AGORA REDEVELOPMENT WORKING GROUP
The Agora Redevelopment Working Group was established in February 2018 to act as a critical friend to developer TOWN who are bringing forward proposals to redevelop the Agora site in accordance with the adopted Wolverton Town Centre Neighbourhood Development Plan 2015-25 and Agora Development Brief.
In December 2017 the Council agreed agreed to transfer the ownership of the Agora car park to developers TOWN. In November 2018 TOWN exchanged contracts on the Agora Centre with Leyland Holding Company, with the intention of completing purchase in the Spring of 2019.
This means that by March 2019 TOWN will own both the Agora Centre and associated Car Park.
The Working Group’s role is to ensure that TOWN;
- engage in a comprehensive community consultation process to devise a regeneration scheme for the Agora site which meets community aspirations and is financially viable
- address concerns over parking provision and traffic movement in the Town Centre – this includes ensuring access to the garages at the rear of Buckingham Street, and meeting parking standards required by MK Council
- obtain planning permission for the site with a scheme which meets local planning policy, including the Wolverton Neighbourhood Plan and Agora Development Brief.
Working Group updates
KEEP AT TOP
The tenth meeting of the Agora Redevelopment Working Group took place on the 2nd September.
The meeting opened with the very welcome news that Milton Keynes Council had agreed to commit between £1-1.5 million to support the changes needed to create more public parking spaces on St George’s Way, and implement a on-way system on Church Street. Cllr Rob Middleton emphasized that at a time of budget cuts this was a huge amount for the Council to commit to Wolverton.
Neil Murphy from TOWN then explained that, despite falling house prices in MK, the Love Wolverton partnership were committed to moving forward with the planning application. He also explained that they would be making a separate application for demolition of the Agora building itself.
Neil then moved onto the feedback from the Public Review in June 2019. He explained that 21o people completed feedback forms and 97% supported the redevelopment plans. He explained that there were 3 main issues of concern:
1. Town Centre parking
2. Scale and appearance of the building on the corner of Church Street at the junction with Creed Street.
3. Character of the housing, specifically roof styles and ornament
Final feedback from Neil included the exciting news that they had been working with Wolverton Community Energy to look at the possibility of a renewable energy Microgrid for the new development.
The ninth meeting of the Agora Redevelopment Working Group took place on the 3rd June.
The meeting was slightly longer than normal to allow a complete focus on the issue of parking in the town centre.
Neil Murphy from TOWN took the group through the latest plans for the new development, explaining where replacement parking would be delivered.
Cllr Rob Middleton explained to the group that the changes to the St George’s Way estate that were needed to replace some of the town centre parking was dependant upon a decision being made by MK Council to fund the works. He went onto explain that this decision was subjec to “call-in” by other Councillors who may not wish to see the resource committed to Wolverton. It was queried whether this decision would be made in advance of submission of the planning application by Love Wolverton. Rob confirmed the decision would hopefully be made before the planning application is submitted.
The group were reminded of the Public Review between the 13th and 15th June.
The eight meeting of the Agora Redevelopment Working Group took place on the 29th April.
Neil Murphy from TOWN gave a project update, and explained tht a wider Public Consultation was planned to take place from the 13th to the 15th June. He also explained that the project website – www.lovewolverton.co.uk – was being finalised, and would be used to post regular updates.
A discussion was held about the need for Public toilets in the town centre, which are not currently due to be provided by the development, but might be delivered by Milton Keynes or the Town Council.
Neil also mentioned that TOWN had commissioned Phillipa Tipper to deliver a programme of events and activities to animate Church Street and the area around the Agora between June and September 2019. Further information would be available soon.
It was agreed that Gill Barrow Jones would join the meeting as the second Faith Group rep to replace Wolverton Mosque who are no longer attending.
The seventh meeting of the Agora Redevelopment Working Group took place on the 25th March.
This was the first meeting for several businesses from Church Street who will now sit on the group to represent business concerns. The businesses are The New Queen Victoria, CP Locks and Maisies. Much of the meeting was spent bringing the new members up to date with the work of the group to-date, and the businesses also had an opportunity to share their concerns.
Neil Murphy from TOWN gave an update from the Stakeholder Workshop which had taken place on the 7th March, and discussions which had taken place with Arriva regarding bus services into Wolverton, and bus infrastrucuture.
Cllr Middleton provided an update on the bid to the Future High Streets Fund which was being led by Paul Hammond from MK Council.
The sixth meeting of the Agora Redevelopment Working Group took place on the 18th February.
The agenda included an update on the plans for the Stakeholder Workshop due to take place on the 7th March.
A document was also presented and discussed about “advanced works” on Church Street which it was agreed were necessary to keep the town centre thriving whilst redevelopment took place.
There was also an update on a potential external funding – in the form of the Future High Streets Fund – which could be levered into Wolverton to support wider public realm and highways works.
The fixth meeting of the Agora Redevelopment Working Group took place on the 14th January.
The group welcomed Paula Lawson, Head Teacher of The Radcliffe School and Chair of The Radcliffe Community of Schools to represent the education sector in Wolverton. Stephen Norrish, Director of MK Christian Foundation, also joined the group representing the Voluntary & Community Sector. The Iman from Wolverton Mosque and his companion were also welcomed. A number of expressions of interest to join the group had been received from businesses on Church Street, which were discussed and it was agreed the Chair would make contact with them all to confirm the outcome.
TOWN outlined the proposed format of the Stakeholder Workshop, and introduced Anglea Koch who will be facilitating the day. The invitees to the workshop were discussed, and it was agreed to use the old Neighbourhood Plan Stakeholder Workshop as a starting point for the range of interest groups and organisations that could be invited. It was agreed that the workshop would ideally take place in the last week of February after half term. Offers to host the workshop were received from Kings Church Community Centre, Wolverton Mosque and Future Wolverton, who offered the Old School. Further investigation will take place on dates and suitability.
TOWN then outlined the method and scope for the Parking and Traffic Survey which would be taking place in Wolverton Town Centre over the next month or so. A one page summary of the method statement would be shared with the members of the Working Group.
The meeting ended with a discussion about the possibility of “advanced works” taking place (on Church Street in particular) to pave the way for the redevleopment, and to improve traffic flow and movement in the short term.
The fourth meeting of the Agora Transport Working Group took place on the 10th Deecmber.
New Terms of Reference for the Group were tabled by TOWN which proposed extending the remit of discussions to cover a range of issues linked to the including architecture and design, mix of housing and retail mix. The group also discussed nominations for additional members which included an Education representative, and representative of the Voluntary & Community Sector. It was agreed that further representation from local businesses on Church Street was essential, and it was agreed to circulate a letter inviting expressions of interest from businesses.
TOWN shared their draft programme for the development and summarised the roles of the professional team to be appointed. There was a brief discussion about the timing and format of the Stakeholder Workshop in February, which would be continued at the next meeting in January.
On parking, TOWN summarised the key principles and parking options already agreed and shared a detailed schedule which illustrated how parking spaces lost from the car park could be replaced on street and in other areas of the town. Cllr Middleton shared the news that a budget of £150,000 had been assigned by Milton Keynes Council to help with off site parking/transport improvements to benefit the town.
The third meeting of the Agora Redevelopment Parking and Transport Working Group took place a few days after TOWN exchanged contracts on the Agora building. As a result much of the meeting was taken up with discussions about the what this meant, future community consultation and when TOWN expected to be in a position to submit a planning application.
The group also discussed the potential for early demolition of the Agora building, and it was generally agreed that this would be desirable, with safeguards put into place to protect existing businesses on Church Street.
On public engagement, TOWN outlined a draft process, beginning in February 2019 with a Stakeholder workshop, which would also involve various officers from MK Council. This would be followed by a wider public engagement event in the Spring of 2019. TOWN are keen that there engagement with the local community is not just through a one-off event, and visits to groups in the community and work within schools was specifically mentioned.
A discussion also took place about widening the remit of the Working group to give a consultative forum for the overall development, covering a range of issues including design, mix of housing, retail mix and other issues. This will be explored further at a meeting in early December 2019.
The second meeting of the Agora Redevelopment Parking and Transport Working Group took place on 14th May 2018.
Feedback on the actions of the last meeting were given:
- Milton Keynes Council had assessed the potential of neighbouring sites to the Agora Car Park to accommodate increased car parking, and the options were discussed.
- Tesco have the right to restrict their car park to use by shoppers at the store.
- There is no requirement in the Lidl planning application for them to provide town centre parking, but they have indicated their willingness to consider various options to support the wider town centre.
Regarding public transport requirements, TOWN reported that their engineers had considered bus stopping and standing arrangements, additional on-street parking and public realm improvements, and come up with some initial ideas. These ideas were discussed and various observations made.
A number of actions were agreed:
- Kings Church Community Centre to clarify parking requirements associated with the centre
- Wolverton Business Association to discuss parking requirements of staff at businesses in the town.
TOWN to discuss improved bus facilities with officers at MK Council
The first meeting of the Agora Redevelopment Parking and Transport Working Group took place on the 5th February. The meeting was Chaired by Cllr Rob Middleton (a Wolverton Ward Member) and attended by representatives from the Town Council, Wolverton Business Association, Wolverton Mosque, Churches Together in Wolverton and Future Wolverton.
The meeting considered the complex issues surrounding parking and transport in Wolverton Town Centre, and the likely impact of the redevelopment of the Agora and associated car park. Views of the different stakeholders were gathered and discussed.
The agreed outcomes of the meeting included:
- Producing an ownership plan for the land in the Town Centre in order to explore other potential locations for town centre parking
- Clarifying public transport requirements
- Checking the agreed parking conditions for the Tesco Car Park
- Checking the planning permission for Lidl to see if there was any allowance made for general Town centre parking
The key facts
KEEP AT TOP
The purpose of the group
• To act as a critical friend to TOWN’s proposals to regenerate Wolverton Agora in accordance with the principles and policies set down in the adopted Wolverton Town Centre Neighbourhood Development Plan 2015-25 and Agora Development Brief SPD;
• To achieve a shared, evidence-based understanding among stakeholders of issues relevant to the regeneration of the Wolverton Agora including transport, parking, housing, community facilities, local business and conservation.
• To provide a forum for considering information provided by and views/concerns of local residents, businesses and organisations regarding such issues, taking account of available evidence; and
• To act as a steering group for work by TOWN and others in support of a future planning application for the redevelopment of the Agora centre and car park.
The core membership of the group
- Milton Keynes Council – Cllr Rob Middleton (Chair), Ed Palmeria
- Wolverton & Greenleys Town Council: Cllr Hilary Saunders and Cllr Steve Barby
- Future Wolverton: Marie Osborne and David Beattie
- TOWN (developer): Neil Murphy and Jonny Anstead
- [Two] representatives of faith organisations; Andy Forbes (Churches Together in Wolverton) and Iman Manzoor (Wolverton Mosque)
- [Three] local business representatives: Allan Nall (Chair Wolverton Business Association and Business owner in The Square), Taj Raja (MK Pakistani and Kashmiri Association, and Business owner on Stratford Road), Church Street Business owner (TBA)
- an educational representative (Paula Lawson, Head Teacher, The Radcliffe School, and Chair of The Radcliffe Community of Schools);
- a representative of the voluntary and community sector (Stephen Norrish, Director, MK Christian Foundation)
Other individuals and organisations may be invited as required by the business of a meeting at the discretion of the chair.
The key resources and references available to the group
- Wolverton Town Centre Neighbourhood Development Plan 2015-2025
- Agora Development Brief Supplementary Planning Document
- Emerging plans, drawings, surveys and analysis prepared by TOWN and its professional team in support of a planning application for regeneration of the Agora
The following working methods will guide the group
- The working group will meet approximately every 6-8 weeks prior to the submission of a planning application by TOWN, expected in June 2019.
- A meeting is quorate when TOWN has at least one representative present and three of the other core members has at least one representative present.
- The chair may determine an agenda for meetings and a time and method for consideration of each agenda item.
- Meetings will be minuted. The chair may nominate a member to take minutes, which will be circulated to all members in draft not later than five working days following the date of the meeting with a further five working days allowed for members’ comments. The chair will have sole discretion to approve minutes; and the approved minutes will be published via the Town Council and Future Wolverton websites.
- Between meetings, information may be exchanged by email. The chair will establish a contracts and distribution list for this purpose.
- The working group may elect to appoint an expert facilitator or advisor with relevant experience in transport, movement and parking issues.
Outputs and Review
- At a time and in a format to be determined by the chair in consultation with members (for example related to the timing of a planning application), the group may produce a final report drawing together its proceedings.
- Any outputs produced by the working group should not contradict or be deemed to supplant existing examined and/or adopted planning policy, particularly those referred to above; or to prejudice future planning applications or decisions.
- Once a planning application has been submitted, the working group will review the need for further meetings and ongoing work.