Current Concerns:

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An insight to our City and Current Concerns March/ April 2014
by Alex Samuels, member of SCAPPS

Parks and Open Spaces in the City Centre

The challenge facing the City, and indeed the nation, in contemporary times is to promote economic growth whilst at the same time protecting, and hopefully enhancing, the environment.
The Central Parks and other open spaces in the City Centre are particularly precious.  They are under constant abuse and threat of abuse.  Protecting them has never been more important.  They enhance the economy but help to attract people into the city.

Central Parks
The buses lay over in Vincent’s Walk and Poundtree Road.  They are incompatible with the Parks.  There is oil on the road.  People congregate.  Rubbish accumulates.  The drivers need facilities, so structures are provided for them.  The Parks are greatly diminished in quality and atmosphere by this abuse.
The commercial buildings in Above Bar face “inwards” to the precinct and they “turn their backs” on the Parks, presenting unattractive service doors. 
The Parks are divided by surrounding roads, Above Bar, New Road, Poundtree Road, creating pedestrian-vehicle conflict.


* Reflections on the recent Examination in Public into the City Centre Action Plan.  Mr Graham Linecar presented a strong and compelling case for protection of the parks and open spaces, ably supported by Mr Simon Hill.

The Parks are ringed with busy polluting traffic, on the Ring Road and East Park Terrace and Palmerston Road, so that peaceful tranquil atmosphere which they need is lacking.
Southampton Solent University adjoins Andrews Park, and several buildings adjoining or near the Parks house many students, who lack amenity and therefore play football and similar games in the Parks, an inappropriate use. 
Statutory undertakers, i.e. electricity, telephone, gas and water companies are entitled to lay pipes and cables under the surface and to erect substations on the surface.
The Georgians and the Victorians built elegant buildings surrounding the Parks, in appropriate style befitting the location.  Today one sees a “hotchpotch” of undistinguished modern buildings of varying heights, often too high, bearing no relationship to each other or to the Parks.  The prospect from the parks can be unpleasing.
The Central Parks should form a coherent, cohesive and unified unit, integrated into the City fabric, playing a central environmental and social and indeed economic role. 

Mayflower Park
At long last it is proposed to redevelop the waterfront, the Royal Pier Waterfront proposal.  Provided that adequate green open space is included, with fine views across to the New Forest and down Southampton Water, in principle the proposal is acceptable.  Mayflower Park is protected by statute.  Any reconfiguration will require parliamentary approval.  Any replacement land must be at least as big and at least as good in amenity value.  The proposal includes a link to Town Quay, owned by ABP, and it is fervently to be hoped that public access to the open end of Town Quay will be preserved. 

Queen’s Park
The end of the gyratory system around Queen’s Park is welcome, and will restore some tranquillity to the Park.  The dualling of Platform Road involves the relocation of Vokes’ Gardens, which is acceptable. 

Blechynden Terrace
Down by the railway station stood a warehouse built in Bursledon brick.  Destroyed by bombing in WWII, leaving only parts of the walls, the site was made into a pleasant little green open space.  The whole area north of the railway station is to be redeveloped, principally for offices and a transport hub, and the little green open space may be relocated and reconfigured.  In principle it should remain where and as it is (though preferably enhanced), though, if reconfigured, at least in an acceptable way in the public interest.

© Alec Samuels, 2014



          31 March-4 April 2014

A Government inspector held a public inquiry into the 'soundness' of the City Council's submitted City Centre Action Plan. The inquiry was organised into discussion of 7 'issues'; SCAPPS was represented at all & took an active part in discussion of 3 in particular.

Discussion in each session focussed on issues set by the inspector.  Many of these issues identified by the inspector directly reflected concerns expressed in SCAPPS' representations. The main issues of concern to SCAPPS were discussed under the headings of issues 1, 4 & 5.  The City Council's website includes relevant documents.


You can there find under the headings for issues1, 4 & 5 the hearing statements submitted by SCAPPS & the hearing statements from the City Council responding to the issues & questions from the inspector, many of which reflect concerns included in representations made by SCAPPS.

A dialogue will follow between the inspector & City Council to identify where changes should be made. Proposed amendments should be published for comment during  the summer.   




Agreed by SCAPPS Committee 16 October 2013



1     A test of 'soundness' is whether the Plan includes policies to guide development within the whole area of the Plan.  It does not.  Because of its emphasis on identifying major development sites, it leaves gaps where it fails to set out policies or proposals sufficient to guide development control decisions.  Part B sets out 'City Centre policies' but these are inadequate guidance for areas not detailed in the key site policies in Part C.  Policies in Part C focus on key development sites & give scant, if any, guidance for the rest of the zone.  The area south of Platform Road & east of, & including, Town Quay is within the Plan boundary but excluded from any of the zones in Part C (see map 15, City Quarters), yet is a key area for change & development & it is vital that the Plan sets guidance on uses, scale & design of structures & public access.  SCAPPS joins with others in questioning exclusion of the Eastern Docks from the Plan area (oddly, the area within the Plan referred to in the preceding sentence does include some port operational land). The Policies Map defines the extent of the safeguarding of port operational land in accordance with Core Strategy policy CS9, including outside the Action Plan boundary. Policy AP4 The Port should include objectives & constraints to be applied should ABP decide any part is no longer required for port purposes & can be disposed of for other use.


2    A second test is whether the Plan's provisions are balanced.  SCAPPS particular concern is that the proposed scale of development & levels of activity put pressure on the limited areas of green space provision (acknowledged in para 4.108).  The Central Parks already show signs of wear from pressure of use & damaging use (e.g. kick-about activity) in inappropriate areas.  The Plan acknowledges its only proposal for a major addition to green open space (as part of the Major Development Zone) will not happen until the end of the Plan period.  SCAPPS therefore proposes below an additional policy requiring preparation of a master plan setting out, inter alia, proposals to increase the resilience of the Central Parks to increased pressure of use & provide purpose-built kick-about areas to meet the needs of the increasing number of young persons living next to the Parks.  A supplementary concern about balance within the Plan is the inadequate recognition of, & consideration for, the needs of the substantial resident population already within the Plan area. 


3    A third test is robustness of wording.  Policies should be worded to give definite intent; they should not be prefaced by expressions such as 'will be expected to' & 'should' in place of the clear & definite 'will' & 'must'.  An example is in policy AP1 New Office Development which gives clear & definite locations for major office development but inexplicably & confusingly has tagged on the end 'other sites where appropriate'. This wording has no purpose (proposals outside locations defined in AP1 can be considered on their merits as departures from policy) & could be argued to make pointless the explicit allocations specified in the Policy. 



The Plan inadequately recognises the importance of the Central Parks.  They are included Grade II* on English Heritage's register of parks & gardens of special historic interest because they are an early example of a municipal park which retains its original layout substantially intact.  What has however changed is relationship between Parks & surrounding development.  Parks & surrounding buildings were conceived as a unified composition, the one complementing the other.  That relationship has been largely lost.  SCAPPS advocates inclusion of policies in the Plan that re-establish & strengthen links & relationships between Parks & surrounding development, & opposes policies which erode them.


The Plan gives inadequate recognition to the Central Parks' contribution to the City Centre's distinctive character & appeal.  Close proximity of Parks & central area shopping is an under-appreciated factor in determining Southampton's retail appeal.  The high usage levels of the newly renovated Houndwell Park children's play area shows how the Parks are used in association with shopping trips. 


Symbolic of the Plan's underlying inadequate appreciation of the significance of the Parks is that the Central Parks is the last quarter with the briefest coverage in Part C ---- it's the bit left over when all the development sites have been considered.   That is not how it should have been approached; the Parks should be interpreted & presented as being the heart of the City Centre & a critical component in sustaining the City Centre's commercial appeal & success.  The Plan's concentration on key development sites means that the policy framework relating to the setting of the Parks is fragmented, & inconsistent.  Policies & development proposals impinging on the Parks are included in no less than 6 of the Plan's quarters.  The quarters are defined so the Parks are not coherently considered, as they should have been,  in relation to the development facing on to them. 


Objection to AP17 & Map 12

(Policy AP17 'Tall buildings & structures will be permitted … To provide an edge to the Central Parks to increase the sense of enclosure & respond to the scale of the parks'. Applicable on frontages denoted by purple line 'Edge to Central Parks' on map 12.)


This policy is unsound 1) in its purpose 2) because the stated justification is spurious & flawed and 3) because of inconsistency with other policies. 

       1) The consequence of this policy could be a wall of tall buildings surrounding the Parks. Although later caveated in 4.171, including the caution that 'New buildings should not create uniform blocks of tall buildings', that is too little, too late because the policy wording would give rise to the expectation by landowners & developers that a tall building is acceptable on any of the frontages lined purple on map 12.

       2)  Tall buildings do not 'respond to the scale of the parks' &, encircled by tall buildings, the                                        sense of intrusion & loss of openness would give a highly undesirable & damaging 'sense of enclosure'. There is no justifiable aesthetic support for the policy & clear logic points to the exact opposite conclusion, that buildings which intrude in views from within the Parks should be avoided to protect the character & appeal of the Parks as a place of contrast to, & retreat from, the surrounding busy shopping & commercial/employment areas.

       3) The policy is contradicted by provisions within policies for individual quarters.  E.g. map 12 has the purple line along Kingsway/St Mary's Place but the reverse side of these sites face St Mary Street where design guidance in the St Marys quarter states 'Development … should be fine grain, predominantly 2 to 4 storeys'.  There is a similar dichotomy in design guidance in Above Bar requiring buildings over 4 storeys to be set back from that frontage where in fact plot depth between Above Bar & Sussex Road seem so restricted as to make that form of design impractical.


There has been a token change between draft & submission versions of this Plan by the insertion in design guidance for Heart of the City, St Marys, University & Bedford Place quarters of wording along the lines that 'Development should respect & enhance the park'.  Although welcome recognition of the sensitivity of sites facing the Parks, this is not in itself sufficient to remove the danger inherent in policy AP17 of buildings of a height, & therefore mass, which would cause significant damage to the character & sense of openness of the Central Parks.


Reference to the Central Parks in AP17 & the purple line on map 12 should be deleted.


Enhancing links from main shopping area to the Parks

SCAPPS has campaigned for strengthening of pedestrian links from Above Bar shopping to the Parks, for public realm improvements in Vincent's Walk & Sussex Road & the encouragement of redevelopment of a scale & quality that will enhance the setting of the Parks, secure removal of inappropriate & unsightly activities including bin storage, car parking & bus stand-over area & bring in uses such as bars & cafes allowing public appreciation & enjoyment of the Parks. There is passing reference in Design Guidance for Heart of the City quarter 'active commercial uses are encouraged on the park side' (of shopping premises in Above Bar) but this is not carried through to policy or proposal.


Proposal for additional policy

At this stage in plan preparation, it is too late to change format to one where the Central Parks are treated as the focus for planning policies in the surrounding area, not as peripheral to provisions set out for development sites.  As a compromise, SCAPPS proposes inclusion of a new policy requiring preparation through planning policy procedures (including public consultation) of a 'master plan' combining both park development plan & planning guidance for surrounding frontages.  The objective is a return to the original approach where what happened on surrounding frontages was related to layout of the Parks themselves.  It would secure coordinated planning of links to adjoining areas (especially Above Bar shopping & links between the Solent University campuses),  give greater detail to the Plan's somewhat vague proposals for routes & links through the Parks (& how they relate to, & tie-in with, what is proposed  in adjoining areas) & give more detail & meaning on a frontage/site specific basis to the intention that 'development (facing the Parks) should respect & enhance the setting of the Parks'.  It should include proposals for public realm improvements securing stronger pedestrian links from Above Bar shopping to the Parks & guidance for redevelopment & environmental improvements in Vincent's Walk & Sussex Road.



There's been a progressive loss of Southampton's waterfront, The Platform as the Eastern Docks grew, West Quay & Western Shore with the reclamation creating the Western Docks & more recently through the Red Funnel car ferry terminal severing the Old Town at Town Quay from the water.  What's left is precious ---- Mayflower Park & the pier of Town Quay. We've also progressively lost visual connection to the water & shipping movements as buildings have blocked-off outward views. These had given a tangible reminder of Southampton's maritime history & its continuing connection with shipping. Again, what's left is precious & should be protected & defended.


The most important remaining views to the water are from the western Town Walls, from within the Old Town (notably from Tudor House) & looking down Bugle Street & French Street.  Policy AP24 is worded 'Development will be permitted which … (vi) Retains & enhances strategic views to & from the Old Town & Town Walls'.  Strategic views are defined in AP16 & map 11. The list includes 'River Test from the Town Walls & from the bottom of Bugle Street &/or French Street', 'Mayflower Park from the Town Walls (south of The Arcade)' & 'Old Town from Mayflower Park' & 'open-up appropriate (why include the word 'appropriate'?) views of the waterfront, cruise liners &/or shipping movements from public spaces, boulevards & streets'.  SCAPPS will fight to ensure this includes all views listed above, including both from Bugle Street & French Street.  There should be no policy acceptance that one or other can be sacrificed to secure a viable development at Royal Pier.  The wording in AP16 & paragraph 5.51 should be that both views 'must' be retained.


Policy AP24 sets policy guidance for a development which will largely destroy Mayflower Park.  SCAPPS remains extremely anxious about this development.  Design guidance preceding AP24 requires that 'an overall development scheme plan should be prepared for this quarter in line with this Plan showing how high quality design will be delivered & an overall level of consistency & coherence achieved'.  SCAPPS expects public consultation on that overall scheme in advance of pre-application consultation so issues raised can be taken into account in preparation of the planning application. Criteria listed in AP24 cover issues of concern to SCAPPS but we are sceptical that all can be achieved (in particular protection of the strategic views listed in AP16 & provision of continuous public access to the waterfront) & a viable development package secured.  SCAPPS proposes inclusion of an additional criterion, that there should be public access to the waterfront throughout construction.  This would protect waterfront access should development become protracted or falter. 


SCAPPS notes with concern an alteration between draft & submission versions of this Plan removing Town Quay from the development site & from Policy AP24 as shown on map 20.  The submission Plan must include guidance about Town Quay, Town Quay Marina & detail uses south of Platform Road including land within the operational area of the port & land previously released from port use.


The Plan should include planning policies safeguarding public access to the pier at Town Quay.  SCAPPS proposes that the requirement in criterion viii of AP24 for 'a continuous waterfront promenade' should include the requirement that it be extended to link to & include the open, southward pointing jetty or pier of Town Quay.  That part of Town Quay should be a continuation of the intended marine promenade &, like the promenade, designated as public open space.  Planning guidance should strictly limit the scale of any buildings on the pier to that commensurate with it becoming a 'seaside pier' with water on both sides & long prospects from the end down Southampton Water.  In that way, Southampton can be somewhat compensated for what has been lost & regain a little of the waterfront/seafront character it once had.

(Wording in Policy AP22 is at variance with City Council policy.  Change wording from public open space at Blechynden Terrace 'can be redeveloped' to 'will be retained' as part of a comprehensive scheme on the northern side of the Central Station, which SCAPPS is assured is the City Council's intention.)


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