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Weymouth Civic Society

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WEYMOUTH TOWN CENTRE MASTERPLAN

SUPPLEMENTARY PLANNING DOCUMENT 2015


WEYMOUTH CIVIC SOCIETY’S RESPONSE


GENERAL OVERVIEW


Vision  (para 3.0)


We support the overall vision for the Town Centre to be a place of unique character and distinctiveness, which builds on its maritime heritage and family friendly offer, to provide a vibrant mix of shopping, cultural and leisure activities, supported by thriving businesses, tourism, commercial and cultural sectors.  However, we have reservations about the strategies proposed to achieve these aims.



Housing.   (para. 2.15 and throughout)


We object strongly to the proposal for 600 residential units in the Town Centre, and indeed we consider the 400 units originally proposed to be excessive.  We have voiced our views on this in our Local Plan response.  In the circumstances, it would be impractical to consider such a high number. There are not sufficient suitable sites, and the result would be ‘urban cramming’.  Development in the inner urban locations proposed would primarily result in flats or town houses, liable to become second or holiday homes, marketed as prestige waterfront apartments.  These would not meet the need for family homes with gardens, for which provision is being made in the large sites already proposed elsewhere in the Borough, and which should also be met within West Dorset.  



Car Parks.  (para. 2.9 and throughout)


We are strongly opposed to the loss of the important town centre car parks to residential and other uses.  These short-stay shoppers’ car parks are in our view essential to the viability and vitality of the historic town centre, to support the businesses, shops, cafes, pubs, churches and tourism uses. If people cannot conveniently access Weymouth’s facilities and attractions, they will go elsewhere.   Moreover, as this is a plan for the future, we wish to ensure that even more people will be drawn into the town centre in the coming years.


The current number of town centre car park spaces is in good balance.  They provide for the needs of local people and visitors, and are very popular and well used.  They are well located, being easily reached from the main traffic circulation system, yet with good pedestrian access to the heart of the town.  


The proposed 600 residential uses, especially prestige apartments, would require their own provision, over and above the need for public parking.  


The plans appear to run counter to government policy.  It is stated in the National Planning Policy Framework (para 40) that ‘local authorities should seek to improve the quality of parking in town centres so that it is convenient, safe and secure’, and ‘should set appropriate parking charges that do not undermine the vitality of town centres’.



Environmental Improvements and Landscaping  (para 3.11 and throughout)


We applaud the vision of enhancing the environment, and we support the proposals throughout the document for good quality townscape, landscaping, improved pedestrian walkways, tree planting and general improvements.  We think it particularly important that the existing car parks, eg. along Commercial Road, should be greatly enhanced by the use of appropriate hard and soft landscaping, offering an attractive outlook by the harbourside walkways.


Empty Space above Shops  (Draft Vision Document, p. 6)


We have consistently supported the principle of encouraging greater use of upper storeys of shops in the town centre for residential purposes.  This can both provide some additional accommodation at the heart of the town and also help to ensure better maintenance of the historic fabric of the buildings.




Our comments on the five ‘Key Development Sites’ are taken in the order in which they are set out in the Supplementary Planning Document, as follows:



COMMERCIAL ROAD  (Section 5.1)


Our strong view is that the public car parking on Commercial Road must be retained and improved.  (See under ‘Car Parks’ above).  The current number of spaces is in good balance.   (5.1.9, 5.1.16)


The car parks should not be given over to residential and other uses.  (5.1.13, 5.1.14)


We consider that it is not a viable proposition to attempt to introduce cafes and restaurants in this area.  Furthermore, if any such uses were established they would be in competition with existing town centre establishments.  (5.1.2, 5.1.5, 5.1.13)


We agree that the facilities for maritime uses are important, and they must be provided for in the appropriate location.  (5.1.7)


We support improved pedestrian routes and general enhancement of the environment. (5.1.2, 5.1.15)


We do not think that the Pavilion Theatre should be replaced by a new theatre by the Swannery.  (Commercial Road Development Plan, p. 20;  Draft Vision Document p. 16 (Vision), p. 17 (Key Proposals) and p. 21 – Key Proposals [for Pavilion])




SOUTH-WEST HARBOURSIDE


We support the broadening of the pedestrian areas, making it more attractive to walk by the waterside.  The opportunity should be taken, with improved flood defence measures, to effect an improvement to the public realm.  We agree with the concept of a broad boulevard with high quality landscaping and tree planting.  (5.2.15 and Draft Vision Document p. 18 – Opportunities / p.19 - Key Proposals)


We agree with the proposal for a high quality hotel and conference centre, with residential uses, while retaining the existing community uses at the rear – Squash Centre etc.

However, we consider this area an unsuitable and unviable location for cafés etc., which would be in competition with the town centre, where such uses should be located.  

We strongly support the removal of the gas holder, which is essential to the upgrading of this whole area.  There is a question as to the future of the Job Centre building and the Magistrates’ Court, if this area is to be redeveloped. (5.2.13)


Westwey Road is a vital part of the Borough’s circulation system, and through traffic must be able to move smoothly along the road without obstruction.  (5.2.15)

We would stress that the whole prospect of improving the Westwey Road area is dependent on the construction of the Western Relief Road, to remove much of the through traffic from this route by completing the link from Chafeys Roundabout to Ferrybridge.  


We would strongly support the replacement of the junction at ASDA by a landscaped roundabout with traffic lights.  (5.2.15)


We object to the reduction of North Quay to a local access road.  This is an important and necessary route to and from Hope Square and the town centre.  (Plan p. 26)




LODMOOR GATEWAY


We agree with the extension of the Country Park towards Lodmoor. (Second sentence of 5.3.12, and on Lodmoor Development Plan p. 30, marked in green)


We consider it important that the present Lodmoor car park should be retained as the main car park in this area.  It is closer to the town centre than the Beach car park, and is convenient for the Country Park attractions.  We support a park-and-ride facility from Lodmoor to the town centre.  (5.3.2, 5.3.6-9 and Lodmoor Development Plan)


 The present Lodmoor car park should not be developed for housing but should all be retained for parking.  In our view the filled land is unlikely to be suitable for residential use.  (5.3.2, 5.3.13 and Lodmoor Development Plan)


We do not consider the Beach car park suitable for developing as a main parking area.  It is at a considerable distance from the town centre for walking, and may be unsuitable for provision of a hard surface by reason of the continued gas venting.  If a new coach parking area is required, we think it should be located at Mount Pleasant by the Park-and-Ride, with passengers being dropped off in town.  (5.3.2. 5.3.16 and Lodmoor Development Plan)




PAVILION PENINSULA


We agree that the whole peninsula area must be improved, with a high quality of landscaping and street furniture.  (5.4.2, 5.4.15, 5.4.18)


We are of the view that the peninsula should not be developed for residential use, which would be inappropriate for this key promontory site between the bay and the harbour.   (5.4.17)


 It should be reserved for leisure and recreation uses which will benefit the community and provide facilities for visitors to enhance the enjoyment of their holiday.  (5.4.17 and Draft Vision Document p. 4 – ‘What You Told Us’ & p. 6 – Visitor Accommodation and Attractions)


We think it important that the Pavilion complex, including both the Theatre and Ocean Room, should be retained.   As a seaside town theatre, it should remain in this location by the beach

and Esplanade, and it should also be further developed as a cultural centre.

 It should become the centrepiece of a landscaped area to include café use providing fine views of the bay and harbour, with leisure facilities developed on the site.   (5.4.12 etc. and Draft Vision p. 21 – Key Proposals)


We agree that public car parking is important to support the economic viability and vitality of the town centre.  Car parking must be retained, and we strongly agree that adequate provision must be made for the theatre, Ocean Room and other facilities.  (‘Opportunities’ – p. 34 and 5.4.19)


We believe that there should still be provision for use as a ferry port, bearing in mind Weymouth’s advantages, and the benefit that a ferry service brings to the town.  (5.4.11)


We keenly support the provision of generous walkways around the perimeter, especially facing the bay.  Consideration may be given to removing the access road to the car park from the north side of the theatre to the south side, in order to allow for the creation of a wide landscaped area for pedestrians between the theatre and the bay.  (5.4.18)

 

We very much support the principle of maintaining views across to the Nothe Fort by the reduced height of buildings.  (5.4.16)




STATION GATEWAY



We should not lose the opportunity to create a transport interchange by the Station.  This should be developed adjacent to the station car park, and should cover the area currently marked on the plan as ‘Mixed Use with office/business focus’.   It should comprise a full bus and train interchange for rail travellers’ onward journeys by bus.  We do not agree with this important site being used for offices and business uses.  (5.5.2, ‘Opportunities’ (p 39), 5.5.7, 5.5.11, Station Gateway Development Plan)


Business uses should in our view be located at Jubilee Sidings, currently marked out for residential development.  (5.5.2, 5.5.11, Station Gateway Development Plan)


We do not consider this land at Jubilee Sidings by the railway lines and opposite the Jubilee Business Park to be suitable for residential use.  (5.5.12 and Station Gateway Development Plan)


We object strongly to the proposal to build over the main station car park.  It must remain adjacent to the station, and indeed needs to be enlarged, as it is already over-used.  We are strongly opposed to designating the Swannery Car Park for station parking.  It is at too great a distance from the station.  (5.5.6, 5.5.10, 5.5.14))


The station forecourt should remain as a dropping-off area for taxis and private vehicles.  (5.5.10)


We consider residential use inappropriate over the station – if it is to be redeveloped we would prefer offices there.  (Station Gateway Development Plan,  also Draft Vision document p. 15 – Key Proposals)


We agree that the Swannery Car Park should be retained and improved.  In order to economise on land use for car parking, opportunities fora two-storey car park could be considered by decking it over, with the upper surface landscaped. This might also apply to other car parks, if appropriate.  (5.5.10, 5.5.14, Station Gateway Development Plan)


We agree with residential development of the current bus depot to provide an opportunity to restore the historic street pattern.  However, this must be dependent on a suitable site for the buses being found elsewhere.  (Station Gateway Development Plan)


We support the idea of a turntable at Jubilee Sidings, which would encourage steam train visits, bringing more visitors to Weymouth.  (Station Gateway Development Plan)


Pru Bollam,

Chairman, Plans Sub-Committee, 2nd April 2015

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