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

Weston-super-Mare town centre regeneration Draft SPD

Heritage, design and character areas

8.1 Background

Weston-super-Mare is an attractive seaside town with a distinctive heritage and topography defined by two hills. The prominent ridge of Worlebury to the north, with 300 acres of Weston Woods, creates a strong sylvan backdrop whereas the south is bounded by Mendip’s grassier Bleadon Hill, Uphill and Brean Down.

One of the most defining features of Weston is its west facing sandy bay which affords distant views of the Welsh coast and sea punctuated by the two islands of Steep Holm and Flat Holm. The seafront has been a busy tourist destination since the 19th century and remains popular with visitors today.

Much of Weston’s distinctive structural quality dates back to Victorian times with some notable Edwardian and inter-war and post-war additions. Much of the town’s recognisable quality is modest in scale with few examples of ostentatious exuberance so often associated with resort towns. Open spaces contrast with the seafront, offering generous green east-west approaches along Alexandra Parade and the Boulevard and there are several intimate and characterful sets of lanes in Grove Village and Orchard Meadows.

8.2 Heritage Assets

Five Conservation Areas cover parts of the regeneration area (Figure 8) although a number of them are at risk. There are numerous listed buildings along with buildings and structures identified as of local townscape and heritage interest. The buildings of local townscape and historic interest shown on Figure 8 are derived from the Heritage & Urban Design Strategy 2000. The list is not exclusive, other buildings and features in the town centre area may also be regarded as a heritage asset.

A better understanding of the significance of the town centre‘s heritage and character should be used to inform proposed development. Guidance in this SPD should be used as the starting point for this. Major proposals will be required to carry out a full and detailed analysis.
The most notable buildings include:

Pre-Victorian – Dr Fox’s Bath House, Glebe House, Royal Hotel, Thatched Cottage

Victorian terraces – Claremont Crescent, Greenfield Place, Magdala Buildings, Manilla Crescent, Royal Crescent, Royal Terrace, Oriel Terrace, South Terrace, Somerset Buildings, Upper Church Road

Victorian churches – All Saints’, Emmanuel, St John the Baptist, Wadham Street Baptist (now Blakehay Theatre)

Victorian public & commercial buildings – Grand Atlantic Hotel, Old Library, Railway Station, Stuckey’s Bank (fomer) & Imperial Hotel, Town Hall, Walliscote School, Weston College School of Science & Art

Victorian streets – many streets retain their 19th century flavour (even without wholesale Listing or Conservation Area status), some more strikingly so than others. In particular the Boulevard, including Mercury office and adjacent buildings, St Kew’s Masonic Lodge (now Constitutional Club) and upper storeys above the shops and offices, stands at the grander conceptual stage with streets such as Hopkins Street, Palmer Street, exemplifying well-ordered 19th century working class streets. Many of these buildings were designed by the distinguished 19th century local architect Hans Fowler Price, whose prodigious output has given Weston more than 800 buildings of architectural merit.

Victorian seafront – The promenade wall, esplanade and beach lawns form a harmonious curve along the entire length of Weston’s seafront and recent flood defence works have much enhanced the entirety of this superb structure.

Modern – Edwardian flamboyance produced the original Grand Pier (twice rebuilt following fire damage), swimming baths and theatre at Knightstone (now residential). The town also features a number of interesting Art Deco, interwar and post-war buildings, including: Boulevard United Reformed Church, Centre Buildings, College Knightstone Campus in softened Brutalism, Costa Coffee High Street, (former) Magistrates’ Court, Museum, Odeon Cinema (with the country’s only fully-working theatre pipe organ in the building for which it was originally intended), Queen Alexandra Memorial Hospital (now residential), Silica, Station Road Depository, Victoria Methodist Church with impressive Pennant & Ham stone tower, War Memorial, and Winter Gardens Pavilion.

Click map for larger version:

26872 Weston Town Centre Master Maps 1 8

 

8.3 High Quality Design

Ensuring high quality design is central to the new proposals for the town centre. New development will be expected to positively respond to and enhance existing characteristics and heritage, communicating Weston’s unique and special qualities and its ambition for the future as a contemporary and creative place to live work and visit. The regeneration approach will recognise the importance of heritage and character to the quality of the town centre environment, with 21st century architecture contributing to and complementing the quality of the town’s architectural heritage. Sensitive reuse and development of heritage buildings which respect the historic fabric of the building and meet modern needs will be supported.

 

8.4 Tall buildings

Design will also need to take on board the higher densities required to deliver the critical mass needed to change perceptions of Weston and to deliver the quantity of housing needed. This may involve buildings which are taller than the surrounding built form. When tall buildings1 are proposed a rigorous process of analysis and justification will be needed to accompany a full planning application (outline applications will not be accepted). In the right place tall buildings can make a positive contribution to urban life, but ill-considered proposals can have a disproportionate impact of the character, appearance and enjoyment of places, and dominate key heritage buildings.

Historic England has produced an advice note on Tall Buildings (Dec 2015) which sets out a useful checklist for applicants preparing an application and how proposals will be assessed. Tall buildings should not be positioned where they;

  • Obstruct views from key public vantage points, or obstruct views of key buildings especially the church spires or towers
  • Are out of keeping with the scale and continuity of the seafront properties
  • Have a detrimental impact on the historic environment
  • Have an adverse impact on the living conditions of nearby residents or overshadow residential properties
  • Create adverse climatic conditions

All tall buildings will be required to meet the following;

  • Provide landmark buildings which aid the legibility of the town
  • Demonstrate exceptional design quality
  • Contribute to an interesting and elegant skyline.
  • At Station Gateway, establish a new character area or
  • Help to reduce the perception of height of Hildesheim Bridge.

The character areas provide further information on locations where tall buildings would be particularly sensitive. It is the intention to produce a tall building strategy to establish where taller buildings would be more acceptable.

1. Tall buildings are those that are substantially taller than their neighbours and/or which significantly change the skyline

 

8.5 Improvements

The need to maintain and improve many of the existing buildings is also recognised and will be encouraged. Where a coordinated approach is required owners and interested parties will be encouraged to get together to make positive improvements.

Legislation in 2013 created heritage partnership agreements and local listed building consent orders which allow a group of people living in a terrace of similar buildings to all be classed under the same consent for doing the same works, the use of these arrangements will be encouraged where they would be appropriate.

A programme of improvements to the public realm will be carried out helping to provide the setting for quality buildings and spaces in the town and provide the impetus for further improvements and investments. It is also proposed that the council will issue further guidance on a range of projects. See section 9.6

 

8.6 Late amendment to plans

Past experience in achieving high quality developments have sometimes been undermined by last minute amendments to schemes on the grounds that the detailing causes viability issues. Amendments which reduce the design quality will not be looked on favourably, applicants are therefore advised to ensure that schemes, as proposed can be delivered.

 

8.7 The Character Areas

A series of character areas have been identified, in order to aid understanding, guide development proposals, ensure the components of the masterplan are included in detailed proposals and improve design quality. These identify the key characteristic of the area informed by location, land uses, historical context, and particular issues or opportunities.

A future character statement sets out the ambition for the future of the area.

A set of principles is established which development is required to conform with. The extent to which individual proposals are expected to meet all principles will be dependent on the type and scale of development proposed.

For a larger version of the map click on map below:

26872 Weston Town Centre Master Maps 1 9

DESIGN REQUIREMENTS TO BE APPLIED THROUGHOUT THE REGENERATION AREA

In addition to the specific requirements set out in the character areas all development proposals will be required to comply with the following requirements as appropriate;

  • Ensure importance of views to and across the bay, to the wooded backdrop on the hillside and existing and proposed landmarks are maintained;
  • Maintain and strengthen the elegance, legibility, heritage, proportion and scale of the town’s character;
  • Improve physical and visual links between the seafront and shopping area;
  • Development should respond to and express the distinct qualities, and urban form of the character area within which it is located;
  • Establish a distinct new 21st Century character area at Station Gateway;
  • Use of high quality materials based on site analysis, an understanding of the historic context and character area, which have a long life, are robust and can withstand a coastal environment;
  • Where proposals exceed the height or massing of buildings in that or adjacent character areas this will need to be supported by a clear design rationale ensuring that harm will not be caused to heritage assets and make a positive contribution to the surrounding urban form and skyline;
  • Deliver a greener town centre by tree and other planting along key routes and spaces, integrated with Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) to reduce surface water flood risk;
  • The strong east-west routes linking the town with the seafront should be clearly recognised as the primary structuring elements forming three boulevards, the Boulevard, Alexandra Parade and an enhanced Station Road Boulevard. The primary north south elements of The Promenade and High Street also form both important destinations and movement corridors and should also form the key structuring elements of the town;
  • Ensure a co-ordinated and consistent approach where there are adjoining development sites;
  • Infill development must respect the vertical and horizontal rhythms and scale of adjacent development, frontages and building lines;
  • Development should take account of environmental conditions and minimise wind effects especially near the seafront using the built form to create areas of shelter from the prevailing winds;
  • Ensure comprehensive analysis of each site, including where it can be seen from, key views of short, medium and long distance, immediate context, and cultural importance;
  • Within the existing built form opportunities to reinstate missing or neglected architectural details or boundary features such as walls, railings, gates, or distinctive paving materials which form an important element of the character of a block or group of buildings will be encouraged;
  • Ensure physically inclusive design that meets the needs of all sections of the community in line with Policy DM33.