Medway Council has recently published its revised Rochester Riverside Masterplan & Development Brief Consultation Draft (this can be found here http://www.medway.gov.uk/pdf/885_R_140424_Development%20Brief.pdf). The Council required that all comments to the brief be submitted by 6th June. Our Chairman Alan Moss has responded to Kate Greenaway in the Planning Department and we thought it would be of interest to our members to have sight of his and the CoRS’s comments.
“I have read the Rochester Riverside Development document with interest and in my capacity as Chairman for the City of Rochester Society. It has also been discussed in some detail by our Planning sub-committee. I am therefore submitting a compilation of our various comments which I hope will prove helpful.
Our initial observation is that the overall scale and density of the development appears to be lower than in earlier Masterplans and also includes less flats and more housing. The inclusion of a good proportion of terraced housing with gardens is a particularly welcome development, offering attractive family homes.
The distribution of the different housing types locates higher buildings along the edge of the river and the wharf, however, placing the lower (terrace) housing behind – the diagram at page 62 refers. This creates a more or less continuous ‘wall’ of development along the river walk. It seems that some breaks could quite easily be made in this arrangement without significantly reducing the overall quantity of units. This would allow for spaces to be created adjacent to (and, thereby, relieving the uniformity of) the riverside walk and would also actually increase the number of units which enjoy some direct connection with the river. It appears both straightforward and beneficial to reduce this effect of a ‘wall’ dividing the river on one side from the ‘inner’ housing development on the other.
As detailed proposals emerge we will be looking to developers and planners to ensure that the architecture is of the highest quality and reflects the diversity of styles and detailing to be found in other parts of historic Rochester. Unfortunately this has not been so in the box-like development recently carried out at Doust Way. The new development at Ruxton Square, now being completed, is a better example of what can be achieved in a sensitive area.
We would also wish to point out that the design guidance is quite specific in its objective to ‘overcome the barriers’ between Rochester Riverside and the centre of the town. Having noted the divisive effect of the railway viaduct and Corporation Street, the report states (on p.47) that:
“The masterplan seeks to overcome these barriers by establishing a conceptual framework of connections which responds to the street pattern of central Rochester, effectively extending the historic grain to Rochester Riverside.”
This point is illustrated by the diagram entitled “East-west grain and connectivity” on page 48. We are unable to visualise how this connectivity can actually be achieved. The historic centre of the town will remain cut off to a large extent and more needs to be done in relation to the Corporation Street corridor – the “boulevard” vision outlined in earlier plans for this this busy roadway has not been realised.
We are also concerned that the unique situation of the site should be fully exploited. One photograph of an existing wharf, for example, focuses on the rotting timbers of a boat. While we remain aware that the Medway’s busy commercial days are long gone, access to the river must remain an important consideration in the development and every opportunity should be taken to ensure that its proximity is not ignored. In time, it is possible that the potential of this section of the river will be exploited, and there will be more river traffic to be enjoyed by those participating in the riverside walkways. Indeed the provision of landing facilities for visiting vessels might be considered.
On the subject of riverside activity, the Development Brief is somewhat ambiguous in its references to Acorn Shipyard. On page 37 the yard is said to be outside the core part of the Development Brief area, and yet elsewhere there are references to possible alternative uses for the shipyard buildings. Whilst I can understand that commercial pressures may mean the cessation of ship repairing on this site, it is to be hoped that this long-established use is not to be ‘eased out’ in the future simply for the convenience of developers. Shipbuilding and repair have taken place on this site for centuries; it is part of Rochester’s dwindling maritime heritage, and its continuation should be encouraged, not least because it can only enhance the diversity and appeal of the riverside scene.
On page 39 of the Brief it is noted that remains of the Roman town wall exist. Excavations carried out in 2007 – to which members of the Society were witness – revealed what is believed to be the very substantial remains of the north-east angle bastion of the Roman/Medieval city wall. It is to be hoped that this structure can be permanently exposed to view as a feature of the regeneration project.
In summary, therefore, we have our reservations – which are recorded in this letter – but we also appreciate the difficulties and constraints of the site and, overall, are supportive of the developments put forward. The Masterplan represents a distinct improvement over earlier proposals.”