Questions and Objections from the adjoining Parish Councils of; Stoulton, Drakes Broughton and Wadborough with Pirton, Whittington and Upton Snodsbury regarding the Worcestershire Parkway Proposed New Town Development
Larger Strategic Questions and Objections
1. Existing town and city centres are changing rapidly whereas before they were predominantly anchored by retail, leisure and office user’s, this was changing quickly before Covid and now post Covid the acceleration of businesses departing from town and city centre has become quicker and irrevocable, leading to new city centre residential development opportunities. This new residential opportunity may not achieve all of the housing growth required but why build a new town when we already have a city and towns in Worcestershire that need to fundamentally change in use over the next decade? The remaining housing allocation could then be more easily incorporated adjacent to existing residential centres which already have all the requisite services for a sustainable development. SWDP planners are progressing with this new town based on the world as it was yesterday which shows a woeful lack of future vision and ambition.
2. How much research have SWDP planners undertaken with reference to existing studies on social trends, over the time period that the development will come to fruition and beyond? The reality is that SWDP planners have drawn a line around a parcel of undeveloped land, centred on a railway station and then developed a proposal, devoid of long term thinking as to how people will live their lives in the decades to come. The planners are looking through the lens of the immediate future and not the 2040’s and beyond when the development will be complete and maturing.
3. As part of this new town the SWDP planners are proposing 60 hectares (148 acres) of employment land but you have completely misunderstood the current agricultural employment nature of the land. These are not just pretty fields, agriculture employs significant numbers of people, farmers themselves represent a tiny proportion of the overall numbers, there are large numbers of skilled workers involved in machinery; contracting , supply, manufacturing and maintenance as well as others in the supply of agricultural products, fertilisers, seeds etc etc, It is interesting to note that in the governments figures the largest sector of manufacturing in the UK and responsible for 16% of all UK manufacturing is ‘food, beverages and tobacco,’ of which agriculture is a cornerstone. This point has been completely omitted by SWDP planners
4. who have instead prioritised untrained / low skilled warehouse jobs ahead of those associated with agriculture. There is already a large ‘employment’ allocation at J6, the majority of which remains undeveloped, we don’t need more ‘sheds’ with few jobs, we need to protect the existing agricultural industry.
Furthermore, it is becoming apparent that as a nation we need to reverse the current trend of becoming more dependent on imported food (over half of our food is now imported). Whatever we do to reduce Global Warming now will not reverse the changes we are already experiencing and extreme weather events are accelerating and are going to impact Global food security. We already import from the Americas and Southern Europe which have seen extreme weather events impacting food production and this is highly likely to worsen over the next 2 decades so we need to retain as much agricultural land as possible rather than concrete over the land and create new towns and roads at the expense of our agricultural requirements. A population of 65 million people equates to around a billion meals a week and primary food production isn’t something that can be quickly ‘switched on’ when a problem hits. People need to be fed as well as housed!
5. The construction of Worcester Parkway Station is the main strategic argument put forward by Wychavon as to why this development should be sited in this location. This pre supposes that people in the future will carry on working and shopping in town and city centres. Even prior to Covid this trend for working and shopping in town centres was rapidly reversing and this trend has accelerated exponentially to a point where major town and city centres will never revert to their former positions. Predominantly shopping is now either out of town, which has remained resilient, or via the internet hence high streets are experiencing their highest ever retail vacancy rates. In terms of city centre / town centre office requirements these are rapidly diminishing, thereby negating any advantage of the rail link in to Worcester. Office workers are now in ’out of town’ office buildings with parking or alternatively some may work in suburban offices which are not easily accessible by train. City centre office space whilst it still exists is reduced and will carry on reducing, therefore the benefits of Worcester Parkway station are considerably over stated. Again, the location of this new town is based on ‘yesterdays’ thinking and shows no ambition and a lack of vision for the future.
6. Whilst there is government approval and indeed government encouragement for District Councils to join together for larger strategic objectives as well as for administrative purposes, is there any precedent whereby one district council circumvents its own obligations by passing these obligations on to a neighbouring council which could be carried out in their own area?
7. What efforts have Malvern Hills DC made to accept their own future housing needs? The vast majority of Malvern Hills housing allocation has been delivered on the outskirts of Worcester both on the southern and western boundaries. For an area the size of Malvern Hills DC stretching from Tenbury Wells in the north down towards Tewksbury in the south what other sites have been considered? It is not sustainable that MHDC keep adding suburbs to Worcester and pushing their housing allocations onto other District Councils. We are informed that MHDC are limited and restricted in their ability to provide housing because of the AONB designation, however the ANOB represents only 18% of the total area covered Malvern Hills District Council!
8. One argument put forward by SWDP planners is that the existing population of Malvern Hills is less than Wychavon, therefore Wychavon’s share should be greater. This is a reasonable argument, however the relative difference in the size of each District Council’s population still indicates that this proposed housing allocation is utterly disproportionate. At the last meeting we were also told, ‘it is your time’ to take these new housing allocations but none of these are reasoned, strategic or planning based grounds as to why there should be such a regional imbalance. There is obviously a perception by SWDP planners that parish councillors and local residents do not want this development on their patch which is not true, we just want a reduced proposal which is proportionate to the area in terms of limiting; urban sprawl, obliterating hundreds of acres of farm land, loss of habitats and reduces future congestion.
9. What efforts have been made across the whole region to identify other sites rather than concentrating circa 80% of all three SWDP Councils housing allocations into an area covering 6 sq miles when the combined geographical areas of the 3 councils equates to 491sq miles? Have individual landowners in better strategic locations been contacted to ascertain whether they would consider selling? The discrepancy in land values of circa £20,000 per acre for agricultural use to circa £500,000 per acre for a residential use, is one huge and unrefusable incentive for any landowner to sell.
10. Is it not merely expedient for SWDP planners to persist with Parkway because it is in the main all controlled by three large, absentee landowners? This is not necessarily the best location in terms of planning/highways etc, it is just easier to deliver than better placed sites across all districts. Inevitably concentrating the vast majority of 3 councils housing allocations into 1 small area of Wychavon will cause unacceptable traffic congestion and merely create further urban sprawl across open countryside.
11. Rather than push all the newly generated traffic for both Parkway and Throckmorton sites on to the M5, surely it would be beneficial to develop the area to the north of Evesham so as to utilise the A46 corridor up to the M42 / M40 or down towards Tewkesbury or over to Tenbury Wells. Adding suburbs to Worcester year after year is utterly unsustainable and the SWDP needs to find better solutions rather than easy solutions. The solutions proposed are short sighted, lack vision and obliterate large areas of open countryside, furthermore they generate a 35% extension in the urban sprawl of Worcester from Claines in the north west to Stoulton in the south east.
12. Wychavon actively promotes projects to create significant community legacies but what lasting legacy is planned in the Parkway development? A development centred around a railway station is lacking in imagination and creates a soulless centre. This plan would fail Wychavon’s own planning criteria.
Specific Parkway new town questions
1. Garden Town Status
What makes this a garden community other than expediency so as to avoid providing the necessary highway infrastructure?
What car ownership has been assumed per household for the highway modelling?
All independent and pro housing research of Garden Towns indicates that these new towns, despite their classification, become car-based commuter estates just like any other new town. Furthermore, the research shows that in new developments close to fast roads residents merely drive out of the town for all facilities creating dead, soulless towns where the working population drives out in the morning and returns in the evening.
We are told by SWDP planners that people will either walk, cycle, work at home or get the train to work. The only thing anyone can say with any amount of certainty is that, in the future all cars will be powered by alternative non fossil fuel means. Whilst expensive now, electric/ hydrogen cars will become mass produced, cheap to buy and cheap to run. Car ownerships is likely to boom rather than recede, no matter what Wychavon put in place, and in all probability with the social movement currently enjoyed by the vast majority of the population then every household will on average have at least 2 electric/hydrogen etc cars, and if they have older children they too will have a car. Furthermore, with the green nature of future vehicles then the ‘Green’ argument for reducing greenhouse gases through restricting car ownership will have gone.
Pretending otherwise is both foolish and reckless and indicates a complete lack of vision and reality, as it will leave the surrounding areas in traffic chaos forever more, whilst those that created and indeed supported the problem either do not live here or will not be around to experience the aftermath. It was this same thinking that caused the parking chaos at Worcester Royal Hospital where insufficient parking was provided because it was ‘conveniently’ proposed that people would arrive by bus or taxi. In reality everyone arrives by car and the car parks are always full and residents in the surrounding roads are perpetually complaining of parked cars outside their houses, blocking roads and driveways. It may tick a planning box for a sustainable development but solar panels and solar farms should tick the box without making these non nonsensical assumptions.
To press the point, you are proposing building a new town in the middle of the countryside and then pretending everyone will then live and stay in this green utopia, which is a completely absurd and contra to all evidence. Jobs are no longer concentrated in town centres, instead they are in office parks, industrial estates and in other suburban locations, all well away from convenient railway stations and thus requiring a car borne commute. People may work at home but not all the time, they will therefore still require a car to go to work. Families will still want to visit friends and relatives, go shopping and spend their leisure time outside the area. Cars and people’s requirement for mobility are here to stay the only thing that may change is the vehicles method of propulsion.
2. Access to J7, M5 and traffic restrictions.
It was pointed out at the last meeting that the B4084 would be virtually blocked off for all traffic to and from the direction of Stoulton and that any route through to J7 would be difficult and tortuous with the intent on pushing all traffic to and from J6.
With your proposals all traffic from Pershore, Eckington, Drakes Broughton etc will now be pushed through either the 30 mph residential roads of Drakes Broughton or alternatively along Egdon Lane with the narrow railway bridge. The bridge is already too narrow for 2 lorries to pass and as it is a blind summit cyclists and pedestrians are already in considerable danger. Increasing traffic flows along Egdon Lane will inevitably result in casualties. Rather than concentrating solely on the issue of highway access through the new town, SWDP planners need to start considering a longer term and more viable solution, rather than just trying to isolate the new town from the existing road network.
In terms of traffic generation, the abandonment of the proposed new road up to the A44 is based on the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ view that because there is a railway station, garden town status and a mythical low car ownership then in the main people will either walk or cycle and accordingly there will be no new road requirement.
The long term and future proofed solution would be to build the new road up to the A44 thus alleviating the congestion on the existing road network and in addition allow the existing traffic flow to J7. If the planned town centre is adjacent to the B4084, then move it away from that road, it certainly does not need a railway station to make a town centre viable.
Removing the obligation to construct the proposed new access road from the A44 is in reality nothing more than a financial cost saving exercise and justified by the unevidenced assumption that being a garden town in the middle of the countryside means car ownership will be low. Removing this proposed road and preventing /severely restricting access to the M5 for local traffic will bring congestion and misery to the existing population in the immediate and further vicinity.
3. Town Centre
You are planning a town centre in the middle of a retail revolution. High streets across the UK are being decimated, retailers are falling into Administration, undertaking CVA’s etc just to stay in business and virtually the only thriving retail is online. What are you proposing for this town centre so as to make it viable and relevant for the future?
Sent by email – for and on behalf of the Parish Council’s and the respective Chair’s as detailed below:
Stoulton Parish Council
Drakes Broughton & Wadborough with Pirton Parish Council
Whittington Parish Council
Upton Snodsbury Parish Council