Chelmsford: plans for new housing, leisure centre and retail park expansion

Chelmsford: plans for new housing, leisure centre and retail park expansion

Is Chelmsford’s Victoria Road set to become gridlocked with a wave of development incoming?

One of Chelmsford’s main roads is set to see some huge changes, but not everyone is happy about it.

With the construction of the new Riverside Leisure Centre, the proposed revamp to the Riverside Retail Park and a huge new housing development coming to the former sorting office site, Victoria Road is set to be busier than ever.

Plans for Riverside Retail Park include a supermarket on the current Sports Direct unit and the vacant unit next door – amalgamating them into one big outlet.

A new supermarket would undoubtedly bring extra footfall to the area, but some residents are concerned that this will turn one of Chelmsford’s main routes to the train station into a traffic nightmare.

Combined with drivers from the 200 flats which could be built by Bellway on the former Royal Mail sorting office and the new leisure centre, there will be a huge influx of people using the city centre street.

“It’s just going to be a nightmare”

For some, they think that the potential arrival of a new store will make the area far too busy.

Nick Simmonds, a 52-year-old prison officer from Chelmsford said: “I live and work in Chelmsford, so I walk by but at home time it is already gridlocked.

“It’s the same as anywhere, Parkway is gridlocked too.

“People will be coming in here for the supermarket and it’s just going to be a nightmare.

“I don’t think we need another supermarket, and there is Tesco in town already.”

Another man, Steve from Chelmsford, explained that he liked the idea of another supermarket in town but thought it was impractical.

“It’s good to have another major supermarket in town, but I don’t think this has really got the access for it.

“I don’t think there is any ideal location in town for one anymore.

“If there was, it’s got houses on it.

“You have got a mass influx of people coming into Chelmsford.”

“If you look at how busy the retail park is now, what would it be like within five months of opening?”

“Who is it going to serve?”

For some people the arrival of a new supermarket as part of the Riverside Retail Park proposals will only serve a select few – namely the new housing development on the old sorting office site.

One of those people was 37-year-old accountant Emma Pickles, from Chelmsford, who questioned just how many foodstores were needed in the area.

“I think Victoria Road is already really heavy on the traffic and making more car parking spaces is one solution but how many supermarkets do we need?” she said.

Riverside Retail Plans

The Riverside Retail proposals have now been submitted to Chlemsford City Council but are awaiting approval.

Under the proposals the headline change is the intention to bring a supermarket into the Sports Direct unit and the vacant unit next door, which would see them merge into one.

The current building that houses McDonald’s and Cycles UK would be demolished and a new two-storey building would be constructed in the car park close to Victoria Road to house a new McDonald’s restaurant.

It would also contain two ‘pod’ units one of which has been offered to Cycles UK.

The car park layout will be significantly altered as part of the plans and the allocation of spaces will be increased from 483 to 615 – an increase of 132.

There will also be alterations to the glass facade’s of the some of the units as well as the replacement of the totem signs outside the retail park on Victoria Road.

The Riverside Retail Park plans are available to view on the Chelmsford City Council website under reference number 18/01504/FUL.

The consultation expiry date is Friday, October 19 for people to have their say on the proposals.

“We’ve got the Marks and Spencer’s foodhall – the new one – we’ve got the new Aldi over there.

“We’ve got another new Aldi on Parkway, Tesco in town and Marks and Spencer food up by the station.

“The only thing they could put that’s any different is a Sainsbury’s.

“I don’t think Chelmsford is the right town for a Waitrose, it’s gone downhill a bit.

“If they redo the car park the only nice bits of the car park are the trees and the bushes, which you don’t get in most car parks and they will have to get rid of them.

“So I think that’s a shame.

She added: “It might benefit the other stores but then it might fill up the car park for people who just want to use the normal stores.

“You’re going to have to have trolley parks and that might take up some of these new parking spaces that they’re going to put in.

“The quality of the shops here is already going downhill compared to how it used to be when we had Mothercare.

One of Chelmsford’s much-anticipated projects is the arrival of a new and refurbished Riverside Leisure Centre.

The new centre, which is currently under construction adjacent to the current one, is a unique project designed to last 60 years.

In June 2018 it was reported that the project was more than 40 per cent over budget after it was initially forecast to cost Chelmsford taxpayers £25 million.

The new centre is due to open at some stage in early 2019.

“That was quite a nice shop to go to.

“If you’ve got a nice supermarket it’s going to be amongst Home Bargains and Poundland whereas if you have a rubbish supermarket we have got plenty of those.

“If you close the car park off while they’re here then you are just affecting the trade that is already here.

“And for what? Who is it going to serve?

“It is only really going to serve those flats.”

A spokesperson for Chelmsford City Council said: “We always consider the sustainability and the impact on infrastructure”
“Chelmsford has seen a large amount of positive development in recent years, which is making the city a vibrant, attractive place to live. A key part of this is the development of disused ‘brownfield’ sites, such as the old Royal Mail sorting depot on Victoria Road, which if left to fall into disrepair would become very unattractive.

“Some of these sites, though by no means all, have been redeveloped for housing. Because they are close to services, facilities and employment, as well as bus and rail options, they reduce people’s need for travel and provide homes for those who like to live in city centre communities. This means that they are sustainable, causing less cars to be on the roads.

“In regards to Victoria Road, the new Riverside leisure complex will have neutral impact on traffic, as it is replacing the existing centre. Part of the Riverside project also includes making improvements to the surrounding cycleways. Meanwhile, the amount of traffic that was previously generated by the Royal Mail sorting office was much greater than its future use as a residential area.

“The current planning application for new retail uses on the Riverside Retail Park is currently being considered. This will include an assessment of the likely traffic impacts.

“While making best use of old brownfield sites, as with any development, we always consider the sustainability and the impact on infrastructure. We work closely with Essex County Council, the highways authority for our area, and are excited to hear that the County Council has recently secured £15 million to be invested in sustainable transport schemes for Chelmsford’s urban areas, including cycling and walking schemes.”

“We seem to get infrastructure wrong in this country”

One Chelmsford resident, 59-year-old Robin Saich, commented that he felt too often in the UK we fail to prepare the infrastructure for the arrival of new developments.

Instead the development is often created first before issues such as public transport are looked at and – in the case of the housing development on the old sorting office site – the story has been exactly the same.

“Building on the old post office site for housing is probably better than the original plan which was to put Waitrose in,” he said.

“The housing there is good and Victoria Road is always going to be gridlocked but surely more car parking for a retail development must be good.

“Car parking is at a premium in Chelmsford baring in mind the council at the moment seems to want to build on quite a few of them.

Developers Bellway are currently constructing 203 new one and two-bedroom apartments on the site of the old sorting office on Victoria Road.

The developers say they want to provide “much needed” homes for both new and existing residents on the derelict site, subject to planning permission being granted.

As well as living space, the property developer also has plans for three new commercial outlets as well as enhanced footpaths and cycle links.

There is also due to be a new Islamic Centre yards away from the development on Regin Road, which is also set to open by the start of 2019.

The new building, which will be a home for parts of Essex’s Muslim community, will provide a place of worship and a base for community activities and meetings.

“So an expansion of the car park I would say is a good thing.

“We seem to get infrastructure wrong in this country.

“We put the houses in and then worry about the infrastructure as opposed to putting the infrastructure in first and then the housing.

“What I would like to see come in first is improvements on public transport and improvements on getting the traffic out of Chelmsford.”

“Victoria Road is chock-a-block anyway”

Gill, from Danbury, echoed the sentiment that Victoria Road is already busy enough as it is.

“I don’t think we need another supermarket – Victoria Road is chock-a-block anyway and you can’t move on the weekend,” she said.

“I have to park in here sometimes but I have to queue a lot.

“Victoria Road is gridlocked already, the whole town now is the same.

“I would like to see more Park and Rides.”

Image: Victoria Road is set to see plenty of development (photo: Edward Starr Photographer)

Source: Essex Live

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