Why Chesham needs a Masterplan
The Masterplan for Chesham is in part a response to the changes to our town and community likely to be directed by the joint Local Plan for Chiltern and South Bucks Districts. This is currently in preparation by the two District Councils.The Councils’ decisions will be driven principally by housing needs and the Green Belt.
Within the Chiltern District Council area, central Government has identified the need for an additional 7,000 homes by 2036. Accommodating these new homes is likely to fall upon major existing settlements, including Chesham. There is an obvious threat of encroachment on current Green Belt.
Outright rejection of additional housing is not an option and would lead to imposition of suboptimal solutions, almost certainly ignoring the real need to revitalise the urban core of the town.
Chesham Renaissance Community Interest Company (‘Chesham Renaissance’) accepts the need for around 2,000 new dwellings over the next 20 years, implying a population increase of 5-6,000 and calling for higher density of residential accommodation.
A thriving industrial and business sector already exists within Chesham. But there is already a need to update or create new business premises, or locate commercial enterprises out of the town, to meet the needs of businesses and improve access. This need will become more pressing with higher density residential accommodation.
The object of Chesham Renaissance is therefore to deliver residential and commercial development and infrastructure, based on innovative and joined-up planning, rarely possible through more piecemeal development decisions. All the while, we are determined to retain and enhance the special character of Chesham.
Chesham should embrace this process as an economic development opportunity, a catalyst for inward investment, and a chance to make Chesham an attractive place for residents, businesses and visitors.
The Masterplan: providing Guidance for Change
The Masterplan will provide comprehensive design guidance across all aspects of development.This will include (but not be limited to) the relationship between streets, buildings and public and open spaces; height, bulk and massing of buildings; infrastructure, transport, utilities, services and amenities; activities and uses within areas.
New developments will need to be integrated successfully into existing communities, the built and natural environments, the conservation areas and the context of the Chilterns AONB.
The Masterplan will examine how changes to the inner urban area and surrounding land can be made to work in a coherent plan for residential and commercial use. This will take into account local social and economic circumstances, and the needs of people living and working in the area now and in the future.
To succeed, the Masterplan must be:
- visionary, raising aspirations;
- deliverable, taking into account likely constraints and implementation timescales;
- inclusive, being prepared with participation from local communities;
- integrated into the land use planning system;
- flexible and adaptable, allowing for existing areas to be thought of differently, and for changing circumstances and new opportunities.
Challenges and Opportunities
So far reaching are the Masterplan proposals that it may create the reaction that it is over ambitious, the technical obstacles too daunting and the management and delivery far too taxing. This is not Chesham Renaissance’s view. Instead it supports the notion that Chesham can become a template for good town planning.
Potential Outcomes are very exciting
Chesham is an historic market town surrounded by Green Belt and the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (Chilterns AONB). It is within the Chiltern Hills and situated on the River Chess, a rare chalk stream of international importance.
Connected directly to the London Underground network, Chesham is only about 25 miles from the centre of London.
Building upon these natural and geographical advantages, Chesham Renaissance’s Masterplan proposes a once-only opportunity to take Chesham forward.
- Chesham will be an attractive gateway to the Chilterns celebrating its river, parks and valley setting, maintaining its close physical links with the Chilterns AONB and Green Belt;
- a substantial increase of sustainable residential accommodation, along with educational, commercial and retail functions, and coherent infrastructure will support the increased number of residents;
- investment of capital and revenue will drive commercial success, attracting both mature and start-up businesses, and encouraging creative and related industries that utilise new and developing technologies;
- investment in tourism businesses can benefit from Chesham’s gateway position to the Chilterns AONB, probably the most important green belt area close to London;
- disparate parts of Chesham can be reconnected by overcoming infrastructural impediments; wider connections to adjacent communities can also be improved;
- Chesham will be welcoming to those who wish to use the town as a base for working in London and the surrounding area
By adopting integrated and sustainable innovative design and planning, Chesham can become a town of substance, considered an exemplar in making better use of public and private assets. We can also attract significant inward investment.
Like any ambitious scheme, the Masterplan faces challenges, but many are opportunities too.
Physical challenges; preserving Chesham’s character and heritage
The underlying character and history of Chesham must be recognised and enhanced. We need also to recognise Chesham’s setting within the valley of the River Chess, and its tributaries the Bury Brook and the Vale Brook. The goal should be to establish Chesham as a water town and to take account of the natural sensitivity of the chalk river environment.
The Masterplan proposes a substantial increase in residential accommodation with a higher density and a corresponding increase in population, together with other necessities to support it. Development of the Chesham town centre along the plan proposed is essential to unlock the full potential for tourism, retail and further inward investment. Encouragement of the commercial sector and light industry will be also essential. The Masterplan will seek to facilitate commercial development adjacent to the town, whilst respecting the principles of the Green Belt.
Challenging attitudes and development and planning norms
The Masterplan being proposed by Chesham Renaissance flies in the face of generally prevailing attitudes, characterised by general opposition to infrastructure and residential and commercial development.
The programme of work envisaged by the Masterplan can only be viable if it is managed as one programme covering all infrastructure, both new and upgraded, and new residential accommodation, commercial and leisure facilities. A piecemeal approach working under normal planning procedures will result in the usual cherry-picking by developers seeking high potential returns, sometimes paying little more than lip service to the wider environment.
The need for finance
The vision of Chesham Renaissance’s Masterplan will require substantial investment, which will need to come from both private and public sources. This will involve initial capital investment and long term inward investment in both residential and commercial development.
Coordination with stakeholders; creating a groundswell of public support
The Master Plan is an ambitious plan, requiring considerable management and coordination with numerous parties and stakeholders.
Interim consultation is being undertaken with those likely to take a leading part in delivering a Masterplan. This will include but not be limited to Chesham Renaissance, County, District and Town Councils and key stakeholders.
A highly graphic and accessible prospectus will be produced, that can be used in a variety of ways such as a consultation document, an engagement tool or for the purposes of market testing delivery organisations, and for public exhibition.
Expertise and Management
A vision that started within the Chesham Society and has been developed within Chesham Renaissance will require substantial expertise and management if it is to be delivered successfully.
Chesham Renaissance has appointed award winning architects Allies and Morrison to design the Master Plan. Winners of Building Design Masterplanning and Public Realm Architect of the Year 2014, Allies and Morrison has a reputation for expertise in the design of successful mixed-use masterplans. Its Urban Practitioners group offers specialist expertise in consultation, working closely with local authorities and local communities
Allies and Morrison has been involved in two of London’s most significant regeneration sites as co-masterplanner – at the 2012 Olympics and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and King’s Cross Central.
Masterplan – the Process
A draft document prepared by our planning partner Allies and Morrison is expected to be published in November 2017. This will be a public document, detailing the concepts behind the Masterplan. It will be freely available for comment and consultation.
The Chesham Masterplan will propose much more detail than the Joint Local Plan, being prepared by Chiltern District Council and South Bucks District Council, might. Many of the proposals will be achievable under current planning policies, some will require recognition in the emerging Local Plan or subsequent revisions. We hope Chiltern District Council will accept our ideas at the earliest opportunity.
Opportunities to view and discuss the Masterplan in public meetings or venues will be published. Implementation of the Masterplan can be achieved only with broad support of the residents and businesses of Chesham.
Our Planning Partner
Chesham Renaissance has appointed London-based architects Allies and Morrison to design the Master Plan. In seeking a master planner, Chesham Renaissance sought a partner able to demonstrate the ability to:
- coordinate a diverse range of technical inputs and evaluate the relative importance of different elements;
- think holistically about an urban area;
- present research, evaluation and proposals clearly to a wide range of audiences;
- communicate ideas and proposals clearly and succinctly through words, diagrams and three-dimensional illustrations;
- explain design decisions to wide audiences and key stakeholders;
- bring together key stakeholders’ interests into a coherent whole;
- provide project history evidence;
- demonstrate that the necessary resources are available; and
- accommodate the programme.
Allies and Morrison has a reputation for expertise in the design of successful mixed-use masterplans. Through its Urban Practitioners group, it offers specialist expertise in consultation, working closely with local authorities and local communities.
Among its many awards was Building Design Masterplanning and Public Realm Architect of the Year 2014.
In London, Allies and Morrison has been involved in two of the capital’s most significant regeneration sites as co-masterplanner – at the 2012 Olympics and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and King’s Cross Central.
The firm’s philosophy is that cities and towns can evolve and change by building on their historic form and identity rather than sacrificing it.