This is valuable background to the developers position regarding the College site and the problems it will create by linking Old and New Town along the Regent Circus-Prospect Hill axis. Sorry this is long but it is worth reading. Turley Associates are the planners working for the developer. In a nutshell their view is that residents have been consulted, so please stop complaining. Please let Back Garden know if you have been consulted or take our simple Consultation Poll.
The first email from Turely Associates replies to Toby’s initial email regarding access and ‘permeability’. In this case ‘permeability’ could be defined as ‘causing a problem to Back Garden’. Toby’s reply is at the end.
Dear Mr Robson,
Your email of 4th August has been passed to us by Rachael Adams, the case officer at SBC responsible for the former College Site planning application. We have been exchanging correspondence with Cllr Dave Woods on this matter, however, I will respond to your points in turn.
As Andy Brown, Regeneration Manager, has pointed out the principle of the route through the site has been established through the Adopted Development Brief for the site. This Brief is a material consideration in the determination of planning applications related to the site. This document sets out the importance of a route through the site to achieve the desired level of permeability, which is in keeping with planning policy at both the national and local levels. Furthermore, the Planning Brief for the site was adopted in 2006 by the Swindon Planning Committee following a full public consultation exercise.
As Andy Brown highlights it is the Council’s view that the ‘route’ or ‘link’ is an essential feature in planning terms. We do not consider that there is a strong planning case to restrict permeability through the scheme since those who seek to pass through after opening hours will be in the main those heading home to the residential areas to the south. As such if the scheme closed after operating hours it will not deter their journeys, rather it will mean them having to follow alternative routes via other residential streets, such as Edmund Street and Cross Street, which we consider could have the potential for greater disturbance to local residents and retain the status quo of disruption, whereas a direct, well lit route through a mixed use scheme that will be subject to CCTV surveillance and careful management will allow people to pass through the area quicker and hence with less disturbance. Indeed the outline planning permission, issued in 2008, also included this route through the site which was considered to be acceptable for the reasons outlined above.
During our discussions with Cllr Woods, we have reiterated several times that we will continue to monitor the position, however, at this stage and in this economic climate, as I am sure you can appreciate, our clients cannot sign up to restrictions that will prejudice the scheme’s viability since occupiers are yet to be confirmed. The potential implication of an enforced closure of the route overnight is that the scheme will simply not be able to go ahead and local residents will be left with the current derelict buildings for the foreseeable future. We have made this point to Councillor Woods and we would hope that local residents will give very careful thought to this implication. As has been highlighted previously, the development will be subject to a management plan which will ensure the smooth running of the scheme. It can also be said that a well developed ‘family orientated’, well managed mixed use scheme is significantly less likely to attract anti-social behaviour than a derelict site. We were informed at the public consultation event by many residents that there are currently significant problems being experienced which the development could solve.
There has been a full and thorough programme of consultation undertaken at both the pre and post application stages. This included a public exhibition held at the Central Library. This event included a morning Member’s session and then an afternoon and evening public session to allow even those who work to attend if they wished to do so. The event was advertised in the Swindon Advertiser to ensure maximum coverage and following guidance from the LPA those residents and local business deemed to be directly affected by the development, i.e. those immediately bounding the site, were notified of the event via letter. Following the manned event, the exhibition remained in the library for several days before being moved to the Civic Offices for over a week. Comment forms, with contact details, were available for anyone wanting further information or to ask questions. The process was duly recorded in a Statement of Community Involvement that was submitted with the planning application. This is available to view on the SBC web-site or at the planning reception.
Further to this public consultation exercise, and at the request of local members, 2 members briefing sessions have now been held. All local Councillors were invited to attend and the dates were suggested by SBC. The developers and their consultants have duly attended and answered questions. The latest of these sessions was held on the 28th July and the response from local members was one of overwhelming support for the proposals.
I hope that this clearly addresses our position and the difficulties that we are facing. At this stage, and in this very difficult economic climate, onerous conditions have the potential to render this scheme completely un-viable. However, we will continue to monitor the issue.
Dear Ms Cope
Many thanks for your email. As per your responses to my email to Andy Brown, can I take you through some of your points and address them in order?
Furthermore, the Planning Brief for the site was adopted in 2006 by the Swindon Planning Committee following a full public consultation exercise: 1. I don’t know of a single local resident who was directly consulted regarding the development – and more specifically, about the proposed new through-route. As an exercise, you must concede that it has singularly failed in its objective to ‘engage the local community’, if over two hundred local residents have recently signed a petition, citing their surprise and deep concern over the impact of the proposals. 2. Can you tell me if you believe residents could have realistically commented in 2006 about the specifics of the issue of the through-route at the consultation phase, given that they are a small detail buried within a complex plan which has since significantly changed?
As Andy Brown highlights it is the Council’s view that the ‘route’ or ‘link’ is an essential feature in planning terms. I’m sorry to be utterly blunt, but isn’t this this is a false claim? It is not ‘the councils view’, it is currently your view – and it may be the current view of Andy Brown and some or even all of those who sit on planning, but the final decision has yet to be taken. Whilst you may interact with the council, you do not speak for the council (at least, not if the democratic process remains intact) – and you cannot claim that the details of the 24 hour access of this route has been endorsed by ‘the council’ as a collective view, unless you’re telling me that this specific issue was put to the chamber and unanimously carried? I’m sure other councillors may also be concerned to hear that you claim such a mandate, as that would appear to show that you believe the planning decision on this detail to have already been concluded?
As such if the scheme closed after operating hours it will not deter their journeys, rather it will mean them having to follow alternative routes via other residential streets, such as Edmund Street and Cross Street, which we consider could have the potential for greater disturbance to local residents and retain the status quo of disruption, whereas a direct, well lit route through a mixed use scheme that will be subject to CCTV surveillance and careful management will allow people to pass through the area quicker and hence with less disturbance. 1. Again, sorry to be firm, but this reads like a deliberate misinterpretation of the issue for semantic purposes, though I hope its just an honest mistake based on ignorance of the local geography. As things stand, the majority of late night pedestrian traffic between Old Town and Central is ALREADY conducted up and down Victoria Hill (as confirmed in conversations with out local PCSOs AND Bob Walton, Crime Reduction Officer – and they should know better than anyone). The closure of a gate through the proposed new route at the end of business hours would mean that once people realised that route shut at a certain time, people would simply revert to the existing routes. Your lack of awareness of where people are going to and from during the hours of the night-time economy is also revealed when you try to claim that people would ‘go down Edmund or Cross street’. A simple look at a map would show that this is unlikely. As the local police will confirm, the majority of drunken late night walkers are currently moving between Old Town and Central bars and clubs and will look to take the most direct route. In the absence of your proposed rat-run, this would continue to be down Victoria Hill. 2. Furthermore, your reassurance regarding CCTV and security is utterly meaningless. No doubt CCTV and security will help ensure some extra degree of security WHILST pedestrians are on your site (and whilst security staff are on duty), but self evidentially, it will have no effect once those passing through (or even actively moved on) have made their way into our streets.
During our discussions with Cllr Woods, we have reiterated several times that we will continue to monitor the position, however, at this stage and in this economic climate, as I am sure you can appreciate, our clients cannot sign up to restrictions that will prejudice the scheme’s viability since occupiers are yet to be confirmed.
1.This sounds like a ridiculous contention - how will the shutting of a gate at 11.00pm jeopardise the viability of the scheme, given that Ashfield Land have already alluded to these businesses not having late licenses? Please explain and justify this comment.
2. If I were that manager of a supposedly ‘high end restaurant’ (as has been claimed will occupy the adjacent units), knowing that the area outside my business will not be subject to potential littering, urination or vandalism because of large groups passing through after 11.00pm would be a bonus, NOT a penalty.
3. Clients sign up to all sorts of terms and conditions when they occupy a commercial site. Simply shutting a gate (when it would be beneficial to all – and which could easily be automated) would neither be onerous or unreasonable or prohibitively expensive.
4. In terms of precedent, I’d like to refer you to The Brunel centre. The entrance to this is shut after the businesses on site have closed to prevent it being used as a cut through and because of the sorts of entirely predictable issues which we contend will occur in and around YOUR development. The Brunel when launched claimed that it was a high class development which would attract high end businesses. Like your development, it is well lit, well provided with CCTV and has on site security and used to be left open as a through-route – and yet problems quickly occurred requiring action. The doors are now locked after the businesses have closed.
You claim to be ‘monitoring the position’. Please accept my invitation to come and see the area and speak to some of those directly effected. Perhaps you or your representatives would also like to join us on a Friday night to see the sorts of people who currently make their way up and down Victoria Hill and who will be availing themselves of the new route? This may help you understand the nature of the issue and the depth of feeling.
There has been a full and thorough programme of consultation undertaken at both the pre and post application stages. This included a public exhibition held at the Central Library. Indeed – I attended. I was also able to witness three of my neighbours write written comments voicing precisely the same concerns as my own (I have subsequently learned that a large number also added their concerns later in the day) – concerns and comments which have to date which appear to have been ignored?
The event was advertised in the Swindon Advertiser to ensure maximum coverage and following guidance from the LPA those residents and local business deemed to be directly affected by the development, i.e. those immediately bounding the site, were notified of the event via letter. Yes – and please confirm for the benefit of the wider community, this did NOT include Prospect Hill, North Street, Swindon Road or the other northerly streets not directly adjacent to the site, did it? Because the distribution of the communication and the letter was entirely shaped by the term ‘deemed to be effected’. The reaction amongst the local community is more than enough to prove that this was simply inadequate and underestimated the radius of those who felt that they would be ‘directly effected’. You have followed the guidance of the LPA – but have done nothing more than meet your basic obligation, despite knowing of the beginnings of wider public concern regarding this issue.
The latest of these sessions was held on the 28th July and the response from local members was one of overwhelming support for the proposals. Indeed. As you are probably aware, one of our ward councillors sits on planning and is therefore unable to comment on such issues, and our other two councillors were out of the country. Whilst you cannot be responsible for the holiday arrangements of our local politicians, neither can you claim therefore that the fact that this issue wasn’t raised is an indication of universal support for the through route (which I imagine was not raised for discussion by any of the commercially vested interests present) – especially given that no one was on hand to describe or explain residents concerns or to challenge your contentions. You already had numerous written verbal and written comments from the library consultation to prove this to you.
I am afraid I find your email depressingly predictable. Whilst I understand that you are a commercial concern, for whom profit is the objective and motive, I hope that there might still be room for proper two-way communication regarding this issue, based upon basic respect for those likely to be effected for years to come – and for the very real concerns held. I do not believe your responses have addressed any of the main points, you have merely repeated the justifications for the plan as it existed before the implications of this misjudged feature were exposed or discussed by those it will effect.
I repeat, the local community enthusiastically supports the demolition of the college and the development of the site – but are likely to react extremely negatively if Turley Associates and/or Ashfield Land repeat accusations that this minor detail in the scale of the development is likely to endanger the viability of the entire project. To describe the shutting of a simple gate as an ‘onerous responsibility’ for tenants stretches credulity, especially when numerous automated systems exist. This position is self evidently not credible and smacks of scare tactics. Please do not underestimate the depth of local feeling – especially when the community themselves have come up with an eminently workable, affordable and reasonable compromise solution which should benefit all parties.
In the meantime, I remain open to discussion and meaningful engagement. I still hope there is room for compromise and that the final position will be based upon empathy and respect for the community who will have to live with the long term legacy of your company’s short term objectives.