“Placemaking” certainly was the buzz word at the recent Built Environment South Coast Development Conference.
The conference gave an opportunity for key stakeholders in the region to come together to talk about plans for economic growth for the region and reflect on how this will affect our built environment and communities in the future post-pandemic world.
And while the pandemic is likely to be with us for a while longer, the speakers were keen to stress this has not thwarted their regeneration plans for the local area. In fact, there are some ambitious schemes afoot already taking advantage of our unique coastal and countryside location, which provide the perfect setting for work, rest and play.
Exciting developments on the way
One such scheme in the pipeline from Bournemouth Borough Council is the re-development of the former power station at Holes Bay, Poole to provide 800+ homes, the aim of which is to create a beautiful place to live that is sustainable and well connected to the town centre. However, while the council looks for a partner to deliver the project, the devil, as always, will be in the detail!
Similarly, Portsmouth City Council is concentrating its efforts to promote the long-awaited multi-tenure re-development of Tipner West, an ambitious scheme to open up the waterfront – involving substantial land reclamation – to deliver a one million sq ft marine employment campus and up to 4,000 homes. Their drivers are legacy, using regeneration to improve health and sustainability and reconnecting lives and jobs with the sea. Natasha McIntyre-Hall (Assistant Director of Strategic Developments at Portsmouth City Council) delivered an impressive presentation, and her enthusiasm to create inclusive, flexible developments to create safe and inclusive communities was inspiring.
Need to connect communities
The sticking point to growth and development of housing along the south coast is the lack of decent infrastructure. Connectivity to existing local communities is high on the agenda for the Manydown development in Basingstoke through the partnership with Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and Hampshire County Council, which has the potential to deliver 8,000+ new homes. Although the scheme has been a long time coming (the site was acquired in 1996), the positive news is that outline planning permission was granted in July 2020. Their next challenge through the detailed design phase will be to create new garden communities, which are connected through a series of countryside and ecology corridors, combined with living, learning, leisure and work, with high quality infrastructure and connectivity.
The lack of good quality affordable housing was also on the agenda, with the local authority speakers agreeing that housing targets are strong and difficult to meet. It was great to hear from Vivid Homes (one of the largest affordable housing providers in the area) utilising their strategic partnership with Homes England to help deliver schemes at Chapel Gate Basingstoke, North Town Aldershot and the former prison at Kingston Portsmouth.
Hitting our net-zero carbon targets
The commitment to net-zero carbon and the green agenda is also crucial to sustainable re-development along the south coast, however, it was clear the delivery of green housing is becoming more difficult to stack up economically with the other challenges presented by the pandemic and Brexit. On the practical side, although small incremental changes can be delivered through providing electric car charging points and use of renewable technologies for housing, Dover District Council was quick to mention that, if local authorities want to meet their net-zero carbon commitments, then more radical action is required, such as investing in solar, tidal and wind power. With this in mind, it will be interesting to see if Portsmouth Water’s major £120m reservoir project at Havant Thicket can deliver its promised eco-system benefits, as well as a possible route to dealing with nitrate mitigation to unlock planning schemes in the local area. In the meantime, Portsmouth Water is making steps in the right direction through piloting small scale floating solar projects in the region.
The future is bright
Personally, I’ve always been an advocate of the south coast as being a fantastic place to live, and with housebuilders and local authorities committing to long-term, sustainable development in the area as custodians for placemaking, the future is looking bright for the region. We now just need to keep the momentum of current schemes going to encourage the private sector that the south coast is a region worth investing in.