This is a guest post by Councillor Ruth Pickersgill. "Your local councillors worked with Up Our Street, Barton Hill Settlement and PlanEL, to organise two consultation meetings on the Local Plan on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Its name is misleading, as ‘the Local Plan’ isn’t local at all but is city-wide, and sets the planning guidance framework for deciding planning applications till 2026.
This is really important, as developers apply to build whatever they want and the councillors on the Planning (Development Control) Committee have to refer to the Local Plan policies if they want to oppose any new development. For example, if there is not enough affordable housing, green spaces are lost or wildlife destroyed, it destroys character of area etc. The meetings were really well attended by residents and local businesses and highlighted a number of concerns - but I am sure all local residents will have others:
St Philips Marsh (Policy DS3):
This area is currently really important for employment in the area with 3,500 jobs there, many of them related to manufacturing, railway maintenance etc. There are also newer digital, textile and start-up companies as well as the much loved St Philips Marsh Nursery School. The idea is to develop a ‘masterplan’ with Temple Enterprise Zone that will lead to major regeneration of the area to ‘mixed use’ housing (including ‘affordable’ and student accommodation), transport improvements, and workspace, (industrial, food, distribution etc.).
Strong concerns were raised at the meeting that local businesses have not been adequately consulted or involved in the processes to date. Businesses commented that already, speculative developers are seeing land prices rocket and are pouncing on available spaces and selling them, and long standing businesses may no longer be able to afford the rents and may need to move away from Bristol - there are already a significant number of vacant premises. Other key issues participants wanted to guard against through explicit protection in the Plan, were the likely loss of green spaces, loss of blue collar jobs, gentrification and the amount of social (not just ‘affordable’) housing that is suitable for local families, and the likely drift of yet more student accommodation into the area. The expressed need was to retain the number of jobs, and for any housing to be local homes for local people and the need for appropriate improved transport infrastructure and community facilities (nurseries GPs, shops etc.) There was a lot of enthusiasm for developing a Neighbourhood Plan that would offer some protection and allow local people to take the lead.
Frome Gateway (Policy DS5):
The plan is for 1,000 homes and workspaces and 500 units of student accommodation along this area by Riverside Park and the M32. Concerns were expressed about possible loss of part of a key wildlife corridor and green space, the need to build affordable houses and not make it a ‘gentrified’ unaffordable area that local people are priced out of. Interestingly this part of the Plan does not explicitly mention affordable or social housing but says there should be ‘an appropriate mix’.
Lawrence Hill (Policy DS6):
The proposal is for an extra 2,500 homes, workspaces, improved transport community facilities and public spaces. Concerns were raised at about the current poor air quality and any increase in traffic congestion that would impact further on local children’s development. There was a strong view that this is one the most deprived wards in the country and there is potential for it to be ‘targeted for development no other ward would accept’ and to be ‘dumped on’. Although it was said the areas to be built on would mostly be industrial space not well used at moment, feeling from residents was that the area is already very densely populated with significant pressure on medical services, nurseries/schools, and play and youth spaces and community facilities are closing and playgrounds are poor quality. Significant concerns were raised about the need for more social housing, particularly Council Housing with the protection that provides. Residents felt that the council should be maximising the amount available in any development on the land they own. It was agreed that 'affordable’ housing is not affordable to many people in the area and the Plan should include explicit targets in each area for social and council housing. It was also stressed that there is a need for larger houses and not just high density flats, as there is significant overcrowding in many homes in the ward. Residents want to ensure they retain public spaces, green areas and community facilitities.
Other more general major concerns:
- The need for more mechanisms for community involvement and consultation in local planning decisions
- The poor local transport infrastructure in the area as Lawrence Hill and Stapleton Road stations are not accessible to everyone, arterial routes into Bristol run through the wards and are already congested and more homes and traffic will be make air quality worse.
- There was considerable anxiety about the proliferation of student housing, and the impact it has on local communities as students tend not to be invested in improving the area or integrating with the community, and developers are seen to be seeking to make it take precedence over family homes to maximise their income.
- Current planning law that enables developers to avoid the Local Plan’s ‘affordable housing’ requirements under viability excuses.
- The designation of ‘Local Green Spaces’ with proper protection against any development in the future. In Easton only Rosemary Lane, Owen Square and Netham Park are protected in this way, and in Lawrence Hill only Rawnsley, Riverside, Sparke Evans, Bannerman Road and Gaunts Ham Parks. Smaller parks like Bellevue and Albion Road, Urban Park and even the Railway Path and local schools’ land are designated as ‘Reserved Open Spaces’ and so might in future be developed. These are crucial for local people’s wellbeing and for use particularly by families with small children and so we need to argue the case that they become recognised Local Green Spaces.
It is really important that individuals and organisations respond to this consultation. For further details visit: www.bristol.gov.uk/localplanreview. You can speak to an officer on 0117 922 3000 and can be added to the Bristol Local Plan contact list, please let us if you provide your contact details including an email address.
Send comments in by email to email@example.com or write to Bristol City Council by 24 May 2019. The address to write to is: Bristol City Council, Strategic City Planning Team, City Hall, PO Box 3176, Bristol, BS3 9FS. Or you can come and talk to your local councillors!"