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Factsheet 16: East Street, Farnham

The Purpose of the East Street Project
The Planning Brief for the East Street Area of Opportunity

The Purpose of the East Street Project

Parts of the East Street area are suffering neglect and there are question marks over the future of prominent sites such as the old cinema site, health centre and Redgrave Theatre. Ideas for regenerating the area are being taken forward by the independent East Street Steering Group which is supported by Waverley Borough Council and the Town Council and includes representatives of landowners, developers, the planning authority, the local health trust, and the Chamber of Trade.

Involving The Public
The first step is to narrow down the wide range of development possibilities into a number of workable options. This would usually be done by developers, with proposals kept under wraps until very late in the process, when planning permission is sought. Local people can be the last to hear what's being proposed in their area, by which time many important decisions have been taken by the developers.

For East Street it was felt that a different approach was needed, one that would enable local people to have an input right from the beginning. The Prince of Wales's Institute of Architecture was brought in by Waverley to facilitate this involvement through an innovative 'Action Planning' process.

In November 1997 a series of public events was held in Farnham to explore how the East Street area of the town could change for the better. The chosen venue for all events was a empty shop unit in the Woolmead. The first event was an Urban Design Workshop attended by members of the Borough and Town Councils, Farnham Society, the Chamber of Trade, landowners and others with a commercial interest in the area. The result of a long day of enthusiastic debate was a series of sketch schemes showing each group's initial ideas for the area. These sketch schemes provided the basis for a 'hands-on' public exhibition. People were able to respond to ideas by using stick labels and post-it notes and by writing or drawing their own comments and suggestions. Around 200 people visited the event, 80% of whom were Farnham residents. Ideas which emerged with strong support included:-

Public Opinion
In contrast, some ideas from the Urban Design Workshop were supported by very few people at the exhibition. These included office development by the river side and the relocation of the Redgrave Theatre to the Maltings.

The East Street Steering Group looked carefully at all the comments and ideas that arose from the Action Planning events. The 'shopping list' of desirable land uses and features was the starting point. However, any proposals will need to be realistic and must be supported by the landowners. This might involve including less popular features in order to make an overall development package work; for example, the idea of redeveloping the Woolmead received strong public support but the landowner has made it clear that this is not a viable option in the short term. The Steering Group considered how any proposals could enhance the environment of the Woolmead and strengthen the valuable contribution that it makes to the town's economy.

The Next Stage
The East Street area of Opportunity was the subject of a consultation/ exhibition in Farnham, on the 12th and 13th March 1999 following the appointment of consultant urban designers PRP Architects. Their brief was to come up with an urban framework which will eventually be used as a design brief dated February 2000.

PRP came up with a preliminary masterplan which included shops, cafes and restaurants, a health club / health centre and a gallery. An information centre and restaurant was suggested using the existing Brightwell House, together with a cinema, night-club and hotel complex fronting Dogflud Way. A number of community offices and student residences are also proposed fronting South Street, as well as an extension to Sainsburys, as well as other residential properties and offices. Other suggestions involve highway improvements, pedestrianised areas, town and market squares, courtyards and footways and the refurbishment of the Brightwell Gardens to provide a sun terrace and performance area.

The exhibition was attended by between 700 and 800 people. 88% of these came from Farnham. 75% of the people attending were over 45 years of age.

People were able to respond to the draft Master Plan using green (like) and red (dislike) stickers and by recording views in comments books and flip charts.

The response gives valuable feedback on the emerging ideas. However, it could not necessarily be taken as representative of all Farnham residents. In particular, young people were under represented and there was considerable lobbying at the exhibition by supporters of the Redgrave. Many people visiting the exhibition chose not to record comments.

Overview of Public Response
The general response to the PRP proposals was positive. Most elements of the scheme were liked including the East Street pedestrianisation, 'Lanes' area, town square and Brightwell House orangery which all saw 90% or more in favour. The only elements of the proposals which were disliked by 60% or more were the nightclub, Sainsburys extension and multi storey car parks. Comments left at the exhibition and letters subsequently received give a more detailed appraisal of the proposals. Some of the main issues raised are outlined below.

Displaced Uses
Much comment related to what was omitted from the draft Master Plan. Most people felt that the Redgrave Theatre should be retained, either as it is or as part of a multi-functional building to provide a cultural focus for the development. The view was expressed that the Redgrave building belongs to the community and should not be demolished. The public response favoured the retention of the bowling green and tennis courts in their present location. Concerns were also expressed about the Gostry Centre and the CAB. The bowling club is keen to remain as part of the scheme but some concerns were expressed regarding potential vandalism of the green and the scale of proposed adjacent buildings. The tennis club wants information on possible re-siting options.

Scale of Development
Concern was expressed over the scale of the proposals which, many people feel, represent an over-development which would be out of keeping with the country town character of Farnham. For instance, The Farnham Society believes that the proposals went gone too far and could unbalance the core of the town.

Mix of Uses
Allied with comments on the scale of development, concerns have been raised Over the mix of uses and the potential impact on the rest of the town centre.

Design Issues
Opinion on architectural treatment was divided. The PRP proposals suggested that this area can be treated as the modern part of Farnham with scope for high quality contemporary buildings. This seems to be generally supported. Other design issues raised included questions over whether the town square is large enough or close enough to East Street; concerns over potential for crime in the 'Lanes' area; and fears that the landscaping proposals near the river are over-elaborate for what should be a natural setting.

Movement Issues
General concerns are raised over the traffic implications of the development. Some people feel that the proposals should not be contemplated until the by pass is sorted out whilst others support a Dogflud Way/South Street link. Doubts are raised over whether the proposals will result in improved pedestrian access from East Street to The Borough. Concerns have been raised over a reduction in parking available to customers of Sainsburys supermarket.

The Planning Brief for the East Street Area of Opportunity


Following this exercise, a Planning Brief for the East Street Area of Opportunity has been published, as follows.

Contents

Appendices

  1. Plan showing the area covered by the brief (72k)
  2. Illustrative Masterplan (110k)

1.0 Introduction

Farnham

1.1 Farnham has an exceptionally fine historic town centre in a valley setting. The layout of the town centre is complex and this adds to its distinctive character which includes over 500 buildings listed by the Secretary of State as being of special architectural or historic interest. Also, the centre has modern elements that fit well into their historic locations.

The Site

1.2 The East Street Area of Opportunity adjoins the eastern edge of Farnham town centre and is shown edged black on the plan attached at Appendix 1. The brief area extends to approximately 5.4 hectares (13.4 acres) but the area with potential for development is significantly smaller due to site and planning constraints.

Purpose of the Brief

1.3 The purpose of this draft brief is to provide a planning framework to guide the co-ordinated revitalisation of the area covered by the brief. With reference to relevant planning policies and requirements, it provides guidance on the form of development and types of uses likely to be considered acceptable in accordance with the Council's overall vision for the brief area.

Status of the Draft Brief

1.4 At the Policy and Resources Committee Meeting held on 28th September 1999, this draft brief was approved for the purposes of consultation.

1.5 The consultation period extends from 1st October 1999 to 5th November 1999. If you wish to support or to object to any aspect of the draft brief, you must do so in writing.

1.6 The Council will consider whether the brief needs to be amended to take account of representations submitted. The intention is for the brief to be formally approved by the Council early in 2000.

1.7 The draft brief has been prepared within the context of existing and evolving policy and other agreed standards and provides supplementary planning guidance. It will be regarded as a material consideration in the assessment of any planning application.

Background to the preparation of the Brief

1.8 The original ideas and impetus for the regeneration of the East Street area came from the informal East Street Group, which involved local councillors and others in considering opportunities for improving the eastern sector of Farnham. The Borough Council became involved to assist with the process of taking forward and building upon the initial concepts by establishing a Task group comprising representatives from the Council, and Town Council as well as a Steering Group including key landowners.

1.9 The Task Group was set the task of advising on proposals for the brief area that will stimulate and guide the revitalisation of the site which will be viable and which will make a real contribution to the life of the town, create an environment of quality and be acceptable to the community.

1.10 Local community involvement through workshops, the Urban Design Forum, public exhibitions and extensive consultation have ensured that local people have been able to contribute ideas for the future of the area. Public participation through this consultation process has been central to the testing of ideas and options for the site and the preparation of this draft brief.

1.11 A key issue which emerged during consultation on a draft urban design framework for the area was the possible loss of the Redgrave Theatre. This has closed recently.

2.0 Site and Surrounding Area

2.1 The brief area lies on the eastern edge of the central area of Farnham and is bounded to the north-west by Woolmead Road and to the north-east, by Dogflud Way. It adjoins the Sports Centre to the east and extends towards the River Wey to the south east and as far as Brightwells Road to the south. It has a frontage of approximately 240m along its south-western boundary to South Street. There are vehicular and pedestrian access points from Woolmead Road, South Street, East Street and Dogflud Way.

2.2 The site occupies a significant under-utilised area in a central and highly accessible location which has been in slow decline for some years. It comprises various uses in different ownerships and can be broadly divided into the following principal areas:-

3.0 Planning Policy Context

3.1 National Policy Guidance, The Surrey Structure Plan (1994), and emerging First Alteration (Consultation draft 1997); the Adopted Waverley Borough Local Plan (1993) and the Replacement Local Plan (Deposit Draft 1999) provide the context for planning policies applicable to the brief area.

3.2 The brief site is identified on the draft Replacement Local Plan Proposals Plan as falling within the boundary of the defined Town Centre and within An Area of Opportunity. Existing retail properties fronting East Street and South Street also fall within the Central Shopping Area.

3.3 The majority of Farnham town centre falls within a conservation area, the boundary of which extends across East Street to include a small number of properties in the north-west corner of the site. A larger area of properties in the north-west corner of the site also fall within an Area of High Archaeological Potential. East Street is shown on the Proposals Plan as a Pedestrian Improvement Area.

3.4 The brief area also contains two listed buildings (No 8 East Street and Brightwells House) and seven buildings which are locally listed. There is a presumption against the demolition of these buildings and policies require that where development is proposed that will affect their setting, high standards of design will be sought.

3.5 The Council will support co-ordinated mixed use development within the East Street Area of Opportunity shown on the Proposals Plan provided that:-

  1. the mixture of uses and scale of development will complement and support the vitality and viability of the existing Central Shopping Area and improve the quality of community facilities.
  2. development on East Street or South Street frontages is sympathetic in scale, massing and design to neighbouring buildings, and the design of development elsewhere adds quality and interest to the townscape;
  3. the Grade II Listed Brightwells House is retained;
  4. linked areas of public open space are incorporated, including retention of Brightwells Gardens;
  5. an element of public art is provided;
  6. a network of pedestrian and cyclist routes is created in north/south and east/west directions, including a landscaped route from East Street to the River Way;
  7. vehicular access other than servicing is restricted to the margins of the Area of Opportunity;
  8. appropriate off-site highway works are funded by the development; including improved pedestrian links to the Borough;
  9. measures are incorporated to enhance accessibility of public transport; and
  10. A Transportation Impact Assessment is prepared to demonstrate how the development will contribute towards achieving the objectives of the Farnham Movement Package.

4.0 Summary of Opportunities and Vision for the Site

4.1 The Council considers that there are significant opportunities to revitalise the brief area by encouraging a high quality mixed use development which relates well to the surrounding street scene, which adds variety and diversity to the provision of services and facilities and which compliments and strengthens the role of Farnham Town Centre.

4.2 The more immediate development opportunities relate to the vacant Iceland site fronting East Street and, to the rear, the interior of the brief area. The refurbishment of the Woolmead is encouraged in the short term and in the longer term, there may be opportunities to redevelop the visually prominent Island site it occupies, with a landmark development of significantly improved quality.

4.3 The Council's overall objectives are to:-

4.4 A 'Proposals Plan' for the brief area is attached overleaf. The plan divides the brief area into sectors where different uses and forms of development will be appropriate. More detailed guidance relating to these sectors is set out in Section 5.

4.5 The Proposals Plan, is based upon a Masterplan for the site which was prepared for the Council to assist the consultation process and the testing of ideas for the site. The Masterplan illustrates how the site could potentially be developed. The general response to the Masterplan proposals was positive with most elements of the indicative scheme supported. A copy of the Masterplan is attached at Appendix 2 to illustrate the form of development

4.6 This draft Masterplan is not a development proposal. It shows one possible concept of what might be achieved and, in doing so identifies principles to govern the way in which the development of individual sites might be co- ordinated.

5.0 Preferred Uses

5.1 There are various existing uses for which provision may need to be made either within the site or in suitable alternative accommodation.

5.2 Guidance on the range and type of future uses likely to be considered acceptable to the Council within each of the zones shown on the Proposals Plan is set out in the schedule below. This needs to be read in conjunction with Section 6 of this brief.

Zones 1 & 2
Zones 1 and 2 are well related to the Town Centre and proposals within this brief aim to strengthen and enhance this relationship by significantly improving access links to East Street including The Woolmead.

Mixed town centre uses which generate significant pedestrian activity and add visual interest will be encouraged within zones 1 & 2 including shops, restaurants, cafes, professional and financial services and community uses. Uses which do not rely on trade from visiting members of the public and which do not involve a 'shop window' display, such as business uses and housing will be encouraged in appropriate accommodation above other town centre uses.

The Council will give careful consideration to the type and amount of new retail accommodation proposed, to ensure that it complements and enhances the role of the Central Shopping Area.

Zone 3
Zone 3, located at the eastern side of the brief area in close proximity to the Sports Centre and with direct access from Dogflud Way, presents an opportunity for leisure related uses which could include a cinema, hotel, health and fitness facilities, night-club and arts/theatre complex.

Zones 4&5
Appropriate uses within Areas 4 & 5 include residential use, student accommodation, car parking and community facilities.

Residential use will be encouraged at as high a density as is appropriate to the character and environment of these zones and surrounding areas. In particular, the Council will seek the provision of accommodation which meets the needs of small households. In accordance with policy requirements, the Council will negotiate with developers and landowners to ensure that at least 30% of new residential development is subsidised affordable housing. This requirement applies to all other zones within the Planning Brief area.

Zone 6
A significant area of public open space will need to be provided and the Council will encourage proposals which create a town square or other form of open space where people can gather and which provide a landscaped link to the River and footpath.

5.3 The list of uses provided is not exhaustive and the boundaries of each zone are indicative.

6.0 Townscape and Design

General

6.1 An opportunity exists for development in the area to create a high quality townscape to complement that of the adjoining Conservation Area. Farnham is characterised by a mix of building periods and styles. Any development should enrich the distinctive character blending with the existing fabric of the town and providing a varied townscape. New buildings should be appropriate to their setting in terms of scale, massing, design and materials. Elements of public art will be sought as part of any development scheme.

Retention and Demolition of buildings

6.2 There is a presumption in favour of retaining the listed and locally listed buildings and protecting their setting.

6.3 Remaining buildings could be demolished but the Council will expect any redevelopment scheme to be of the highest architectural and urban design quality.

6.4 The Woolmead is an architecturally uninspiring early 1970s development occupying a visually prominent island site location where significant townscape improvements could be made through refurbishment and redevelopment in the longer term.

Townscape, Layout and Integration

6.5 With regard to the brief area south of East Street, primarily Zone 2, a layout and townscape comprising a variety of building types fronting onto streets, alleyways, squares and open space is envisaged, based upon the existing pattern and grain of traditional development within Farnham.

6.6 A variety and hierarchy of building forms should be used to relate to the scale and character of adjoining development, particularly those properties within or in close proximity to the Conservation Area.

6.7. The resolution of the junction constraints between East Street, the Borough, South Street and Bear Lane is crucial for achieving proper integration between the brief area and the centre of Farnham. Effective links into existing street patterns at the edges of the site will ensure that the development area can be properly assimilated within the existing urban fabric.

Scale, Height and Massing

6.8 The scale, height and massing of any new development should respect the prevailing character of the surrounding area including the settings of the listed buildings the character of the Conservation Area and the importance of locally listed buildings.

6.9 Development should not significantly harm the amenities of occupiers of neighbouring properties by way of overlooking, loss of daylight or sunlight, overbearing appearance or other adverse environmental improvements.

6.10 New buildings within the brief area should not exceed four storeys in height. It may be necessary to restrict the development of parts of the brief area to three storeys due to planning policy constraints.

Design and Materials

6.11 New buildings should be of the highest design standard; be of human scale and should add interest and variety. The use of a co-ordinated palette of materials which responds to and compliments the rhythm, mix and range of materials within Farnham will be required.

6.12 The design of buildings needs to be sensitive to their location within the brief area and to surrounding development. For example, the architectural treatment for new buildings in close proximity to East Street and South Street will need to respond more directly to the character of the Conservation Area than development elsewhere within and to the east of the site where bolder and more contemporary design solutions may be acceptable.

Landscaping and Environmental Improvements

6.13 A landscape strategy including details of materials/surfacing for the brief area needs to be developed which enhances the proposed urban form and which is based around existing features of the site such as Brightwell Gardens, with its mature trees, and the open space leading down to the River Wey. Important elements of the landscape strategy include an informal setting close to the River with path connections to the riverside walk; semi formal open space focused on Brightwell Gardens, the retention of existing trees and new tree planting in open spaces and hard landscaping in the streets/lanes and on the perimeter of the site.

Accessibility

6.14 Policy D9 of the Replacement Plan sets out guidance on the need for development to provide or improve accessibility for everyone including people with disabilities and those with young children.

Archaeology

6.15 Part of the site is located within an Area of High Archaeological Potential. Within such areas and outside such designations but where proposals are made for large scale development, the Council will require the preparation of an archaeological report as part of a planning application (policies HE14 and HE15 of the Replacement Plan)

Crime Prevention

6.16 The Council seeks to ensure that high standards of security and crime prevention measures are incorporated into all large developments. Many crime prevention objectives are easier and less expensive to accommodate at the design stage. Policy D8 in the Replacement Plan, identifies ways in which new development can help achieve a safe and secure environment.

7.0 Highways

7.1 Farnham's problems are largely due to major roads running through the town, inadequate separation between vehicles and pedestrians in some of the narrow town centre streets, lack of adequate transport alternatives to the car and the opportunities for parking in the town centre.

7.2 The existing pattern of development within the town centre, including numerous buildings of quality, is such that the town centre's traffic problems cannot be overcome through the provision of a relief road. Therefore, to tackle these problems, the strategy for Farnham (which is based upon the Farnham Movement Study 1994) is to:

  1. minimise the adverse impact of traffic by encouraging car drivers to use peripheral car parks rather than driving through the town centre; and
  2. promote a shift away from the use of the car and towards other forms of transport like walking, cycling, bus and rail.

7.3 A package of measures is proposed to address these problems with the objectives of achieving a more peaceful, safer and less polluted environment whilst ensuring that the vitality of the town is retained.

Highway Issues relating to the brief area

7.4 A conflict between traffic congestion and pedestrians that affects the whole town centre manifests itself on South Street and East Street, which forms an inhospitable barrier to pedestrian movements towards and into the site.

7.5 The majority of the access points into the site are shared by pedestrians and vehicles, particularly those along East Street and South Street.

7.6 The bus stops adjoining the site on East Street and South Street are some of the busiest in the town centre in terms of the number of routes served. Also, they are located on the busiest roads and therefore suffer from high levels of noise and pollution. Furthermore, those on Woolmead Road, are reached via a pedestrian subway. The quality of shelters and seating is also poor.

7.7 The brief area is currently dominated by large surface car parks with poor quality pedestrian links to the town centre. This reinforces the impression that this is a backland site, alienated from the town centre and it also encourages people to bring their cars to the centre instead of walking, cycling or using the bus.

Semi Pedestrianisation of East Street/Re-Routing of Traffic

7.8 One of the major aids to successful development of the site will be to improve significantly the ability for pedestrians to move freely and directly from the existing town centre into what will become an extension of it. This will also encourage people to use the peripheral car parks and walk through the development to the town centre.

7.9 The Farnham Movement Package bid 1999/2000 includes proposals for the creation of a pedestrian priority area along East Street. Cars and lorries would need to be diverted along Woolmead Road, which would become a two-way street. The East Street/Bear Lane junction would be signalised giving priority to buses on East Street. This would provide a significant number of advantages including:-

Vehicular Access and Servicing

7.10 The site should be developed in such a way as to restrict the number of vehicular access points and to confine them to the margins of the brief area. Provision should also be made for appropriate service access points to the rear of both existing and proposed buildings in order to reduce congestion caused by road side deliveries but only where this can be achieved without affecting the character of the Conservation Area, the setting of listed and locally listed buildings and without adverse impact on the quality of design sought for the site.

Pedestrian/Cycle Access

7.11 Clearly defined pedestrian/ cycle links should be created in a north-south and east-west direction including a landscaped link from East Street to the River Wey in order to facilitate cycle access to Farnham Station.

Vehicular and Cycle Parking Standards

7.12 Provision of car parking and cycle parking will need to be made in accordance with parking standards.

7.13 It may be desirable for a lower amount of parking to be provided than the full demand standard. The brief area occupies a central location accessible by public transport which can be significantly enhanced through the implementation of development in accordance with the requirements of this brief. Accordingly, the Borough Council may accept commuted payments towards measures to assist public transport, in lieu of provision on site.

Traffic Impact Assessment

7.14 In accordance with the policy requirements, a Traffic Impact Assessment may be required in order to (1) assess the implications of proposed development and (2) consider the extent to which development will contribute towards delivering the objectives of the Farnham Movement Package (see paragraph 7.9).

8.0 Planning Obligations

8.1 The Council will have regard to the cumulative impact of development and developers may be required to contribute to necessary infrastructure improvements.

8.2 Furthermore, the Council will seek to secure appropriate environmental or community benefits which are directly related to the revitalisation of the brief area. These may include:-

  1. A financial contribution towards town centre traffic management proposal.
  2. Improvements to public transport and services and measures for cyclists.
  3. Enhancement of the urban environment.
  4. Enhanced social or educational facilities.
  5. Provision of recreational or sporting facilities including open space.
  6. Works of public art or craft.
  7. Other facilities which help to meet the objectives of the Plan.
  8. The provision of subsidised affordable housing or the payment of a commuted sum towards the provision of such housing.

8.3 Planning benefits will normally be secured through a planning obligation with a developer under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

9.0 Contacts

9.1 Further planning advice and clarification of issues relating to the brief can be obtained by writing to the Planning Department at the following address:-

9.2
Steve Thwaites Borough Planning and Development Manager
Waverley Borough Council Council Offices
The Burys Godalming GU7 1HR

9.3 Alternatively the following may be contacted:-

Development Control Matters:
Graham Parrott 01483 869 306
Highway Matters: Howard Rickard 0181 541 9315

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Email: jfalconer@waverley.gov.uk
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