Plans approved for Little Paradise

November 02 2020
Plans approved for Little Paradise

Controversial plans to build a high-rise housing complex in south Bristol, despite over 200 objections and the small flats being likened to “prison cells”, have been approved.

The scheme will see five apartment blocks up to 16-storeys high built between Malago Road and East Street in Bedminster, providing 295 rental and 21 affordable flats.
• 295 new homes built on what is currently industrial buildings on the north side of Malago Road. There will be four blocks of flats, one of three, four and nine storeys, with another block of 13, 14 and 16 storeys
• All homes will be one or two-bed flats, and will be‘build-to-rent’
• Another 21 affordable homes, also one and two-bedroom, will be built closer to East Street on the site of what is currently the Little Paradise North car park - 16 of these will be for social rent and another five for shared ownership
• 71 parking spaces as well as new roads and a bus layby and cycle route
The 316-home development will kickstart a massive project to regenerate the Bedminster area, which has been in the planning stages for years. The Bedminster Green project could eventually see as many as 2,000 new flats built across five key sites between East Street and Bedminster train station, either side of Malago Road in BS3.
But developer Dandara is the first to get planning approval, after Firmstone’s proposals for St Catherine’s Place were thrown out in January and A2Dominion’s plans at the former Pring and St Hill site were rejected in September of last year.
All three sets of proposals faced fierce community opposition, but unlike those of Firmstone and A2Dominion, Dandara’s plans won the recommendation of Bristol City Council officers, who concluded that“on balance” the benefits of the scheme outweighed the harms.
Not all members of the planning committee were convinced, however, with councillors voting seven to four in favour of granting consent.
They heard from critics who said the scheme was too densely packed to create a quality living environment and that the tower blocks would overshadow much of the surrounding area, including people’s homes and the high street. But supporters of the development said it would provide much-needed housing, boost the“struggling” high street and “unlock” development in Bedminster.
The committee heard that just seven per cent of the development is affordable, but that the council could not expect Dandara to deliver any more because of the operating costs.
They also heard that 38 per cent of the flats did not meet national space standards, but officers concluded it was acceptable because of the provision of communal spaces such as a gym, courtyards and rooftop gardens.
The council’s head of development Gary Collins said:“The scheme isn’t perfect. In our opinion though, on balance, it does deliver wider benefits to the Bedminster Green regeneration.”
Dandara’s development manager Zoe Sharpe said the scheme would provide“fully furnished and comfortable homes, secure long-term tenancies, shared social spaces, Covid-safe work spaces, roof terraces and 24-hour onsite staff”.
Four traders on East Street and the Bedminster Business Improvement District said the housing development would bring life to the“struggling” town centre. But 13 residents and two councillors spoke out against the scheme, saying it was  “oppressive” and“anti-social” and did not meet standards set to ensure liveability.
• Resident Charlotte Cameron Beaumont - We do need to build homes, but these homes fail to meet even the most basic of standards: space, daylight and density all fall far short of recommendations. 
• James Young - A litany of small, box-like apartments crammed together under the shadow of neighbouring buildings are not homes for anyone. 
• Nick Townsend, chair of Windmill Hill and Malago Planning Group(WHaM) - There is no doubt we won the argument hands down but there was a strong feeling that we simply weren't heard. This is the most controversial development in Bedminster for a generation.This is at a time when more and more people will be working from home! It's ironic that Bedminster was known for its dark, cramped housing in the 19th Century, and now we have come full circle.  Under 7% affordability is simply a humiliation for the council.
This car park will be sheer hell for the 28 elderly people in St Catherine's Court, who have been betrayed by this council.
• Windmill Hill councillor Jon Wellington wrote in his column this month (Page 33) - It is particularly disappointing after four and a half years of meetings with developers, residents, officers and cabinet members and Mayor that this decision has been made in spite of the council’s own policies. All we want for the site is a development that enhances the local environment or at the very least does not actively harm it. This plan fails on these counts.
• Simon Dicken, chair of the Bedminster BID and Wilko Bedminster store manager - As an organisation representing more than 300 local businesses, we have long been in favour of these developments and we welcome these planning approvals. The increased footfall that these developments will bring will be crucial to the future success of East Street. Without the development and investment proposed by the Bedminster Green framework, the future of East Street would be very much in the balance. 
I know first-hand how tough it is for local retailers - and how worried our staff are about their jobs. We have watched proposals for St Catherine's Place refused and seen the sad decline of East Street. But now we finally have a scheme that council’s officers and councillors approved. It is not just retailers who needed this application approved. The community deserves a vibrant local high street, not one whose empty shops suggest this part of Bedminster has been long forgotten.