ANALYSIS: Slough’s options for expansion explained
Slough Borough Council’s planners have proposed five options to reconciling the town’s challenges.
There are some potentially serious constraints to the amount of growth that can take place in Slough which include the shortage of land for development, the problem of congestion, and the impact upon the quality of the environment.
As a result the new Local Plan will have to find the right balance between social, economic and environmental needs to ensure that it is truly sustainable, say the town’s planners.
“Our overall objective should be to aim to plan for housing needs within Slough or as close as possible to where these needs arise. We should also aim to plan for continued economic growth in a way which provides jobs, creates wealth and builds on the strengths of our existing successful business areas and potential in the town centre. In doing so we should aim to enhance the built and green environment and mitigate against any environmental impacts”.
So far planners are working on the basis of five “spatial options” for accommodating the town’s expansion. These are:
The current spatial strategy as set out in the Core Strategy is to “concentrate development” within a tightly drawn “town centre”. This includes promoting residential development near the railway station particularly to the north.
Planning permissions for higher density housing and major housing development have already begun to spread outside of the traditional town centre. There is the opportunity to continue this trend provided it is done on a selective basis which takes account of the amenities of existing and new residents.
There could also be more high density development within the existing centre not just to accommodate more housing but also provide more employment and facilitate the regeneration of the shopping centre. In order to maintain vitality and ensure quality of development we may have to seek more of a mix of uses within buildings. This could include having start-up business space on the ground floor, flats above and a ‘penthouse’ on top.
Enlarging the centre would have the advantage of increasing its immediate catchment and enable more people to benefit from its facilities and transport links and support businesses in the town centre.
The latest Government consultation on changes to the NPPF proposes increasing residential densities around commuter hubs. This helps reduce use of the car.
The most obvious place where we could do this is around Langley railway station. We have already promoted some redevelopment in the vicinity but there would be the opportunity to create a new residential and commercial centre with enhanced facilities which would complement the nearby Harrow Market shopping centre.
It is not considered that there is the same scope to do the same around Burnham station but this could still be enhanced in a different way. Options to further exploit the town centre as a commuter hub, including the area north of the station, are considered above.
The strategy in the Core Strategy is to spread the benefits that regeneration can bring by identifying selected key locations for redevelopment. Details of how this should be carried out have been set out in the 2010 Site Allocation Plan. Some of these schemes have been implemented, others such as the Canal Basin, are in the process of coming forward but there has been no progress on some such as the Trade Sales Site on the Bath Road in Cippenham. A number of new sites have come forward through the Call for Sites exercise such as the Akzo Nobel site east of Wexham Road. The Council is also promoting major residential development upon sites such as the Montem Sports Centre.
The important thing is that all of these sites should be planned comprehensively with the right mix of uses to ensure that maximum benefits can be obtained for the community. Sites will also be required to improve their connectivity by providing new links into the footpath and cycleway network. Plans need to take account of viability to ensure that proposals are attractive to developers and include affordable housing, high quality design and infrastructure to support the new housing.
There are also some areas which may not have very large sites which are available for development but there are a collection of smaller sites which could be brought forward in in way which enhances the area as a whole. Chalvey is an example of where a combination of private and public investment can be channelled into an area in a way which can improve the area as a whole and in this case could involve the opening of a new railway station on the Windsor Branch line.
Some of the Council’s housing stock may need to be refurbished or replaced during the plan period. The Britwell regeneration scheme is a good example of a successful estate renewal project and it may be possible to carry out similar schemes in other areas where the quality of the housing stock and the environment needs to be improved.
The Council has already released land for housing in previous Local Plans which means that there is not very much land left that would be suitable for development. The option of building upon the remaining parcels of land around the built up area within the Borough of Slough will have to be considered. Some of these may, however, have specific constraints which may not make this possible.
A number of sites in the Green Belt were promoted in the Colnbrook and Poyle area through the Call for Sites exercise but these may be even more constrained than elsewhere. It is not considered appropriate to promote these for housing at this stage given the uncertainty about the future of Heathrow. Some commercial development may, however, have to be considered at Poyle to meet airport needs.
Initial assessments show that even if all of the options discussed above were promoted through the Local Plan there would still be a significant shortfall of housing compared to the Objectively Assessed Need of 927 dwellings a year.
As a result it would be necessary to consider the northern expansion of Slough into Green Belt land within South Bucks District. We have already made representations to South Bucks & Chiltern Councils that they should consider this in their joint Local Plan.
It is considered that the development of a new “garden suburb” could be a very sustainable option for providing the housing we require. Failure to achieve this could have serious impact upon our ability to meet local housing needs. We will, however, have to work with South Bucks and Chiltern Councils in order to progress this option.
It should be noted that there may be scope for the development of a small site east of Ditton Park which is in Windsor & Maidenhead.
The Government gives great importance to Green Belt protection so any development proposed would need to demonstrate very special circumstances to justify its release.