Macclesfield Civic Society
Working for a town to be proud of
Keith Smith – 57 Orme Crescent – Tytherington – Macclesfield – SK10 2HU – 01625 424101
CHESHIRE EAST COUNCIL
Regeneration Team - Macclesfield
MACCLESFIELD STRATEGIC REGENERATION FRAMEWORK – PUBLIC CONSULTATION
I am writing to set out the views of the Macclesfield Civic Society on the recent consultation. In framing the comments I have taken account not only the published material but also the views of our Committee and Members. In order to be brief I am confining comments to the contents of Chapters 5 (draft spatial framework) and 6 (Draft Strategic Action) of the consultation document. There are a number of site specific comments which have previously been submitted and these are contained in an appendix to this letter for your consideration.
Spatial framework – Chapter 5.
The Society broadly agrees with the character areas identified in Figure 5.1 as a basis for areal differentiation and policy formulation and we generally support the approach set out in paragraphs 5.2-5.3. With regard to paragraphs 5.5 – 5.6 we agree the need to enhance car parks and the public realm – both have been somewhat neglected and it is essential to catch up, not least on issues such as surfacing, efficiency of car park layouts and access for disabled. For the Jordangate West Area there should be recognition of the presence of valued and valuable housing of various types and tenures in Cumberland Street. This should be retained, consistent with other policy objectives for regeneration. We support appropriate redevelopment in the Jordangate East Area, subject to formulation of planning briefs as or when sites come forward.
For the Waters Green Area (paragraphs 5.7-5.9) we agree the need to rationalise car parking in the vicinity of the station subject to careful assessment of future needs for commuter parking and examination of alternatives which could free up land for alternative uses (several area proposed later in the strategy). It is accepted that signage and pedestrian linkages to the town centre require improvement though these are largely as a result of topography and long established land use and movement patterns which may be difficult to alter. Waters Green is an important public space – formerly used as the site of one of several markets in the town (and before that as water meadow pasture !) and it may be tricky to marry the need for parking close to the station with public use of the space for recreation/leisure.
With regard to the retail core (paragraphs 5.10-5.15) we agree with the emphasis set out and the need to improve circulation. The Society does not agree, indeed strongly opposes, the redevelopment of the Exchange Street Car Park – this is the most convenient car park for the retail core, particularly for disabled persons or those with mobility issues. There is an urgent need to resurface and remark this area to rationalise the layout and provide some landscape enhancement for the setting of the Listed Heritage Centre. There may be some scope for some redevelopment of the Churchill Way Car Park (though not for retail use given the severance provided by Churchill Way itself) retaining car parking as a major element. In the short term there is every imperative to resurfacing and remarking, including the demolition of the disused former retail building opposite Exchange Street and the incorporation of its side into the car park itself.
For Duke Street we would support solutions such as decking to increase provision (perhaps in a similar manner to Pavilion Gardens in Buxton) and general resurfacing and remarking to rationalise provision. We support improvements to the Grosvenor Centre (recently extended and remodelled) and its car park but recognising that the circulation at roof top height is critical to servicing of the Grosvenor Centre itself. We support the broad objectives set out in paragraph 5.16.
With regard to the draft framework and emerging Master Plan (paragraphs 5.17-5.19) we agree with the components identified but need to see what and how tactical measures can be devised to put such objectives into effect within a reasonable time scale (say up to 5 years). The Master Plan may set out a broad strategy but requires further work to provide a nexus to tactical implementation. The components are expressed in, understandably, broad terms and it is difficult to disagree with their scope but without further work to elaborate what is necessary to put them into effect the Strategy will not become operational or a sound basis for Development Management or provide confidence for investors. To paraphrase Lenin “what is to be done, who is to do it, how are they to do it and who will resource it”?
Draft Strategic Actions – Chapter 6 – paragraphs 6.2-6.8.
Grow Population – The growth will comprise more than just the South Macclesfield Development Area. All the Strategic allocations in the local plan are already committed and may be expected to proceed in the period up to 2030 and perhaps beyond. We agree the analysis but local destination choice for future residents depends upon transport and movement planning on a town wide scale for both private and public transport.
Leisure and evening economy – Agreed but reference to the events space near the station is somewhat vague given the comments we made earlier regarding dual objectives which may conflict and require resolution at an operational/tactical level.
Connectivity – Broadly agree but references to strategic rail and HS2 require elaboration given current uncertainties.
Distinctiveness – Agreed.
Historic buildings etc – Agreed but again who is to what is required and how ?
Raise aspirations – Who is to do this ? Many groups and individuals have aspirations which they seek to achieve – sometimes they clash. Who is to arbitrate and how ?
Strong Strategic Leadership – The link between the strategic framework and implementation is not entirely clear, perhaps as a result of the terms of reference set for the study but there is a need for specific recommendations with regard to implementation.
Enhancement to the physical environment – Agreed but tactical measures must be devised, tested and set out for implementation.
Improved connectivity – Agreed but see above.
We note the number of plots with potential for improvement – see appendix below for our views. Many have been in this category for some time. There needs to be some strategic and tactical thinking about what could be done with each – some have ongoing proposals. Are there sufficient resources of officer time and numbers to negotiate with landowners and perhaps stimulate them into action ? Early action on even a few sites could give a vote of confidence that something is being done – this may need both public and private action. If we may venture an opinion – we would suggest the Old Kings Head and Three Pigeons site would be a prime candidate for early intervention.
Hoping that you find these comments of interest and use I remain
Keith Smith, Chairman, Macclesfield Civic Society
7 March 2019
APPENDIX TO COMMENTS ON MACCLESFIELD TOWN CENTRE STRATEGIC REGENERATION FRAMEWORK – submitted 7 December 2018.
Cheshire East Council
Macclesfield Town Centre Liaison Group
SOME THOUGHTS ON THE ISSUES AND PROPSPECTS FOR MACCLESFIELD TOWN CENTRE REGENERATION
I am sorry that I am unable to attend the briefing session on 18 December but the Civic Society will be represented by several Members of the Committee who will update me on developments. I note the employment of external consultants to develop another regeneration strategy as opposed to site specific proposals. Hopefully once finalised the private and public sectors can push things forward and bring or stimulate much needed investment in the centre.
In the interim there are some areas of the town centre that require urgent attention but which, if tackled early on, would provide opportunities for developers and others to invest. These are :
Exchange Street car park – this may and should be retained in the future pattern of uses for the town centre but it is in poor condition and badly needs resurfacing, remarking and an increase id disabled spaces. The paving of the surrounding area (streets and shop forecourts) also require attention to remove changes of level and uneven surfacing.
Churchill Way car park – whilst this may be a development site in whole or in part at present it is a major car park for the centre but suffers from poor surfacing and tortuous circulation. Remarking of spaces and the demolition of the former parcels depot and its incorporation into the car park would increase provision and also remove an unsightly building. Could the building in the north-west corner be incorporated into the car park and increase the provision as well as facilitating redevelopment should this be decided upon ?
Duke Street car park – similar considerations to Churchill Way, particularly if this is to remain as the largest surface car park – remarking and upgrading of surfaces and improvement of pedestrian links off-site will be necessary. The site of Sutton Castings is being used as a temporary car park – this could continue but with the prospect of future redevelopment – given recent land use changes in the adjacent Roe Street terrace then perhaps residential would be the best option here – it is quite an extensive site with changes of level and has potential for an interesting scheme.
The former Halle Models factory currently occupied by Arighi Bianchi (who are relocating to Adlington) has potential for a variety of town centre uses and may be suitable for a mixed development incorporating some residential elements.
Three Pigeons/Old kings Head site – this is a blight on the town centre and the lack of any action has gone on far too long to the extent the Old Kings Head may be irredeemable. We note the proposals in the forthcoming Local Development Order for this and other sites but e think there is a strong case for CPO action perhaps preceded by a Repairs Notice in respect of the Listed Building, leading to a possible direction for minimum compensation. Redevelopment of this site, more than any other, would boost regeneration in this part of the centre.
Whalley Hayes car park – could become much more important as a town centre car park particularly if the proposals for reuse of the former Picture Drome in Chestergate come to fruition. Although the car park is in reasonable condition attention is needed to linkages and signposting into the centre along Chestergate and King Edward Street.
There is a steady flow of proposals for changes of use or conversion of premises to residential use in the town centre and throughout the town centre – sometimes several per month- this is encouraging and also potentially increases footfall and activity for town centre businesses. This is coupled with the process of converting surplus retail space into other appropriate town centre uses (food and drink, cultural and artistic/entertainment uses) –which should be encouraged subject to appropriate development management.
A number of significant sites close to the town centre are coming forward for residential development which also stimulates footfall and town centre activity. Examples are the Westminster Road/Coare Street redevelopment schemes; future residential development of the main Kings School site on Cumberland Street as well of redevelopment of town centre fringe sites to the east of the railway in the Green Street/Canal Street areas. There is a downside in that such schemes will also bring increased traffic and congestion which could be difficult to resolve given the physical characteristics and topography of the town centre and the road network.
The promotion of Local development Orders (subject to a current consultation exercise) may be useful though we suspect that their uptake will be limited given the complexity of the terms of the Order and the accompanying conditions/limitations. We are submitting separate comments on this initiative. We note that the areas selected are focused on what may be perceived as problem sites – perhaps the greatest benefit may be that the Order will establish (for a period of 5 years) “fall back” or baseline position for landowners that attributes potential development value and thereby attracts potential investors – we shall see.
We note the forthcoming scheme for Castle Street and hope that this proceeds to fruition. The surfacing should deal with current problems and constraints on access for wheelchairs because of steps and uneven surfaces. Could the scheme incorporate some covered space or spaces if there is to be any al fresco activity – such as lightweight supports and non-glass glazing as this might allow such space to be uses all year (and during Treacle Markets) – global warming has yet to reach Macclesfield !
Craven House – is the current scheme (18/4423M) to develop, in effect, about 100 bedsits a good idea ? although it increases substantially the residential element in the town centre how is this to be managed and what are the social implications of such a concentration ? Whilst some conversion may be appropriate perhaps a more optimum solution would be redevelopment, perhaps with some adjacent underused buildings.
Surfacing in Mill Street – this is becoming a major issue for wheelchair users because of broken or loose pavers, uneven surfacing and changes of texture in the surfacing. Also the Traffic Regulation Order should be reviewed to lessen the time for deliveries and enhance the pedestrian environment accordingly.
On the periphery we welcome the early commencement of the Lidl scheme at The Towers and the Peaks and Plains redevelopment of Frosts Mill at Park Green – these schemes will give a boost to the southern end of the centre.
At the Strategic Level we welcome the approach set out in Policy RET11 Macclesfield Town Centre in the Site Allocations and Development Policies Document.
Finally, to assist developers and landowners it is suggested that within the Development Management Section a nominated officer should deal with minor applications such as shop fronts, adverts, changes of use and other minor proposals within Macclesfield town centre (perhaps also for Crewe) with the aim of turning applications around under delegated powers within 4 weeks (statutory requirements permitting). This would give applicants a single contact and also build an effective working relationship between the Council and persons seeking to initiate welcome development.
Hoping that you find these comments of interest and use.
Keith Smith, Chairman, Macclesfield Civic Society
7 December 2018