Chiltern Chamber submission to Chiltern DC Local Plan
The Chiltern Chamber of Commerce welcomes the opportunity to engage with the planning process to ensure that we integrate the needs of residents and businesses and the infrastructure to support the growth and development of the Chiltern demographic and geographic.
As you may be aware, Chiltern Chamber seeks to support the local business community in meeting today’s challenges and those of the future. In addition to improving economic development we also recognise that economic development and business investment cannot progress in isolation so we encourage major sustainable development of business and investment, working with the local authorities and relevant bodies.
Our members regularly inform us that due to the lack of infrastructure, many are moving from the area, resulting in the loss of local jobs and others of the start-up variety are having to start their businesses elsewhere.
We believe that the direct result of this can be seen by the stagnating town centres in both Amersham and Chesham.
Even though we concentrate on Amersham and Chesham we are linked to many other Chambers and as an organisation we actively encourage cross fertilisation of ideas.
A neighbouring town had similar difficulties and adopted a radical approach that has proved to be very successful.
In November 2014, the Academy of Urbanism’s Urbanism Awards found Berkhamsted High Street to be a “vibrant” “bustling” road, that “works extremely well as a quality high street” which creates a “pleasant” and “successful” shopping environment, allowing people to take advantage of a good “range of specialist shops and numerous cafés, restaurants and pubs”. The long high street, featured a 100% retail occupancy including independent traders and a “café culture”.
But this was not always the case, originally an industrial town they moved many of the businesses out of the town centre using the space to create a variety of new homes which has transformed the town centre into a vibrant community.
No longer congested with environmentally damaging trucks, these vehicles stay out of the town centre delivering their goods to businesses based now at the edge of the town.
Chiltern Chamber welcomes the opportunity to help Chiltern District Council deliver its vision of supplying more mixed houses, whilst protecting and growing the number of local work opportunities.
The Chamber believes the Council should learn from Berkhamsted’s experience and use this opportunity to create new Business Parks on the edge of our towns, freeing up valuable town centre space and thus creating vibrant communities for us all.
We also note the housing figures submitted with the DDPD were inadequate and were one of the reasons that the document was rejected by the Inspector, creating the need for this Local Plan Initial Consultation. To directly address this point, we have looked at a number of differing options, which supported by our proposal above of relocating businesses out of primarily residential areas – eg Robendene site on Grimsdells Lane, Brazils Yard and Reed Industrial Estate on Plantation Road, Royal Mail site on Hill Avenue, BT building on Chesham Road, 52-54 Sycamore Road, Higham Road, Waterside and Sunnyside Road to name a few – if these are all relocated to town edge sites, that would free up their current locations for mixed residential development.
67-75 Sycamore Road – this should be redeveloped as retail with the refurbishment of the flats above to an acceptable standard.
It should also be noted and taken into account that many more people are working from home and it is generally felt that a survey should be carried out to assess the numbers of people who are either self-employed or who have the option of working from a home base. This would also help assess the type of housing required as well as what sort of support is needed for local businesses from Chiltern Chamber.
Another issue that should be taken into account from a Chamber perspective is the fact that we have a number of large employers with many varied skills and experience in our local area and it would be of great advantage for local businesses to volunteer time to go into the schools and run projects and talks about the skills needed to fulfil future positions within the direct local industries to help the businesses remain sustainable.
This approach from a school age, means that all educational facilities are able to facilitate courses that would be beneficial to young people to help them secure their futures and maximise local talent. With the growing number of Academy Schools, this is even more of a reality as Academies are able to adapt their curriculum where needed. Some of the Chiltern Chamber Ambassadors and Committee member are willing to give up their valuable time to aid with future projects of this nature.
In line with the proposal to move businesses out of the town centres and to outlying areas, a reassessment of the Greenbelt / AONB would also make sense. The original designation for Greenbelt / AONB was made in 1965. Since then the Chesham and Amersham by-pass has opened. The Amersham by-pass was opened in approximately 1984 and development around the by-pass created pockets of settlements. A re-designation would mean a more sensible use for the land in-between the by-pass and the settlements and would be a good location for mixed business / residential areas, especially as that part of the land sits in a ‘bowl’ which automatically means it is hidden and the beauty of the real Greenbelt / AONB and the beautiful views that go with it are preserved, as they should be.
Below is a compiled list of additional but very significant focal points that our members and the local community of Chesham and Amersham have asked are reviewed and included within the County of Buckinghamshire and the South East future plans.
- Competitive and compelling
- Health and wellbeing for all
- Innovation and growth
- Leading edge location that is a great place to work, live and relax
- Trains to London
- Educational excellence
- Return on investment
- Now is the time to get involved
- Freeholders focus group – incentivising a call for sites
- Run down sites, historic employment generating and grim sites should be put to good use
- Investing in success balanced new development
- Push new light development to periphery of town boundaries
- Not heavy polluting industry in the district
- Super fast broadband
- Services power, water and sewage
- Better road and Parking management
- Development of a Planning Template for fast tracking excellent and compelling plans
- Affordable Housing and accommodation for the future workforce/work contributors