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Joint Core Strategy 2010 - Part 1

Joint Core Strategy - Part 1

1 Spatial Portrait

1.1 The Joint Core Strategy area lies within the county of Gloucester in the south west region, at the foothills of the Cotswold Hills with the M5 corridor to the west, stretching east to the Severn Vale.  The area is dominated by Gloucester city and Cheltenham town, as well as being influenced by the market town of Tewkesbury.  The three main settlements compliment with each other as centres for housing, employment and culture, retail, entertainment and tourism activities, while supporting the needs of smaller towns and rural villages.  Although these urban centres are the focus for services and facilities they have areas in need of regeneration, which is being targeted through schemes and initiatives such as Gloucester Heritage Urban Regeneration Company, Civic Pride and Tewkesbury Masterplan.

1.2 Surrounding the urban areas is the wider rural area of Tewkesbury; a focus for agriculture and tourism, with services and facilities provided by vibrant market towns.  The rural settlements look to the market towns, Gloucester and Cheltenham for employment, shopping and leisure, but also look beyond the Joint Core Strategy area, in particular looking north to Evesham.

1.3 The area is home to 311,900 residents, with Gloucester City projected to remain the area with the highest population up to 2026.  However, due to anticipated development, Tewkesbury Borough is projected to experience the largest population increase of 31%[1], with Cheltenham Borough experiencing very little population growth.

1.4 Tewkesbury Borough is the only district within Gloucestershire predicted to experience an increase in the number of children and young people between 2007 and 2026.  The Joint Core Strategy area will see a significant increase in the number of older people.  This is particularly pertinent given that only Gloucester and Tewkesbury Borough will also see an increase in working age population.   

1.5 The area contains many important historical assets, including the rich array of below and above ground remains in Gloucester with the Cathedral and Docks standing out, the famous Georgian architecture of Cheltenham and its spa origins and the more vernacular variety of Tewkesbury with its medieval abbey and its association with the infamous battlefield. 

1.6 These historic areas are set within a rural landscape, which includes the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, several SSSI sites and numerous nature and landscape conservation areas.  Outside the built areas there are areas of woodland and good quality agricultural land.  Flood zones along the River Severn and its tributaries influence much of the sub region and long term planning will need to consider the effects of climate change, particularly following the significant floods in July 2007 which segregated communities and infrastructure.

1.7 There is a considerable identified need for homes across the whole Joint Core Strategy area, particularly affordable homes.  The attractiveness of the area has influenced house prices and although there is significant variation in house prices across the area, they are approximately 8 times the average salary.  Although the population is slowly increasing, the number of households is increasing at a faster rate.  The number of one person households is expected to increase over the next couple of decades to exceed the number of married couple households across the County.  Detailed analysis reveals that by 2026 about half of all one-person households will comprise a lone-pensioner.

1.8 There are differences in earnings, skills and qualifications across the area and there are pockets of significant deprivation within the urban areas.  Employment opportunities are dominated by public administration, education and health, distribution, hotels and restaurants, banking, finance and insurance sectors and manufacturing.  Provision on employment land remains an issue across the whole Joint Core Strategy area. 

1.9 The area has 61% of the population at working age and the percentage of working population that is economically active is above national average.  Long term unemployment figures are high for Cheltenham Borough and Gloucester City's educational attainment is significantly below national average.  Income levels and levels of welfare dependency distribution indicate that the area has more affluent rural neighbourhoods.  Despite this, urban neighbourhoods currently have better access to services with people living in rural neighbourhoods have to travel much further to reach key services.  A significant minority of people in rural areas rely on public transport and many have no effective public transport access to a GP surgery with the majority relying on private car use.  

1.10 The two main urban centres have areas that, according to the index of multiple deprivation, are within the top 10% most deprived areas nationally.  In Gloucester these areas are affected by income; employment; health and disability; education skills and training; barriers to housing and services; crime and disorder; living environment.  In Cheltenham these areas are affected by income; education skills and training; crime and disorder; living environment.  Tewkesbury Borough has a number of areas that are affected by barriers to housing and services.  Cheltenham has a higher number of victims of burglary, Gloucester has more victims of violence, while Tewkesbury Borough experiences less victims of crime.  While benefit claims and lower crime levels show that socio-economic deprivation is not as prevalent in rural neighbourhoods as in urban areas the problems of accessibility adds another dimension to the deprivation across rural neighbourhoods. 

1.11 The area is well served with rail, motorway and strategic road connections, acting as a gateway to the Forest of Dean, South Wales and the South West.  The Gloucestershire Airport provides unique and increasing services to the area.  The majority of residents travel within the area for work and services, as well as to areas such as Bristol, Worcester or Evesham.  The vast majority of commuters use private cars (66%), with little reliance on public transport, walking or cycling.  The major urban centres are compact and have potential for improvements to public realm and pedestrian linkages.  The area is congested and suffers from the associated negative impacts this has on the economy, local air quality, climate change, quality of life and health.  Consideration needs to be given to the strategic road network including the M5, which can be used as a ring road to bypass the congested urban areas.

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[1]           Gloucestershire Story 2009.  Produced by the Research Team Chief Executive Support Unit, Gloucestershire County Council 2009.

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