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North Place and Portland Street Sustainability Appraisal

Non Technical Summary

1. Introduction

The Cheltenham Development Task Force consisting of Cheltenham Borough Council (CBC), Gloucestershire County Council (GCC), the South West of England Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) has been tasked with delivering the Cheltenham Civic Pride Urban Design Framework (UDF)..This involves bringing together, updating and taking forward a number of studies to form an Urban Design Framework.  The UDF has analysed transport, economic, environmental and land-use issues affecting the town in order to create strategies to improve Cheltenham's public spaces. It has focussed specifically on the redevelopment of three council owned sites and how these may be promoted as exemplars of sustainable development. The aim of the project is to preserve the regency heritage of the town whilst at the same time revitalising the street scene, including the buildings, roads and open spaces. This will help Cheltenham work towards its objective of becoming the most beautiful town in England. The scheme will also seek to attract investment from the private sector to add more leading retailers and other commercial users as well as smaller independent traders to the vibrant mix of shops and services already present in the town.

 

Part of the UDF comprises the North Place Development Brief which was previously adopted as a Technical Appendix to the UDF in 2008. However, due to the economic slump and other factors, questions have been raised as to whether the Brief, as adopted, can effectively be delivered. Therefore, the Task Force has now generated a revised option for the North Place Development Brief and upon considering the changes; it has been decided to revise the previous Sustainability Appraisal accordingly.
 
The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act (2004) requires Sustainability Appraisal (SA) to be carried out on Local Development Plan Documents (DPD), and SPDs.  In addition, the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations (2004) require Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) for a wide range of plans and programmes, including DPDs. SAs and SEAs aim to help make planning more sustainable and provide for a high level of protection of the environment. It is possible to satisfy the requirements of both pieces of legislation through a single appraisal process; an approach which is taken here.

2. Purpose of this SA Report

This document is purely an appraisal of the revised North Place Development Brief; the remaining sections of the original SPD remain as they were. If successful and following consultation, the revised brief shall be re-adopted as part of the SPD for the Civic Pride UDF, thereby replacing the current development brief.
 
This section summarises the outcome of the SA process. This appraisal report is intended to add to the transparency of the process involved in producing the Development Brief as well as improving the sustainability of decisions taken.
 
This report records outcomes of the assessment for both the revised options and revised draft Development Brief. The appraisal of the Development Brief was broadly based on the Appraisal Framework adopted for the Core Strategy Issues and Options Report which although has been superseded by the proposed Joint Core Strategy for Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury, is still valid and fit for the purposes of this assessment. However, amendments have been introduced to ensure that the appraisal framework is directly relevant to the North Place site.
 
The sustainability objectives outlined in the Appraisal Framework have been arranged under SEA/SA topics. The topics that have been selected relate to the same topics listed in Annex I of Directive 2001/42/EC of the European Parliament on 'the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes' (the SEA Directive); and Sustainability Appraisal of Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Documents, ODPM, November 2005.
 
This appraisal framework includes sustainability objectives and indicators. The performance of the draft Development Brief was undertaken on the basis of the predicted impact on sustainability objectives over the current baseline situation and recommendations were made as to how the sustainability of the Development Brief may be improved.

3. The Options:

The Options evaluated are summarised below:

 

North Place
 
Option 1: Implement the new development brief for a mixed use development with bus node
 
Option 2: 'Do Nothing' scenario (Adopted Development Brief - Relocation of the Municipal Offices)
 
Both options share a number of key sustainability features:
 
  • They require sustainable design and construction
  • They require appropriate flood defence and water management measures
  • They promote mixed uses and high standard of design which respects and enhances local character and distinctiveness
  • They promote traffic calming and traffic management and encourage a shift to walking, cycling and public transport usage
     
Both options provide new floorspace which is likely to attract inward investment and create new jobs and employment. The main differences emerge in terms of the mix of land uses proposed and the specific sustainability requirements required.

4. Predicting the effects of the draft Development Brief

Following the decision to revise the adopted Development Brief a new option was generated for the site. The draft Brief has been assessed against the SA Framework and the outcome is presented in this report. The key issues identified in the appraisal framework are summarised below:
 
The draft Development Brief would convert the uninteresting landscape of a car park into a vibrant space with a varied mixture of commercial and residential units, and act as a catalyst for regeneration north of the High Street.
 
The new square near Portland Street will comprise a major new civic space and focus for activity hub. This will help to stimulate inward investment and to promote civic pride and participation.
 
The public realm improvements and urban design qualities of the new development will make a significant contribution to the enhancement of townscape character and the conservation of cultural heritage. This will have a positive synergistic effect on economic and social objectives by helping to attract inward investment and encourage community interaction.
 
The Development Brief includes a significant element of new housing provision, including an element of affordable housing, which will support housing and social objectives.
 
All of the redevelopment is proposed on previously developed land, which supports a wide range of sustainability objectives.
 
The Development Brief will significantly improve the attractiveness of walking and cycling and enhance accessibility across the town centre. This will result in positive synergistic effects between transport, health and air quality objectives
 
However the inclusion of significant amounts of office/commercial and residential floorspace will potentially increase travel demands and it is recommended that a green travel plan should be produced at site development stage to encourage sustainable transport initiatives, such as car sharing and car pooling, and to minimise parking provision. The proposed addition of a bus-node under one of the options may help to encourage the wider use of public transport.
 
Overall the Development Brief is considered to have a positive effect on sustainability objectives with no negative effects. It is recognised that increased economic activity could lead to traffic growth and car emissions with negative cumulative impacts on human health. Strategic transport measures will be required across the town centre as a whole to de-couple economic and transport growth and to promote sustainable transport choices.

5. Next SA steps

This revised draft SA Report, accompanying the revised draft Development Brief will undergo public consultation from 23 August 2010 to 1 October 2010. Following this the Final Development Brief accompanied with the Final SA Report will be produced for adoption. Any changes within the draft Development Brief leading the production of the final version should be reflected in the Final SA Report.

6. SEA Directive Requirements Checklist

Table 0.1 below summarises the requirements of the SEA Directive and indicates where they have been met in the SEA/SA process.
 
Table 0.1: The SEA Directive's requirements
table 0.1


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