Toads Hole Valley is by far the largest urban fringe site identified for development in the City Plan. The Council has recently published a “Supplementary Planning Document” for the site. This sets out in more detail how they see its development.
The arrival of St Congar's masterplan
One of the challenges of a site as large as Toads Hole Valley is ensuring development is coherent rather than piecemeal. This now looks more likely with the recent arrival on the scene of development company St Congar. They intend to work in conjunction with the landowners on a masterplan. They will not undertake development themselves but instead split the site into parcels of land for development by different investors.
St Congar recently carried out a public consultation on their initial ideas for the masterplan. 825 new homes are proposed (against a Council target of at least 700). In our comments on the City Plan back in 2014 we suggested that the site should be developed more densely than the planners were suggesting. We proposed up to 1,300 new homes. We think this can be achieved while meeting other demands including a school, offices, open space etc.
Not enough housing?
There are several good reasons why the planners should encourage more housing at Toads Hole Valley than originally intended:
- The city must provide over 13,000 new homes over the life of the City Plan. The Regency Society supports this aim. We have long argued that new development should look to the past for models of how to achieve the levels of housing density needed. Toads Hole Valley is one of the most significant housing sites identified in the plan. Its full potential must be used if the target is to be achieved.
- A large site of this kind needs to house enough people for a viable and lively new community. Otherwise it will be just a dormitory.This will only happen if there are enough people to sustain shops, playgrounds, health facilities etc.
- If we are to control energy use, pollution and congestion we must reduce car use as the population grows. So, new communities such as Toads Hole Valley need to be large enough to justify a frequent and reliable bus service.
St Congar’s plan shows more housing than the minimum set by the planners, but, in our opinion, not as much as it should.
We understand the concerns of local residents about the plans to create several new traffic junctions on King George VI Avenue. This road is already heavily used and the new junctions may create congestion. St Congar needs to consult closely with the City’s traffic planners and publish more detail on traffic flows.
A step forward
Originally landowners and the City Council were to produce a masterplan for Toads Hole Valley. Clearly the Council has played its part. It is good to see St Congar on the scene. Let’s hope they can produce a plan that makes effective use of this highly significant piece of land.
Note: next month's update will include a new feature article by David Robson about the history of housing density, arguing for 6 storey living in new developments to create viable communities.