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

Weston-super-Mare town centre regeneration Draft SPD

Section 3: Investing in Regeneration

DELIVERING REGENERATION

Weston-super-Mare town centre has suffered from a lack of investment, leading to tired fabric in much of the public and private realm. This has had a consequential impact of limiting the attractiveness of the town and the demographic mix. It is recognised however, that there is now the opportunity to revive the town’s fortunes though a range of measures to add life and economic vitality to the town.

 

9.1 Kick starting the process and taking the initiative

To overcome the self-perpetuating cycle of poor quality and low value development, North Somerset Council, in partnership with the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and Historic England, is intervening in the housing market to create a step change in the housing offer at key strategic locations sending a powerful message that Weston-super-Mare town centre is an attractive place to live, work and invest. North Somerset Council is also prepared to take an active role, investing where necessary to implement its vision and deliver improvements.

 

9.2 Compulsory Purchase Orders

In order to facilitate development, re-development, improvements and ensure the proper planning of Weston-super-Mare Town Centre the council is prepared to use Compulsory Purchases Orders (CPO’s) to acquire land if necessary.

 

9.3 Involving the private sector

Whilst the council is intervening on some key sites the majority of the regeneration initiatives are expected to come forward from the private sector. The council welcomes early discussions on proposals.

 

9.4 Significant town centre investments already completed or under way

Although the town generally has suffered from a lack of investment there are notable examples of recent investment;

  • The Grand Pier was rebuilt following the 2008 fire.
  • Major improvements to sea defences, seafront roads and enhancements to the promenade with new lighting, seating and public art have taken place winning many prestigious awards in 2011.
  • A 112 bed Premier Inn hotel and Brewers Fayre restaurant opened in December 2012. Trading in the hotel and restaurant has been excellent.
  • McLaren Life developed the new 380 space multi storey town centre car park in Carlton Street. This was completed and opened in August 2012.
  • The construction of the third phase of the Dolphin Square project is under way. This includes a 1,600 seat Cineworld cinema, leisure facilities and restaurants. This is expected to open in the summer of 2017 bringing a new variety to the town centre and expanding leisure opportunities in the evening and year-round.
  • In 2015 Weston College was granted University Centre status and funding to create a Law and Professional Services Academy and University Centre in Weston-super-Mare. This will be housed within the Winter Gardens and former Arosfa Hotel, bringing significant numbers of new students to the town. The iconic ballroom at the Winter Gardens will be restored to its former glory, protecting and enhancing this prominent facility for community use.
  • Weston town centre is one of 20 locations outside London designated as a Housing Zone, meaning it is a priority area for funding. Recent acquisitions include the site of the final phase of Dolphin Square together with the site of the former Sands night club and the Oxford Corner cafe. This will now allow comprehensive redevelopment of a large area right in the town centre, complementing McLaren Life’s restaurant and leisure development at Dolphin Square. The HCA has also acquired both the vacant land at Sunnyside Road and Locking Road Car Park for another scheme which will provide a further development opportunity, complementing the council’s plans for an improved entrance to the town centre.
  • The council has purchased the police station and former Magistrates Court which it aims to develop as contemporary apartments, setting a new quality and value benchmark for the town.
  • Banksy’s ‘Dismaland’ helped to highlight the economic benefits of a thriving creative sector and the council is looking at developing a creative hub to support and inspire creative entrepreneurship in the town. Plans to develop the tropicana as an arts and performance venue are also under way. As well as providing a catalyst for economic growth, these will help to make Weston town centre an attractive place to live for a more diverse range of people, including young professionals.
  • Refurbishment of The Centre (opposite the Town Hall) – repairing the art-deco building’s façade, a fresh coat of paint and the installation of planters and seating outside the front of the building have dramatically improved the whole site, making it much more attractive for shoppers, visitors and residents. With the help of the council the owners of all 17 units have worked together to organise and invest in the much-needed improvements. Working collectively has not only meant the work can be done more cost effectively but has also enabled the owners to select one consistent colour scheme (in a striking art-deco Miami-style) for the repainting of the whole façade. The repainting and building repairs were funded by the owners of the building.
  • In 2015 the main shopping precinct in Weston, the Sovereign Centre was sold to new owners bringing with it more investment and possible expansion.

This significant investment and the opportunities presented by numerous key sites now being simultaneously unlocked for development by key partner organisations working together, offers an unprecedented opportunity to drive regeneration forward on a large scale. High quality housing is at its heart together with a major leisure development at Dolphin Square and flagship Law and Professional Services Academy at the Winter Gardens.

 

9.5 Proposed works

Further works are also being proposed these include:

  • A bid to the Starter Homes land fund
  • Town Square public realm enhancements
  • Station boulevard improvements
  • Walliscote Place enhancements
  • Alexandra Parade enhancements and transport hub
  • Further refurbishment projects similar to the painting of The Centre.

The town centre has been designated by government as one of just 20 Housing Zones across the country. This programme offers support and incentives to local authorities and local developers working together to build homes on brownfield sites.

 

9.6 Delivering High Quality Design

Ensuring high quality design is at the heart of the regeneration programme for the town centre. A design review panel will be established and applicants for large or sensitive sites will be required to engage with the panel at an early stage in the design process. The panel’s recommendations will be material to the planning decision. The council is also seeking the designation of a Heritage Action Zone in Weston super-Mare town centre from Historic England to secure help and funding aimed at ensuring that the regeneration and renewal of Weston’s heritage drives forward sustainable economic development and community life.

 

9.7 Further guidance and projects

This SPD sets out the overall masterplan and principles for development. Detailed guidance on specific types of development, schemes and design briefs will be needed to provide more detailed and specific advice and encourage and support better design. The list of further projects includes:

  • Conservation Area appraisals
  • Update of the buildings of local townscape and historical interest
  • Shop front design and repair guidance
  • Changing shops to residential use
  • Town Square improvements
  • Station Boulevard enhancements
  • Laneways and independent retailing
  • Tall building strategy
  • Greening/planting programme

 

9.8 Infrastructure Delivery

A key benefit of focusing development in Weston town centre is that many of the services and facilities needed for residents, visitors and businesses are already in place and easily accessible. Maintaining successful and sustainable growth will require further investment in infrastructure, but this is anticipated to be less significant than would be the case on a greenfield or out-of-town site.

In the town centre growth will take place across a number of dispersed sites, most of which are not in themselves expected to create a substantial infrastructure pressure. However, cumulative effects will need to be addressed. It is likely that much of the infrastructure will require public sector investment. The council is working with partners (including the HCA and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to find suitable funding. Infrastructure requirements are likely to include:

  • Improvements to transport and the public realm.
  • Additional school places, particularly at pre-school and primary level.
  • Provision of utilities and broadband.
  • Measures to support the employment-led approach in Weston, such as delivery of the Creative Hub.
  • Investment in community, leisure and health facilities to ensure their ongoing sustainability.
  • Low-cost and/or affordable housing including starter homes.

 

9.9 How will the infrastructure be funded and delivered?

Guidance on the principles of infrastructure delivery in North Somerset can be found in our Core Strategy Infrastructure Delivery Plan. Due to low development viability and the small-scale nature of individual sites, it is likely that delivery of much of the infrastructure will require public sector investment. North Somerset Council is working with partners including the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to find suitable funding. This will include value-capture mechanisms on public-sector-led sites, bids for funding to bring forward strategic transport schemes as opportunities arise and working with partners and other agencies to align delivery and leverage improvements. The Council will also use its own funding (e.g. LTP allocations) to deliver highways and transport improvements.

 

9.10 Will developers have to contribute to infrastructure costs?

North Somerset Council wishes to take a supporting and enabling approach to delivery of growth in Weston Town Centre and will not seek financial contributions towards infrastructure which is needed as a result of cumulative growth from developments located in the proposed nil rate CIL charging area. This approach will be reviewed in the future should viability improve. There are typically two main ways in which developers deliver and fund infrastructure and affordable housing. These are:

  • The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL): this is a financial contribution charged to developments on a per sqm basis. It is particularly suitable for funding infrastructure required from lots of smaller developments.
  • Section 106 planning obligations and Section 38/278 highways agreements: these are negotiated legal agreements through which a developer commits to funding or directly delivering infrastructure that is needed to mitigate the impacts of their development proposal. It is useful for addressing site specific problems, particularly on larger sites.

It is anticipated that North Somerset Council will introduce a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) in 2017. CIL rates must be set at a level that is affordable for the majority of development. Based on viability appraisal work carried out for the CIL North Somerset Council is proposing a nil rate for residential, educational, community and B-class commercial development. If adopted this would mean most developments in the town centre area would not pay any CIL charges. Further information regarding CIL can be found on our webpage
www.n-somerset.gov.uk/cil.

Figure. 10 shows the proposed areas in the town centre where different charging rates are likely to apply. The majority of the regeneration area is within the nil CIL area (area A on the map).

Section 106 contributions towards infrastructure may be required from some of the larger town centre sites, where they create a specific problem that needs to be addressed. This might for example be for some minor changes to a road junction needed to ensure safe access to a new development. It is envisaged that most such requirements will be small-scale, as wider infrastructure will be delivered using public sector funding and the CIL. Sites of greater than 100 dwellings may also need to contribute to education provision.

Where sites are brought forward by the public sector, North Somerset Council will seek to incorporate value-capture mechanisms to ensure that any benefit from uplift in property values is reinvested in ongoing regeneration and infrastructure.

Click map for larger version:

26872 Weston Town Centre Master Maps 1 10

9.11 Will developers have to contribute towards affordable housing?

Through the Core Strategy (CS16), supported by the Affordable Housing Supplementary Planning Document, the council seeks to negotiate affordable housing on all sites of 11 units or more (updated following National Planning Policy Guidance amendments). Research for the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and from recent development proposals demonstrates that that development viability in the town centre is generally low and that affordable housing provision is likely to be undeliverable on most sites.

To enable acceleration of site delivery, the Council will accept this CIL research as adequate evidence of a lack of viability for sites in the nil-CIL zone (Area A, Figure 10) and will not require any on site affordable housing, contributions or further viability evidence relating to affordable housing from those sites1. This will apply to all sites that commence work before 31 March 2020, after which our guidance will be reviewed.

The North Somerset Development Contributions SPD states that any contributions towards affordable housing or other S106 requirements that are reduced as a result of viability should be subject to measures to boost the contributions through public sector grant and market recovery mechanism, except where exceptional circumstances apply. It has been agreed that the town centre regeneration area represents exceptional circumstances, in that it has lower viability than the rest of North Somerset and there is a need to de-risk investment to incentivise developers. Market recovery mechanisms will not therefore apply to developments that commence before 31 March 2020, at which
point this decision will be reviewed.

The Council will continue work with Registered Providers and other delivery partners to identify development opportunities to provide Affordable Housing within the town centre regeneration area including utilising public subsidy to deliver affordable homes where possible.

The exemptions from affordable housing set out above will not apply to sites of more than 250 dwellings. Sites located outside of this nil-CIL zone will be subject to the affordable housing requirement as detailed within the existing Affordable Housing SPD (2013).

Refer to www.n-somerset.gov.uk/affordablehousing for more information about how the Council applies its affordable housing policy.

1 This position is subject to confirmation of the CIL evidence base through forthcoming consultation and examination, expected to be completed early 2017.

9.12 Employment-led requirements

Most residential sites in the regeneration area will not be expected to make direct provision for employment-led requirements. CS20 of the North Somerset Core Strategy states that:

“Throughout Weston-super-Mare proposals should provide for 1.5 jobs per home over the plan period both at Weston Villages and elsewhere on sites of 10 or more dwellings. The type of employment should be acceptable in planning terms and not detrimental to the overall employment strategy in the town.

Outside of the Weston Villages and allocated sites, if on-site provision is not suitable, financial contributions will be sought towards economic development through the use of planning obligations. These contributions will be agreed through Section 106 and the Community Infrastructure Levy and will be focussed on local initiatives and to support the delivery of employment elsewhere in the town.”

An SPD on ‘Employment-led delivery at Weston-super-Mare’ was adopted in November 2014. For areas of Weston outside of the Junction 21 Enterprise Area this provided guidance on requirements as set out in the table below:

Scale of proposal Preferred delivery mechanism (in order of preference)
0-9 dwellings  No requirement
10-49 dwellings

1. Financial contributions

2. Off-site provision within the Junction 21 Enterprise Area

3. On-site provision or off-site provision within the remainder of Weston-super-Mare

50+ dwellings

1. On-site provision

2. Off-site elsewhere within Junction 21 Enterprise Area

3. Off-site within remainder of Weston

4. Financial contribution (S106)

 

It is not practical or suitable for most town centre regeneration area developments to provide on-site employment alongside housing. Any ‘under-provision’ in this area will be compensated for through commercial developments coming forward in their own right, including 300 jobs at Dolphin Square and around 45 jobs at the Creative Hub.

For sites of more than 50 dwellings, developers should consider whether it is appropriate for any on-site employment to be provided, but this will not be bound by strict job targets.

Financial contributions towards jobs would be through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), which is expected to be set at zero for most of the town centre regeneration area.

The Council may require developers to take other measures to support employment and skills growth, including local supply chain targets, apprenticeships and joint marketing activities.