Pre-Submission City Plan

Context

2.1 The Gloucester City Plan (GCP) delivers the Joint Core Strategy (JCS) locally and addresses local issues and opportunities. The City Plan Vision statement, key principles and policies have been informed by the Council Plan (2017 - 2020), City Vision: A City ambitious for its future and proud of its past (2012 - 2022), other relevant strategies and plans, community and stakeholder consultation, and evidence around the issues and opportunities that exist in the city. The following section provides a summary of the city, based on the above, highlighting some of the issues and opportunities, which then feed into the subsequent Vision and Key Principles.

Gloucester today, Gloucester tomorrow - A portrait of the city

2.2 Gloucester is a small city located in the south west of England. The city is bound by the River Severn to the west with the Forest of Dean beyond. To the east lies the Cotswold escarpment with the Cotswold Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) beyond. It is strategically located with excellent links by road, rail and waterways, and is near Gloucestershire, Bristol, Birmingham and Cardiff airports.

2.3 The city's population in 2018 was estimated to be 129,285 and is growing year on year. Gloucester will experience the greatest population growth of all the district authorities in Gloucestershire over the coming years, with an expected growth of 20.1% between 2010 and 2035. It is a diverse city, with a wide range of different ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds.

2.4 The population of Gloucester is relatively young with 24.8% of people being under the age of 19, the highest of all Gloucestershire districts, the South West and UK. This is set to increase with the number of children and young people predicted to grow by over 16.4% between 2010 and 2035. By 2035 Gloucester is expected to have 6,000 people over the age of 85. The GCP needs to ensure that it plans for the housing needs of this older population as well as meeting the needs of those with specific housing needs.

2.5 There are around 55,690 homes in Gloucester and recent evidence shows there has been significant growth in new homes. The JCS identifies a need of 14,300 new homes for the city between 2011 and 2031. Approximately 35% of these new homes will be provided in locations on the edge of the city, outside of the City Council's administrative area. However, it is important that sufficient sites are identified within the city itself to provide the amount and type of new homes that the community needs and, given the limited amount of developable land, it has been necessary to consider all possible development sites on both greenfield and brownfield land and to ensure that the very best use is made of these sites.

2.6 Most homes in the city are owner-occupied, the highest levels of home ownership are found in the wards of Abbey, Elmbridge, Grange, Hucclecote and Longlevens (more than 80%). The lowest levels of home ownership are in Kingsholm and Wotton, Podsmead and Westgate. Privately rented homes are most common in Westgate, Kingsholm and Wotton and Barton and Tredworth. It is important a mix of new homes is delivered to meet the needs of our existing and future communities.

2.7 Gloucester has a strong and growing economy, being the main economic driver in the county along with Cheltenham, and there are aspirations for major economic growth over the coming years. Gloucester is well represented from a strong finance and insurance sector, as well as a growing number of information security, web hosting, IT and defence communications and security businesses. The creative community has also grown rapidly in recent years, with Blackfriars and Westgate Street becoming established as a hub for creative businesses. The city has a substantial stock of existing employment land which provides for the needs of businesses and offers growth potential; it is important to protect and make the best use of this employment land The JCS identifies a need for 192 hectares of 'B Class' employment land across the three local authority areas. The strategic allocations provide for a significant quantum of this need, but it is important that additional suitable land is identified within the urban area to support the economy.

2.8 Tourism plays an increasingly important role in the city's economy, generating around 5.9 million visitor trips to Gloucester each year, with an annual spend of approximately £207m. There are major plans to grow this in future years, capitalising on the city's unique and in many cases, world class heritage and culture. Venues such as the Guildhall and Gloucester Rugby provide music, arts and cultural events, however the city lacks a major permanent cultural venue that could regularly hold major events. The Docks and canal are assets unique to Gloucester and a major tourist attraction, but which could be capitalised on further, particularly use of the waterspace.

2.9 Within the city centre, the council is working with partners to deliver a strong regeneration programme. This has seen the delivery of a new transport hub and plans are afoot for the redevelopment of the wider King's Quarter area to provide a wide range of different uses, including commercial units and offices, and a high-quality arrival point into the city centre. The Regeneration and Economic Development Strategy (2016 - 2021) sets out a number of priority regeneration schemes and smaller development sites, along with objectives that seek to deliver significant improvements to the city centre, jobs, growth, community benefits and an enhanced cultural offer.

2.10 Gloucester city centre has a good range of shops, services and facilities. However, evidence also shows that there continues to be a poor perception from shoppers around the quality of the environment and the range of shopping available. It further shows that there is a lack of choice from some types of product, particularly fashion / clothing, and that there are a limited number of independent retailers. The city centre has lost trade to other competition centres over recent years, as well as increased competition from out-of-centre retailing and the internet. Gloucester Quays opened in 2009 and now offers a wide-range of discount retailing and a leisure quarter including a multiplex cinema, restaurants, café and bars. In the future, it is important that further investment is secured in the city centre and that it capitalises on the success of key visitor attractions in the city, including Gloucester Quays, the Cathedral and Gloucester Rugby. Equally, that new retail and leisure development is planned to complement and not compete with or undermine the city centre.

2.11 There are pockets of significant deprivation in the city and in some cases, these are worse than the national average. It is estimated that around 20% of children in the city live in poverty. Life expectancy is also lower than the rest of the country. From a public health perspective there are challenges and inequalities around issues such as inactivity, obesity, alcohol related harm, diabetes and drug misuse, suicide and attempted suicide, all of which are at higher levels than the national average. Planning for and developing strong, healthy and vibrant communities are vital in ensuring the physical and mental well-being of the city's residents.

2.12 Half of people in Gloucester aged between 16 and 64 are educated to at least NVQ3 level and above. However, 8.1% of the population have no qualifications. The city has several high performing schools and is home to the University of Gloucestershire, satellite campuses for the University of the West of England and Gloucestershire College. Hartpury College is located approximately 5 miles to the north east of the city but a substantial number of its student live in the city during term-time. A key issue for the GCP is to create a positive environment to allow the college and universities to grow and attract students.

2.13 Gloucester is actively engaged in sport and has many sports clubs, particularly in football, rugby union and cricket, but with growing participation in rugby league, American football, Gaelic football and gymnastics. Overall, participation in formal sports is increasing. There are a large number playing pitches and sporting facilities - but there are shortages in some areas. Evidence shows that many playing fields and sports facilities are poor quality but have been improving. An expanded multi-sports hub has recently been completed in the north at Oxstalls Sports Park and the University of Gloucestershire, including two full-sized 3G artificial surfaces and a large indoor sports hall with stadium seating. The City Council is also working with partners to bring forward a Sport and Community Hub at 'Blackbridge' in Podsmead.

2.14 Car ownership and car use continues to dominate, and there are significant congestion issues on some roads, particularly at peak hours. However, a high number of people live and work within an acceptable commutable area, which means there are opportunities for increased use of sustainable transport modes. A new modern bus station has recently been delivered as part of Phase 1 of the King's Quarter regeneration project. Funding has also been secured through the Local Enterprise Partnership for substantial improvements to the adjacent railway station; this will have a positive impact in encouraging people to use alternative forms to transport to the private car. There is a lack of cycle lanes between Gloucester and Cheltenham. It is important that the GCP, together with the JCS, creates a positive framework that supports the delivery of the Gloucestershire Local Transport Plan and a move towards increased use of more sustainable modes of transport, including active travel.

2.15 There are 48 formal play areas in Gloucester and over £1m of investment was made by the City Council in upgrading these between 2009 and 2015. However there remain shortages in open space in some parts, both in terms of quantity and quality. There are numerous informal leisure and recreational assets including for example Robinswood Hill Country Park and Alney Island, both of which have received recent investment and subsequent increases in visitor numbers. As the population of the city grows it is important to protect open spaces, to invest in improving facilities and reduce recreational damage from increased usage.

2.16 Climate change is the greatest long-term challenge facing human development. The Gloucester Climate Change Strategy (2010) identifies that even in the 'best-case scenario' Gloucester is likely to experience winters up to 42% wetter, more frequent flooding, worsening summer air pollution, drier summers and loss of wildlife habitats and species. Planning can make a major positive contribution to tackling climate change by shaping new and existing developments in ways that reduce carbon emissions and positively build community resilience to problems such as weather events and flood risk. The JCS and GCP contain policies that will require new development to be designed in ways that promote the use of sustainable transport, generate energy from renewable sources, provide tree planting, create and connect to public open spaces and multi-functional green infrastructure, make use of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems and opportunities to improve flood risk and manage it better, and to deliver improvements and net gains to biodiversity.

2.17 Gloucester is characterised by the River Severn, which runs along the western edge of the city and there are various tributaries that run into it. As a result, some areas are subject to flood risk, particularly to the north, west and south west. It is important therefore that the necessary policy framework is in place to ensure this is adequately assessed and addressed through new development, both for today and factoring in the predicted effects of climate change.

2.18 Gloucester has a unique and rich heritage formed by historic buildings, street patterns, archaeological remains, landscape and other physical remnants of its past. A city of intense urban activity for nearly two thousand years, it has a special legacy of nationally significant heritage from all historic periods. Heritage is a central component in the identity of Gloucester and defines much of what is locally distinctive and impacts on how residents and visitors feel, use and perceive the city. This has wide reaching implications on the image of the city, the economy, tourism and the health and wellbeing of residents, as well as providing distinctive character and landmarks. The Gloucester Heritage Strategy (2019) sets out projects and opportunities to deliver, enable, engage and support conservation and recreation of heritage.