Great Parks 2 – A Masterplan Gone (Going) Horribly Wrong
Warning: This analysis started off being written in a factual manner. As time wore on it suffered from cynicism and then anger (yes, really).
This is a story of something that could have been (indeed, still could be) a housing development that lives up to its own publicity but instead is on track to be a sell out. A sell out to the very concept of "master planning" and resident consultation.
It typifies why people have lost faith in both the planning process and the councils that oversee planning that process.
Let's start at the beginning: In 2013, Torbay Council engaged in a public consultation to develop a masterplan for an area of land located on the western boundary of Torbay (in fact, the town of Paignton, that is one of three towns that comprise the planning authority that is Torbay; the others being Torquay and Brixham).
Being on the western boundary, and high up a hill, is important because the development can be sold as having views of the green valley to the west, and sea views to the east. A great place to live, as marketing hype likes to say.
The consultation resulted in a 90-page informative document: “Paignton Great Parks Enquiry-by-Design Masterplan Report”. The report is classified as “Supplementary Planning Guidance” so it carries a lot of weight. Or, at least, it should.
The overall aims for the masterplan are to secure:
- A co-ordinated and sustainable phase 2 development
- Greater certainty on the location, style, scale of development, access and infrastructure arrangements;
Here we illustrate how the Masterplan (and wishes of the residents) is being ripped apart. The best way to do this is to work through the Masterplan by doing a before and after visual comparison. It then becomes (painfully) obvious.
The issue is this: A carefully designed and consulted plan for a community housing development has an over-sized, out-of-character, supermarket (and carpark) transplanted onto its most important location, destroying the basic premise of the entire development!
Firstly, the boundaries of the site. The supermarket is shown by a black-rectangle overlay. It has a large carpark as well as the building; and we all know how visually appealing carparks are.
Torbay Council, Torbay Economic Development Company, the landowners and the local community have been working together to bring forward the development of Great Parks Phase 2.
In March 2013, an'Enquiry-by-Design' (EbD) event was held at Great Parks and Foxhole Community Centres in Paignton. This extended over 3 days and was attended by over 100 local residents, Councillors, Torbay Council officers, landowners, statutory agencies and other key stakeholders.
The engagement process brought specialists in design, planning, transport, engineering and the environment together with the community. It enabled key decisions to be made openly during the process and a level of mutual understanding and trust to be established between key parties. A continuous and intensive event encouraged a more collaborative design process with a greater sense of ownership. The vision, principles and masterplan which emerged during this event are at the heart of this report and its recommendations.
So all well and good. Especially the bit about "mutual understanding and trust".
Bearing that in mind, how does the black-outlined supermarket and carpark strike you?
Thursday 10 December 2020 21:46
We already have 2 Lidls in Paignton along with 4 supermarkets we don't need another and another set of traffic lights (if that's the suggestion) would hold up the traffic even more.
It's an over-used glossy marketing word but the word 'vision' is important here. The Masterplan isn't just a load of shoebox houses contributing to urban sprawl. It is/was actually planned to be a decently-scaled development with facilities for residents more akin to a village community.
So what's now being proposed isn't an out-of-town supermarket; this is a centre-of-village large supermarket and carpark.
The vision for Great Parks responds positively to the site and surrounding area to deliver a high quality environment for new homes and community facilities with improved connections and access to green space.
Thursday 10 December 2020 21:52
Improved connections & access to green space? Slowing the traffic on an already congested stretch of road & destroying more fields & hedges to provide access to green sites?!
A new Community Park and local centre lie at the heart of this opportunity.
The park will offer access through a network of trails for walking and cycling, with picnic areas, natural play spaces, allotments, bridle ways and areas for dog walking and bird watching.
The prominence of Great Parks phase 2 to the Kings Ash Road will help establish a more viable opportunity for a local centre. This facility will bring residents together and reinforce a sense of community and discourage car use.
It is very dis-heartening to see that the supermarket planning application attempts to redefine what is meant by "local centre". In order to get around the obvious: that a supermarket and carpark is not a "local centre", it has been suggested that a couple of small additional shops could be added to the supermarket site; thereby creating a "centre".
Not sure how a large out-of-town supermarket carpark "discourages car use", are you?
Thursday 10 December 2020 21:57
How are people supposed to get to & from the supermarket & their homes?
There won't be any birds to watch either if fields & hedges are destroyed.
Views of sea and country
Great Parks is set on a plateau of higher ground within a valley system on the western edge of Paignton. This elevated position enables spectacular views of both sea and country. Feature views, over the rooftops to the Torbay coastline to the east and to the steep green valley slopes to the west, provide a constant reference of the site's unique location. Great Parks phase 2 must capture this potential as a defining characteristic of the development.
The north western corner of the site in particular presents an opportunity for a public viewing space which links between the development and the Community Park. 'Evening hill' would be an accessible attraction for everyone to enjoy panoramic views and sunsets over the valley and coastline.
Unfortunately the spectacular views from "Evening Hill" will now be over the roof of a large supermarket (in the heart of the green and pleasant community village); not to mention the supermarket lighting which will be switched on (very) late into the evening.
But, on the plus side, people sat in their cars queueing for a parking space may well have panoramic views!
Thursday 10 December 2020 22:00
All this guff was obviously written by someone in an office who hasn't visited the site or looked at the plans.
Green and leafy feel
Great Parks will become Paignton's permanent western edge and should therefore provide a gradual transition to the adjoining countryside. Establishing an interesting and varied change from the existing urban character of phase-1 to the rural edge of phase-2 will be essential.
Incorporating important trees and hedgerows, and introducing new native planting can help create a 'green and leafy' character across the site [except for the supermarket and carpark] to achieve this transition. New tree planting will define streets and spaces and frame attractive views to the countryside and coast. New public green spaces will provide opportunities for play and recreation and connect to a network of green routes and to the Community Park.
Of course the green spaces will now be lesser due to the, wait for it, large supermarket and carpark. A green and leafy carpark would be a breakthrough in carpark design.
New homes for all
The development will provide greater choice for local people and attract new residents to support local businesses and facilities.
Ah but, the national-chain supermarket is not a "local business" by any stretch of the imagination. Its planning application provides great detail in explaining that it will take trade away from local businesses.
A variety of tenures, including affordable homes, will ensure the development is accessible for all with opportunities created for self-building and live work units. Great Parks phase 2 will therefore deliver a modern, distinctive and integrated extension to Paignton.
Several points here:
There will be nothing "distinctive" about a large national supermarket and carpark. Quite the opposite.
In order for developers to make a development "viable", they will inevitably try to squeeze more houses into the now considerably smaller remaining area of land. We see this every time. And, which homes suffer the most: affordable housing. Both in terms of number provided and quality of build.
At this point, we hear the argument that the Masterplan is purely "indicative" and doesn't show the actual number of houses that would be built. Try telling residents that the pretty pictures on which they were consulted mean diddely-squat when the bulldozers come.
A development offset of between 5m and 10m along the western and northern boundaries would help safeguard these sensitive corridors.
Potential was identified at the Enquiry-by-Design to provide improved access through a network of trails for walking and cycling, with picnic areas, natural play spaces, bridle ways and areas for dog walking and bird watching. Farm or grazing land will also be maintained and areas created for community allotments.
There will be no "development offset" at the northern edge of the large supermarket and carpark.
The best that can be said relating to this heading of "ecology" is the damage done before the supermarket and carpark planning application has even been heard by the planning committee.
Friday 11 December 2020 10:00
What is scrubland? You are using this almost as a derogitory term. It is actually a wildlife habitat, a sanctuary for small animals and an area of intense carbon sink due to its density. In the way it is written above you may as well said wasteland. Just because man has not yet built on it does not mean that it is valueless for the Planet. What is happening to Torbay's Green Belt?
Public transport connections
The connection from Heligan Drive would link directly to the new local centre where a bus stop could encourage greater access to the facility and reinforce the centre as a "community hub".
Despite a lot of thought, it is quite impossible to view a large supermarket and carpark as a "community hub". When that is lost, so too is the basis of Great Parks 2 being a community development.
Walking and cycling
Integration between development phases and connections with key facilities such as the school, public transport nodes and the proposed local centre will require new and improved pedestrian and cycle links.
Note the continual use of the term "local centre". Try replacing the term "local centre" with "large supermarket and carpark" and see if the Masterplan still has the attraction it had after the public consultation.
Failure of phase 1 [of Great Parks] to deliver a local centre facility requires the existing community to walk more than a 10 minutes to a local shop. This, coupled with the steep slopes and difficulty crossing Kings Ash Road, encourages people to travel by car to access local shops at Foxhole and beyond. A key objective agreed at the event is for phase 2 to provide a local centre facility for new and existing residents at Great Parks. This will include the provision of local shop(s) and flexible space for further community facilities or services.
Well, there we have it. A "key objective" is being removed. This throws into doubt the entire "Enquiry-by-Design" process and views of the residents.
Phase 2 will provide a permanent edge to Paignton and must ensure an appropriate transition to the rural edge through development densities and character. Street tree planting was identified at the EbD as critical to achieve this and street arrangements will be designed accordingly.
Of course, this "tree planting" does not apply to the large area taken up by the supermarket and carpark. And since when has a large supermarket and carpark been "an appropriate transition"?
Local property market
Lower density development characterised by detached properties set within larger plots and new landscape planting would respond appropriately to the visually sensitive rural site edges to the north and west, and could generate potentially high sales values. The proposed new Community Park, local centre facility and improvements to access and movement will enhance the offer of the area and bring significant added value shared across the development.
The "significant added value" now vanishes. Who wants to live next to a large supermarket and carpark; blocking the "visually sensitive" rural site edges to the north?
An over arching aim for the masterplanning process was to engage the local community in developing and testing a site vision.
Who wants to let the local community, that was engaged in developing a site vision, about the large supermarket and carpark?
The event was advertised on community partnership webpages, within local shops and community centres alongside a general press release. Over 1,000 invitation flyers, email and letters were sent out promoting the event locally
Two alternative location options for a new local centre with a visible frontage to Kings Ash Road.
The "visible frontage" is now... you've guessed it... a large supermarket and carpark.
The Design Review Panel commended the 'careful engagement with residents and other stakeholders that has been a feature of the project thus far and the Enquiry-by-Design appears to have made a great deal of progress in establishing the basic principles of the development'.
The panel review process provided the opportunity to consider key elements of the masterplan in greater depth in seeking to define the best possible framework for a successful new neighbourhood at Great Parks.
The Enquiry-by-Design event established a framework masterplan to deliver a 'high quality environment for new homes and community facilities with improved access to green space.
Access and movement
The proposed junction position on Kings Ash Road was supported at the Enquiry-by-Design event to establish a new crossroads at Spruce Way. The access will serve the local centre, new homes and create a welcoming gateway to Great Parks.
The "welcoming gateway" is now a road leading to, and past, a large supermarket and carpark.
The frontage location at Kings Ash Road and improved pedestrian crossing arrangements will help integrate the local centre with the wider community at Foxhole. This will serve to increase the potential catchment area and create a more viable context for local convenience retail.
Ouch! What will now be "integrated" with the wider community at Foxhole is... a busier main road and a large supermarket and carpark. And the idea of "local convenience retail" largely vanishes under a large supermarket and carpark.
Through the Enquiry-by-Design it was identified the local centre could also provide flexible floor space to accommodate other community and service uses such as hairdressers, dry cleaners or take-away restaurant.
Nope (except for the small pieces of land allocated (for purchase) at the front of the supermarket carpark). The fact that two small areas have been set aside indicates that the planning application for the large supermarket and carpark accepts that the "local centre" will be eradicated.
Residential apartments can be provided at upper floors helping to reinforce the ground activities and bring natural surveillance to the courtyard space. Apartments would also benefit from attractive views to the coast. Participants however were keen to ensure that all facilities were not concentrated in one location to avoid alienating parts of the wider community. It was agreed the new local centre should complement existing community facilities at Great Parks and Foxhole and efforts made to maximise their potential.
Oh dear. Now, there will be no apartments (unless the supermarket wants to build them on its roof), let alone "courtyard space". And the supermarket is hardly going to "complement" anything; rather it will take business away from Foxhole and Kings Ash Road shops... not to mention Preston and Town Centre retail shops. This is not up for debate: the planning application admits it and is dependent on taking that trade.
Streets and spaces
A "green and leafy" character was identified at the Enquiry-by-Design as an integral part of the site vision to create an attractive environment for living and an appropriate response to the rural edge position. New native planting will complement retained mature trees and hedgerows to integrate development sensitively with the surrounding rural landscape. The importance of street trees and front garden planting in bringing greenery to the streets was emphasised at the EbD to ensure a "green feel" across the site through the route network.
This is so important. How to create a "green and leafy character" around a large supermarket and carpark?
The new local centre will occupy a prominent position on higher ground to the north west of the site, where a visible landmark building can define the new access. High quality public realm materials can define the boundary to the local centre and announce arrival at Great Parks.
The "vision" goes out of the window. The "prominent position" is now taken by a large supermarket and carpark. On the plus side (!) the "visible landmark building" will be a large supermarket.
Community hub and arrival
This is the community heart of the scheme. A new access to the Kings Ash Road will provide the main approach to the development and serve a new local centre positioned on the higher ground.
The local centre will be served by new public transport connections to create a community hub and a sustainable location to support higher density development.
A landscaped courtyard will provide public car parking to support the retail unit(s) and a welcoming arrival space.
A new landscaped edge along the eastern boundary will support a pedestrian access route to the local centre in front of terrace dwellings stepping up the slope.
A natural stone feature wall can define the local centre boundary at the corner of the new junction and create a positive sense of arrival at the site gateway.
The community hub is important to "support higher density development". Without a community hub do you honestly believe that density development will actually go down?
We don't need a "natural stone feature wall" now that we will have a large supermarket and carpark to give that "positive sense of arrival".
Centre green is characterised by an enclosed public open space at the core of the development area. The space will provide an attractive green setting for the new dwellings to bring life, activity and a sense of safety to encourage informal recreation and play in this area.
The western and northern edges adjoin open countryside where new development will form a permanent edge to Paignton.
It's important to realise that a road and supermarket will actually form a large section of the northern edge, and the "Centre Green" will inevitably be much smaller now that more houses have to be squeezed onto the remaining land. Rabbit hutches here we come.
The layout follows the core development principles defined through the EbD masterplan and illustrates the creation of distinctive character areas across the site.
So, where's that "distinctive character" once a large supermarket and carpark is plonked in it?
It defines dwelling plots, building footprints and arrangements for access and parking all set within the framework of the agreed Enquiry-by-Design block masterplan.
Note also the word "illustrative". From the community' point of view, this is a masterplan; not an illustration of what could be built. Sure, there will be tweaks and adjustments but all-too-often we have seen so-called masterplans "illustrating" 40 houses to be replaced by planning applications trying to build 100 (to which there is a "compromise" of 70). Which naturally begs the question: what is the point of the consultation and masterplan?
Especially if the "plan" it may be 'amended' with a large supermarket and carpark!
The development will be residential led, but will also incorporate the potential for retail and community floor space as part of a flexible mixed use local centre. It is estimated that between 300 sqm and 550 sqm of commercial and community floor space can be generated at the local centre.
Note: "between 300 and 550 square metres"... The supermarket "requiring" for its business model 2,175sq.m. is a tad larger.
The "potential" for "community floor space as part of a flexible mixed use local centre is gone.
We have to build homes. Ideally they should be on brownfield not greenfield sites.
But, once the community has been involved to develop a MASTERPLAN for an area, it should be seen through.
After only six years, along comes a large national supermarket chain (that can see a business opportunity) and wallop! the development so-carefully consulted and planned risks being thrown out of the window.
We do not want to be in the position of saying "how did we let that happen, yet another estate with crammed-together houses and no sense of community".
Oh and by the way, we need to properly plan the provision and access to sources of healthy food. This can no longer be left to the whims of multinational food giants.
Is it any wonder why local people lose faith in the planning process?
Friday 11 December 2020 08:34
Over the last eighteen months I have noticed the traffic volume increasing from Preston Down to Tweenaway. I travel this route twice a day on average and at different times of the day. The questions to be asked are .......What increase in Traffic Volume, Air and Noise level will a New Lidl bring? Perhaps TC have already calculated Current and Post Completion levels?
Thursday 10 December 2020 20:05
This needs a proper publicly aired consultation. Trying to do it via the internet is frankly hopeless. Covid restrictions may well mean that any public attended meeting is not possible in the present climate; that being so, decisions on this development should be postponed until such time as it is possible to have a publicly aired debate. After all, Covid restrictions will not be with us forever but the Great Parks development will be.
Could it be that certain parties have spotted that Covid restrictions on large public gatherings, i.e. public enquiries will not happen therefore little if any objections will be heard and so can be virtually ignored so now is a good time to press ahead ?
On a further note; how many houses are expected to be built on this site ? Looking at the plans it would seem to be a very large conglomeration, no doubt attracting families. Where will the children play ? Oh yes, on the supermarket carpark. I forgot about that.
Sorry but whilst I like and shop frequently do, at Lidl I do not see this as the proper place for a supermarket, far better to have a row of smaller shops serving the community, e.g. butcher, newsagent, takeaway, hairdresser etc. and a community centre that can host; mother and toddlers, mobile library, and all of the other things that village halls get used for..