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Winchester: - Providing retail floorspace and better accessibility

Winchester: - Providing retail floorspace and better accessibility

Retail and town centre vitality in Winchester

Winchester City Council retained Llewelyn-Davies to provide an assessment of retail floorspace needs in the period 1997 to 2011, to inform the ongoing review of the District Local Plan.  The study reviewed the degree to which retail development opportunities were compatible with the Council's general planning and transportation objectives for the town.  Recommendations were made for adjustments to planning policies to meet emerging retail needs and planning guidance on town centres. A subsequent commission provided evidence on the potential damage to town centre trading and vitality posed by retail park development on the edge of the city (Easton Lane, by the M3 motorway junction).

Retail expansion in the town centre

A key part of the study was a detailed anaysis of the Friarsgate/Broadway area, which was identified as having the best potential for retail expansion in the town centre. This involved a complex interplay of issues, including retail provision (how much and in what form), accommodation of bus services, deciding on car access, servicing and pedestrianisation, restoring a credible townscape to a damaged part of the town centre, and responding to an archeologically sensitive area.

A key issue for any historic town centre is how to maintain access while reducing the impact of car traffic and parking. In Winchester, the Friarsgate/Broadway scheme proposed that the existing 360 space multi storey car park (MSCP) should be demolished and replaced with a 250 space MSCP, despite an additional 5,600 square metres of retail space and some additional homes. An option was to use developer contributions to expand the town's Park and Ride system, thus reducing the number of cars being driven to the town centre. The calculation was 3,000 per space "commuted" from town centre to Park and Ride sites, a total of 840,000 for which the retail developers would be liable.

Bus access and traffic circulation conflicts

Another key issue for the site was the bus station, and whether it should be rebuilt as part of the redevelopment, relocated elsewhere, or dispensed with altogether. The issue of who should own and operate the bus station also arose. If the encumbent group (Stagecoach) were to own and operate the site, how could access by other companies' buses be guaranteed? If the bus station were to be publicly owned, what guarantee would there be that any bus operators would use it?

Much of the difficulty in securing high quality bus access in the centre of Winchester arises from the one-way traffic system, in turn made necessary by the narrow streets. This creates ineffficient bus routes and inconvenient locations of bus stops, which is one reason why the passenger focus offered by the bus station was seen as so important.

Commercial viability in question

Commercial viability became a major concern, especially for the desired mixed use development. In the end there were simply too many conflicting requirements and uncertainties, and nothing much changed. The study provided an example of just how difficult it can be to assemble and redevelop a town centre site, especially one in an attractive historic setting such as Winchester.

Changes in accessibility

In trying to balance the demands of accessibility with public realm improvement and conservation of the historic environment, an initial assumption that the demand for car access was growing turned out to be misplaced (see Winchester Visitor Survey pdf), or at least questionable. This meant that protection of and increases in traffic and parking capacity were no longer seen as priority objectives. In discussions on this issue, accommodation of the car was set against the likely growth in visitor numbers, should retail expansion take place, and the all-important need to improve the street environment. Apart from the pedestrianised streets, Winchester still suffered from the negative impact of traffic, especially on the one-way streets north of the High Street.

Client(s)Winchester City Council
Team(s)Tim Pharoah with Llewelyn Davies


Accessibility, retail planning, public transport planning, public realm, bus station, connectivity, visitor survey, Winchester