We have been appointed by Chelmsford Borough Council as part of a team led by Kevin Murray Associates to produce an upstream spatial composition as a framework for the development of a masterplan for the North Chelmsford Area Action Plan. The study will involve key stakeholder consultation to explore, test and build consensus around this framework.
The preferred development option for the area identified in the Council’s Core Strategy – from a range of options – comprises two new neighbourhoods to the north of Chelmsford, north-east of Springfield and west/north west of Broomfield. The intention is to provide 4,000-4,250 dwellings. The intention with this option is to concentrate development in association with the delivery of key transport infrastructure. This concept requires a high quality spatial design approach including open space, recreational, health and education provision, together with a range of house types and tenure.
Advice is sought in the preparation of a strategic spatial framework which would subsequently guide this growth through a detailed masterplan which articulates a vision for the plan area, sets clear objectives on delivery, proposes an engagement programme and prepares information for subsequent statutory consultation.
There is a need to appreciate the issues around the options selected. These will include landscape, drainage, transport, infrastructure, as well as political and emotional arguments around developmental change. There is also the matter of who to consult and how, during this upstream exercise. We anticipate embracing a selection of community representatives and stakeholders and the Council’s development partners in different strands.
We also have to be mindful of creating positive, robust and sustainable places. There is clearly a risk of either a residential dormitory suburb with limited services, or building one or more alternative centres, which may not support the town centre. The challenge will be to strike the right balance.
There is also the issue of the identity and image of any urban extensions, particularly with respect to the existing town. It is important to secure the best possible overall character and feel, and this may require strong guidelines or codes to control density and relationships. This is a matter for later masterplan detail and implementation, but needs to be considered early in the process.
Finally, we will address the fundamental dimension of delivery – whether through institutional or developer partnership mechanisms, or special funding routes. The danger is to create an aspirational plan that cannot be delivered. This means that the approach should be capable of support from developer partners and RSLs, as well as the local community.