City of Winchester Trust
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City of Winchester Trust
Response to WCC Consultation on ‘Council Strategy 2017 to 2020 A Blueprint for Winchester’s Future’


Winchester City Council has produced a draft Strategy for 2017 - 2020 and invited comments

The Trust’s comments are mainly limited to the themes of Housing, Business and Environment, in line with its charitable objects. CWT wants to stop big business buildings and reduce amount of vehicles in the town centre.

General Comments

Some of the terms used lack clarity and would benefit from greater precision. One example is the use of the word ‘Winchester’. Because of the name of WCC, it would help if the term ‘Winchester Town’ is used whenever an aim or action is limited to Winchester and does not apply to the whole District.

Housing

Delivering Quality Housing Options

While the Trust acknowledges and supports the need to provide a range of housing tenures to meet the needs of all sectors of the population its main concerns are:
1. to ensure that all housing is well designed, reflects the character of the neighbourhood in which it is built and is located in sustainable locations to reduce the need to travel by car.
2. that brownfield land is redeveloped in priority to greenfield and the Trust would like to see WCC publish a register of brownfield land redevelopment opportunities which is a recent recommendation for local authorities.

Business

Winchester will be a premier business location.

The Trust was shocked by the unacceptable proposals for the redevelopment of Station Approach which emerged from the competitive dialogue design process. These were of such a scale to be completely out of character with the grain of Winchester. While the Trust was relieved that these were abandoned the Trust remains astonished that such proposals should have been suggested at all and is concerned to ensure they are not repeated.

The Trust is troubled by the inclusion in the ‘Strategy Measures’ of the objective to provide 140,000 square foot of offices on the Station Approach site. This is taken from the widely criticised and discredited Brief with required capacities based on a similarly discredited initial report. It is not clear that such an amount can be accommodated without the damaging outcomes proposed through the abandoned competitive design process.

Buildings for business use must be of a size and scale that are in character with Winchester’s built form and WCC should not favour those businesses that require premises which are disproportionate in scale to neighbouring buildings and are therefore suited to other larger towns and cities like Southampton or Basingstoke which have different characters and lack the rich heritage enjoyed by Winchester.

While it is right to promote and maintain a thriving economy, full recognition needs to be given to the role of Winchester’s heritage as an economic asset which attracts visitors and activities which provide a range of business opportunities. But this will be damaged if businesses are encouraged which require uncharacteristically large premises as they will damage Winchester’s heritage assets and the ambience they create and the businesses which benefit from them. Historic England has published research on the important connection between heritage and the economy (Heritage Counts 2016) which contains a lot of useful information about this.

In the light of these comments the Trust believes some of the wording proposed is not sufficiently clear to indicate what businesses will be welcomed and some words therefore need to be changed. The words underlined in particular need to be reconsidered.

‘Winchester will be a premier business location’ and ‘make the most of our environment to drive business growth.’

The Trust supports the spatial vision for the town on page 30 of LPP1 which includes wording that requires economic activity that is ‘respecting the town’s special heritage and setting.’ These words or similar ones need to be included within this aim/outcome to give a clearer indication of the size of buildings which would not be suitable and to maintain consistency with the spatial vision.

We have the following comments on the aims:
1.‘Promote a sustainable economy by enabling major regeneration schemes’
To avoid the problems experienced with the redevelopment of Station Approach, measures for major schemes should stipulate that there should be design/heritage consultation with experts prior to writing future briefs, and involvement of the RIBA in any major competition process.
2. ‘Prioritise support for the knowledge-based, creative and tourism sectors’
The expanding green business sector would also be suitable to encourage in Winchester.
3. ‘Make the most of our environment to drive business growth’
The Trust has mentioned above the importance of taking into account the heritage and character of Winchester in approving business premises. The reduction of traffic in the centre of Winchester would also encourage business growth (see also under the Environment theme)

Environment

Improving the quality of the district’s environment.

The Trust has comments on the following aims:

1.‘Protect and enhance the District’s rich heritage whilst allowing development to take place which enables our historic environment to evolve over time’
Greater emphasis should be given to the importance of development taking account of the historic environment. The Trust would prefer to see revised wording as follows:
Protect and enhance the District’s rich heritage while allowing necessary development to take place which respects our historic environment and landscape setting.

2. ‘Enhance and increase the use of open spaces’
The Trust supports this aim and hopes that the Outer Cathedral Close can be given a high priority for action. It is one of the most important green spaces in Winchester. It is currently in a poor and declining state, with too much car parking which is both visually intrusive and damaging hard and soft surfaces; and the grass and trees are in need of attention. Action to improve this space should be given a high priority.

3. ‘Find creative ways to reduce harmful emissions, based on sound evidence and holistic transport planning’
There is increasing awareness of the damage caused by emissions from road traffic and the Trust supports action on these.

But there is also the damage caused by the amount of traffic on the narrow streets of central Winchester and the congestion that arises daily; both detract from the town’s historic environment and damage the pedestrian experience. As The Trust said in its response to the car parking strategy review in August 2016, we have now reached a position where the number of vehicles in the central area needs to be reduced substantially. There are some in the business community who believe this will damage the economy, but there is a growing body of evidence that this belief is wrong and the opposite is the case. (See the reports ‘The Pedestrian Pound – University of West of England 2013 and Designed to Move – Active Cities, University of California Study 2015).

The Trust would therefore like to see additional wording to emphasise the need to reduce the number of vehicles in the centre of Winchester. Both Local Plans Part 1 and 2 refer to the need for the reduction in traffic in central Winchester and so it is appropriate that an action should be added to achieve this, either as part of this aim or as a separate one.

4. A new aim or action should be included to remove unnecessary or unconsented advertisements and signage, including traffic signs. There are also long standing objections to wheely bins in the centre of Winchester and A boards on the High Street. All these have an impact on the townscape.

Keith Leaman 11/01/2017
Chairman – City of Winchester Trust