Following on from our consultation process, we have compiled the feedback and queries raised by local residents. We categorized responses and have sought to answer the most frequent questions about the proposals. The answers have been updated in line with the submitted amendments to the proposals in autumn 2019.
The Local Authority has a programme of reconfiguring public car parking throughout Christchurch, including the town centre. This has already delivered a significant number of additional spaces, ensuring that the closure of Pit Site and Bargates car parks is compensated for within alternative car parks.
A number of measures have been taken to alleviate concerns that new occupants will park in adjoining roads. In close consultation with the Council and through a review of the public consultation responses, it has been decided not to designate 15 of the on-site spaces as short term pay-and-display, instead making them available to occupants of the development. A thorough review of the on-site parking provision has been undertaken to ensure ample parking capacity for new residents is accommodated within the new development, avoiding overspill into surrounding areas. Small adjustments to the layout have freed up areas which will allow incidental short term parking on the streets within the development.
The development’s proposed car parking spaces now totals 190, broken down as follows:
- Houses – 78 spaces
- Flats – 60 spaces
- Retirement accommodation – 37 spaces
- Discount / open market flats – 12 spaces
- Commercial (retail staff) / community space – 3 spaces
In line with existing examples in the town centre, the development provides some flats over garages which makes the most of the land by combining residential units and car parking effectively in the same space. Secure cycle parking will encourage the use of bicycles for short trips into the town centre.
Traffic, access and road safety
A Transport Assessment submitted with the application shows that the existing site generates 66 AM and 65 PM two-way peak hour movements. The ‘new’ vehicle trip generation at the threshold of the site would give a total of only 41 AM and 37 PM vehicle trips, which would be split between the four proposed site accesses. As such, the development will result in a net reduction of 25 and 28 two-way trips generated during the AM and PM peak hours respectively at the threshold of the site.
A key objective in the development’s design was to create strong connections with the rest of the town centre. To encourage a greater number of trips being made by foot and to improve road safety, the plans include two crossings over Barrack Road. One crossing, known as a ‘toucan’ crossing designed for both pedestrians and cyclists will be delivered in front of the sheltered accommodation building. A further crossing specifically designed for pedestrians (known as a ‘pelican crossing’) will be situated nearer the Fountain Roundabout to create a direct footpath link between the development and the High Street. This will make it safe for people to cross the road, making walking into town and accessing public transport stops easier.
Another pelican crossing will be created on Bargates, again situated near the roundabout, to promote pedestrian travel between the development and the town centre.
At the request of BCP Council, provision has been made to widen a stretch of the Barrack Road footpath where it is adjacent to the site. The wider footpath aims to encourage walking, cycling and the use of public transport as is appropriate for a town centre location. The Barrack Road frontage is poorly served by bus stops and provision has been made to allow a new eastbound bus stop to be positioned close to the sheltered accommodation block.
There will be four vehicle access points to the site. At present there are three access points from the A35 Barrack Road into the site. As part of the proposed access arrangements two of these, the police station and crossover access to the single residential dwelling, are to be relocated c.20m east of their current positions. The access to the Pit Site Car Park is to be retained and improved. Similarly, the access from the B3073 Bargates will also be retained with no proposed changes to the current geometry of the junction.
The westernmost access will serve the proposed retirement flats and function as a vehicular crossover as opposed to a full bell-mouth arrangement. The eastern access onto the A35 Barrack Road (which currently serves as the access to the Pit Site Car Park) will be retained in its current location and improved to an adoptable standard to serve the existing retained uses (including the Conservative Club) and the proposed commercial/community space and residential flats.
The central access will function as the primary entrance into the site and will lead to the proposed internal spine road connecting with an existing access located on the B3073 Bargates to the northeast. Aster is contractually obliged to construct a new road connecting Barrack Road and Bargates, so as not to compromise any future road and infrastructure plans for the Town. However, a number of consultees have raised concerns that the new road will become a “rat run”. Asters updated plans introduce proposals to include planters within the road, effectively creating two cul-de-sacs, with a through route for pedestrians and cyclists only.
Landscape, trees and habitat
At present, the area of Barrack Road is dominated by vehicles and buildings. The development aims to soften this by proposing generous planting and the use of open spaces, drawing from the distinctive character of the recreation ground, tree avenue and gingko trees beyond.
In addition, the majority of houses will each have a garden that is comparable to its own building footprint. By ensuring that most houses have gardens that are at a minimum equal to their own house footprint, this offers the right level of transition from existing town centre examples where gardens are small or non-existent but well-tended, and the larger garden plots as seen in Twynham Avenue and outwards from the town centre.
The development aims to create a useable extension to the High Street that is sympathetic to local heritage features, enhances ecology through a programme of native planting, introduces more trees and planting which helps with sustainable drainage and air pollution, and makes the area look attractive for residents and visitors. This will be achieved in the following ways:
- Existing mature trees are to be retained as much as possible.
- Increase the number of trees on site
- Including small areas of open space
We have carefully considered how to ensure that the potential of the site is unlocked, whilst wherever possible and appropriate incorporating existing trees into the new development. Although some trees are to be removed, these are primarily of low to moderate importance. After extensive engagement with the Council’s planning and arboricultural officers, substantial modifications have been made to the layout to maintain important (particularly TPO) trees, particularly along the site’s western boundary. The temporary impact of any tree removal should be seen in the balance in terms of new tree planting across the site. An arboricultural assessment report has been prepared and submitted with this application.
The extensive native tree planting programme, as well as the retained trees on site, provide ecological value through the provision of habitat and the extension of the value of the recreation ground opposite the site. The tree planting coupled with bird and bat boxes as well as corridors of native hedge and other native planting will ensure year-round ecological value.
Design & Layout
An appropriate amount of residential dwellings and commercial/community units have been proposed for this town centre location, in accordance with the Council’s design brief for the site, local and national density planning policies.
In general, the buildings on the borders of the site will be smaller than those in the centre with up to three and a half storeys and generally two-storey homes in the centre. The exception to this will be to the north of the housing portion of the site, where more prominent buildings will front Fountain Roundabout, Bargates and Barrack Road to reflect the existing character of the surrounding streets.
The proposed site layout places commercial / community space units where they front a pedestrian route, allowing accessibility through the site. This means that these units will have strong links with Bargates and the town centre. The layout also creates courtyard spaces and parking areas whilst increasing pedestrian permeability through the site.
A network of pedestrian-friendly streets and open spaces that will connect Barrack Road to Bargates are included in the plans. This will reinforce the existing hierarchy of streets found in the town centre and create clear differentiation between primary streets and pedestrian-friendly lanes and spaces.
In the recently updated plans, minor adjustments to the positioning of a small number of residential buildings within the site have been made, in order to improve privacy for future residents and allow some areas of road to be widened, creating more casual visitor parking.
Window positions have been altered on a couple of dwellings to avoid overlooking of existing homes.
The removal of a garage has allowed a slight shift of one terrace to allow more space around an existing tree that is to be retained.
Materials & Architecture
Attention has been paid to the setting of the new development. Roof lines will create subtle changes in scale within the street scene, with small scale adjustments in height to emphasise corners and feature buildings. More significant contrasts in height can be created where a landmark feature is desirable, such as opposite the Fountain Roundabout.
The materials proposed for use in this development focus on a range of locally sourced materials and those typically used in the town centre, with a mix of colours and textures to ensure variety. A common theme will be the use of red and buff bricks, render, plain tiles and slate.
The design of the proposed houses is inspired by existing town centre precedents such as Silver Street and Millhams Street.
In the updated plans the palette of building materials have been further enhanced, ensuring the proposals respect the surroundings and the conservation area. Elements of Flemish bond have been added to some of the buildings facing outwards towards Barrack Road and the Fountain roundabout, which is a common and attractive feature of the local architecture. Render colours have been updated on some properties, and balconies have been added to the rear of what is known as Block A, which fronts the Fountain Roundabout.
Neighbour Amenity Impact
Aster has given careful consideration to the potential impact the development may have on neighbouring properties. The proposed site layout was drawn up with this in mind with (in general) smaller properties at the borders and larger, more noticeable buildings nearer the centre.
In response to feedback raising concerns about potential impacts, a number of changes were made to the submitted application, including:
- provision of ecological buffer on the North West site boundary, at the rear of Twynham Avenue properties
- omission of proposed pedestrian link through to Twynham Avenue
- Window positions have been altered on a couple of dwellings to avoid overlooking of existing homes
Aster is contractually obliged to construct a new road connecting Barrack Road and Bargates, so as not to compromise any future road and infrastructure plans for the Town.
However, a number of consultees have raised concerns that the new road will become a “rat run”. Asters updated plans introduce proposals to include planters within the road, effectively creating two cul-de-sacs, with a through route for pedestrians and cyclists only.
Should the need for a fully functioning through road arise in the future the removal of the planters would allow this.
Through discussions with planning officers at the pre-application stage, it was agreed that although the site is positioned within Christchurch’s ‘primary shopping area’, the scheme would not be retail-led. Feedback from community consultation at the pre-application stage indicated a strong preference to avoid introducing large-scale new retail, which many felt would have the effect of ‘diluting’ existing retail offer in the town centre (especially on Bargates).
Therefore, the proposed development focusses not on quantity but on quality, providing a visually distinct ‘rounding off’ to the retail part of Bargates, with flexibility to adapt between different retail, commercial and community uses in response to economic uncertainty. All of these uses are suitable in the town centre and will provide an economic stimulus.
Infrastructure / facilities
As part of the application process, Aster is committed to entering into an S106 agreement to secure appropriate provision for infrastructure and local services in accordance with the CIL Regulations 2010 (as amended). Any obligations must meet all of the following tests:
- necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms;
- directly related to the development; and
- fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the development.
The S106 agreement has yet to be finalised, but will include:
- Affordable housing
- Heathland Mitigation
- Highway improvements
- Education contributions
- Residential travel plans; and
- Waste arrangements
An Ecological Assessment has been undertaken on the application site by Ecosupport, which reflects over two years’ survey and assessment work which has informed the evolution of this application. These surveys (including for badger and bats) conclude that the site is of relatively low ecological value, although the potential for protected species has been identified. The site is located within the vicinity of the Dorset Heathlands Special Protection Area (SPA), with a low number of other designated sites also present in the locality.
Informed by these assessments, measures have been detailed within the ecological report to avoid any potential ecological impacts prior to or during construction, to ensure the proposal can proceed in full compliance with all relevant wildlife legislation and policy. In addition, ecological enhancements have been included to increase the site’s potential to support biodiversity in the future, in compliance with planning policy. These include:
- The provision of bird and bat boxes on-site
- Native planting of tree and shrub species
- Provision of an ecology corridor beyond the rear gardens of units 1 – 9 along the western boundary with properties on Twynham Avenue
Compliance with Policy
Principles of Development
The proposals set out in this application represent a positive, creative, and sustainable opportunity to regenerate the single largest brownfield site in central Christchurch.
An important starting point for the proposals was the 2003 Christchurch Borough Council Supplementary Planning Guidance for the site. This proposed a mixed-use approach which sought to ‘knit’ together the development frontages of the site and create a stronger gateway into the town. It also incorporated the principle of a connecting street through the site, with potential for a 3-storey (and potentially taller) building on the Fountain frontage.
The site is also identified in the 2014 Core Strategy (policy CH1) as a ‘strategic site’, intended to ‘play a pivotal role in delivering the Town Centre Vision and Key Strategy’.
The principle of the proposed development is fundamentally in accordance with the Development Plan and will make a significant contribution to the delivery of the Council’s objectives for Christchurch town centre.
In terms of site density, the proposals are in accordance with Christchurch’s Core Strategy (Policy CH2) which identifies the town centre as “the focus for uses including higher density residential, employment, retail, leisure and entertainment, offices, arts, culture and tourism development.” They also accord with the NPPF, which states that development proposals should make optimal use of available land and identifies sustainably located, town centre locations as suitable for higher density housing.
Inclusion of Retail/Commercial/Community Space
Policy KS7 of the Christchurch Core Strategy states that retail development is to be focussed within Primary Shopping Areas and correspondingly, the proposed development includes the provision of a retail element. This will create an additional retail frontage that will contribute to improved linkages between the High Street and Bargates, increasing the flow of pedestrians between the shopping areas.
According to Christchurch’s most recent published assessment of housing supply, in the next five years of the plan period the housing supply will be 3,930, as set against a target of 3,855; a provision only slightly above the minimum requirement (75 dwellings).
In the context of a national housing crisis, it is therefore imperative to make effective use of deliverable sites, particularly previously-developed ones, and to bring these forward as early as practicable. Indeed, Christchurch’s own housing supply analysis refers to the application site directly, estimating that 164 dwellings could come forward within the five year period (i.e., more than twice the calculated surplus). As such, delivery of this site is fundamental to fulfilling the Council’s obligations in terms of housing supply.
Proposed Housing Mix
Christchurch’s latest Strategic Housing Market Assessment (2015) identifies a clear need for a greater supply of smaller dwellings, particularly two to three bedroom units in the case of market tenure, and one to two bedroom units in the case of affordable tenures. As regards to market housing, this application puts forward a mix which provides a high proportion of two bedroom units and a low proportion of four plus bedroom units. The application does however emphasise one bedroom units over three bedroom units, which is appropriate given the town centre location where higher density, flatted development is well suited. For affordable housing, the mix is extremely close to the SHMA ‘ideal’, with delivery of one and two bedroom units being the main focus.
This application makes provision for up to 53 affordable dwellings, which equates to 31% of the site overall, which is a policy compliant provision after application of Vacant Building Credit.
Transport, Access & Parking
Policy KS11 (Transport and Development) in Christchurch’s Core Strategy echoes national policy stating that development should reduce the need to travel, provide improved access to key services and promote alternative modes of travel.
In relation to the location and design of development, Policy KS11 states that development should be in an accessible location that is well linked to existing communities by walking, cycling and public transport routes. Development should be designed to provide safe, permeable layouts and safe access onto the existing transport network.
The proposed development is in a sustainable location within Christchurch town centre with good access to public transport and it is within walking distance of a number of local facilities and services and a range of employment and retail opportunities. The opportunity for local shopping and use of local services and facilities will also be enhanced by the development through the provision of retail space.
A comprehensive Transport Assessment (TA) has been prepared to support the proposed development. This assesses potential transport implications associated with development. A Travel Plan is also submitted to support the development proposals.
The TA identifies that the proximity of the site to the town centre, as well as the presence of pedestrian and cycle links in the vicinity of the site and improved through the development of the site, will encourage future residents and staff to use sustainable modes of transport rather than a private car.
A Travel Plan has been prepared as part of this application. The Travel Plan sets out a number of measures that will be implemented to promote sustainable travel, which include:
- Dedicated routes for pedestrians and cyclists to encourage walking and cycling
- Streets designed to limit vehicle speeds
- Providing information about safe and direct walking and cycling routes to and from the site
- Supporting public transport services through providing information on bus routes and rail services
- Supporting Council initiatives regarding safe routes to schools
- Encouraging car sharing through local car share clubs, registers and the production of information on car sharing opportunities
Changes following consultation
Aster is grateful to all those who have taken the time to engage with and comment on its proposals for this site. Following ongoing discussions with BCP Council’s officer team and the feedback received from our consultation, the following improvements were made to the plans:
- prioritisation and retention of protected trees
- provision of ecological buffer on NW boundary, rear of Twynham Avenue properties
- omission of proposed pedestrian link through to Twynham Avenue
- removal of 15 public car parking spaces, increasing available car parking for occupants of the development
- substantial reduction in road design
- dwellings adjusted to improve privacy
- design features have been added, such as balconies and elements of Flemish bond, and render colours have been updated
- more opportunity for shared surfaces with varied materials
- more courtyard parking
- greater pedestrian permeability
- use of planting to ‘soften’ development
- placing of planters to suspend through road
- use of mews style ‘Flat over Garage’ to create more continuous street scene and additional parking
- widening of footpath and cycle way and addition of a bus stop at Barrack Road
- increased garden sizes
- focus of retail / community space exclusively on the frontage to Fountain roundabout
- introduction of mini-public open spaces based around landscaping and retained trees