Three presentations: The River Sherbourne Project Coundon Wedge—a country park? Belgrade Square Junction improvements
Monday, January 12 at 7.30pm Shop Front Theatre, City Arcade Visitors welcome light refreshments
Design briefs, architect-led design and the loss of independent retailers were just some of the issues brought to the attention of Councillor Kevin Maton, Cabinet Member for Business, Enterprise and Employment, during a recent meeting, convened after our position statement on the Local Development Plan in our November newsletter had been noticed by the councillor. Our representation had expressed surprise that finance was the driver for the development plan. Replying to our concerns Cllr Maton first of all explained that the driver for the growth of the city is the need to grow the Council Tax base. The Council aspires to be like Solihull that is much less dependent on Government grants. This would mean additional new homes and businesses paying Council Tax and Business Rates. He said currently the skewed housing distribution in the city,
Independent small traders: like T.J. Rowland in Spon Street are the mainstay for small retailers in the centre with its concentration of Council Tax Band A and B, is part of the problem that needs to be addressed. Hence the desire for more higher band houses. He also explained that population
forecasts were not ‘fickle’ but were the best estimates of experts in the field. He stressed that the projections were not the target, but the maximum that would be permitted. We raised the question of protecting the green belt. He appears to be confident the Council could restrict and control development in the Green Belt through a phasing policy while there is a five-year supply of development land elsewhere. In response to a question about the rural fringe farmland known as Coundon Wedge, he said the Green Belt Study will be published in February 2015 and this will identify which sites should be protected. Turning to lack of design guidance, we described some recent issues such as the redevelopment of the City Engineers Depot at Bishopgate Green that hardly reflects the character of the Coventry Canal Conservation Area, and the recent artist impressions for a proposed high rise development on the former Post Office Sorting Office site right next to the historic Lady Herbert’s Garden Conservation Area. We said results would be a sharp contrast to Electric Wharf and the Fargo Village, both sites developed in sympathy with their surroundings. Cllr Maton explained that there are no resources available in the Planning Department for design guidance. Fees just about covered the cost of planning applications but there isn’t even sufficient funding to provide enforcement. However he did agree that he would like to see a design guide produced and agreed the Society and Council should work together on it. We also raised the question of better forward planning for the small independent trader in the city centre and once again Cllr Maton replied positively, suggesting the Society might identify possible sites for businesses with a view
to funding development through the Coventry Investment Fund. This is a fund that provides low rates of interest for any enhancements that increase the Business Rate income to the Council by putting under-used assets to more effective use. We outlined the Society’s concerns for the proximity of bus services at the Railway Station where a new bus hub is being proposed on the Centre Six shopping side of Warwick Road and remote from the main station entrance. We also asked about references to rapid transit in the Development Plan Options Paper. Cllr Maton revealed that a figure of eight route was envisaged covering the Arena and hospital in the north and the university in the south, adding that something has to be done to solve access to problems. We couldn't agree more. In conclusion the Society has been asked to draw up a written plan with the
Post-war: Much Park Street still lined with domestic scale buildings in the 1950s. The city needs to develop more street scenes like this to complement the trend towards the modern impersonal block promise of working together on the all important matter of the design process and ways of retaining and expanding independent retailers in the city centre. This will be a priority for 2015.
More news and views on our website: www.coventrysociety.org.uk