TOWN SQUARE : BRING IN THE EXPERTS
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as featured in the Society publication Update August 2011
The Society Response to Stratford District Council re - Town Square Redevelopment Application 11/00609/FUL
The Society wishes to object to the new proposals for the redevelopment, alterations and improvements to Town Square (Application 11/00609/FUL).
Our objection is based on
TOWN PLANNING AND COMMERCIAL GROUNDS/LOSS OF COMMUNITY FACILITIES
Given the increase in internet retailing and the expansion of the supermarket sector in the town we believe that the town cannot support further conventional shops. Equally a five-screen cinema cannot fail to damage existing provision. While this is a free market, which should thrive on innovation, the local authorities have a duty (a) to ensure that the town centre remains a major attraction and (b) to restrain any development which might have an adverse effect on the town centre. These are themes which are stressed both in PPS4 – planning for consumer choice - and PPS6 – planning for town centres.
In considering the application the following questions must be answered:
The proposals also entail the loss of public lavatories. Although a small issue, it is one of greater significance in a town with a tourist-based economy than might be the case elsewhere.
DESIGN AND ARCHITECTURE GROUNDS
Therefore the proposed architectural remodelling must improve the visual environment of the area and create a space to be enjoyed rather than being simply a thoroughfare. The sheer volume of a 910 seat cinema precludes any human scale to the pedestrian spaces. The materials used do not have a ‘feel’ for Stratford.
The existing scheme is totally unsuitable for the town centre of an historic market town. This is not to argue for Tudor pastiche as we believe that modern architecture could blend in if it were more daring. The new designs are no improvement on the existing scheme and create the feeling of an unsuccessful new town.
If it is accepted that retail in town centres such as Stratford has reached its optimum size, the case for continued use as a shopping centre is weak. Potentially there are more appropriate uses for the site such as residential and small shops, which would broaden the economy of the town centre and could expand its appeal. Ideally a covered market would make the most sense as it would provide residents with an alternative to out-of-town supermarket shopping and would be an attraction for tourists.
THE ECONOMY AND PROSPECTS FOR DEVELOPMENT
If, notwithstanding objections, the Council is minded to grant permission, the Society would urge that the developer be invited to give undertakings that, in the event that economic circumstances prevent progress on the works, the site will be left in a condition that will not detract from the general visual amenity of the town centre.
It is worth recalling that this is the third attempt to create a viable precinct at this location. The first, Bell Court, was reasonably successful with a range of shops – many of them local. The second – Town Square – has been less so, with empty units throughout the biggest consumer boom this country has known.
The Stratford Society supports redevelopment of the site but believes that the current proposals stand no more chance of success than the present Town Square and are objectionable in planning terms.