The borough council recently stated that it “proposes to make the town [Camberley] a foremost regional destination, and one of the top 100 towns in the UK.”
This statement has met with what might be called a degree of challenge. So here is some background information. (The text is detailed, so take a deep breath before reading it!)
Over a number of years the council has been developing the ‘Camberley Town Centre Area Action Plan’ (our earliest reference to it is dated 2006). Public consultation was part of this process, and, to quote the document, “The AAP is an important policy document that will shape development within the town centre in the period up to 2028.” The near-final document was submitted to the Secretary of State last year, and subsequently was the subject of an Examination in Public by an Inspector from the Planning Inspectorate. After a few changes, the document was finalised and issued last month.
As far as we can tell, this “important policy document” makes NO mention of becoming one of the top 100 towns. Instead, it refers to the council’s Core Strategy, and the vision within it:
Camberley town centre will be a thriving centre offering a wide range of shops, excellent leisure facilities, high quality office premises and residential opportunities, and a full range of community services for the local and wider community.
There will be a high quality of design with an attractive street scene, and a range of natural and civic open spaces for use by the public. There will be easy access to the centre with a good public transport system, and an emphasis on pedestrian priority.
Nowhere, as far as we can tell, does the Core Strategy, like the Area Action Plan, make any mention of Camberley becoming a top 100 town. But maybe this is just an oversight? However, the Area Action Plan does say:
The objectives represent the key outcomes required to deliver the Vision for Camberley town centre and are set within the overarching objectives of the Core Strategy, in particular the following:
Objective 1 To promote and deliver sustainable development in the Borough.
Objective 2 To provide sufficient new housing to meet the Borough’s need without causing harm to areas of importance for biodiversity.
Objective 3 Promote the role of Camberley town centre as a secondary regional centre and as a safe and attractive retail, cultural and entertainment centre with a high quality of environment.
The objectives for the Camberley Town Centre Area Action Plan are as follows:
Objective 1. To ensure Camberley town centre continues to be a vital and viable shopping facility which meet the needs of its catchment population and to enable the improvements and any increases in floorspace needed to achieve this.
Objective 2. Provide an excellent range of leisure, cultural and community facilities to meet the needs of the local population.
Objective 3. To maintain Camberley town centre’s role as an employment centre.
Objective 4. To enhance Camberley town centre’s role as a residential area including the provision of new homes, whilst avoiding harm to European Sites.
Objective 5. To improve accessibility within and to the town centre by all means of transport.
Objective 6. To improve environmental quality including building sustainability and use of sustainable drainage systems, enhance the character of the town centre and its heritage, protect the amenity and character of the surrounding residential areas.
Objective 7. To provide a well managed, safe and attractive town centre.
We have no quarrel with any of the above objectives. However, it strikes us that on their own they are most unlikely to elevate Camberley to a top 100 town. Indeed, the objective: “Promote the role of Camberley town centre as a secondary regional centre” appears difficult to reconcile with the opening sentence of this article:” to make the town [Camberley] a foremost regional destination”
It seems to us that the proposal that Camberley become a top 100 town – whilst laudable – does not reflect the more considered planning documents produced by the council. Either the Planning Department should resign because its voice is not being heard, or the top 100 town proposal should be quietly and quickly withdrawn.