Wiltshire Publications

A vision for Westbury: Town council’s blueprint for the future

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A PLAN to make Westbury more appealing has been given the thumbs up by Westbury town councillors.

Their ‘Vision for Westbury’  document aims to shape the future of the town and includes a range of ideas to make the town a better place to both live in and visit. 

Steve Walker from Allies and Morrison architects presented the 100 page report which was unanimously accepted by councillors at a meeting in March.

The council worked with the firm on the “Vision for Westbury” study after recognising it needed a comprehensive plan to enable it to engage with the community and demonstrate its commitment to improving the look and feel of the town centre. 

The council also wanted the document to include modern and aesthetic solutions for the town centre and generate footfall, a list of projects that could be undertaken to benefit the community, and that would allow the council to readily apply for appropriate town centre grant funding.

Steve told members the final report was the culmination of a lot of work.

“This document looks at the town centre vision for Westbury – it takes on the original vision and scoping study we did in 2011, extends that and flushes out the work that we did a good few years ago,” he explained. 

Key issues

“There’s an explanation and introduction to the work that we’ve done in the first section and then we go into our analysis of Westbury and setting out our reading of the whole town, reflecting on the key issues that need to be tackled, providing policy content as well. 

“Then at the vision section it takes the original work we did and provides an updated version of that. Most of the work is still very relevant to where we find ourselves today but we’ve assessed and refreshed that. 

“From there we find a series of subject ideas ranging in scale from relatively small interventions which could be done quickly and nimbly and which you might want to think about doing in response to Covid as we start release from lockdown, and then others are larger, wider ranging and more strategic. At the end we talk about process and how you might bring these projects to fruition.”

The document includes details about regional context, topography which is important to challenges like flood risks, views and the nature of the views over the town. 

Urban morphology – the bone structure of the town – and the difference between the historic heart, the suburbs and the industrial estate is also addressed in an analysis of overall land uses which presents the town centre as distinct from its surrounding suburbs. 

“There’s a series of analysis layers which look at different aspects of the town’s character,” Steve said. “For example,  the element of softening the natural landscape of the town, where do we have parkland, sustainable movement like walking and cycling, and what infrastructure we have already, and then with Westbury’s really valuable heritage legacy we included an element talking about that historic character, the nature of the streets through the middle, the relationship of the church and the market place, and Edwards Street and Maristow Street being particularly important.”

Incorporating the outcomes of stakeholder consultations, the report looks at the identity of Westbury as a town and how it can be a good small town and a sustainable place to live.

Steve said, “There is a series of elements about future trends in response to Covid and trends that were already happening such as remote working, and community aspects around things like education, leisure activities like dance and cultural activities, things we feel are really important for the future for Westbury.

“There’s a summary about changes to planning reforms and what we’re seeing that in terms of how high streets are responding at the moment, and the longer term future in terms of how the planning system is changing.

“Then we get to the vision – the original 2011 vision covers the quality of environment, the offer, the community, the localism, traditional charm and the idea of being a connected place.  

“Our big reflection was that the aspects of the 2011 vision were all still really important but what’s changed over the last 10 years is the way in which sustainability has risen so rapidly up the agenda. 

“The idea about how that affects mobility, transport, car use, about how we want to reduce the impact of climate change, more tree planting, reduce the number of cars in the town centre, and other ways we can introduce sustainable drainage in hard landscaping so we can make our town centres more attractive and liveable. 

Good small town

“These are all good principles we can bring to Westbury, also supporting local employment and change so that it reinforces that nature of a circular economy and being a good small town.”

Steve said they could think about introducing better provision for walking and cycling in the town centre and creating an environment that can better support local shops, adding, “Overlaid on that is the network of sustainable transport links and its a particularly important aspect of where we should be aiming. Westbury is a compact town sustainable, recyclable.

Infrastructure

“We’ve also made suggestions about public transport infrastructure and as we start to see traffic drawn away from the town centre we can expect to make those short local trips by foot, bus, bike much easier and much more attractive – it’s a self reinforcing circle.

“There’s this idea about the local economy that we’ve got a town centre that will grow and better serve the area.”

The document includes suggestions around the possibility that towards the east of the railway tracks could be more of a mixed-use employment district that could be a more sustainable form of employment, with people living and working within the same district. 

“Westbury is a market town size but doesn’t stand alone, it has the ability to draw on what is going on in Warminster and Trowbridge,” Steve said. “It’s a very short connecting route by rail, car or bus, so there’s a series of projects about building on the assets you have as a town v at the moment and what we can do with it.

“The softer elements you can do without planning policy or developer involvement, about gardens, dance and cultural activities and thinking about regenerating the town centre – how you work with Edward Street, Maristow Street and Alfred Street. 

“We’ve touched on the establishment of an art centre and we’ve set about some key principles about how that could be delivered.”

Quick wins

Steve said quick wins could be achieved relatively easily, such as creating shop fronts, doing some renovation, and utilising outdoor public seating.

The document includes medium intervention projects such as improving the ends of high street blocks and frontage on Edward Street, then big projects such as looking at Angel Mill and the character of Edward Street in terms of the public realm, that could bring the building back to life.  Leighton House is another key site that could include projects such as restoring the historic walled gardens.  

Cllr Jane Russ said “Vision for Westbury” had inspired the council to begin making proposals for some quick win improvements including doing some work on the rotunda.

Cllr Brenda Pyne said, “It’s the first phase of improving the high street – making it more pedestrian and  putting in tables to eat at. We’ve been inspired to do something quickly which is a great reflection on your report.” 

She added later, “The soapbox derby postponed until next year – with that event it will bring a lot of people into Westbury and will be great to have the centre refurbished and be a welcoming place for visitors and residents.” 

Council chair cllr Mike Sutton, said, “I think alot of us would like to see alot of that implemented in the coming years. It certainly inspired me with a vision of Westbury.”

Cllr Gordon King said, “I absolutely support this and speaking about this and Steve Walker reminded us tonight that the vital part of realising our vision for the town is thinking about quick wins, and this is an avenue towards that. It can only lead to a great number of successful projects I hope will come forward for the future.”

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