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The Poole Redevelopment Debate

PUBLISHED: 16:01 27 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:34 20 February 2013

The Poole Redevelopment Debate

The Poole Redevelopment Debate

As Poole town centre become the focus and battleground for a major redevelopment, Jeremy Miles talks to two leading local figures with opposing views

As Poole town centre become the focus and battleground for a major redevelopment, Jeremy Miles talks to two leading local figures with opposing views

The English are by nature conservative in their tastes, so it is perhaps hardly surprising that Poole conservation groups are up in arms over proposals for a brave new makeover for their ancient town. The Vision for Poole Committee says it is horrified by the current direction being taken by a multi-million pound project designed to catapult Poole into the 21st century.
At its core is a massive redevelopment of the town centre and quay, complete with an iconic new bridge across the harbour to improve traffic flow and access to the port. The conservationists, including the Poole Old Town Conservation Group, The Society of Poole Men, the Dorset branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Hamside Residents Association, say the very heritage of the historic town is under threat.
Those in favour of the current plan argue that it addresses vital problems of increased traffic, changes in industry and growth in population that will be essential if Poole is to thrive in the future.
Meanwhile, conservationists say they are not against the concept of change, but are deeply concerned by plans that have emerged which, they claim, depart from the original core strategy and are horrifically ugly and over-intensive. Now they want the project put on hold until a rigid new design guide can be established by the council.


Terry Stewart, President, Dorset Council for the Protection of Rural England

About one-third of central Poole is going to be rebuilt in the next few years? This is in addition to massive changes recently seen with the Poole Quarter and the flats and Holiday Inn at Seldown Bridge. Then there has been the RNLI College, the ASDA store and tower, and the Aqua flats next to Holes Bay.
The second lifting bridge is going to herald about 1 billion of investment in building in Poole. This will set the appearance of Poole in concrete for the next 100 years. There are ten major Regeneration development sites; three in Hamworthy, where the power station used to be, totalling some 1,600 flats the Poole Plan assumed about 900; flats and student accommodation over the Sainsbury car park; hotel and restaurants at Lifeboat Quay next to ASDA; moving the railway station 80 yards north and building 265 flats, a hotel and offices; doubling the size of the Thistle Hotel and four tower blocks of 143 flats, 11 houses and more shops (and this is when Dolphin Quays cannot let their retail outlets after four years); factories and offices at Sterte Avenue West; two major sites down West Quay Road, with hundreds of flats, and both developers are unwilling to make Section 106 contributions for affordable housing, which are so desperately needed.
The initial architectural designs for the new Thistle Hotel, and the major development on West Quay Road next to the lifting bridge, are horrifically ugly. Both are hard, square, flat-roofed and vertical, with 12-storey towers totally out of keeping with their settings. The Thistle Hotel site is in a conservation area, with 60% of the land owned by the council, yet after months negotiating with the planning department, the design diametrically clashes with the Dolphin Quays next door. Thank goodness objections have forced the application to be withdrawn. The West Quay Road site is trying to squeeze 440 flats into a site designated for only 222 in the Poole Plan. The six tower blocks are far too high, dominating the Old Town and obscuring the views of St James Parish Church. And there are too few parking spaces.
The Core Strategy states that the site must form an extension to Poole Quay in terms of its function and character. This it clearly fails to achieve. Some of us are so worried about the future appearance of Poole, with its threatened historic heritage, that we have formed the Vision for Poole Committee. Planners are limited by the legal development process and government guidelines, so we want to pressure our town councillors to recognise the problem, put development on hold until a tight new Poole Design Guide has been agreed and approved.


Tony Trent, Poole town councillor and life-long resident

As a member of the planning committee I will avoid referring to any specific application, so the points I make are, by necessity, generalities.
The lifting bridge is a quality design that I believe will be cherished by locals and become an icon for Poole in the 21st century. It was conceived as part of a comprehensive planning brief for the area. Developers will try to maximise what they get out of it. The council has a duty to fight to keep the master plan intact. This includes a longstanding requirement that the public should have full access to the waterfront, with an extended quay and walkway, and enhanced public spaces.
Any new development in the central part of Poole will be at a higher density. It has to help pay for the bridge and infrastructure, and needs to comply with planning guidelines, which require any application to make the best use of urban land. This guideline came about from government in a bid to reduce the amount of development on greenfield sites the type of development preferred by the building industry.
Poole changed dramatically a few years ago when most of the Victorian back-to-back terraces were replaced by tower blocks, and many of Pooles original residents were moved to the new council estates on the edge of town. This was followed over the next 20 or so years by the de-industrialisation of Poole. What remains in the town centre is a handful of older buildings mixed in with some sympathetic, and some not so sympathetic, development from the mid to late 20th century.
Poole will change regardless of what we think personally. Some buildings and neighbourhoods are protected, but the contentious parts of Poole were mainly industrial and warehouse buildings. They are a blank canvass. If we just tried to emulate the historic town we would end up with a theme park where only the wealthiest could afford to live; probably all in second homes. We could end up with a Poole with no jobs, no public transport, and no affordable homes for locals a prospect that is already troubling many of us.
To move things forward we need to accept that there will be some high density and high rise, but that a mass of square brick boxes would look oppressive and unimaginative. There is room for innovative and modern building design in our historic town centre. We should keep an open mind.
If we want to be authentic we could recreate the old Poole town centre and quay area of years gone by, dominated in the evening by drunken sailors and prostitutes. Young people like me tended to go into Bournemouth because we didnt want to get caught up in any fights. How times change!

So what do you think? Are you a local resident who is affected by these plans? Do you think that Poole is in danger of becoming a theme park, where only the wealthy can live? Should it sacrifice its heritage and move forward into the 21st century with an innovative and modern reworking of its town centre? Is the very heritage of this historic town under threat? Share your views with us by e-mail: write to Dorset magazine, Archant House, Babbage Road, Totnes, TQ9 5JA, comment below or vote in our poll on our homepage!


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