3. Vision and Strategy for Warwick District to 2026
3.1 The Core Strategy must contain a long term vision that sets out how Warwick District and the places within it should develop. The vision must be locally distinctive to our area, and be realistic and achievable. It must also have regard to the West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy (WMRSS), the vision for Coventry at the centre of the Coventry, Solihull & Warwickshire sub-region, and our own recently adopted Sustainable Community Strategy (set out in the box below).
The West Midlands Regional Vision
"The overall vision for the West Midlands is one of an economically successful, outward looking and adaptable Region, which is rich in culture and environment, where all people, working together, are able to meet their aspirations and needs without prejudicing their quality of life of future generations."
Coventry City's Vision
"A premier city at the leading edge of sustainability, design, equality and diversity which
Sustainable Community Strategy (SCS) Vision
"Warwick District, a great place to live, work and visit, where we aspire to build sustainable, safer, stronger and healthier communities."
3.2 As part of the consultation on the "Issues Paper", comments were invited on a draft vision. A number of respondents commented that the vision was not locally distinctive to Warwick District and should be expanded. In light of the consultation responses and the more recently published national guidance, the following vision has been drafted.
The Preferred Vision for Warwick District to 2026
Warwick District in 2026 will be renowned for being:
A mix of historic towns and villages set within an attractive rural landscape of open farmland and parklands, that have developed and grown in a way which has protected their individual characteristics and identities, contributed towards creating high quality safe environments with low levels of waste and pollution, and made a meaningful contribution to addressing the causes and potential impacts of climate change;
An area with a rich heritage with Royal Leamington Spa Conservation Area widely regarded as one of the finest examples of a Regency Spa town, alongside many other nationally and locally important historic buildings and areas throughout the District making it a destination for tourism and cultural experiences, including the successful and popular national attractions at Warwick and Kenilworth Castles;
A centre for education and training, with Warwick University being in the top 50 world universities, and Warwickshire College being a successful and expanding college of further and higher education with skills-based training facilities such as the Trident Centre in Whitnash;
An area with a strong economy and a hub for successful and innovative hi-technology, manufacturing, and research and development companies, such as the computer gaming, environmental technologies, and motor industries, alongside a range of national and regional head offices and businesses;
An area with good transport connections by rail and road to other parts of the UK, including convenient and attractive train stations in each of the three main towns and in parkway locations providing frequent services within the sub-region to Coventry and beyond to Birmingham and other regions of the UK, and where traffic congestion has been tackled by a comprehensive pedestrian and cycle network alongside frequent and flexible public transport services, more efficient use of road space, and use of new technologies to reduce the need to travel;
A district where deprivation has been tackled through regeneration, and where there are no communities within the bottom 30% most deprived areas in England;
A location for high quality housing, with a wide choice in terms of size and tenure that meets the local communities' needs, and with access for all to local health, education, shops and community facilities, along with the main employment areas and town centres, by means other than the private car;
A destination for shopping and leisure with a strong sub-regional centre in Leamington offering major stores alongside niche independent retailers in a high quality and safe environment, with thriving Warwick and Kenilworth town centres providing shops and services for more local needs as well as the visitors attracted to the towns;
An area with attractive and well used green spaces, with maintained and improved parks and gardens, accessible river and canal corridors and disused railway lines, linked wildlife-rich nature reserves and areas, and quality play opportunities and recreation facilities across the District contributing towards a healthier community; and,
An area with a strong agricultural economy that has developed and diversified, with Stoneleigh Park at its centre as the home of 'rural excellence' and the Royal Agricultural Society of England.
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3.3 A strategy has been developed to support the vision and to provide strategic guidance as to how growth should be accommodated in the District up to 2026. This strategy must conform generally with the WMRSS and the emerging regional and sub-regional strategy for Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire within the WMRSS Phase Two Revision. These are summarised in the box below.
The West Midlands Spatial Strategy (2008)
The Regional Strategy can be broadly summarised as enabling all parts of the Region to sustainably meet their own needs, in a mutually supportive way. Specifically, outside of the major conurbations of the region (MUAs), new development should be focused on the other large settlements (which include Warwick/Leamington) at a level to support balanced, sustainable communities. These large settlements should act as a focus for new investment to support wider regeneration and help meet the economic, social and cultural needs of the surrounding rural areas that build upon their traditional strengths of historic heritage and high quality environment. Furthermore, the strategic focus for major retail, leisure and office developments is a network of vital and vibrant town and city centres (which include Leamington). These centres, along with regeneration zones and high technology corridors (which include Warwick District) will provide the spatial focus for economic growth and diversification.
Other towns and villages should build on their locational strengths, environmental qualities, regeneration opportunities, and the linkages between them and their local hinterlands to deliver improved local services and develop their own distinctive roles and character.
The emerging Regional and Sub-Regional Strategy (Phase Two Revision)
The emerging Regional Strategy builds on this by adding that new development will generally be concentrated in and adjacent to towns most capable of balanced and sustainable growth (i.e. Warwick/Leamington), although some peripheral development of other settlements may be considered as part of an overall approach to the development of sustainable communities provided this does not undermine the renaissance of the MUAs. Rural renaissance is also encouraged across all rural areas in the region.
In this context, the emerging sub-regional strategy focuses development within the city of Coventry (as the MUA) and within the North-South corridor running from Nuneaton through Coventry to Warwick/Leamington recognising their strong structural and functional relationships. The role of all other settlements within Warwickshire will be to meet the housing and employment needs of the area in the most sustainable way.
3.4 The strategy has been informed by the "Options Paper" and the comments received during the public consultation on this paper last year5. Seven options were consulted upon based around the distribution of varying levels of growth between the four towns of the District, the larger villages, a new settlement within the rural area and the urban fringe to the immediate south of Coventry (reflecting the emerging sub-regional strategy focus on Coventry).
3.5 The two options which distributed growth to Warwick/Leamington/Whitnash area, the south of Coventry, and, to a lesser extent, Kenilworth were the most popular. Options which distributed growth solely to Warwick/Leamington/Whitnash, or evenly between the four towns (but excluding south of Coventry) were less popular. Options which included distributing growth to the four towns but also including the larger villages, and/or including a new settlement in the rural area were the least popular of all the options.
3.6 A sustainability appraisal was also undertaken as part of the background work to the "Options Paper"6. This concluded that balancing growth between the four towns was the most sustainable option. Options which distributed the growth to Warwick/Leamington/Whitnash, the south of Coventry, and, to a lesser extent, Kenilworth were scored as not as sustainable. The options which included distributing growth to the four towns but also including the larger villages, and/or including a new settlement in the rural area were the least sustainable.
3.7 A broad assessment has also been undertaken of the relative suitability of the Districts settlements and other locations, in terms of their ability in strategic terms to support balanced and sustainable growth.
3.8 The three towns of Warwick, Leamington and Whitnash have strong inter-relationships and connectivity, and in strategic planning terms can be viewed as acting as one large urban area, even though they have very separate identities. The three towns have a combined working age population of approximately 55,000, with around 56,500 jobs7 within a range of economic sectors. The main concentration of jobs is within the town centres and in the employment areas in the southern half of the urban area8. The town centres of Warwick and Leamington have a combined floorspace in excess of 150,000 square metres, with Leamington being the larger of the two centres with over 100,000 square metres containing a comprehensive range of national and independent retailers, leisure and other town centre uses. The three towns also contain a range of other facilities, community infrastructure and key services, including two train stations, a hospital and a college of further and higher education.
3.9 In terms of its ability to offer access to wide range of jobs, services and community facilities, it is clearly a suitable location in strategic terms to focus growth in order to support the development of sustainable communities. However, any population growth must be matched by growth in jobs and infrastructure in order to maintain the careful balance between jobs and workers, and thus avoid encouraging out-commuting for work.
3.10 The urban area of Kenilworth has a working age population of approximately 15,000, with around 5,500 jobs, although the town is very near to the University of Warwick which is a major employer in the area. The town centre contains approximately 23,000 square metres of floorspace and therefore the town has a much smaller range of retail, services, infrastructure and facilities in comparison with the combined urban area of Warwick, Leamington and Whitnash, including the fact that it does not currently have a train station. Although as a location it can provide access to a range of services and facilities, and is therefore a suitable location for some growth, this is clearly more limited when in comparison with Warwick, Leamington and Whitnash. Furthermore, any population growth of the town will only increase the current imbalance between the number of workers and jobs resulting in increasing out-commuting by residents for work by, in the absence of a train station, less sustainable modes of transport. Delivering employment growth and infrastructure, including better strategic public transport connections, alongside any population growth is therefore critical to the sustainable growth of the town.
3.11 There are a number of villages in the rural area, although these are very small in comparison with the towns and none of which have a population over 3,000. Consequently, they have a limited range of facilities and services, which at best often include only a primary school, pub, shop or village hall. Employment opportunities are also limited. Given their size and level of facilities, and their proximity to the urban areas, none of the villages act as service centres to the wider rural area. These settlements would not therefore be suitable locations for significant levels of growth.
3.12 The urban fringe to the south of Coventry has also been identified as a possible location for growth through the emerging sub-regional strategy. This forms part of the overall regional strategy to deliver an urban renaissance of the major conurbation through growth, in order that they can meet more of their own economic and social needs and counter the outward movement of people and jobs to nearby areas, like Warwick and Leamington. This location in strategic terms can draw upon its ability to link with the city and access the wide range of jobs, services, infrastructure and community facilities found within this major urban area.
3.13 In addition, an alternative option considered within the "Options Paper" was the creation of a new settlement within the District. This was not specific to any particular site within the District but would need to be of sufficient size on its own to create a large enough population to support the provision of new shops, services, community facilities, infrastructure and jobs. National planning policy on 'eco-towns' is currently out for consultation, but indicates that new settlements should be of a minimum of 5,000 dwellings in order to establish their own character and identity. This scale of growth would represent a significant proportion of the future growth of the District and would inevitably draw public and private sector investment and new infrastructure away from the major conurbations and urban areas of the District, contrary to the regional and emerging sub-regional strategies.
The Preferred Growth Strategy for Warwick District to 2026
3.14 Having regard to the regional and sub-regional spatial strategies (both current and emerging) and the evidence gathered, including the comments from the "Options Paper", the Council's Preferred Strategy for directing new development is to:
- Direct the majority of new development to within and adjoining the combined urban areas of Warwick, Leamington and Whitnash, provided it maintains the current balance between jobs and workers, can improve infrastructure, and includes focusing major retail, commercial and cultural developments within and adjoining Leamington town centre. Within this broad area, development will be generally directed towards the south of the urban area in order to minimise journeys through the historic town centres to the main employment areas and transport connections in the south, and to avoid incursion into the West Midlands Green Belt to the north, east and west of the urban area to maintain separation between towns and villages;
- Direct more limited new development to within and adjoining the urban area of Kenilworth provided it can demonstrate that it will help to improve the current imbalance between the number of workers and jobs in the town and improve strategic public transport connections. Within this area, development will be generally directed towards the south and east in order to minimise any harm to the historic setting of Kenilworth Castle to the west, and to protect the most important areas of Green Belt that separates the town from the urban area of Coventry to the north;
- Enable limited development to come forward within and adjoining the villages and hamlets where it can meet local business and community needs and maintain the vitality of those communities in locations that protect and enhance the character of the villages;
- Strictly control development within the open countryside; and,
- Allow for new development within the urban fringe adjacent to the built-up area of Coventry, where it is demonstrated as necessary as part of delivering the sub-regional strategy to meet the city's aspirations for growth and regeneration, and to counter the unsustainable outward movement of people and jobs to the surrounding Districts.
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3.15 In order to show how we will deliver the spatial vision and strategy for the District to 2026, a number of strategic objectives have been identified. These are set out in the next section.
5 Further details can be found within the Options Paper: Report of Public Consultation which can be found on the District Council website. 6 This can be found within the Options Paper: Background Technical Paper which can be found on the District Council website. 7 Source: Annual Business Inquiry 2007 (NOMIS) 8 Source: Annual Business Inquiry 2007 (NOMIS)