Broadwalk Centre in Knowle gets unanimous OK despite hundreds of objections

March 13 2019

THE £100 million redevelopment of the Broadwalk shopping centre was given the green light today in a unanimous vote by councillors.

THE £100 million redevelopment of the Broadwalk shopping centre was given the green light today in a unanimous vote by councillors.
It gives developer Pelican outline permission to press ahead with detailed plans for a five-year plan to rebuild the ailing centre. It will use the sale of about 420 flats in up to 12 storeys to fund the £10m rebuild of the multi-storey car park, which has concrete cancer, plus the construction of a new plaza with restaurants and bars opening on to Redcatch park.
The retail area will remain roughly the same size though whether users such as Snooker City and the softly centre will remain is unknown.
Trade at the centre is suffering and Wilko, the largest store, has said it is pulling out in September.
The plan has divided opinion in Knowle: 171 people wrote in support, while 284 objected to the council.
There was dismay after the meeting that the councillors’ 8-0 vote in favour did not reflect the depth of opposition to the plan.
Laura Chapman, asked by several Knowle residents to speak on their behalf, pleaded with the committee to give themselves a realistic idea of how tall 12 storeys would look, in an area dominated by Victorian two-storey houses.
“Have you seen sufficient evidence to see what this looks like?” she asked. “We have had to create our own models because the information has been so insufficient from the developer.
“We are appalled at what’s being suggested for our community.”
Laura lives in Ryde Road and fears her house will be overshadowed and devalued by the plan.
The large number of flats is “hyper-density” at 371 homes per hectare, she said.
Other residents fears services such as schools and GP surgeries will be overwhelmed, even though both have said they can accommodate the extra residents.
“We have no assurance that extra doctors can actually be recruited,” resident Michelle Tedder told the committee. Other residents have complained that they have to wait four weeks for a GP appointment at the nearby Priory surgery already, and fear the situation can only get worse.
Cllr Gary Hopkins, who with his Knowle Lib Dem colleague Chris Davies has backed the Pelican plan, said: “If we don’t make this investment our shopping centre dies, and it’s important not just for our area but for surrounding areas as well.
“A lot of the protesters seem to think that we can get the investment without the number of flats. We need the flats, not only for first time buyers and affordable homes but they are also needed to rescue our shopping centre.”
Francis Hilton, operation manager for Pelican, said the retail world is in “freefall” but the new plan would provide a vibrant, mixed-use development which would support up to 500 jobs.
The final plans will differ from the outline drawings, but conditions will limit the maximum height of the buildings to 12 storeys. Other conditions will govern areas such as parking, with the possibility of a permit scheme for surrounding roads.
Many traders are in support of the plan. Will Appleby, who has run Belle’s Café and MW Meat in the Broadwalk Centre, told the committee that he had known the centre since 1983, “when it was at its peak – since then it’s diminished gradually,” he said.
“Something does need to be done because it’s not sustainable to pay your rent and rates,” he said. He also pleaded for the centre to survive as a social hub.
Senior planning officer Peter Westbury said officials believed the site could accommodate the development. The council’s strategy supports regeneration of South Bristol – “This is what regeneration of South Bristol looks like,” he said.
Cllr Fi Hance raised questions about the impact of such a large development on the local residents. “Have we got any models that will show us what it will look like?” she asked. She also suggested councillors visit the site to see for themselves.
But her suggestion was not picked up. Cllr Jude English said the detailed plans would come back to future planning committees, and urged the residents to keep making their views known.
More in the next edition of the Voice.