Daily Archives: June 10th, 2019

Royal Town Centre Vision

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This is a summary of the Town Centre masterplan strategy developed by Eco Sutton Group. These proposals arose out of the Group’s response to the Langley Sustainable Urban Extension (SUE) and the risk of a dislocated SUE. The aim is to revitalise and regenerate the Royal Town Centre (RTC) by integrating an imaginative new transport interchange “Loop” linked to the associated development of two sites for housing, and a separate Market and Community Hub as attractors.

In place of slow decline and store closures the regenerated RTC would feature new social and mixed-tenure housing to help enliven and transform the Town. . . perhaps intermixed with office and workspace units with the HS2 and Housing Infrastructure windfalls placed in a common pot to help pump prime the complex demolitions, infrastructure and development packages. There would be TWO RTC opportunity sites: Station Environs featuring new low-rise commuter mews-courts (approx. 150 dwellings 2-5 stories) adopting the character of the old town, and the Red Rose Centre / Markets Renewal featuring medium-rise apartments (approx. 200 apartments up to 8 stories) with associated landscaped spaces. The aim is for a whole-life housing demographic linking the RTC to Langley / wider Sutton: young people could occupy low-cost apartments, then move to family housing at Langley, finally moving to as retirees to compact Mews-Court houses conveniently situated next to the Station.

A new Hotel with adjacent Multi Storey Car Park (MSCP) on Brassington Ave and linked to the Gracechurch MSCP would compensate for the car parking lost to new housing whilst providing easier access to the high-level Station platforms via a new elevated walkway. The aim is to maximise the RT’s connectivity to the HS2, achieve a better local development-led dividend and realise the RTC’s potential as a vital destination.

In the Parade occupying the Red Rose Centre (RRC) frontage a new street-level Library with a RT Museum, Local History Archive, RTC Offices / Community Meeting Places & Facilities to would serve as a Community Hub. Close-by a distinctive new Market Hub food court drawing people into the revitalised RTC. The Market Hub would occupy a vacated deep plan retail store no longer commercially viable, and provide space for cultural and artistic activities: music, pop up stalls / cinemas, art exhibitions etc. A flexible approach to retail leases within the envelope of former deep-plan retail units would reflect the national changes impacting on large retail stores and emulate the sort of dynamic specialised retail seen in places like Boldmere. A further opportunity site would be the new Dog Pound Walk opening off the Parade and featuring places to eat and associate with friends. This new Public Space would have level access to the new Community Hub.

The Development vehicle would be a Community Development Trust (CDT) or Community Development Corporation (CDC) with discretionary compulsory purchase powers, this community body would own the evolving Masterplan obo the RT. In addition to developing the Interchange gateway the HS2 dividend would be used to pump-prime key early stage infrastructure provides thereby providing a more compelling Business Case by thoughtfully integrating public transport within an overall regeneration based Programme.

The RTC would own the project obo the RT Community, Birmingham City Council (BCC) principal statutory and property-owning partner together with  the Business Improvement District (BID), M&G as Gracechurch Centre owner represented on CDT / CDC as deliverer / plus other owners, commercial, community, and environmental stakeholders, with WM Mayor as wider Regen Champion. The vision would be for a conjoined regeneration partnership having a positive impact on West WM Regen & Growth with Sutton attracting more people to live and work in the WM, also increasing footfall to the RTC and Sutton’s attractions: Sutton Park / Cinema / Birmingham Road pubs and eateries . . with more  visitors coming into the Town to spend money and enjoy its attractions . .

Town Centre Renewal

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Eco Sutton has been working with others to help kick-start new ideas to renew and revitalise the Royal Town Centre (RTC).

In the Parade a new street-level Library would serve as a Community Hub. Close-by a new Market Hub would act as food court drawing people into the revitalised RTC. Both would occupy vacated deep plan retail stores no longer commercially viable, and provide space for cultural and artistic activities: music, pop up stalls / cinemas, art exhibitions etc

Residents from new housing would increase footfall and 24/7 vitality. The age demographic would shift downwards. Cycling and pedestrian provision would be substantially improved linked to the revitalised transport / HS2 link and strengthened networks. In line with other major cities other than for special needs RTC housing wouldn’t include resident’s car parking.

The Passenger Interchange would encircle the now more accessible “fortress” of the TC with the shelters and stands at the top of the Parade closest to the Station using land acquired by the double loop roads and widened Mill Street but with additional stops and standings (as needed) around the Loop. The bus stands would adjoin a now enlarged and more attractive Town Square. This innovative approach to the design of the interchange would minimise and more easily disperse vehicle-borne pollution resulting in a cleaner and healthier Town.

The overall Project Objectives are to avoid a fragmented Langley – and then apply the impact of the Suburban Urban Extensions (SUEs) as a positive lever for change to knit the revitalised community into a regenerated and sustainable RTC. The consequence of linking the fortunes of Langley to RTC is compelling as if the RTC declines then the dislocation of Langley becomes more likely which in planning terms would be a huge failure for the WM.

The result is that Langley becomes a truly SUSTAINABLE urban extension and integral part of the Royal Town through its impact in securing the revitalisation of the RTC.

Community Planning Initiatives / Langley Fully Electric Park & Ride

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A key part of the Eco Sutton response to Birmingham City Council’s Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) for the Langley Development was the provision of a green Park and Ride Facility. Eco Sutton’s vision is for fully electric shuttles to run from Langley via a new passenger station on the Sutton Park Railway Line in Walmley and then onto the Town Centre.

There would be two major benefits:

1. Avoiding a dislocated Langley and instead ensuring it was connected by green public transport to the Sutton Town Centre.

2. Avoiding the pollution and congestion of additional traffic on the already congested highways and instead providing clean non-polluting electric vehicles.

Community Planning Initiatives: Reclaiming the Highway

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Eco Sutton is campaigning for streets that belong to all users not just drivers. For example: through properly designed and managed crossings that cater for all ages and abilities, and with 20 mph speed limits to residential and community areas because being hit by a vehicle at 20 mph means you will probably survive but at over 30 mph it means you may not. So 20 mph streets are miles safer!

Eco Sutton believes that by changing behaviors in favour of pedestrians and cyclists we can all share a pleasanter greener and safer place to live.

Community Planning Initiatives: Greening Future Car Use

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As part of the Reclaiming the Highways initiative Eco Sutton is championing the use of Electric Vehicles (EVs) in the Town. Eco Sutton is also working with the Town Council and Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) for EV Charging to be integrated into the proposed Transport Interchange. EVs reduce vehicle borne pollution and make the Town a cleaner and healthier place to live.

Community Planning Initiatives / Langley Garden Suburb

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Langley Garden Suburb was an Eco Sutton Community Planning initiative for the Langley Sustainable Urban Extension to help make the new development greener and having a similar character to the Royal Town.

Langley SUE would be planned from the outset on garden suburb principles as a natural and green extension of existing local suburban and arts and craft forms.

The plan would be generated from what was appropriate and right for the locality rather than working backwards from artificially imposed targets for housing growth.

On this basis it should be much easier to get local support behind the approach.

Whilst the Community Development Trust (CDT) proposal also adds weight to this Community Planning narrative.

As can be seen by these images The Royal Town has at least if not more charm and character than the other cited Garden Suburbs – both existing and as proposed

The principle of development in the Green Belt has been legally determined but this does not mean that the targeted numbers and densities are appropriate or justifiable

The Royal Town should determine for itself the level and character of development that best suits the defining characteristics of the locality and seek to develop a Langley masterplan modelled on Garden Suburb characteristics

This will help better ensure the true development and integration of a sustainable community at Langley

Community Planning Initiatives / Sutton LOOP Concept

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  Description of Sutton LOOP Concept

  • The concept extends the anti-clockwise contraflow for buses that already successfully operates on Queen Street and Lower Queen Street.
  • Bus doors always face towards the Town Centre Island making access and egress safe and convenient. The removal of buses from South Parade radically opens up the comprehensive regeneration of the declining RRC.
  • Four Stops on the Bus LOOP are shown. These are: (Sutton) Station, (Sutton) Park, South Parade, and Victoria Street. Brassington Avenue remains on its present highway alignment but the curves are adjusted at either end both to reduce vehicle speed and create larger pockets of pavement for the Park Stop and also to enhance the URC.
  • The secondary vehicle (non-Bus) relief-road LOOP utilised the existing Lower Reddicroft and Reddicroft highway as a one-way loop linking via a refashioned roundabout in front of the Town Hall to Anchorage Road with a returning incoming one-way route via High Street and Mill Street. An advantage being better paved connectivity between the Old and New Towns helping to revive both.
  • The different characters of the Old and New Towns are reflected in the scale and design of the two new housing developments. Station Environs reflects the traditional scale of the Conservation Area, whilst the RRC / Markets Renewal is higher rise and contemporary in appearance.
  • The combined Hotel / MSCP on Brassington features a high-level walk / cycle-way linking to an improved Station. New access and egress ramps through the new Station CP on Brassington could be shared with the Gracechurch MSCP freeing up land and simplifying vehicle flow.
  • The Bus LOOP and RRC / Markets Renewal would be developed first and together. The HS2 C&BF Bid would justify some pump priming funding of the RRC Renewal. Station Environs and Brassington stages would follow on as confidence and funding dictated.

SUTTON LOOP: Benefits of Concept

  • Because the WHOLE Town Centre is the Interchange: this provides for more flexibility in moving and stacking buses . . . especially longer buses such as Sprint.
  • Whilst it is envisaged that smaller P&R buses would be fully electric significantly the LOOP concept disperses diesel engineered buses around the LOOP reducing the concentration of vehicle borne pollution and making the Centre a healthier place to be.
  • By increasing the number of stops around the LOOP (four are shown on the plans) opportunities emerge to make outer fortress wall of the RTC more permeable; and the “Hop On / Hop Off” LOOP Approach helps break down the current fortress walls of the post-war Centre.
  • The key RRC / Markets Development Opportunity is given an additional regenerative boost by having its own front-door bus stop. This is important because as in London and other major centres it is proposed to have limited car parking for the two new housing sites.