A different vision for Coventry
In May 2020, in the depth of the Covid-19 lockdown, the Coventry Society published a call-to-arms ‘Creating a different vision for Coventry’. The paper identified that the city we know and love will change irrevocably after the current coronavirus crisis. While recognising that the nature and pace of change is unpredictable, and no particular urban future is inevitable, the paper sought to encourage a city-wide discussion about the kind of place we might wish Coventry to become and how we can ‘build back better’.
As a stimulus to thinking, the paper explored things we may wish to change in terms of traffic and air quality, the city centre, and culture, leisure and recreation. It sought to explore interest in a ‘different vision for Coventry in the post-Covid era’ and encouraged people to identify specific changes they would like to see, strategically, and in terms of specific ideas and proposals that might make a real difference to how we live in this City, and how the City may develop in the coming years.
City Centre South
One area of the City Centre where physical change is soon to be obvious is the development known as City Centre South. Once a popular part of the City Centre, its decline in terms of retail attraction and the quality of the urban environment has spurred the City Council to secure transformative change. The 560,000 square foot scheme – which will deliver a complex the size of Solihull’s Touchwood development, including shops, restaurants and a cinema – was granted outline planning consent in 2012. The site, bordered by the Upper Precinct, Greyfriars Road and Warwick Road connects to the Bull Yard, where it picks up the new boulevard connection to the railway station. The Wave water park and health spa is adjacent to this proposed new development. Demolition works are now advanced to clear sites for the City Centre South development to secure new investment and a new future for an area that was part of Coventry’s post-war reconstruction.
The revised proposals for the City Centre South area will be the subject of public consultation later in the year. They will have to respond to the fundamental changes that have been occurring in town centre retailing since the outline planning permission eight years ago, take account of the Government’s recent proposals to encourage more walking and cycling, and foresee how the dramatic economic downturn expected as we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis will impact on city centre investment and land uses. Overall, in the spirit of ‘building back better’, the proposals will have to ensure that, as required by the National Planning Policy Framework, “good design is a key aspect of sustainable development”.
The Coventry Society expects that there will be a wide-ranging and deep consultation with Coventry residents, traders and local organisations over these City centre South proposals and what they will mean in terms of amenities, types of shopping and the shape and look of this part of the city centre. This is a one-in-fifty years change to the City Centre, so everyone in this city has an interest in ensuring that the final development meets the needs of people who live and work here!
The Coventry Society campaigns for a city of better quality; of appropriate amenities; of diversity and distinctiveness in retail and culture; and where heritage is protected and valued. With these ambitions for our City then we have a view on how these should be captured in the proposals for City Centre South. Our manifesto, set out in five criteria, is below.
Our ambitions are broad and wide-ranging but not prescriptive in terms of the scale, style or shape of the intended development. That is for the developers to propose and the City Planners to assess. We feel, however, that our views represent a community perspective on the type of development that should be delivered.
In considering our view on the newly revised Coventry City Centre South scheme, when it is released for public consultation later this year, the Coventry Society will appraise the project against the following criteria.
City Centre South
Five Criteria for a Sustainable City Centre Project
1 Respect for Coventry’s heritage
The development will respect and conserve our remarkable and unique post-war heritage including the re-purposing of our heritage buildings.
2 Retail in the 2020’s
Respond to national changes in retailing and Coventry’s needs and qualities by providing a diverse retail offer, including
- affordable accommodation for small independent and community retailers, providing a “conveyor” to enable enterprising people to start small and build up to larger premises
- new and expanded uses of the Market as an important focus for the development.
3 Enriching Coventry’s Culture and Leisure
Increase the cultural, leisure and social offering of the city centre in providing for amenities such as cinema, theatre, exhibition space, pubs and restaurants, sports, fitness and health facilities.
4 Housing for all our people
Provide a range and variety of housing accommodation for Coventry residents including social housing for those not able to afford private accommodation.
5 An environment we will love and appreciate
- Ensure a high quality of design, in buildings and the public realm, providing active frontages, a streetscape focussed on the needs of people, not motor vehicles, and well-connected into the rest of the city centre
- Secure a high standard of environmental sustainability, in terms of energy and water conservation and urban greening and ecology to respond to the climate emergency.
This is what we think in CovSoc. What do you think? What would you like to see come out of City Centre South? What is the most important thing for you?