20 February 2010

Planning Kingston's future

This month's Kingston upon Thames Society meeting addressed it's core remit, town planning, with a presentation by Andrew Lynch, Planning Manager at the Council.

He was supported by an architect who has been working on some of the new strategy documents. And there are a lot of documents!

One of the more interesting ones is the Borough Charter Study which breaks the whole Borough into a number of areas that have a distinct characteristic, such as the Victorian houses north of the railway line, the Tudor estate in North Kingston and the modern development that I live in.

Each area is then assessed in terms of the amount of work need to maintain or repair that characteristics. One of the good things to come out of this is that it provides the evidence and impetus for the drive to improve places like the market square. Less good is the niggling feeling that it could also be used to preserve things as they are now rather than letting them evolve. We'll see.

We were also shown some of the Borough's development centres, i.e. large areas where they want to combine multiple developments by multiple owners to rejuvenate and revitalise them.

The picture shows the area around the Hogsmill river as it flows from Berrylands towards Kingston. A lot of this is Metropolitan Open Land but there is scope to improve the recreational facilities and possibly even to build a new primary school (Kingston needs several).

The story having started well then rather fell away at that point. The Council is feeling the pain of budget cuts and has lost some planners and while the policy team seems well staffed in terms of numbers almost all of them are very young and so lack the experience of simply living in different areas for long enough to understand what makes them work.

The Q&A session that ended the evening got me as wound up as usual! The interesting and broad ranging debate on the overall approach suddenly descended in to a diatribe on the things that some KSoc members don't like but do like reminding us all about. So we had questions and comments on the Tolworth barrier, garden grabbing and views of the church. Yawn.

The meeting may have ended in something of a farce but it had started well and the presentation by the Council officers was well worth hearing so, overall, this was a good meeting and was exactly the sort of thing that I go to these meetings for.

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