas which contain clusters of independent retailers, (Orchard/Meadows, Grove Village, the Boulevard, St James Street). These areas often have high turnover and vacant units. Public realm improvements to the ‘laneways’ to provide a higher quality pedestrian environment will help support the independent businesses in some of these areas. Elsewhere the conversion of vacant shop units in residential style streets back to housing will be supported. Shopfront design and signage guidance will be published to encourage a more coherent shopping area and reflect the character of buildings. This will include advice on converting shops to residential units.
  • Culture and leisure – Encourage the cultural and leisure offer. Cultural and leisure activities have been central to Weston’s past and will continue to play a crucial role in supporting the local economy and providing activities for visitors and residents. New residential development will increase demand for a variety of leisure activities, whether sports, arts, cultural or restaurants and evening entertainment, the majority of which should be met within the town centre. The focus is on improving the range and quality of attractions so that Weston meets the needs of its residents as well as being an all year round destination for visitors. Opportunities to improve visitor accommodation and facilities to appeal to a wider demographic will need to be harnessed and supported. Promoting a better understanding of the town’s cultural heritage will aid the appreciation of the town’s assets and buildings and encourage positive management and use.
  • Evening and night-time uses – Proposals should seek to improve the functioning of the town in the evenings through, for example good design, extended opening times, imaginative use of lighting and the siting of uses which will improve the safety, image and attractiveness of the town.
  • Community facilities – more residents will increase demand for a variety of community services such as doctors, dentists, children’s centres etc. Proposals for new or to extend existing facilities will be supported in principle.
  • Smart town – Deliver a smarter town by integrating digital uplift and infrastructure provision. The vision is to deliver digital benefits in the following areas and all developments should ensure they are enabling and cooperating in this ambition. Examples of what this may look like will vary considerably by development and is evolving rapidly. The following is an indication of some of the types of provision which should be considered;
    • Smarter parking management – pre-allocated/bookable spaces, variable charging, incentive
    • Increased legibility of streets e.g. navigation apps
    • Low carbon decentralised energy networks
    • Smarter metering
    • Remote control of domestic energy systems
    • Integrating local generation using smart grids
    • Agile trading systems to encourage informal trading, pop ups, start up SMEs
    • Digital democracy
    • Waste management e.g. smart bins

Footnote:

3. Core Strategy CS20, CS30. Employment led delivery at Weston-super-Mare SPD (2014)

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