This is a submission to the consultation held by Shaviram regarding the first set of designs for The Galleries, Arcade and multi-storey car park in Aldershot town centre, presented to the public at an exhibition on the 10-11th July 2019 in The Arcade.
Whilst having proactively engaged with Shaviram as a known developer for over 18 months with a view to contribute the community’s views on the development designs as they were evolving, this is the first time we have seen the designs. This is regrettable, as the designs appear to have been worked up to such a state that we wonder how much scope Shaviram see for changes to the designs before submitting a planning application. We submit these comments in good faith and hoping for the best possible outcome for our town.
Principle and scale of development
Aldershot Civic Society is in principle in favour of investment and development in the town centre, and we see this as an important route to improving the prospects of the town. ACS is also supportive of the provision of residential accommodation, providing homes for people who need them, therein building the resident base of our community and supporting a more vibrant future for the town. We understand the monetary contribution homes make to the financial viability of such proposals, but stress the need for a proportionate amount of accommodation to be provided. The 602 proposed homes is 20% over the ‘more than 500’ homes identified for these sites in the Local Plan, adopted in Feb 2019.
We applaud the included public space and what appears to be potentially high quality public realm. We are also supportive of the scheme providing a new route through and into the town centre, connecting High Street and Wellington Street, as required in the Local Plan. It will be important to make sure the public spaces don’t become a lifeless space that people simply use for transit between places, and that elements to support a vibrant town centre are built into the designs at this stage.
Given the existing issues around antisocial behaviour in the town centre, any designs must consider how they can make a positive change and discourage anti social behaviour through for example lighting, access, ‘eyes on the street, etc. and without defaulting to CCTV which comes with a raft of maintenance and operational issues and rarely results in resolutions. We need designs that pre-empt issues and design them out.
Transport and parking
We are supportive of the provision of cycling infrastructure in the form of cycle storage spaces.
We are concerned there will not be sufficient parking for each residential dwelling – typically couples owning two cars need two car parking spaces, if only one is allocated where do the other (possibly in the region of 300+) cars park?
We are concerned with the overall reduction in town centre parking and specifically the knock on effect on the Princes Hall, and more widely on town centre shops and other cultural and social venues. We feel people will not be encouraged to visit Aldershot if there is not sufficient parking.
On the display board, “Our vision”, Shaviram states: “Aldershot’s Victorian and military heritage will be celebrated and protected”. The same board states that the architecture responds to prevailing rhythm and articulation and uses locally-distinctive colours, materials, and architectural detailing. The Society struggles to see any demonstrable links to the heritage, and although discussions at the exhibition about this centred on the fact that brick was used and thus provided a link to the Victorian architecture, we do not consider this in any way to be a sufficiently link to or meaningfully celebrate the heritage of our town. We would expect this to be actually visible in the designs, with sensitive detailing of the facades, variety of articulation, choice of materials, and a sense of appreciation of the heritage assets that the proposals sit adjacent to in the designs. This is not the case.
The Civic Society are not expecting nor do we desire a ‘heritage pastiche’ but we want to see contemporary high quality designs that support and underline the heritage qualities that are already present in the town. The proposed range of three overall styles has no identifiable coherence, and arguably two of the three have little merit in terms of originality, with the red-brick ‘warehouse’ style buildings adding some interest but again, with no discernable link to existing architecture in town. It does raise the thought that all three of these could be typology reuse from elsewhere.
The designs for the multi-storey carpark has no bearing with anything locally and could have been built anywhere. It certainly does not celebrate, or even remotely reference, the existing qualities of the surrounding buildings. Instead, it looks like it could’ve been built in Croydon or Lewisham, and is destined to date terribly within 5-10 years.
The adopted Aldershot Town Centre Prospectus SPD clearly identifies a large number of locally listed buildings and ‘Other buildings of heritage quality’ that are adjacent to proposals, as well as statutorily listed buildings and identified important views in immediate vicinity. We would expect these to be addressed in any designs coming forward.
Volume, height and massing
The overall volume of proposed provision is a significant addition to the town centre. The implications of providing the proposed numbers of homes – 602 – is that the scale, volume, and mass of the development is much greater than our community could have ever anticipated, and is greater than what Civic Society can support.
The heights proposed, up to 12 storeys on two buildings, stands out as a too tall not only because of the 12 storeys, but also because of the overall volume and mass of the proposals.
Locating a 12-storey building at the centre of the development doesn’t mean it is acceptable, that it is hidden or won’t be seen from around town. In fact, it will have a significant impact on the nature and feel of the town centre, and on protected views. Additionally, we are curious as to whether a daylight sunlight assessment has been made. We are particularly concerned about the 9-storey (? it’s hard to tell from the very small files uploaded to facebook) building immediately south of the new ‘square’, and the impact this and other proposed buildings (such as the 7(?) storey building onto Wellington Street) might have on the sunlight to this space.
Multi-storey car park: We appreciate that this site is identified in the local plan as a location to provide a ‘focal point’. However, what is proposed in these designs is an oversized voluminous mass that does nothing to connect the town centre to the surrounding area or with movement along key arteries, Naafi roundabout, or with the large-scale Wellesley development to the north. The proposed building at the eastern end is far too tall for this site and is out of proportion to the buildings on the other side of the High Street, which will be swamped and diminished by this building. This prominent location is crucial to the experience and perception of Aldershot town centre. It is therefore surprising and profoundly disappointing that there should be so little originality, shape, or detailing in the proposed building. Far from being a welcoming “gateway”, what is proposed is more like a barrier fortress to the town centre which will give a very poor first impression to anyone entering the town from the east.
Proposed buildings adjacent to the NatWest bank building are overpowering due to being at least a storey too tall in relation to the bank, in particular along Wellington Street, but also Victoria Road where the building steps down to three storeys further to the east. The buildings are also massed in solid blocks sitting next to a finely articulated bank building with dormers and other features.
As per the material we have seen, it is unclear how many of the 602 homes proposed will be 1-beds and how many 2-beds, as well as the proportion of affordable homes and which type of affordable they will be(social rent, shared ownership, etc). As per Rushmoor Local Plan policy LN2 it is expected that a minimum of 20% affordable homes is provided. Given the large numbers of homes proposed and the associated expected income for the developer, we would expect at least 20% of the homes to be genuinely affordable, and we would expect the provision to meet the type of affordable that is very much needed in the area: social rent.
Following a large consultation with people from the town the Civic Society now have a vision document that captures what the people of Aldershot envisage our town could be. The historic elements of the town are of significant importance, with the overall look and feel being incredibly important because the town will be a social destination as much as a retail space.
Although our previous offers to engage Shaviram to assist constructively and collaboratively with the design development were not taken up, right now is the prime opportunity to make modifications that show you have listened to the community feedback and are creating a legacy of which residents of the whole town will be proud. We would be delighted to share our vision document with Shaviram, and to act as a critical friend in the development of this important piece of our town as the designs progress towards a planning application.
We hope to have the opportunity to discuss our views with you as the designs are being developed, and look forward to seeing the updated designs taking into account the input we’ve put forward, as well as that of others.
The Executive Committee
On behalf of the Aldershot Civic Society