The Alton neighbourhood planning group wanted to bring forward new development with suitable parking provision to avoid making the already existing lack of parking worse. They included a policy within their plan to do this and to ensure that visitor parking, not just residents parking, was taken into account.
Alton, with a population of 18,500, is a vibrant market town in Hampshire.
Alton is rapidly expanding with a 25% increase in population expected over the next four years and five new housing estates being built.
In addition, there is substantial redevelopment planned, including a community centre and sports centre.
The level of community involvement exhibited through participation in local consultation and events gives Alton the atmosphere usually associated with far smaller communities.
The neighbourhood plan has been a vital part of this, with relationships being built with developers from early stages.
A group of people in Alton’s Neighbourhood Planning team.
Will Hall Farm and ensuring parking standards
Will Hall Farm, a 170-dwelling site, is one of the most successful stories to come out of the Alton neighbourhood plan, with residents unanimously voting to approve the development.
The developers were keen to adhere to the neighbourhood plan but a key obstacle was parking. The neighbourhood plan has a rigorous parking standards policy and the planned development did not adhere to this policy, particularly in terms of visitor parking.
A major problem within Alton has long been parking. Many houses were built in the 1990’s, when parking standards were low.
It is believed that there was an assumption that less to no cars would be purchased if residents had no parking, which has not been the case.
This led to overcrowding of cars, with many being parked illegally or being left in places that were and are unsafe.
The neighbourhood plan has had significant impact creating a new parking policy (TR5) to also include visitor parking for 50% of new dwellings.
The town council worked incredibly closely to ensure developers were aware of the amount of cars that would be entering and leaving Will Hall Farm. Initially, developers declined building additional parking due to the size of site.
However, thanks to a commitment from Alton Town Council and the site developers, this was resolved. Close liaison over a six-month period concluded 100% compliance with visitor parking requirements, which would not have happened if it were not for the policy in the neighbourhood plan. This has ensured that the development was fit for purpose for everyone who would be entering the development, not just those who lived there.
Another key issue was the planned garages attached to some of the new dwellings. The town council worked with the developers to design efficient parking that would work better for the new estate, such as introducing parking bays. What this demonstrated is that a neighbourhood plan and a commitment to working together can help the developer design efficient structures that have the needs of the community in the forefront.
Without the housing and visitor parking policy, the parking requirements would not have been met, leading to continued parking issues for the people of Alton.
Positives of Neighbourhood Planning
The relationship between the town and developers has had a huge value and there has been a positive collaborative experience.
As houses are being built, liaison meetings are being held each month to deal with any developer issues, including dirt on the road and developer working hours. Fortunately, developers have been good neighbours throughout the construction work.
Successful consultation meetings were also held, once with over 1,000 attendees. Turnout for the referendum was high and, according to the former mayor of Alton, ‘people are impressed by the results’.
The future of Alton
The need for new housing has been accepted due to the people of Alton understanding how regrowth will benefit the entire community. This is why they have been accepting of a higher number than originally allocated in the plan.
Much of the new housing is priced to attract a younger audience with 40% affordable housing on many sites.
It is hoped that the new housing will bring more people to Alton, which will in turn bring further revenue and prosperity to the area.
More case studies
Development that reflects community needs in the absence of a local plan in Morpeth
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Using growth to bring forward much needed community infrastructure in Newport Pagnell
The community was concerned about school placements, the inability to book GP appointments and the quality of existing health facilities. While the core strategy proposed 400 new homes, this level of growth would not be great enough to deliver new infrastructure.