TARA supported the selection of the Saw Close site from the three alternatives considered by the council for the granting of a licence for a casino under the terms of the Gambling Act 2005.  Accordingly there is no objection to the mix of uses proposed or to their general arrangement on the site.  On other issues we have limited our comments to matters likely to be of concern to local residents, namely, arrangements for access and circulation of vehicles and pedestrians, the external appearance of the buildings and arrangements for disabled people.

1.    Service access.  TARA supports the shared space concept, that the space available in Saw Close should be shared by pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles both in Phase 1 and in the completed development.  We also support (with qualifications) the proposal to provide no car parking on the site.  There is a lack of clarity, however, where service vehicles are concerned.  It is clear that refuse collection and electricity substation vehicles will access facilities from Bridewell Lane.  It appears that other service vehicles, including emergency vehicles, will use Saw Close but we have been unable to find clear and detailed information on how this will be managed; the number of such vehicles anticipated, how they will gain access to buildings and, in particular, where they will be positioned while carrying out their operations.

Experience has shown that shared space works best when vehicles are of limited size and in slow forward motion.  There are, however, inherent risks in allowing large service vehicles to park and manoeuvre haphazardly in shared space where pedestrians and cyclists are present.  The proposal to restrict service vehicle access between the hours 10.00 and 18.00 could, if implemented, make matters worse as it is during evening hours that Saw Close is likely to be at its busiest.

We suggest that arrangements for the management of service vehicles in Saw Close should be clarified.

2.    Building design.  Saw Close is known for its complex history which has resulted in a rich variety in building massing, architectural design, roofline and elevational detailing.  The architect is known for widely admired work in the area and it is regrettable that, despite a number of alternatives considered during the consultation stage, the elevations to Saw Close still display an over-scaled, angular geometry which seems insensitive to the detailed articulation that is typical of this important urban space.

We suggest that proposed elevations to Saw Close be reconsidered.

3.     Parking for the disabled.  We support the removal of short stay parking spaces from the site as well as the absence of new parking in the proposals.  However, we think more thought should be given to parking for Blue Badge holders.  It is normally a sound principle in any city centre that where there is a proposal to exclude most traffic from an area in favour of pedestrians and cyclists parking for the disabled, who may be unable to take full advantage of the improvements, should be increased or at least maintained rather than reduced.  With the removal, without replacement, of the three existing spaces for Blue Badge holders on the site the nearest available short stay parking will be adjacent to Kingsmead Square, a distance of some 200 metres, and this parking resource is likely to come under increased pressure.

We suggest that the number of parking spaces available to Blue Badge holders on the site should be maintained or increased.