A SUMMARY OF THE MEETING OF THE BOURNEMOUTH CIVIC SOCIETY EXECUTIVE SUB-COMMITTEE ON FRIDAY 15 OCTOBER 2021, TO DISCUSS THE NEW LOCAL PLAN FOR THE FUTURE DEVELOPMENT OF BOURNEMOUTH
Present: Jean Bird, Elaine Cooper, Jean-Daniel Kursner and John Soane
(Note these notes and comments were discussed and “signed off” by the full Committee on 25th October)
There was a general feeling that the Local Plan contained many good aspirations: the sustaining of vibrant communities and neighbourhoods; the enhancement of economic activities; the protection of the unique environment of the town and the creation of a better transport infrastructure.
However Elaine wondered whether the proposals were rather too ambitious – too much rhetoric instead of practical policies; a feeling that was echoed by Jean-Daniel who felt a more detailed assessment for an improving municipal infrastructure should be included.
Whilst expressing good intentions where are the specific means to support them. Also, there are contradictions, for example, in one section it is written ‘there is to be adequate parking’ whilst on the list of available development land there are 22 car parks.
When considering the list of ‘Constraints on Land Availability’ it has to be wondered how and where sufficient land is actually available to achieve 33 thousand plus (or more) additional homes without too much intensification within the town.
With regard to ‘Health & Well-Being’ will it be a requirement to install insulation and new forms of heating in new builds. This is required under Green Policies for carbon emission reduction. Is it to be included?
Where is the mention of the necessary infrastructure to support this huge increase of homes and residents? There is mention of transport impact but not of any need for other services.
Especially with regard to planning, Elaine concentrated on the section of the Plan that dealt with how modern, high rise, buildings had to be incorporated into the urban fabric of Bournemouth without compromising the visual context of the extensive conservation areas within the inner neighbourhoods of the town. Here, Elaine thought that additional buildings could be added to the official list of protected structures to ensure the increased protection of the existing Victorian townscape and the siting of high rises mainly restricted to particular localities where they were bets suited.
Moreover, in their general discussion, the Sub-Committee was well aware of the existence of wider pressures on the urban structure of Bournemouth that were mentioned but not fully developed, in the Plan.
Especially the need was seen to keep a continuing balance between the absolute aesthetic value regarding the siting of existing and new buildings so as to preserve essential green space; while at the same time ensuring that the urban environment supports a viable economic structure.
However this did not mean, according to the participants, that purely for economic and political reasons that the existing Green Belt along the Stour Valley should be opened to new development purely to fulfil government housing quotas.
And in this respect it was realised that similar pressures to allow higher density housing development within original, spacious, residential neighbourhoods also would be against the intentions of the Local Plan.
Elaine expressed the hope that this tendency would be resisted and that the existing policy of designing new flats in older areas compatible with adjacent properties would be continued.
In respect to major redevelopment projects, the new Central Boscombe Regeneration Plan was considered a good beginning to regenerate a somewhat rundown area.
However it was realised that a greater threat to central Boscombe and to other well established commercial centres within the older parts of the town was the threat of the new planning law: “Permitted Development ” which could allow an uncontrolled series of instant pop up, mini high rises to rise up and ruin well planned areas of nineteenth century townscape.
Jean-Daniel pointed out that, not surprisingly many people in the BCP administrative area were worried about the inability of administrative authorities to make a distinct personal improvement in their lives.
Thus it was felt that the Council could do more to encourage the construction of university student accommodation so that an increasing number of existing HMO’s in north Bournemouth could be returned to family use.
Taking stock of the discussion, John felt that while one could not fault the general comprehensiveness of the Local Plan – every T was crossed and every I dotted – what was lacking was a strong commitment to the absolute enhancement in Bournemouth of a unique Sense of Place.
The Plan always seems to be taking a strictly neutral attitude on all matters – always seeming to be looking over its shoulder at government guidelines and becoming excessively intertwined with the problems of climate change, which although a most hugely important subject, really should be more fully discussed across all Council activities.
In sum, we think that the well meaning local government officers that made this plan simply have not grasped that the greatest priority for Bournemouth is the unique synthesis between its visual form and economic activities – and the acceptance that this balance should take precedence above all other considerations. This has been the cornerstone of the continuing prosperity of the town for the last 150 years – a reality that any Local Plan always must acknowledge.