Proposed Submission Core Strategy

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11. BATTLE

Scope and Issues

11.1 Battle is a small, historic market town. Although populated by just 5,000 people, it provides an important service centre role for its residents and those of surrounding villages. In addition, Battle is a popular tourist destination for domestic and foreign visitors. The town suffers from congestion, particularly in the peak summer tourist season, as traffic is channelled along The Ridge through the town centre.

11.2 The whole town of Battle and the immediate surrounding countryside is within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The town centre, the historic Battle Abbey and the designated battlefield form the historic core, and were first designated as a Conservation Area in 1971, reviewed in 2006 18. Due to the way Battle has developed over the centuries in a linear fashion along one of the principal High Weald east-west ridges, it is visually exposed in the landscape.

11.3 The Strategy for the town has considered these factors in identifying how the town will meet the continuing expectations of its service centre role, whilst working within the context of very high environmental constraints.

Objectives

11.4 As outlined in Chapter 6, the Strategic objective with regard to Battle is :

‘To support the market town and tourist centre role and character of Battle, and conserve its historic core and setting.’

11.5 The following objectives further elaborate upon the Strategic Objective:

(3) Battle Objectives:

  1. to reduce congestion and improve accessibility, especially by non-car modes;

  2. to enhance the commercial and tourism attractiveness of the town centre;

  3. to conserve the key characteristics of the town and its setting that contribute to the AONB;

  4. to provide increased opportunities for employment locally;

  5. to improve the level of community and sports/recreation facilities;

  6. to preserve and enhance the historic character of Battle Abbey and Battlefield and maintain the town’s physical identity;

  7. to make an appropriate contribution towards meeting local housing needs.

General Strategy for Battle

11.6 It is clear that the combination of its AONB designation, historic core and accessibility limitations, make a high level of future growth for Battle inappropriate.

11.7 However, as the Battle Town Study demonstrates, there is a need to continue to support the town’s role and foster economic vitality. This will entail allowing appropriate residential development, including affordable housing, as well as limited expansion of employment and retail floorspace. This would need to demonstrate an acceptable impact on congestion problems as well as acceptable environmental impacts.

Future Housing Needs

(1) 11.8 The level of housing growth for Battle identified by assessment of the district-wide spatial distribution options and based upon the relative service roles of towns and villages in the district suggested 400-440 dwellings to Battle over the Plan period (an average 25 dwellings per annum). As evidenced in the Battle Town Study, Battle has a significant local housing need. The level of proposed development, coupled with effective affordable housing policies (see section 14) should greatly assist affordable housing to come forward.

11.9 As Appendix 3 shows, this level of growth is achievable over the Plan period largely through outstanding commitments as well as unimplemented allocations mainly at Blackfriars that are intended to be carried forward. Taking these figures into account, there would remain a need to find land for approximately a further 100 dwellings to be built by 2028.

11.10 This is likely to require extension to the current development boundary and the Battle Town Study discusses more detailed options of how and where this may be achieved. Suitable sites will be further investigated, and consulted upon, and brought forward in the forthcoming Site Allocations DPD. To discourage unnecessary use of the car, locations within walking or cycling distance of the centre will be favoured, subject to other considerations.

Future Retail Needs

11.11 The Retail Assessment demonstrated that few Battle residents actually do their main food shopping in the town, most travelling to larger stores in the Hastings & St Leonards area. This suggests a need to enhance Battle’s convenience retail offer to enable more residents to shop locally. The Retail Assessment advises that an additional 1,000 sq m sales area would enhance Battle’s local role as a service centre and reduce unsustainable and unnecessary car journeys to Hastings.

11.12 This may entail investigating opportunities within the forthcoming Site Allocations DPD for increased shopping floorspace of some 1,000 sq m sales area (as outlined in the Retail Study and in the Battle Town Study) to be located within or adjacent to the town centre. However, in the event of opportunities within or adjacent to the town centre not being found, the desirability of clawing back trade from Hastings is not so great as to necessitate an out-of-town shopping development in Battle or encroachment into the AONB for this purpose. Further investigations on possible means of achieving this will be conducted as part of the Site Allocations DPD.

Future Employment Needs

11.13 For the local economy, it is important to encourage and support innovation and entrepreneurial activity. Approximately 10,000 sq m of land for employment is appropriate for the Battle area to 2026. There is some 7,000 sq m in the pipeline along Marley Lane and Rutherfords Business Park which serves the Battle employment market. Broadly speaking, this leaves a requirement for at least a further 3,000 sq.m, which would seem an appropriate target both to secure further land/premises for employment use, in keeping with the scale of housing growth. Sites located in sustainable locations in close proximity to the town centre will be preferred. The Battle Town Study discusses some potential options to meet the needs including the vicinity of Battle Station, and the Site Allocations DPD will investigate these further.

Future Education Needs

11.14 ESCC (Children’s Services) has advised that the Local Plan primary school allocation at Blackfriars is no longer required and therefore it is not necessary to carry it forward to the Local Development Framework (LDF). Instead it is proposed to construct a permanent extension to the existing Battle and Langton Primary School. The Core Strategy Consultation on Strategy Directions stated that Early Years facilities were still needed, based on a recommendation from County Council Education. ESCC is currently further investigating this need. Therefore, in order to maintain a degree of flexibility and to be responsive to needs on the ground, consideration may be given to utilising the current primary school allocation site for general community/educational facilities.

11.15 Claverham Community College provides secondary education for 11 to 16 years olds. The County Council has advised that additional housing will impact on secondary school provision, by more out-of-area pupils not gaining places.

Transport and Car Parking

(1) 11.16 The main thrust of the ESCC Battle Local Area Transport Strategy (BLATS) is to improve accessibility by alternatives to the car. Proposals in the BLATS are supported, particularly those that help reduce congestion in the High Street. Further investigations of the most effective use of land at Station Approach (particularly for employment floorspace) will also examine the potential to rationalise and improve car parking provision as a matter of priority.

Open Space, Sport and Recreation

11.17 In June 2007 the Council adopted an audit and assessment of Open Space, Sport and Recreation for the district. The main findings in respect of Battle are:-

  • Consideration to be given, in the longer term, to a new swimming facility;
  • Consideration to be given to new provision for older children/teenagers;
  • To concentrate on qualitative improvements to existing natural and semi natural open space sites, and to amenity green spaces;
  • To provide, subject to demand, a new allotment site in south Battle, through new provision or the reallocation of existing provision.

11.18 The RDC Leisure Facilities Strategy also proposes the need for a synthetic turf pitch. The Battle Town Study identifies options for achieving these recommendations. These will be developed further in the forthcoming Site Allocations DPD.

Tourism

(1) 11.19 Battle excels at attracting large numbers to annual events such as the 1066 Re-enactment and the Bonfire Parade. However, evidence suggests a relatively low proportion of visitors staying overnight, despite the fact that visitors have a high degree of satisfaction and are likely to recommend the town as a place to visit. Possibly linked to this, evidence relating to the tourist market in Battle suggests a relative under-supply of guest house accommodation and a need for more tourist accommodation within the town itself (as opposed to the rural periphery).

11.20 The town benefits from a Tourist Information Centre and Battle needs to capitalise on both its appeal and the investments made in Abbey facilities, whilst effectively managing pressures caused by significant numbers at peak times. The Battle Town Study elaborates further on the tourism issues.

11.21 The following policy sets out how the Strategic Objective and objectives will be achieved.

(5) Policy BA1: Policy Framework for Battle

Proposals for development and change in Battle will:

  1. Maintain the essential physical form, local distinctiveness, character and setting of the town, particularly in and adjacent to the Conservation Area;

  2. Implement the ESCC Battle Local Area Transport Strategy, particularly measures that minimise the demand for cross-town vehicular traffic; and improve pedestrian and cycle access to services/ facilities from new and existing development;

  3. Provide for 400-440 net additional dwellings in Battle over the Plan period 2011-2028, by developing new housing via opportunities both within the development boundary, and modest peripheral expansion opportunities that respects the setting of Battle within the High Weald AONB and supports community facilities;

  4. Enable new local employment opportunities by providing for some 10,000 sq m of employment floorspace within the town centre, adjacent to Station Approach, at sites on Marley Lane and at other sites as necessary (including by assessing the potential for mixed use with housing development);

  5. Enable growth in sustainable tourism by allowing the development of new tourist accommodation, particularly by the conversion and extension of suitable properties closely related to the town centre;

  6. Maintain a vibrant and distinctive town centre and encouraging additional restaurants, cafes and/or retail service establishments as well as seeking opportunities for increased convenience shopping floorspace of some 1,000 sq m sales area within or adjacent to the town centre, as well as facilitating some additional comparison shopping floorspace;

  7. Implement improvements to the provision of open space, sport and recreation facilities, in accordance with adopted standards and strategies;

  8. Ensure that new development does not put pressure on local infrastructure, and that it makes appropriate contribution to community and other infrastructure;

  9. Seek opportunities for habitat creation, restoration and enhancement, particularly in identified Biodiversity Opportunity Areas to the east and west of the town.


18 Rother District Council Conservation Area Appraisal: Battle, 2006
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