Residents' vision for Bedminster Green

Published on: 26 Feb 2016

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The Windmill Hill and Malago planning group, known as WHaM, unveiled members’ own proposals for the area between East Street, Bedminster, and Malago Road – now becoming known as Bedminster Green or Malago Green.

Developer Urbis plans around 800 homes on the site as well as a new Bedminster railway station, creation of a walkway along the opened-up Malago river, plus offices, shops and commercial space.

However, the Urbis brief calls for several tower blocks of between eight and 12 storeys. This will radically affect the view from Windmill Hill.

“We think that there’s a genuine opportunity there,” WhaM organiser Howard Purse told the meeting. “It’s a place that’s been allowed to run down.” Development done in the right way it can create a thriving environment and will kickstart the revival of part of South Bristol, he said.

He called for an “urban village”
approach, with high-density, low-rise buildings instead of a smaller number of tall blocks.

Carlton Bodkin, chair of WHaM, added: “Everyone agrees we need new homes, it’s about the best way to deliver them.”

The group unveiled its vision for the Green in a document which shares many features with the brief prepared by Urbis.

Both call for the opening up of the Malago river – much of which is underground, while the rest is a neglected eyesore.

Both want corridors for wildlife, as much open space as possible, and easy, safe direct routes for walking and cycling.

Both want to see public transport made much easier to use – the new station with better train services and the arrival of Metrobus will be an integral part of both plans.

And both speak of creating a sense of community in a well-managed environment that includes a wide variety of businesses and community and health facilities. 

They also share a desire to involve the community in the process – Urbis is willing to hold a competition for design elements of the new station.

However, the sticking point is likely to be the number of homes and the height of the buildings.

Urbis has spoken of around 800 homes but has not set a firm target.

WHaM believes a high density can be achieved with buildings of no more than six storeys but will not produce a detailed proposal until Urbis reveals its target for home numbers.

Richard Clarke, managing director of Urbis, told the Voice he is not sure the development will be viable without the taller blocks. More smaller blocks will mean less open space, he said, and hence a less attractive environment.

“This is not about a developer building lots of tall buildings and making lots of money,” he said. “We are both [Urbis and WHaM] trying to create a really nice place for people to live.”

The WHaM meeting heard calls for the development to include as much affordable housing as possible – Bristol city council usually requires 30 per cent affordable homes.

But the law has been changed to allow developers to argue they cannot afford social housing – as happened at Urbis’s nearby 16-storey St Catherine’s Place.

Will Day, another WHaM member, pointed out that the council may have more leverage to argue for affordable homes because it owns some of the land to be built on.

Representatives from WHaM were due to meet Urbis as the Voice went to press.

Cllr Sam Mongon, who was at the public meeting, said: “It’s great to see the local community bringing forward a positive vision and it’s important that the council and developers now listen and respond.”

To get in touch with WHaM, search WHaM on Facebook or email whamalago@gmail.com.

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