'People would love to reshape the centre of Wilmslow'

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Wilmslow residents have made it clear that they would very much welcome a redesign of the town centre which has been criticised for lacking a heart.

As part of the process to create a Wilmslow Neighbourhood Plan, which will influence the future development of the town, 12000 questionnaires were sent out to local residents inviting them to have their say on what Wilmslow will look like in 15 years time.

Residents, businesses, employees and community groups were asked to express their views on the things they thought are most important to the town including housing, employment, transport, the town centre, leisure, health, education and the natural environment.

They were also invited to tell the Neighbourhood Planning Group what they like about Wilmslow, what they dislike and what they think needs improving.

12,000 questionnaires were distributed to the houses in the Wilmslow and 1200 responses were received, generating 8000 lines of comments which have been analysed by the group and split into 8 categories.

Some of the key findings from the feedback gathered is that people would love to see a reshape of the centre of Wilmslow which has been criticised for not having a heart, being divided by main roads and lacking a meeting place.

Over 2000 comments were received regarding the town centre, some of which referred to specific buildings as presenting an eyesore, particularly the row of units at Parsonage Green (where Tesco Express is located) which was referred to as "the grot spot in Wilmslow".

It was also clear from the feedback that people value green space in Wilmslow, both in the town centre and urban areas, and many wanted better links and walkways between places.

Brian Donohue, Chairman of the Wilmslow Neighbourhood Planning Group, commented "What we've found out at the moment is there is a great enthusiasm for doing something about the centre of Wilmslow. People would love to reshape the centre of Wilmslow."

He added "The Neighbourhood Plan cannot redesign the centre of Wilmslow, what the Neighbourhood Plan can do is put forward policies which have to be supported in the event of somebody wanting to do something."

Whilst Grove Street divided opinion, with half of the comments positive and half negative and many wanted it to remain pedestrianised whilst others wanted to see the return of vehicles.

Respondents ranked the eight topics in the following order in terms of importance to them: town centre, health services, environment, natural environment, education, housing, transport, leisure and employment.

Whilst the top three areas where people would like to see improvement were transport, town centre and leisure.

In the next few weeks this data is going to be independently analysed by two planners from Manchester Metropolitan University. They have also confirmed that they will be working with a planning consultancy based in Macclesfield.

Brian Donohue, explained "These are the experts in terms of planning, protocol and planning policy. They know the scene and they know the Local Plan. They will come in and they will work with us as a team and the groups in particular to point them in the right direction in terms of what they have to do to identify where the policies are, or the objectives are, search out any evidence that will support those objectives, or policies, and if there isn't evidence gather that evidence because everything we do and everything we submit as far as this Neighbourhood Plan is concerned has got to be backed by some form of evidence otherwise it won't get through."

Town Clerk Matthew Jackson added "It is not the consultants' Neighbourhood Plan, they are there simply to facilitate the group's development of the Neighbourhood Plan in terms of the group's objectives and policies, which will be based on information taken from the public."

Having carried out the first analysis the Neighbourhood Planning Group, which consists of 23 volunteers, has been divided into 4 subgroups who will now be looking to develop objectives and policies under the headings of housing, environment, town centre and infrastructure.

Town Clerk Matthew Jackson, said "The data that has come in helps us to identify which areas are of greatest importance to the people of Wilmslow or are in the greatest need of improvement. We've based it on the data we've got so we are using that data, one to give us a steer on more specific things but also to give us a steer in to which areas the Neighbourhood Plan would most benefit the people of Wilmslow."

The objections will come from the first traunch of information gathered from the survey which is very broad. The group will need to make an interpretation of this information to draw some conclusions, they will then need to test their assumptions to see if the public agree.

Matthew explained "We are not trying to deviate from the Local Plan because we can't. I think some people will think use the Neighbourhood Plan to counter the Local Plan but it has to compliment it. It doesn't mean it can't say things which are close to the Local Plan but from the information we've gathered I think we'll want to use it to try and influence things on the edge of the Local Plan. In other words design guides and those sorts of aspects."

Brian added "We think we can put into the Neighbourhood Plan policies such that people who are going to develop these green belt sites have got to abide by.

"We think we can influence an Emerson or a Taylor Woodrow, or whatever it is, in terms of them laying out their plans for the site that they have to abide by the kind of policies we've got in the Neighbourhood Plan."

Having formed the objectives and policies the Neighbourhood Planning Group will share these through face to face public meetings, displays and presentations. They aim to carry these out during the summer and once they have gathered feedback this will be incorporated into the draft Wilmslow Neighbourhood Plan. This will be submitted to Cheshire East Council who will carry out their own six week public consultation.

Following this the draft plan will be returned to the Neighbourhood Planning Group so they can take the responses into account before submitting the final plan, which is not likely to be until the end of the year at the earliest. Once the plan is completed it will go to a public referendum.

Matthew Jackson commented "So it's in everybody's interests to make sure that there's been sufficient consultation through the process that when we actually get to the referendum stage there aren't any surprises.

"If we don't consult, one thing we'll struggle to get it through the Inspector, because we won't have demonstrated a consultation with the public, but also the public may well then reject the plan if they see things they are not comfortable with."

He added "The consultation that takes place needs to be genuine, if we just do the consultation for consultation sake it leaves things wide open to the Neighbourhood Plan failing and that's not in anyone's interest."

For further information visit the Wilmslow Neighbourhood Plan website.

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Wilmslow Neighbourhood Plan
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Comments

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Barry Buxton
Wednesday 25th January 2017 at 3:46 pm
How shameful that only 10% of survey recipients responded!

It leaves me wondering whether any valid conclusions can be drawn.
Lynne Prescott
Wednesday 25th January 2017 at 4:27 pm
Actually 10% is a pretty good response rate for this kind of survey - normally its somewhere between 3-6%
Barry Stafford
Wednesday 25th January 2017 at 5:12 pm
So where were the 12,000 questionnaires sent.. We didn't get any in my road.. I for one would have returned it Baz
Alan Brough
Wednesday 25th January 2017 at 6:05 pm
I certainly didn't receive a questionnaire, unfortunately,
Pete Taylor
Wednesday 25th January 2017 at 7:23 pm
Presumably this is the website referred to: http://wilmslownp.org.uk/

Would it be possible for the members of the group to introduce themselves? Unless I've missed it, there are no details.

If 8000 lines of comments were received and only 2000 of them referred to the town centre, presumably the rest of them referred to the green belt issues? Any chance of seeing a break-down of all this data?

How does the withdrawal of funding by CEC affect the Neighbourhood Plan initiative?
James Hanson
Wednesday 25th January 2017 at 8:23 pm
I raised the fact that not everyone appears to have gotten the questionnaire at a business group meeting last year, Brian didn't seam that interested

I have since spoken to a few other poeple who also didn't get if

Wonder where they all went ????
Martin Watkins
Wednesday 25th January 2017 at 8:33 pm
@Pete Taylor, last paragraph. It does not as Wilmslow Town Council is covering the cost as previously said.
Anna van der Feltz
Wednesday 25th January 2017 at 10:45 pm
Am interested to know who got the questionnaires, no one in my street received one and would definitely have sent it back!
Jane Middleton
Thursday 26th January 2017 at 8:33 am
We did not receive the survey. No wonder so few returns were received. Perhaps the survey was just sent to those whose answers were what the organisers wanted to hear.
Simon Worthington
Thursday 26th January 2017 at 11:17 am
I have asked around and not found one person who saw a survey/questionnaire. Now that Pete has built new offices on all the carparks creating the commuter parking nightmare and the council is very keen to profit from land they (we) own now and in the future by way of income from rates the only way any aesthetic move forward will be made is to remove from office those who continue to support "carbuncles" such as the eyesore being erected at the King's Arms roundabout. This site was ideal for all local medical facilities to be on one site but not a chance where there are pockets to be lined with gold.
The electorate has been treated with contempt for years and now the backlash has begun whether the "snowflakes" like it or not.
Barry Buxton
Thursday 26th January 2017 at 11:52 am
If 3-6% response rate is the norm why spend the time and money on doing these surveys? Completely pointless!
Simon Worthington
Thursday 26th January 2017 at 2:48 pm
3-6% is the norm for things posted through the door. This survey should have also been available on line.
Angela McPake
Thursday 26th January 2017 at 3:36 pm
Hi Simon, to the best of my recollection it was available on- line. The link was available on Wilmslow.co.uk.
Roger Bagguley
Saturday 28th January 2017 at 10:02 pm
As one of the team that prepared and subsequently spent hours ploughing through the returns it is disappointing to have people report they did not get one posted. It was on line and every home should have been delivered to. In addition we handed out and explained the survey to hundreds of Wilmslow people at all public events such as the Artisan Market and engaged pupils in the schools. This was during the 6 week period of public consultation.

We plough on with this Neighbourhood Plan and will seek to engage as many people as possible so please keep eyes and ears open and let us have your input whenever the opportunity arises in the process.
Pippa Jones
Sunday 29th January 2017 at 7:19 pm
Thank you to all those people who have volunteered to give so much time and effort to the Wilmslow Neighbourhood Plan. It is really good to know that people in our community are prepared to get involved in this initiative; Brian is right that a lot of people would like to see the centre of Wilmslow look and feel different.
Pete Taylor
Sunday 29th January 2017 at 8:41 pm
Such a shame that the Rectory Stables, after lying derelict for twenty years, seem to be being sold off, with indecent haste, to the highest bidder by our CEC Councillors, just when the people of Wilmslow are showing signs of taking an interest in reshaping the centre of Wilmslow.
This could have provided a community-based exhibition/meeting centre for the various groups and societies in the town. Instead we get a builder's store and offices, in a public car park.
Alan Brough
Sunday 29th January 2017 at 8:43 pm
For what it's worth, I would love to see Grove Street opened up for one way traffic (Green Lane for the other direction.) There would be sufficient room for a motive lane and a parking lane along the length of the street (as there used to be)

I believe that this would bring life and vitality back into this central street and make it much more attractive to independent traders as well as to shoppers.
Pete Taylor
Monday 30th January 2017 at 3:54 pm
I am reminded by the Ward Councillor that the stables are not being sold off, they are in fact being leased out for ten years. I am happy to make this correction.
Vince Chadwick
Monday 30th January 2017 at 3:56 pm
I remember only too well when Grove Street was part car park, part highway. Our children were little back then and trying to negotiate a child in a buggy and a walking toddler along the tiny narrow crowded footpath, breathing in the traffic fumes, and unable to communicate because of the high noise levels was sheer hell.

Thankfully Grove Street was taken from the ownership of lazy motorists and handed to the people as an open traffic-free space where one can walk unimpeded, stop to chat, and wander from one shop to another across the road without having to negotiate parked cars and the continuous stream of cars 'doing the circuit' looking for a free parking spot so they will only have to walk a few yards to the shop.

Those who complain that pedestrianisation has led to a fall off of business for shops in the street should look up the road a few miles to the big free car parks with their feeder road (the Wilmslow bypass) and massive shops at Handforth Dean to see the actual cause of decline in the high street.

Grove Street before pedestrianisation was sheer hell. We do not want that back!
Jon Armstrong
Monday 30th January 2017 at 4:51 pm
I agree Vince, I have no idea why people think putting traffic down Grove Street would solve anything, unless they hope to kill off the pavement cafe culture that is one of the few things to thrive in Wilmslow over the last few years.

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