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NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN

Wolverton has a rich history as the first purpose built railway town in the UK. However, like many industrial towns, Wolverton’s town centre began to decline in the 1960s, and 50 years on now faces declining footfall, the rise in internet shopping and supermarket dominance.

The Wolverton Town Centre Neighbourhood Development Plan encapsulates the ambitions of local residents who would like to reinvigorate the town centre as a viable place to shop and do business and an inviting place to visit and live.

The plan is a result of over three year’s work by Future Wolverton, and engaged local people, businesses and community and voluntary organisations.  The Plan builds upon comprehensive community engagement started over ten years ago, and draws upon planning documents that have been developed over time to support the regeneration of the town.

The vision statement for the Neighbourhood Plan attempts to capture the ambitions of the local community, highlighting those characteristics which make Wolverton a special place:

“The Neighbourhood Plan seeks to ensure that Wolverton’s centre, as the heart of the town, is a vibrant, attractive and distinctive neighbourhood with a variety of retail, commercial, cultural, and leisure uses that reflects the town’s rich and proud railway heritage and its diverse business and residential population.”

In order to achieve the vision, the plan has six key objectives based on the engagement work and analysis of the consultation carried out during the Neighbourhood Plan process. These objectives have also been informed by consultation carried out over the last ten years.

The Objectives

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Objective 1: Transport and Movement
Improve ease of movement and accessibility to services and facilities within the town centre.

Support a shift towards more sustainable modes of transport to and from Wolverton town centre, reducing the need to travel by car by improving access for walking, cycling and public transport.

Support improvements to safety when walking and cycling in the town centre, particularly to the railway station and along Stratford Road.

Encourage improved management of streets and parking and the ongoing use of the backways as preferred walking and cycling routes.

Objective 2: Heritage

Conserve and enhance the town’s heritage, particularly the Conservation Area, Listed Buildings and the canal.

Support the Milton Keynes Councils Heritage Hub project which recognises the industrial, transport and rural past of Wolverton.

Encourage efficient use of brownfield land assets on the Railway Works site, ensuring that the important heritage and industrial character of these sites is protected, and Victorian/Edwardian buildings retained and reused where viable.

Support the Milton Keynes Museum expansion project, ensuring enhanced pedestrian and cycle links to the Museum from Wolverton Town Centre.

Capitalise upon the unique heritage of Wolverton to develop the visitor economy.

Objective 3: Environment and Design

Improve, protect and enhance the quality of the local environment through implementation of the Public Realm Design Manual and involving the local community in long-term management,

Improve the quantity and quality of publicly accessible open and green space within the town centre.

Subject to viability testing, all new developments to be zero carbon, designed for climate change and served by a district heating network

Objective 4: Housing

Ensure affordable, sustainably constructed, decent homes are developed that complement and enhance the existing housing stock.

Develop a range of housing stock within the town centre that meets the needs of existing and future local people.

In new housing on the Railway Works site, a proportion of streets are designed so speeds are slow and car parking does not dominate the overall streetscape.

Objective 5: Economic Development

Improve the vitality and viability of Wolverton town centre through a mix of retail and non-retail uses which better reflect the needs of the local community.

Support existing town centre businesses to develop and thrive.

Encourage creation of new businesses and employment opportunities.

Increase the town centre population and so encourage an evening economy.

Objective 6: Social, Cultural and Leisure Facilities

Support development that addresses the social, cultural and leisure needs of the local community.

Build upon Wolverton’s reputation as a cultural hub by improving accessibility to existing social, cultural and leisure services and facilities.

Promote healthy living by supporting practical projects that impact positively on the lives of local people.

Reduce fear of crime and prevent crime by supporting the local community to make a positive difference to their community.

“The Neighbourhood Plan seeks to ensure that Wolverton’s centre, as the heart of the town, is a vibrant, attractive and distinctive neighbourhood with a variety of retail, commercial, cultural, and leisure uses that reflects the town’s rich and proud railway heritage and its diverse business and residential population.”

The Wolverton Neighbourhood Plan

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Why did we do it?

In January 2012 the local community began work on a Neighbourhood Plan for Wolverton Town Centre. Neighbourhood Plans were introduced by the Localism Act 2012, with the aim of giving local people greater ownership of plans and policies that affect their local area.

The aim of our plan was to kick-start” the redevelopment of the Agora site, whilst improving the wider Town Centre for business, residents and visitors. The plan was also intended to look at the broad principles that would guide any redevelopment of the Railway Works site should that happen at some point in the future.

During the course of developing the plan, two major planning applications for the Agora site and Railway Works have been submitted to Milton Keynes Council.  Implementation of the plan has well and truly begun!

Policy W1 – The Agora Site

This policy paves the way for redevelopment of the Agora site.  It specifies the sort of development the community would like to see on the Agora site, setting out the following key principles including:

  • The reconnection of Radcliffe Street
  • Provision of new public spaces to support community events
  • Retention of views of St George’s Church
  • A mix of retail and office accommodation of modern size and standard
    Housing which compliments the current housing mix in Wolverton, with housing for older people and younger people a particular priority
  • Small shops units suitable for the relocation of current businesses within the Agora and new businesses which may want to come to the town
  • Retention of as many trees as possible
  • Good design in keeping with the Victorian setting
    High quality street furniture and materials
  • Accessible to all
  • Zero carbon where viable
Policy W2 – Town Centre Development

This policy specifies what will be required of development within the wider town centre (excluding the Agora site).  It sets out some important principles that development within the town centre should achieve such as:

  • Improving the movement of people, cyclists and buses within the town centre
  • Improving the public realm – i.e. streets, pavements, signage and street furniture
  • Enabling the creation of new green spaces
  • Improving access to social, leisure and cultural facilities in the town centre
  • Enhancing views of St George’s Church and other key buildings
  • Incorporating flats above shops to provide additional housing for local people
  • Providing parking on-street and in landscaped car parks
  • Incorporating climate change measures into any new development
Policy W3 – The Railway Works site

This policy sets out the principles that should guide any redevelopment of any part of the railway works site, whilst being clear that existing employment uses should be supported.  Some of the key principles for any redevelopment are:

  • Improving linkages and movement by ensuring new pedestrian, cycle and road links on the site are well connected to the existing town centre
  • Conserving the unique heritage of the site by opening up views (and access into and out of the site) through the wall along Stratford Road where possible, and preserving the historic buildings on the site through re-use where viable
  • Contributing to public amenity by improving access to the Grand Union Canal
  • Providing new development that re-uses historic buildings and provides a mix of new housing that compliments what is already on offer in Wolverton
  • Delivering new infrastructure, such as school places for children that live in any new housing built on the site
Policy W4 – Town Centre Diversity

The policy seeks to protect the shopping function of Wolverton Town Centre by introducing a percentage based policy for different town centre uses. The percentage based policy will:

  • Limit the amount of food and drink uses in any particular “frontage” within the town centre
  • Ensure that non-retail uses contribute to town centre vibrancy
  • Give the same level of protection within the planning system to “secondary” frontages within the town centre, such as the second half of Stratford Road which includes the Japenese Restaurant and Model shop
  • Ensure that superstores that incorporate towncentre uses such as banking, pharmaceuticals, dry cleaners, opticians or health services, will only be supported if they can demonstrate that the new service will not have an unacceptable impact on the vitality and viability of the town centre.

 

Policy W5 – Supporting Street Markets

This policy supports the creation of a market in The Square.  It sets out some of the improvements that would need to be made to The Square to make a market possible such as:

  • Improvements to the public open space within The Square to make a suitable location for a permanent market
  • Storage facilities for market stalls
  • Parking provision for stall holders
  • Rubbish and recycling facilities
Policy W6 – Supporting small, independent trade

This policy enables the provision of small shops (50 m sq gross) to support small and independent businesses.  It does this by specifying two circumstances in which small shops can be provided:

  1. Major redevelopment in the town centre
  2. Conversion of existing larger shop units

The policy also specifies that a proportion of the small shops provided should have be “affordable” either by through a reduced rent, flexible lease or rent by turnover.

This is designed to support start-up businesses.

Policy W7 – Shopfront design, signage and advertisement and security

This policy is designed to conserve and enhance Victorian shopfronts in the town centre.

It does this by specifying the type of shopfront design that is appropriate to the Conservation Area, how signage should be designed and the sort of security shutters that are preferred.

It is hoped that grant monies will be secured to support shop owners to improve their shopfronts.

Guidance will also be produced by the Town Council and Milton Keynes Council once this policy is adopted.