Draft Gloucester City Plan 2016 - 2031

Draft Gloucester City Plan

A locally specific vision for Gloucester

A locally specific vision for Gloucester

2.5       It is important that the GCP takes forward and delivers the JCS vision, ambitions and strategic objectives.  Equally however, it is essential that it expands on this and provides a planning framework that fully addresses the local issues for the City.

2.6       The Council’s adopted ‘City Vision; A City ambitious for its future and proud of its past’ 2012 – 2022 sets out key overarching priorities for the City that will be delivered by all public, private and voluntary sector partners.

2.7       The overarching Vision for Gloucester, chosen by our residents, is:

‘Gloucester will be a flourishing, modern and ambitious City, which all residents can enjoy.

2.8       The key aims of the City Vision are:

  1. A flourishing economy and City Centre which meets the needs of our residents, businesses and visitors;
  2. A vibrant evening economy;
  3. A City which improves through regeneration and development;
  4. A City where people feel safe and happy in their community; and
  5. A healthy City with opportunities available to all.

2.9       Taking this further, in order to provide appropriate locally specific policy that positively makes a difference for our communities, it is essential to have a thorough understanding of the characteristics, opportunities and issues for the City.

Gloucester today, Gloucester tomorrow - A Portrait of the City

2.10     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 in close proximity to Gloucestershire, Bristol, Birmingham and Cardiff airports. 

2.11     The City’s population in 2014 was estimated to be 125,600 and is growing year on year [1]. Gloucester will experience the greatest population growth of all of the district areas in Gloucestershire over the coming years, with an expected growth of 20.1% between 2010 and 2035 [2].  It is a diverse City, with a wide range of different ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds; approximately 100 different languages and dialects are spoken.

2.12     The population of Gloucester is relatively young with the highest number of young people aged under 19 in the south west region (25% of the population) and also a higher than average number of people aged under 30.  This is set to increase with the number of children and young people in the City predicted to grow by over 16.4% between 2010 and 2035 [3].

2.13     There are around 53,500 homes in Gloucester [4] and recent evidence shows that the City has achieved significant growth in new homes, being ranked second out of 63 cities.  In 2014 Gloucester was one of only five cities in the country that provided at least the amount of new homes required to provide for its population [5].

2.14     The City needs over 14,300 new homes between 2011 and 2031 and is working positively with Cheltenham Borough Council and Tewkesbury Borough Council to identify sites to provide for this [6].  About half of these new homes will be provided in locations on the edge of the City, outside of the 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.  Given the limited amount of developable land within the City, it will be necessary to consider all possible development sites on both greenfield and brownfield land.

2.15     The majority of homes in the City are owner-occupied [7].  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.  The City experiences higher rates of homelessness, though this is often associated with people from outside of the City.  By 2035 the City 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 including Gypsies, Travellers, and Travelling Showpeople, those with learning difficulties, the young homeless, and those with specific physical and mental health needs.

2.16     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 [8]. 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 [9]. The creative community has also grown rapidly in recent years, with Blackfriars and Westgate Street becoming established as a hub for creative businesses [10]. The City has high employment rates and has been identified as one of the top ten cities where small businesses are investing in ‘high growth strategies’ [11]. It is important the City protects important business locations and identifies further sites to provide for anticipated employment growth and sectors.

2.17     Tourism also forms a very important component of 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.  The City does however lack a major cultural venue that could regularly hold major events such as concerts and theatre productions [12].

2.18     Gloucester City Centre is performing fairly well with a good range of shops, services and facilities.  There has been investment, including at the Eastgate Shopping Centre and in creating a more useable public square at King’s Square.  Plans are also afoot for the regeneration of key sites such as King’s Quarter and Project Pilgrim at the Cathedral will create a new public realm and other improvements to improve the visitor experience.

2.19     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 for some types of product, particularly fashion / clothing, and that there are a limited number of independent retailers [13]. 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 [14]. In the future, it is important that further investment is secured in the City Centre and that it capitalises on the success of other key visitor attractions in the City, such as Gloucester Rugby, Gloucester Quays and the Cathedral.  Equally, that new retail and leisure development is planned so as to complement and not compete with or undermine the City Centre.

2.20     Gloucester is a regenerating City.  This began in the 1980s following the demise of traditional manufacturing, which formed a key component of the City’s economy.  At this time, the City Council moved into the Docks, acting as a catalyst in generating investor interest and confidence in the area.  More recently, the Gloucester Heritage Urban Regeneration Company (GHURC) was successful in delivering the regeneration of Gloucester Quays, Greyfriars and the Railway Triangle.

2.21     Regeneration is now being driven forward by the City Council with a new Regeneration and Economic Development Strategy (REDS) being recently adopted and actively delivered.  The strategy 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.  The Council’s priority regeneration sites are King’s Quarter and Blackfriars, and significant strides forward have already been made in delivering these.  But there is still much to do and it is important that the GCP provides a flexible and positive framework to support their delivery.

2.22     In addition to this, the Council has been successful in securing ‘Housing Zone’ status from the Government.  The Housing Zone covers all of the City Centre as well as other locations in the City. Through this initiative, the Council receives funding and support to unlock the development potential of sites and in providing much needed new homes. 

2.23     There are pockets of significant deprivation in the City and in some cases they 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, 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. The GCP provides the opportunity to ensure that the built and natural environment is enhanced in ways that are cohesive and amenable to healthier lives.

2.24     Evidence shows that 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 [15]. 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.  Key issues for the GCP are to set the framework for the Council to work positively with the local education authority, in ensuring adequate school places for the growing population, and creating a positive environment to allow the college and universities to grow and attract students.  Another component is to create a dynamic and attractive local economy to retain students once they have completed their courses.

2.25     Gloucester is actively engaged in sport and is home to a large number of different clubs, particularly in football, rugby union and cricket, but with growing participation in rugby league, American football and Gaelic football. Gloucester has a large number playing pitches and sporting facilities - but there are shortages in some areas of the City, for example in Barton and Tredworth.  Evidence shows that many of the public playing pitches in the City are of poor quality and would benefit from improvements [16], some of which are already being implemented.  The University of Gloucestershire has significant expansion plans for the City and this includes a major investment in new and upgraded sporting facilities at the Oxstalls campus, linked to the adjacent Oxstalls Sports Park.  The City Council is also working to bring forward Blackbridge in Podsmead as a sports hub.

2.26     Car ownership and car use continues to dominate, and there are significant congestion issues on some roads in the City, particularly at peak hours [17].  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.  King’s Quarter will include a new modern bus station with improved links to the adjacent railway station, which will go some of the way in encouraging people to use alternative forms to transport to the private car.  In addition, the large urban extensions allocated for the City in the JCS have been located in part to encourage the use of public transport and will be required to implement sustainable transport measures.  There is also 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 [18] and a move  towards increased use of more sustainable modes of transport.

2.27     There are 48 formal play areas in the City 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 of the City, both in terms of quantity and quality [19].  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 and further investment will be required to improve open space facilities and reduce recreational damage from increased usage.

2.28     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 the GCP will contain policies that will require new development to be designed in ways that promote the use of sustainable transport, exploit all viable options for providing renewable energy, provide tree planting and the creation of public open spaces, make use of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems to manage water and promote biodiversity.

2.29     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 parts of the City 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.

2.30     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 the City. It defines much of what is locally distinctive about Gloucester 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 GCP will provide a policy framework that will seek to protect and enhance the City’s unique and significant heritage assets and their settings.

[1] NOMIS Official Labour Market Statistics

[2] Gloucester Regeneration and Economic Development Strategy 2016 - 2021

[3] Ibid

[4] ONS, Neighbourhood Statistics, Gloucester Local Authority Key Figures for Housing

[5] Centre for Cities, Cities Outlook

[6] Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Joint Core Strategy, Main Modifications, October 2016

[7] ONS, 2011 Census

[8] Gloucestershire Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) March 2014

[9] Ibid

[10] Gloucester Regeneration and Economic Development Strategy, 2016 - 2021

[11] Centre for Cities 2014, Cities Outlook

[12] Gloucester's Cultural Vision and Strategy, 2016 - 2026

[13] Joint Core Strategy Retail Study: Phase 1, 2011

[14] Joint Core Strategy Retail Study 2015, February 2016

[15] NOMIS Official Labour Market Statistics

[16] Gloucester Playing Pitch Strategy 2015 - 2015

[17] Draft Local Transport Plan 2015 - 2025

[18] Ibid

[19] Gloucester Open Space Strategy