RIVERSIDE STRATEGIC ISSUES
Although the riverside is separated from the shopping centre by the barrier of the buildings in King Street, and invisible to the passing traffic, to many local people it is an integral part of the town. Although the two areas are quite different, any major change to the riverside will have an impact on the town, and vice versa. River usage is extensive, and a great many businesses and residents will be directly affected by any development on the riverside. (See appendix 2)
These issues are of major concern:
1. By its geographical and historical nature, the town now lacks a focus. The riverside has the potential to become the centre of the community. 2. The riverside can play a major role in regenerating the town centre. Although there is pressure for the pool site to become the centre of further commercial development, local opinion is strongly against having more shops and restaurants. The last survey of the shopping area (31st May, 1999) showed that the town centre had 23 empty shops, 9 charity shops, and 48 restaurants, out of a total of 275 premises. Marks & Spencer's announced move into Heath Road indicates that major retailers can be attracted to existing premises in the main shopping streets; further large areas like the old Forbuoys and Freeman Hardy Willis building are available, and need to be turned from eyesores into commercial magnets. 3. The development must not be overlarge or too dense. Any buildings on the pool site must relate to the riverside in terms of aspect, outlook, and use, and they must be in keeping with the scale and architecture of the town and the riverside. 4. Local businesses and clubs depend on access to the riverside along the Embankment and around the pool site for deliveries of goods all the way from bread to the restaurants to skiffs to the rowing club and sheet steel to the boatyards, in vehicles ranging from motorcycles to large HGVs. These supplies are the lifeblood of the area. 5. Historically, the pool part of the riverside has never been a commercial development. It is used by local people, many with children, for leisure. Whatever development goes onto the site must bring benefits to the area and its citizens. 6. Sustainability is currently a major issue: short-term or unnecessarily expensive development with an eye to future rezoning or multiple use is not valid. 7. Tourism could contribute substantially to the local economy, but the main tourist information point is located in the bustling Atrium at the Civic Centre. To have a centre for tourist information on the riverside will provide a hub for tourist activity and a place for unified promotion of the borough's attractions. 8. The development must be within the requirements of the Thames Landscape Strategy, thirty-one of whose policies are directly applicable to the development. (See appendix 4) 9. Although many people use the riverside, there is limited public knowledge of the local environment and the measures being taken to protect it. The development should provide the means to increase awareness of the uniqueness of the riverside area. 10. Part of the local economy is based on the riverside, and it is vital to protect local industries and encourage training and education. 11. Any development on the riverside must take into account the tidal nature of the river in the area. The high tides have a direct impact on the placement of parking spaces, as the Embankment floods to a greater or lesser extent with the bimonthly spring (high) tides, and the spring and autumn high tides which are greater at the equinox. In addition, heavy rainfall upstream and certain weather conditions can produce unpredicted tidal levels. (See Figure 2 - Tidal Flood Levels) 12. It is incumbent on all involved in the redevelopment of the riverside to create a safe and enjoyable place for local residents and visitors.