The UK General Election - 4th July 2024

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In Conversation With Councillor Chris Turrell

Lauren Whipp

Head of Planning and the Built Environment

Snapdragon at PLMR recently held its latest ‘In Conversation With…’ event, an exciting series where we speak with key figures in local government about planning and development in their areas. Account Director, Natasha Kendall spoke to Councillor Chris Turrell, the Executive Member for Planning and Transport at Bracknell Forest Council, about the new Local Plan, sustainable development, and transport infrastructure.

Bracknell Forest is a former new town that sits 40km west of London. The main settlement in the area is Bracknell, but it also includes Sandhurst and a number of smaller settlements. It became a Unitary Authority in 1998, carrying out district and county functions, which has worked well for the Council in the years since, according to Cllr Turrell. The Council’s new Local Plan was submitted for examination in December last year.

Cllr Turrell spoke about the Council’s involvement in planning applications to ensure that a mix of houses are supplied, and that they are of good quality and reflect the characteristics of the town. In terms of regeneration, the Council has an on-going relationship with developers Countryside to regenerate three key sites in and around Bracknell Town Centre. Bracknell Forest Planning Committee recently approved the application for the first of these three sites.

There are many things to consider when putting forward an application for new development and Cllr Turrell states that any proposals must respect and complement the existing character of Bracknell.

The policy for the provision of affordable homes in Bracknell Forest has been set at a minimum of 25% for some time, but the aspiration for Bracknell Forest’s new Local Plan is 35%. The Council is confident that this can be achieved, but the provision will have to be tested and considered during the examination of the Local Plan. Developments are encouraged to include at least the minimum percentage of affordable homes, and if a development comes forward with a lower percentage, Bracknell Forest will scrutinise the application closely.

Bracknell Forest aims to become a sustainable borough by 2050. The Council looks out for planning applications that have a strategy in place to incorporate sustainable initiatives as part of the new development, such as air source heat pumps and solar panels. Cllr Turrell said that the move towards developments that include these measures is clear, with some developments not having been possible 5 years ago. He cited the work done concerning electric vehicle charging points and said that we are moving towards the point where electric vehicles are no longer ‘quirky’, they’re becoming mainstream. Cllr Turrell stated that the more examples people can see of sustainability, the more likely they will be included in new developments.

The post-lockdown return to in-person shopping, in Bracknell Forest, was also discussed in the event. Lockdowns left many towns and villages empty, but the regeneration taking place in Bracknell Town Centre has prompted a surge of residents heading out to shop. The new plans will keep the town centre compact, with Cllr Turrell highlighting that many towns make the mistake of allowing a town centre to expand beyond its means, so consideration must be taken when deciding to include retail in locations where residential space would be more beneficial.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to consider to what extent transport movements have changed and how this has affected the economy. Cllr Turrell shared that, due to working from home, more people are venturing out on the weekends, and therefore transport operators are carefully considering bus and train times, ticket prices, and maintenance.

The webinar provided insight into the New Local Plan process and the future development of Bracknell Forest. We are very grateful to Cllr Turrell for his time and for sharing his thoughts.

Please contact info@plmr.co.uk if you would like to discuss our ‘In Conversation With…’ event series.

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