Improving the quality of Winchester's development

Winchester City Council is taking steps to improve the quality of development in the district and ensure that the characteristics of neighbourhoods are respected when new development is proposed.

This is particularly relevant for those areas with lower density housing where there are open spaces providing opportunities for additional development.

The Council Cabinet at its meeting next Wednesday (17 November) is being asked to approve spending £55,000 in taking a more pro-active role in giving design guidance to developers.

The money would come from the government's Planning Delivery Grant and because of the high workloads within the Council's own planning department, consultants would be employed to help with drawing up Village or Neighbourhood Design Statements, Development Briefs and Local Area Design Statements.

Cllr. John Beveridge, Cabinet Member responsible for Planning at the City Council, said planners want to work with local communities so that there is an agreed direction when developers come forward with plans in their neighbourhood.

"We intend to work with local residents and interest groups to tackle those areas under greatest development pressure first. All this will lead to a less confrontational approach to planning. It is not about saying 'no' to new developments as that would be unrealistic, but is about putting down markers on what is and is not appropriate in a local area," he added.

A report to Cabinet by Director of Development Services Robin Cooper says that the Council has so far adopted 15 village design statements and is about to adopt its first neighbourhood design statement. While officers do give help and advice, it is not possible to spend as much time on them as the department would like.

It is the same story with development briefs, which are produced to help the comprehensive planning of potential development areas. The report says there is concern that piecemeal planning without briefs will be more harmful to the character of the area, and that future development opportunities may be stifled by piecemeal development. All this can be prevented with an agreed development brief for an area.

Local area design statements have been developed for those areas where there is strong development pressure of a larger scale than could be considered by a development brief, and the paper gives Chilbolton Avenue, Winchester, as an example where there is pressure for development, but also concerns about the impact on the character of the area.

The report states that employing consultants is the most cost-effective way in which to have appropriately skilled and experienced people to take the work forward.