Log in | Register

Nations and regions focus: The South West

Words: The Planner

A snapshot of planning in South West, looking at key planning themes, major projects, skills requirements and RTPI activities in the region

In the pipeline

A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down (Stonehenge)

The government is about to give the go-ahead to a major improvement to the A303 in Wiltshire involving the stretch close to Stonehenge. The subject of an application for a development consent order, the £1.7 billion scheme will involve a tunnel two miles long past Stonehenge and a further eight miles of surface work, including a bypass of Winterbourne Stoke village; all will be dual carriageway. Apart from easing the serious congestion at this point, the scheme will conserve and enhance the Outstanding Universal Value of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. At time of writing it was anticipated that the secretary of state would issue a formal decision in early April. bit.ly/planner0520-Stonehenge

Western Gateway/Porth y Gorllewin

This new ‘economic partnership’ across South Wales and western England covers an area with a population of 4.4 million. It originated in a report that was put to the governments of Wales and England in July 2019 by Bristol, Cardiff and Newport – collectively calling themselves ‘the Great Western Cities’. The partnership has been dubbed the UK’s third pan-regional ‘powerhouse’ partnership. It is, however, unique as a cross-nation initiative, taking in councils across South Wales, the west of England, Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire, together with three LEPs and the English and Welsh governments. 

Recent successes

Southmead regeneration

Highly commended in the RTPI South West Awards, this community-led project aims to improve the centre of Bristol’s Southmead Estate, one of the UK’s most deprived wards. The work of the Nash Partnership and Streets Reimagined, involving the community to a degree beyond what would usually be expected, has enabled the Southmead Development Trust to ‘convert’ its community plan into a masterplan including new housing and other facilities linking to the emerging city local plan.

Swanage Pier restoration and regeneration

This £2.2m project – also highly commended in the RTPI South West Awards – involved repairing an at-risk pier and refurbishing the adjacent grade II listed Marine Villas to create new interpretation, catering and retail experiences, as well as an educational case study package. Brought to fruition by consultancy Footprint Futures, working as project manager, and the Swanage Pier Trust. 

‘The Wave’ inland surf lagoon

England’s first inland surf lagoon is in Almondsbury, South Gloucestershire, on 29.4ha of former green belt. It’s a 180-metre long lake creating up to a thousand artificial waves an hour, each up to 2m high. The decision to grant planning permission was based on ‘very special circumstances’ involving a balancing exercise between harm caused to the openness of the green belt and the potential benefits to health and well-being and the local economy.

Insight: Somerdale

The redevelopment of the site of the former Fry’s/Cadbury’s chocolate factory in Keynsham, between Bristol and Bath, was overall winner at the 2019 RTPI South West Awards for Planning Excellence.

The project was lauded for its combination of clear vision and collaborative working, with organisations involved ranging from Taylor Wimpey (housing), Barton Willmore (overall site plan-maker and project manager), the St Monica Trust and Tetlow King (conversion of the factory buildings).

New housing, commercial uses, retirement apartments, a care home, doctors’ surgery and a new school have all been built in such a way as to celebrate the site’s heritage.

The Somerdale site has been a landmark for generations. At its peak, the factory employed more than 5,000 people while providing important community and sports facilities. But in 2010, the Kraft takeover of Cadbury’s ultimately led, despite earlier reassurances concerning Somerdale and the protection of Cadbury’s UK manufacturing, to closure of the plant. Concerns about job losses and the perceived threat of development made the future of the factory a high-profile and politically sensitive project for the sub-region.

Barton Willmore project-managed and oversaw 19 specialist consultants and secured planning permission for the 90-hectare site. Constraints were numerous and complex, ranging from flood risk, green belt, ecology and important trees, maintaining and improving sports provision, numerous factory buildings, contamination – and the Roman town of Trajectus, found beneath part of the site. Bath & North East Somerset Council (B&NES) engaged with Kraft Foods (as landowner) and Taylor Wimpey (which subsequently acquired the site post-permission), setting out their ambitions for an exemplar development on one of their key regeneration sites.

Challenges were extensive. More than half the site was affected by flooding and not developable, half was in the green belt, and part of the Roman town of Trajectus was subsequently designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument. On top of this, sports pitches required relocation; there were a variety of ecological constraints; and a policy requirement obliged delivery of 700 dwellings, a primary school, 
pre-school and new community/sports club on site.

Just six months after Barton Willmore’s submission of a hybrid application, permission from B&NES planning committee was granted unanimously. The completed development’s community benefits are impressive – comprising a neighbourhood surrounded by walkable, permeable streets and open spaces, with green corridors and riverside walks to open countryside beyond.

Coming up

Design Leadership & Skills
28 September, Exeter

The challenges of delivering Housing
7 October, Bournemouth 

The Natural Environment – Planning for a Green Future
20 October, Exeter 

Integrating low-carbon transport into the planning process
11 November, Swindon 

Development Management and Planning Law Update
18 November, Bristol

Image credit | Alamy