stevenage.gov.uk
District Plan

Chapter 10: Old Town

10.1 INTRODUCTION

10.1.1 The Old Town is the original settlement of Stevenage, around which the New Town was built. The historic development of the Old Town was centred on the High Street, which was one of the coaching stops on the Great North Road. The street pattern, range of building styles and ages and the large number of listed buildings which are in the area result from the historical development of the town. The importance of the historic core of the High Street has been recognised through its designation as a Conservation Area. An extensive urban survey will be conducted in the Old Town by the County Council and English Heritage. This research will involve an in depth archaeological and historical survey of the Old Town and will result in a report which should help guide development in the Old Town. Once the study has been completed, the Borough Council will consider the use of supplementary planning guidance to explain the application of policies in this Plan in relation to development proposals in the Old Town.

10.1.2 In the nineteenth century, residential development spread away from the High Street, mainly to the east. As a result the Old Town has two distinct areas, the retail and commercial area centred around the High Street and the residential area beyond.

10.1.3 There are two principal issues that this Plan must address. The first is to ensure that the High Street remains a thriving commercial centre, providing local shopping facilities and employment opportunities both for the immediate residential area and for the town beyond. The second issue relates to the quality of the environment of the High Street and the need to preserve and enhance it.

10.2 DEFINITION OF POLICY AREAS

10.2.1 Whilst forming part of the High Street, its northern and southern ends are different in character. The northern end forms an area of transition between the commercial activity in the High Street and the adjoining residential area. The attractive residential properties grouped around the Bowling Green form a focal point of the Conservation Area. However, the environment is seriously affected by the gyratory road system. The southern end of the High Street is the area of transition between the Old Town and the New Town centre and is in mixed residential and commercial uses. The buildings are still considered to be important in contributing to the character of the area.

10.2.2 In the light of differences in the character of the areas in the Old Town, as described above, it is appropriate to deal with these differences by defining areas of similar characteristics to which particular policies will apply. The first area is the commercial and retail area centred around the High Street.

POLICY OT1: OLD TOWN HIGH STREET AREA

An area centred on the High Street, as shown on the Old Town Inset Map, is designated as the Old Town High Street Area.

10.2.3 The northern and southern ends of the High Street, although part of the High Street, have different characteristics to the main retail and commercial centre. They, therefore, require separate, additional policies to those set out for the High Street area. Because of this close relationship between these areas, the northern and southern ends of the High Street are designated in this Plan as “Old Town High Street North” and “Old Town High Street South”. These areas still relate to the High Street and are part of the Conservation Area. Therefore, policies relating to the High Street will still apply.

POLICY OT2: OLD TOWN HIGH STREET (NORTH AND SOUTH)

The areas to the north and south of the Old Town High Street Area (designated in Policy OT1) as shown on the Old Town Inset Map are designated as the Old Town High Street North and Old Town High Street South.

10.3 OLD TOWN HIGH STREET – INCLUDING OLD TOWN HIGH STREET NORTH AND OLD TOWN HIGH STREET SOUTH

10.3.1 The Old Town High Street is the historic retail and commercial area which developed as a coaching stop on the Great North Road. The area has been identified as having particular architectural and historic qualities and has been designated as a Conservation Area. The Borough Council, therefore, considers it important to ensure its conservation and enhancement.

10.3.2 Most of the buildings in the High Street are domestic in scale, with little scope for any major redevelopment, since this would detract from the architectural and historic character of the buildings in the area. It is an integral part of the Conservation Area legislation that proposals should enhance the environment and that existing buildings should be protected where they contribute to the street scene.

POLICY OT3: REDEVELOPMENT PROPOSALS IN THE HIGH STREET

Proposals for the redevelopment, infilling or demolition of properties in the Old Town High Street will be required to contribute to the conservation and enhancement of the character of the High Street and the Conservation Area. Proposals for comprehensive redevelopment schemes will be refused.

10.3.3 The character of the Old Town is derived from the scale and quality of the buildings which front the High Street. These buildings are particularly attractive and are of varying ages and styles. Much of the character results from the domestic scale of the buildings and the use of local materials. New developments must be in harmony with the surrounding buildings, in order for the character of the High Street to be retained.

POLICY OT4: NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN THE HIGH STREET

New developments will be required to be in harmony with the surrounding area in terms of scale and materials and be subject to the following criteria:

(a) buildings should normally be no more than two storeys in height; and
(b) the buildings should be in keeping with the predominant size and scale of the existing buildings in the surrounding area; and
(c) access to the high street properties must be maintained for servicing; and
(d) the proposed buildings should be designed so that their appearance is in harmony and character with the existing buildings in the conservation area and use traditional materials.

10.3.4 The Old Town High Street has an important role in providing both specialist and local shopping. There is a core of retail uses in the High Street around Middle Row which should be retained. This is necessary to ensure that the High Street continues to provide a range of local convenience shopping for the surrounding residential areas as well as providing for specialist shopping and services not catered for in the town centre. For this reason the Borough Council has identified a primary shopping frontage in the Old Town High Street Area.

POLICY OT5: PRIMARY SHOPPING FRONTAGE

The following properties are designated as the primary shopping frontage within which no further loss of shops will be permitted at ground level:

70 – 92a High Street
35 – 71 High Street
Middle Row.

POLICY OT6: SECONDARY SHOPPING FRONTAGES

For ground floor frontages in the High Street to which Policy OT5 does not apply, proposals for shops (class A1) and financial and professional services (class A2) will be considered favourably. Proposals for food and drink uses (class A3) will be permitted where they do not adversely affect the amenities enjoyed by adjoining residents.

10.3.5 Most of the buildings in the High Street are in retail or commercial use. However, some of the upper floors are used for residential purposes. The Borough Council will encourage the use of upper floors for residential purposes as this could increase the amount of activity in the area and, therefore, increase the vitality and viability of the High Street.

POLICY OT7: CONVERSION OF UPPER FLOORS FOR RESIDENTIAL USES

Within the Old Town High Street, the conversion of upper floors for residential uses will be considered favourably.

10.3.6 The Borough Council recognises that the use of interesting shop fronts and advertisements enables businesses to attract customers. However, the appearance of a building can be adversely affected by unsympathetic shop front designs and advertisement displays. Conversely, enhancing the appearance of the street scene and making the best use of the existing historic features creates an attractive environment and improves the vitality of the area. The Borough Council will, therefore, only accept proposals for shop fronts and advertisements that respect the existing features, the general appearance of the buildings and any architectural details on the buildings.

POLICY OT8: SHOP FRONTS

Proposals for shop fronts will be required to meet the following criteria:

(a) to be in keeping with the style and appearance of the existing building; and
(b) to respect any architectural details; and
(c) to be in traditional materials.

In addition the retention and repair of existing shop fronts of merit will be encouraged.

POLICY OT9: ADVERTISEMENTS

Any application for an advertisement will be considered in the light of the following criteria:

(a) no advertisement will be permitted above ground floor fascia level other than under (c) below; and
(b) no projecting illuminated box signs will be permitted; and
(c) any projecting signs should be in traditional hanging board style, such signs may be appropriate above ground floor level; and
(d) No box perspex fascia signs will be permitted; and
signs made out of plastic or similar materials will be discouraged; and
(e) illumination will not be permitted, except individual letters back lit or a sign illuminated by a spotlight; and
(g) the size of the lettering must be in scale and harmony with the façade of the building.

These criteria will be applied to existing advertisements when the permission expires or on application for the renewal of their permission.

10.3.7 The High Street and Middle Row form the main shopping area of the Old Town. The majority of the shop premises front onto these streets. The street system in this area reflects the historic origins of the High Street with the main shopping frontages facing onto a wide street which was once the market place and coach route of the Great North Road. The rear of these properties generally face onto narrow residential roads. Any new developments to the rear of these premises would have an adverse environmental effect on these roads due to the additional pedestrian and vehicular movements. Therefore, in order to preserve and enhance the streets’ character and appearance and to maintain the economic vitality of the shopping area, retail development proposals which do not have their frontages facing onto these streets will not be permitted.

POLICY OT10: RETAIL DEVELOPMENT FRONTAGES

Proposals involving retail developments within the Old Town High Street will be required to have their main shopping frontage on the High Street or Middle Row.

10.3.8 In order keep the main shopping area free from servicing problems and improve its environment for shoppers, the Borough Council will encourage the servicing of the shops to take place from Primett Road and Church Lane rather than from the High Street, Middle Row and Baker Street.

POLICY OT11: SERVICE ACCESSES ONTO PRIMETT ROAD AND CHURCH LANE

Proposals that result in the loss of existing service accesses onto Primett Road and Church Lane for premises fronting the High Street and Middle Row will not be permitted. Proposals which create new service accesses onto Primett Road and Church Lane for such premises will be considered favourably.

10.3.9 Buildings on the west side of the High Street backing onto Primett Road tend to have large rear service yards. This means that the rear aspects of these buildings generally do not enhance the appearance of the area and a considerable amount of land is underused. Additional development in these areas could contribute to the vitality of the Old Town and bring more activity into the High Street area. The Borough Council will, therefore, encourage the development of office, leisure, residential, social or community facilities, providing certain criteria are met.

10.3.10 Due to the suitability of Primett Road as an office location, a site at the northern end is allocated for office development. Whilst this site already has planning permission for office development it is important that the site is safeguarded for this use over the period of this Plan due to the limited opportunities that exist in the Old Town for new office developments. Industrial uses are not considered to be acceptable in this location as the area is sensitive, because of its location in the Old Town Conservation Area. In addition, potential traffic problems could arise from access difficulties of lorries servicing these premises which would be detrimental to the environment of the area.

POLICY OT12: DEVELOPMENT PROPOSALS ON PRIMETT ROAD

Office, leisure, residential social or community developments fronting the east side of Primett Road, will be considered favourably subject to the criteria in Policy OT6. A site for office development is allocated on Primett Road as shown on the old town inset map.

Policy OT 4

POLICY OT13: INDUSTRIAL PREMISES ON PRIMETT ROAD

Proposals for the establishment of new industrial premises or the extension of existing industrial premises on the east side of Primett Road will be resisted.

10.3.11 There is only limited car parking provision within and adjacent to the Old Town High Street. This is provided by the Borough Council and is sufficient to meet the requirements of existing users. The Borough Council is concerned that accessibility to the High Street and its environmental quality is maintained, whilst respecting the shift in Government policy as outlined in the Transport chapter. Where major new development is proposed transport implications will need to be assessed against the policies in the Transport chapter. Car parking provision will be assessed against policy T15.

10.3.12 The west side of Primett Road provides essential car parking for the Old Town area. It is important that this provision is retained, or facilities enhanced, to enable access to the Old Town to be maintained.

POLICY OT14: PRIMETT ROAD CAR PARKS

In the event of development proposals being considered on the Primett Road car parks, it must be demonstrated that the existing car parking spaces will be replaced within the development for public car parking as well as that required by the development. A lower provision of car parking may be acceptable where it can be demonstrated that access by alternative forms of transport can be provided. Where this is proposed, accessibility contributions will be required in line with Policy T15.

Policy T15

10.4 OLD TOWN HIGH STREET – NORTH

10.4.1 The area to the north of the Old Town High Street around the Bowling Green forms a focal point within the Old Town Conservation Area. It is separated from the High Street by the gyratory road system. The County Council have changed the road classification by directing traffic through the industrial area, away from this junction. However, further improvements to the environment of this area are needed by removing the through traffic. Although details of any traffic management and environmental improvement scheme for the Bowling Green area are not yet known, in principle any scheme will ensure vehicular access to properties around the Bowling Green and will not have a detrimental impact on any local bus services.

POLICY OT15: BOWLING GREEN TRANSPORT IMPROVEMENTS

The Borough Council will press the County Council to implement schemes to improve the environment of the Bowling Green by removing through traffic from the High Street between North Road and James Way.

10.4.2 The High Street has always had a significant element of residential uses within it, particularly at the northern end. In order to retain the residential use and thus the quality of this area and to prevent the spread of commercial development, this northern part of the High Street will be protected from commercial uses and retained for residential purposes. In addition the two and three storey buildings around the Bowling Green are domestic in scale forming an attractive grouping. The retention of the residential use is important in order to maintain the character of the Bowling Green area. The Borough Council recognises that there are existing social and community activities within this area and, whilst these uses are required for the community, they should be retained.

POLICY OT16: LOSS OF RESIDENTIAL USES

The loss of residential use in the Old Town High Street – North will not be permitted. Proposals for the conversion of properties into residential use will be considered favourably.

OLD TOWN HIGH STREET - SOUTH

10.4.3 At the southern end of the Old Town High Street there is an area containing a number of older buildings in a mixture of commercial and residential uses. This area includes properties on Sish Lane, the south end of the High Street and Ditchmore Lane. It is considered that these buildings are worthy of retention and are an integral part of the character of the Old Town High Street and the Conservation Area. However, because of the area’s proximity to the town centre and its associated office development, appropriate new uses for these buildings may include residential, offices, hotels or guest houses.

POLICY OT17 : REDEVELOPMENT PROPOSALS – HIGH STREET SOUTH

Proposals for the redevelopment of existing buildings which are considered to be suitable for conversion and adaptation will not be permitted.

Where properties are considered to be suitable for conversion or adaptation, uses which will be considered favourably include offices, hotels, guest houses or residential, providing that car parking is provided in accordance with Policy T15.

Policy T15