- About Us
- BID 2
- The City
- Business Centre
8 March, 2012
THE HOUSING AND BUSINESS SPACE NEEDS OF WINCHESTER
The Business Improvement District of Winchester represents the 700 businesses in the central business district of the City of Winchester. This paper reflects a wide range of discussions over the past year at a number of business meetings.
Winchester has grown slowly and organically over a thousand years, driven by the Church, the monarchy, agriculture, the railways and industry and we should welcome and embrace further development, but at the same time make absolutely sure that we control it. Thus we must ensure that developers deliver a high quality scheme that provides what we need for the future whilst protecting what we have now.
Towns and cities need to plan ahead for their economic survival; around the world many towns and cities are thinking coherently and strategically about their futures. This requires a coming together of demographic, economic, spatial and business needs. Those towns and cities that are not planning and thinking and are failing to grapple with the needs of the 21st century and beyond will fade away and decline.
Although some may see such a fading away as desirable, leading to simple, slow, stress-free lives that somehow resonate with people’s pasts, in reality such declines result in poverty, unemployment, and poorer futures for the next generation. It is a myth, a belief in some golden age of low emissions and more relaxed lives that is attractive to the ageing, but tragic for the young.
For towns and cities are where most people around the world live. Cities magnify humanity’s strengths. They spur innovation by facilitating face-to-face interaction, they attract talent and sharpen it through competition, they encourage entrepreneurship, and they allow for social and economic mobility. Theorists such as Jane Jacobs, Edward Glaeser and Richard Florida have given us greater and greater understanding of the values and virtues of living in shared, creative and innovative spaces, where people live and work together in creative and synergetic fashions.
The BID believes that Winchester aspires to be such a creative and innovative place, and thus needs to plan with care. Most of those who live and work in the town understand this; sadly others don’t. This paper attempts to make clear the views of the many who see urban growth and development as critical to all our futures. New housing development is part of that future, and it must happen; the new Local Development Framework makes clear that need. Rather than fighting against it, we should be working together to ensure that it delivers a high quality solution to that which Winchester needs, rather than some bland second rate solution.
The demographics of the town of Winchester make fearful reading. The projections that the local authority were at one stage using, termed ‘Natural Change’, suggested a steadily declining population, smaller than that which we have at the moment and with substantially fewer young family groups in the town. It was clear that no-one could contemplate a future consisting of a steadily growing elderly population, with all their healthcare and social support needs, without any young families to ensure that there will be normal shops and businesses, proper schools and education, proper healthcare and normal regular lives; and the new Local Development Plan Strategy WT1 recognised these issues and made clear that the Barton Farm solution was the only option; this looks and feels well-founded and forward looking.
New House Building
The number of new houses built in Winchester in the past five years has been 825, that is 165 a year; yet during the past five years 5,342 domestic properties have been sold at an average price of £341,932.
At the same time there is a shortage of affordable housing, with over 2000 people on the waiting list, and anecdotal data from local Estate Agents suggest that around half of all houses bought and sold are the result of marriage breakups, rather than a net inflow of people. The original ‘Blueprint’ figures from the City suggest that in the Natural Change model, only 66 new houses a year were required. A figure as low as 66 houses per annum for the next 20 years is inconceivable, and betrays the future for our children.
For of course new houses are a driver of economic development. With new homes we can have a population that contains younger people, and their children, who can keep our town lively and productive; new people can come into the town with new skills and new ideas. Without them the town becomes merely an extended retirement home, based on the data presented by the city.
New Business Developments
Businesses drive the economics of people’s lives. Their jobs, their pensions, their day to day spending on food and the essentials of life, as well as their pleasures and enjoyments are all derived from the businesses in the area, and the people who work in them. And Winchester is affluent; indeed it is among the most affluent areas of the world. Gross Domestic Product was £19,300 per head in 2005; we expect and enjoy that level of affluence, but it has to be worked for.
For the businesses in Winchester also provide large amount of the spending on schools, hospitals and social care that a modern society has come to expect and need – last year £46 million was paid by the local businesses through the business rates.
Thus we must support the continuation of business profitability and nurture business innovation by way of the new people and their new skills that will come into the town.
Winchester District has fewer than 2 people per hectare and 96% of the space is classed as rural. There is a plethora of land for leisure, sport, and enjoyment. Towns and Cities are where nearly half of the district’s people live, in about 4% of the land; this is an efficient and resource-efficient use of space. Interestingly the car ownership and use levels within the town of Winchester are lower than the levels in Winchester District, in the case of multicar families lower by some 50%.
What is not required
Of course what is not required is more suburban sprawl, for it is cities and towns that produce the innovation and exciting business development that we need. Suburbs produce commuting, travel, resource costs. Towns and cities produce shared experiences, living and working together, innovation, creativity.
We must thus plan accordingly, with living space and working space intertwined or close together so that people can move across the town between work, living and leisure in a seamless fashion.
So the proposal in the WDLP Core Strategy for retention of existing employment land and premises to provide for new business growth to broaden Winchester’s economic base through growth in sectors including knowledge, tourism, creative and media industries and more specifically start-up premises to encourage entrepreneurship, is to be welcomed and driven forward by all of us.
What is required
Thus we must have well-planned, well-designed spaces that allow people to move easily and by foot between the centre of the town and its outskirts. Barton Farm must be designed and planned by well-briefed and experienced international architects and planners. Spaces around and within must be identified for both work and homes, so that people can live and work in one place. Providing affordable living space will require homes that must be both rental, and for purchase, they will need to be both high rise and low rise, and a wide range of different sorts of affordable living spaces must be provided. They must be built using sustainable materials and must be green and sustainable to run and operate.
Any project like Barton Farm will also have to have high quality public transport, and will thus require high density living to enable a sustainable business plan; shops, pubs, bars and restaurants have to be fully integrated into the development, and fast broad band must be readily available across the community so that people can reduce commuting and work from home.
New businesses must be able to emerge speedily and then change as the needs of society require different sorts of enterprise. In the same way living spaces need to range from the small to the large, providing an affordable progression of living and working spaces, allowing individuals to become couples, have children, become families and then retire as couples again.
This may all appear utopian, but it is merely that which economies and cities around the world are exploring and putting into place. Winchester needs to be one of those cities.
Winchester Business Improvement District