EXCLUSIVE: Plans for two decades of change in city

First published in News Worcester News: Photograph of the Author by , @aliciakellyWN #worcsnews

AMBITIOUS plans have been unveiled to transform south Worcestershire over the next 18 years, with major transport changes and thousands of new homes.

The South Worcestershire Joint Core Strategy (SWJCS) has produced a plan in an effort to meet the requirements of the Government's West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy (WMRSS) - which demands massive changes to the area by 2026.

Here we take a closer look at those plans and answer some of the questions arising from such an ambitious report.


HOUSING

The West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy (WMRSS) demands that Worcester builds 10,500 new homes before 2026.

However, the SWJCS group believes only 3,200 of those homes should be built within the existing city boundary, with the remaining 7,300 homes to extend into Wychavon and Malvern Hills land.
Despite the plan, it is not proposed that the city's boundaries are formally extended.

The SWJCS group brings together representatives from Worcester City Council, Malvern Hills District Council and Wychavon District Council.

New housing estates
Key to the plan are two major urban developments at the edge of the city:

West/North West
About 3,500 homes could be built on the edge of Dines Green.
The area would also include 15 hectares (37 acres) of employment land, health care, shops, community and leisure facilities and provision for emergency services.
A primary school would be needed along with a secondary school for the wider area.

South/South East
About 3,000 new homes could be built close to St Peter's.
Again, 25 hectares (62 acres) of employment land would also be required plus community, primary health care, retail, emergency services and leisure facilities along with a two-form entry primary school.
A small secondary school may also be required.

Other housing developments
Fernhill Heath: The village, which is within 1km of the Worcester City boundary, could accommodate 500 new homes according to the SWJCS group.
The development would be a greenfield extension to the north west of the village, outside green belt land. Shopping, social, health and community facilities would also be built along with an expanded first school.

Kilbury Drive: A further 300 homes could be built at a greenfield site adjacent to Kilbury Drive in Whittington.


TRANSPORT

The SWJCS group's report makes it clear homes should only be built once the supporting transport links are in place.

Roads
Dualling of the Southern Link Road
Both the major urban extensions to Dines Green and St Peter's would require the southern link road to be made into a dual carriageway, including the Carrington Bridge.
Currently thought to be operating at 190 per cent of capacity, the road has long been congested.
Improvements at junction 7, Worcester south, of the M5 are also proposed along with a new pedestrian/cycle bridge linking the new development, close to Dines Green, with the rest of the city.

Rail
New rail halts have been proposed at Rushwick, Battenhall or Norton, and Fernhill Heath.
The halts would be platforms where passengers could get on or off trains, but would not necessarily include station buildings.
In the longer-term, a bus and rail interchange at Worcestershire Parkway in Norton is still viewed as a desirable transport option for Worcester but the report makes clear this is unlikely to happen for many years.
Improvements to signalling on the rail lines have been identified as essential.

Park-and-rides
A park-and-ride site to the west has been identified as essential to reduce traffic flow on existing roads.
A bus park-and-ride off the A38 has been suggested to serve the south/south east area of the city.
A rail park-and-ride could be included at the new rail halt at Fernhill Heath to provide accessibility to Worcester city centre for shoppers and commuters.

By-pass at Fernhill Heath
A new relief road would be built off the A38 to the south of Fernhill Heath, taking pressure off the main street.

What is not included
It is not thought that trips from the north/north west area would justify the creation of a north-west by-pass or a new northern bridge crossing.
However, it is considered that a route for a future north-west city by-pass should be considered in case of growth after 2026.


CITY CENTRE

Commercial and retail expansion
The city centre would be the focus of expansion for shopping, leisure, tourism and commerce.
Education based at the new University of Worcester campus and Worcester College of Technology is also seen as vital to the centre's development.
However, only a limited amount of housing will be built.

A new city centre bridge
According to the SWJCS group, a new city centre bridge could help ease congestion on the existing Worcester bridge.
The existing bridge could then be limited to sustainable modes of transport and remove traffic from the city centre.
The group also envisages significant improvements being made to the riverside and cathedral square to reflect Worcester's status as a cathedral and University city.
Although no location is given for the bridge, Robert Rowden, former chair of the SWJCS group, said he believed it could link Tybridge Street to the Butts.


OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Regional Investment site
Land near junction 6, Worcester north, of the M5 has been earmarked as a Regional Investment Site which would see around 25 hectares (62 acres) made available for an industrial site.
The SWJSC group believes this is necessary to provide jobs for the thousands more people who would be living in the city.
The plan would require substantial improvements to junction 6 of the M5 although exactly what that would entail is not discussed.

Community Sports Hub
A major new sports development at Hindlip has also been put forward to include an Academy, an indoor cricket school - with fall-back cricket pitch if New Road was unplayable, major football, tennis and hockey centres, learning centres, multi-purpose sports hall, Golf Centre with new 18-hole championship course and teaching Academy and Specialist Sports Medical, injury prevention, physiotherapy and rehabilitation facilities.
The community sports hub, created by the Sir Bert Millichip Sports Limited, would be built on 235 hectares (582 acres) of land in the Green Belt on the northern edge of Worcester, stretching from Fernhill Heath across to Pershore Lane.

Specialist Criminal Justice Employment Centre
West Mercia Police Authority has already put forward plans to upgrade its headquarters and training centre at Hindlip.
However, a need for a specialist criminal justice park, providing offices for a host of people working within the justice sector has now also been identified.
If it went ahead, the park would again be built on green belt land.


TIMELINE

  • 2006-2011
    - 2,000 homes and 20 hectares (49 acres) of employment land in the city.
    - Community Sports Hub.
  • 2011-2015
    - 2,000 homes and 19 hectares (47 acres) of employment land at the Kilbury Drive and Fernhill Heath developments.
    - Regional Investment Site.
  • 2016-2021
    - 3,000 homes and 20 hectares (49 acres) of employment land on the edge of Worcester.
  • 2022-2026
    - A further 3,500 homes and 20 hectares (49 acres) of employment land.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

What is the SWJCS group?
The group brings together representatives from Worcester City Council, Malvern Hills District Council and Wychavon District Council.
The three districts agreed to work together to respond to the West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy, a Government plan for ambitious expansion in South Worcestershire.

Why have they produced this response?
The Government has said that south Worcestershire must build 24,500 homes in the area before 2026.
The SWJCS group, in consultation with the public, has been discussing the best way to achieve this growth.

Is this plan agreed?
No. The preferred option put forward by the SWJCS group is merely a suggestion and will now go to the three district's planning committees and councils to agree.

Do I have a say?
A consultation was held last year and another public consultation, based on the preferred option, will be held this summer once the councils have discussed and agreed it.

Then what happens?
A final draft core strategy document will be submitted to the Secretary of State in January 2009 and that will be examined before a final version is adopted in 2010.


  • Download a diagram of the planned development locations here.
  • Next week your Worcester News will be looking at how the plans will affect towns and villages in Malvern and Wychavon.


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