1 October 2018

This is a personal posting by Paul Woodhead as I have been asked by many residents to help them understand the referendum of the Hednesford Neighbourhood Plan.

This is aimed at my Hednesford friends and neighbours on here for your consideration of how to vote in the Neighbourhood Plan Referendum. You will have received a ballot card and can vote on Thursday 11th October at your usual polling station or by Postal Vote or via a Proxy in the same way you would at an election.

I will be voting NO as I feel that whilst there are some good elements to the plan it lacks vision, ambition and sustainability for our community.

I would like to acknowledge the huge amount of hard work undertaken by the Town Council and others to prepare the neighbourhood plan and my voting against the proposed plan is not a reflection on the efforts of these people in any way.

The Neighbourhood Plan, if passed, will form part of the planning documents that developers should give due regard too when coming forward with ideas for our community. This is read alongside the National Planning Policy Framework and the Cannock Chase Local Plan with its Supplementary Planning Documents. If the Neighbour Plan is voted NO the National Planning Policy Framework and Cannock Chase Local Plan with its supplementary Planning Documents will still remain in place and it is open for the Town Council to review and present an alternative Neighbourhood Plan in due course

I would encourage you to make your own minds up as to whether the plan deserves your support and to this end I know a number of residents have been put off considering the plan due to the size of the document. The Town Council have been told they cannot encourage people to vote YES for the plan but have elected not to promote a summary version to help the residents of the town decide if the plan reflects our collective vision for the future.

I have extracted parts of the Key Issues and Opportunities Chapter and the stated policies from the Plan to help residents see the core messages from the Plan. This should be read in conjunction with the whole document to understand the context and any further explanation offered by the Town council.

Whether you vote NO or YES please vote in the referendum as this will shape part of planning policy for our area for years to come. Don’t let others decide on your behalf.

Chapter 7 – Key Issues and Opportunities

Hednesford Town Council has identified a number of key issues and opportunities arising from these developments, however, which it believes are important to the future planning of Hednesford.

·        Enhance the core of the town centre on Market Street to enable it to function as a vibrant and viable centre for local shopping, financial and professional services and leisure uses including eating out and socialising.

·        Develop areas of underused and unattractive land between Market Street and Victoria Street, opened up to view by the re-alignment of Victoria Street, to enhance the town centre and improve links between Market Street, the new retail developments, the park and Hednesford Hills.  This could possibly include tourist accommodation to enable the town to function as a gateway to Cannock Chase.

·        Improve the public realm of Market Street, in particular the car park at the rear of the Coop and the land between the boundary of this car park and the railway station, in order to provide an attractive gateway to the town.

·        Provide a larger taxi rank to serve the town and railway station.

·        Plan for additional car parking to cater for the growth in commuting by train.

In relation to the wider area of the town as a whole, the following matters are considered to be relevant topics for inclusion in the Neighbourhood Plan:

·        Identify buildings that are important to the character of the area, and examine ways of retaining them in the town, including the feasibility of alternative uses to enable longterm retention.

·        Support the retention of assets of community value such as pubs.

·        Support the expansion and/or redevelopment of existing businesses outside the town centre, particularly within established industrial estates. This would be subject to appropriate environmental controls and provision of satisfactory parking and servicing arrangements.

·        Ensure small areas of public open space which are valued by the community, particularly those below the scale identified to be protected as Greenspace Network on the Local Plan Policies Map, are retained for the benefit of the local community and enhanced when opportunities arise.

·        The District Council in consultation with landowners and developers identifies sites with potential for housing development, to ensure a continuous supply of land to deliver the required numbers of dwellings proposed in the Local Plan via an annual Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA). The latest SHLAA statistics are summarized in section 16. The Town Council wishes to enable the development of small scale housing schemes on SHLAA sites which currently do not have the benefit of planning permission and windfall sites within existing housing areas. The Town Council wishes to ensure that development of these sites respects the scale and character of the locality and contributes to meeting local housing need, particularly for   the elderly.

·        Identify specific character areas outside the town centre, particularly those where Victorian/Edwardian design and layout characteristics predominate, and ensure that any new development in these areas meets design criteria which respect the historic character.

·        Arising from the consultation on the Plan, matters relating to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and public rights of way are now included.

Town Centre Policies

TC1        The historic core of Hednesford Town Centre in Market Street, (as shown on the map on page 21) is identified as an area of special local character as a result of the quality and specific detailing of its Victorian and Edwardian buildings. This historic character will be maintained and enhanced. Any alterations proposed to buildings, including shop fronts, signage, doors and windows should aim to retain the key characteristics described above. Where inappropriate replacement of original features has taken place in the past, owners will be encouraged to reinstate features which replicate the original design at paragraph 9.8 on page 16. Use of modern materials such as UPVC can be acceptable provided that it is used in a sensitive way for example in replacement sliding sash windows.

TC2        The core of Hednesford Town Centre in Market Street, as identified on the proposals map, will be protected from the introduction of inappropriate uses at ground floor level. Permitted uses will comprise 

• food takeaways • hotels • health uses • day nurseries • art galleries • shops

• restaurants • cafés • pubs • cinema • concert hall • theatre

• financial and professional services • gyms and fitness centres

within Use Classes A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, C1, D1 and D2 of the Town and Country Planning Use Classes Order provided that an overall mix of uses where retail, food and drink uses predominate is maintained. Some changes between Use Classes are automatically permitted by National Planning Regulations (see appendix 5 page 59) but the aim of the policy is to give more flexibility and assurance to owners of properties in Market Street that a wider variety of alternative uses which attract footfall will be supported subject to maintaining the overall mix of uses where Class A businesses predominate. Any other uses not listed, which also attract footfall will also be supported subject to maintaining the overall mix of uses where Class A businesses predominate.

Residential uses on upper floors of buildings will be encouraged to make use of underused or vacant space and provide more potential customers to local shops living on the doorstep. A good standard of amenity should be achieved including the provision of appropriate space at the rear for the storage of refuse bins. Change of use up to 2 flats above a wide range of Use Classes is already “Permitted Development” (see appendix 5).

TC3        The town council, in partnership with the town centre traders, Hednesford in Partnership or any successor organisations, will make representation to the District Council for the use of appropriate S106 funding and will identify projects for use of CIL funds to enhance the vitality and viability of Market Street.

TC4        Development of areas of land between Market Street, Victoria Street and off Cardigan Place as identified on the Proposals Map for a range of appropriate uses listed below shall achieve the following key objectives:

• enhance the vitality and viability of Market Street • enhance the appearance of the area whilst respecting the scale and character of existing development.

• Improve pedestrian/cycle links between the two streets and Hednesford Park.”

The larger of the two sites which extends across the rear of 56 to 100 (even) Market Street to the realigned Victoria Street to the south of the new bungalow “Greenslade” has an area of approximately 6,400 square metres.

The smaller area on Cardigan Place opposite Cardigan House has an area of around 900 square metres.

The potential uses should include residential development, tourist accommodation and a retail market. These proposals will be delivered via the production of a detailed development brief/master-plan to be produced in partnership with the landowners and the District Council.

TC5        In partnership with the District Council, Network Rail, West Midlands Trains, West Midlands Rail and the Heart of Hednesford Station Adoption Group, The town council will seek to deliver improvements to the car park at the rear of the Co-op store, including managing stay patterns, a taxi rank, a community building and environmental improvements to the station surroundings. S106 and CIL funds will be used as appropriate. A master plan will be produced and S106 and CIL funding will be used as appropriate.

TC6        In partnership with the District Council, the town council will seek to extend the station car park situated between 6 and 30 Anglesey Street including with the appropriate use of S106 and CIL funds

TC7        Redevelopment of no’s:. 427-433 and 437-445 Cannock Road for residential development suitable for the elderly will be supported and the feasibility of achieving this will be pursued in conjunction with the main landowner. The land is considered to be suitable for high density development, subject to protecting the amenities of existing nearby residential properties (see also Policy H2 and map on page 45).

Rights of Ways Policies

ROW1   In partnership with Staffordshire County Council, Cannock Chase Council, The Forestry Commission, the Cannock Chase SAC Partnership and the Cannock Chase AONB Unit the Town Council will encourage improvements to the existing public rights of way network in order to provide better access for existing and future residents of Hednesford to the Cannock Chase AONB and the Cannock Chase SAC while avoiding any adverse impacts on their natural heritage.

Open Spaces Policies

OS1        Development of open spaces within the urban area identified in appendix 6 will not be permitted unless;

• in the case of small spaces within existing housing estates, this is associated with comprehensive estate redevelopment. In these circumstances replacement open space of at least equivalent size and quality shall be provided as part of the redevelopment proposals; or

• The open space is no longer needed as an informal recreation area; or

• the community benefits of redeveloping the open space outweigh its loss

Those open spaces which function as informal recreation resources for their local communities will be maintained and enhanced for this purpose. Proposals for improvement will be made in consultation with residents and Cannock Chase Council including with the use of CIL funding.

Landowners will be encouraged to maintain and enhance those open spaces that function as local visual amenities, wildlife corridors and areas of water storage and conveyance.

Built Environment Policies

BE1        There will be a presumption that the buildings listed in appendix 4 will be retained. Any extensions and alterations should respect the original character of the building and generally be subservient to the original building. Where the original use of a building becomes redundant or unviable, a flexible approach will be taken to supporting changes of use, provided that uses are compatible with the immediate surroundings and secure the long term life of the building.

BE2        The area of Greenheath Road, Station Road and High Mount Street shown on page 39 is identified as an area of special local character, as a result of the quality and local distinctive character of its Victorian and Edwardian architecture evidenced in large villas, more modest terraced housing a school and church. There will be a presumption that these buildings are retained and any extensions and alterations should respect the original character of the buildings and generally be subservient to them.  New infill development within this area should be of a scale which is compatible with its immediate surroundings and use materials and design details which respect the local characteristics. Key features which make a positive contribution to the character of this area include front garden walls and hedges, gate piers, chimneys, decorative brick detailing, date and name plaques, porches, bays and filials.

Housing Policies

H1          The building of bungalows will be supported where it is viable either as a component of the dwelling types or, on appropriate small developments as the whole development, on housing sites identified in the SHLAA which do not have the benefit of full planning permission or are the subject of adopted development briefs, together with any windfall sites which come forward during the plan period. Bungalows should be designed to mobility standards suitable for occupants who may need to use wheelchairs or other mobility aids. The properties should normally be two bedroomed units on plots which provide the minimum garden space identified in the District Council’s adopted Design Supplementary Planning Document. The District Council should consider withdrawing “Permitted Development” rights for extensions in order to retain the property at a size to meet the identified demand

H2          The construction of a retirement housing development with appropriate communal facilities will be supported on land identified in Policy TC7

Employment Policies

EMP1    Where opportunities arise for the redevelopment of unattractive areas of industrial development at Old Hednesford Road/Chaseside Drive and Rugeley Road/Station Road development for employment uses will be supported, subject to appropriate environmental controls and provision of satisfactory off-street parking/servicing arrangements and other normal planning considerations. Where there is no evidence of demand for employment uses on these sites the alternative of residential development will be supported.