John Whitehouse

Retired County Councillor for Kenilworth Abbey Division Learn more

My response to Warwick District Council New Local Plan Consultation

by John Whitehouse on 27 July, 2012

The consultation “window” for the WDC New Local Plan Preferred Options closes today, 27th July 2012. Set out below is the text of my response to the consultation.

PO1: Preferred level of growth

I support the preferred option based on an average 600 new homes per annum, as being realistic against current demographic trends and economic growth projections. However, should economic growth trends change in future years the council should seek to respond flexibly as required.

PO2: Community Infrastructure Levy

This new system of raising funding from new developments to support infrastructure developments offers important new opportunities but also presents major challenges. It requires a new set of relationships between district council, county council and other local partners, to not only draw up and agree CIL-funded infrastructure development plans for the district but to create a long-term stable framework for them to be implemented over many years.

PO3: Broad location of growth

I support the preferred option, and in particular that Kenilworth should have its fair share of new housing development (770 homes per Table 7.2) within the total district target. I disagree with the stated view of Kenilworth Town Council that there should be no further development in the town. A vibrant, sustainable community requires some headroom to expand and develop. There is a clear need for a better housing mix in Kenilworth, especially for more starter homes for young people and opportunities for older residents wanting to downsize to smaller properties.

PO4: Distribution of sites for housing

I support the preferred option that Kenilworth new housing development should be concentrated on the Thickthorn site. Kenilworth Town Council has stated a preference for 700/800 houses to be distributed across the town, but has admitted that this cannot be done while meeting their own criteria. These mixed messages only serve to confuse local residents.

Concentrating new housing development in one Kenilworth location provides the opportunity for the right level of infrastructure development to support this – roads, walking and cycling routes, school and other community facilities. Piecemeal small-scale developments across the town, even if there were suitable sites, would be difficult to support through improved infrastructure, so putting further pressure on existing facilities and resources.

I support strongly the proposed designation of the Thickthorn site for employment use as well as for housing. There has been a long-standing shortage of suitable employment land in Kenilworth. I would not support just an office park however. What is needed is a good mix of employment opportunities, to include for example research and development organisations and light industrial units.

I support the proposed designation of Burton Green as a ‘Category 2’ village, provided that the Parish Council is fully consulted and involved in decisions about target numbers, types and locations of new housing.

PO5: Affordable housing

I support the proposed option. The proposed policies seem to be soundly based.

It is interesting to note that the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) estimates the requirement for 115 affordable houses per annum for Kenilworth alone. This reinforces my earlier statement under PO3 that there is a clear need for a better housing mix in the town. The SHMA estimated need is greater than the total new housing allocation for Kenilworth over the 15 year period of the plan. Consideration should therefore be given to achieving a much higher figure than the minimum 40% affordable housing on the Thickthorn site, and also seeking every opportunity for more affordable housing in any ‘windfall’ sites that come forward for development within the town.

PO6: Mixed communities and wide choice of housing

I support the proposed option.

Regarding the Thickthorn site, for the reasons stated previously I see the priority within the housing mix being for starter homes for young people, and smaller units for older residents wanting to downsize but to stay living within the town. There could also be an opportunity to cement further the links between Kenilworth and the University of Warwick by the building of new student accommodation – something completely missing at the moment.

PO9: Retailing and town centres

I support the proposed option, in particular promoting the vitality and viability of town centres, and strongly resisting further out-of-centre retail developments.

PO12: Climate change

I support the proposed option, in particular ensuring flood resistance and resilience in all new developments through sustainable urban drainage schemes (SUDS). Well-designed SUDS are not only functional, but can enhance the natural environment of open space areas associated with new developments.

PO13: Inclusive, safe and healthy communities

I support the proposed option, in particular the importance of access to high quality open spaces and sport/recreation facilities for all residents.

In para 13.10 (2nd bullet point), I would like to see the words “pedestrian and cycling” substituted for “pedestrian”. Policies should do everything possible to encourage the greater use of bicycles by all sections of the local community, both for healthy exercise and as a sustainable/zero carbon means of transport within our district.

PO14: Transport

I support the proposed option, in particular the strong emphasis on promoting sustainable forms of transport.

The importance of the K2L cycling route between Kenilworth and Leamington cannot be overemphasised, together with provision for bus lanes and bus priority schemes on this important route. I see these as the priorities for highway improvements on this route rather than increased provision for private vehicles.

Within the town of Kenilworth, there is a massive task to be done to improve routes and facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, and this should be the priority for infrastructure investment to support new housing development. I disagree fundamentally with the view of the Town Council that a multi-storey car park is required in the town centre. Policies should be seeking to encourage residents to leave their cars behind for short-distance local trips whenever possible.

Map 5 shows a proposed cycle route through Abbey Fields to link up two elements of the National Cycle Network. This has been the subject of considerable negative comment by some residents, community organisations and the Town Council, which has been reflected in other responses to this consultation I understand.

The council has a duty to balance these strongly-expressed views, i.e. that no cycles should be permitted in or through the Abbey Fields, with the needs of the local community as a whole. I would highlight some of the comments in the Draft Green Space Strategy document, in particular section 4.1.7 on page 19 of that document:

“The value of green spaces can be greatly enhanced by linking them together into corridors and networks giving safe, attractive access for pedestrians and, in some cases, cyclists.

“… enable people living in urban areas to reach the countryside …. provide a green alternative for journeys to work or school.”

“By-laws prohibiting cycling and horse-riding in some green spaces may need to be reviewed to achieve this.”

Through the development of the Connect2 Kenilworth (C2K) route, the town has gained a valuable green corridor linking it to the countryside, and providing an important new travel alternative for people working at the university, Policies should be focussed on making it more accessible from all points of the town, and there is no doubt that a cycle route through Abbey Fields would become an important link between the west side of the town and C2K. Currently no other options have been proposed which would achieve the same result.

There is also the fact that the Abbey Fields are an important destination in themselves for many local residents, including families with young children wanting to access the playground area, and yet at the moment there is zero provision for any residents wishing to travel there by bicycle. Residents lucky enough to live nearby are able to walk, but others have no alternative but to drive there. With the Abbey Fields car park already at saturation point and due to reduce its capacity shortly, the council must consider how it can encourage more residents to access the Fields by bicycle.

In terms of transport infrastructure to support a new Thickthorn housing and employment development, for the reasons stated earlier a high priority should be given to sustainable transport options – i.e. walking, cycling and public transport. However, this site also offers the opportunity to create an important new link road between the traffic island over the A46 by-pass and the eastern side of Kenilworth (joining Glasshouse Lane at a point near Rocky Lane). As well as serving the new development and ensuring it is fully linked into the rest of the town, it would help to alleviate current traffic congestion around the St John’s gyratory – something which piecemeal development of eastern Kenilworth over many years has failed to address.

PO15: Green infrastructure

I support strongly the proposal for the development of a peri-urban park north of Kenilworth. This would build on the success of the C2K Greenway route in opening up this important piece of our local countryside to all sections of the local community.

I do not support the arguments so far put forward for the restoration of the Kenilworth Mere. The outline feasibility study conducted by Warwick Business School MBA students showed that any viable scheme could have a massive impact on a large area of precious countryside adjacent to Kenilworth Castle, almost certainly involving commercial developments such as hotels, apartments etc.

PO16: Green belt

I support the re-drawing of green belt boundaries to the east of Kenilworth and around the village of Burton Green in order to permit the developments proposed in this Local Plan, and for no other reason.

PO18: Flooding and water

As stated previously, I support the requirement for SUDS schemes as part of all new developments.

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