Tower block reduced - but 'changes not extensive enough'

September 27 2019
Tower block reduced - but 'changes not extensive enough'

Plans to develop a 22-storey tower block at the heart of Bedminster sparked much despair among residents, with more than 200 objections filed against the application online.

Photo: CGI of indicative scheme at St Catherine’s Place with grey areas highlighting the height change from previous proposals

Now, Firmstone, the developer behind the proposed St Catherine’s Place redevelopment in Bedminster Green, has made a U-turn in response to local feedback and new guidelines, and has submitted revised plans, which will see the height of the main high-rise reduced to 16 storeys.

The height of the adjoining building to the rear of the tower block will also be reduced from 13 to nine storeys.

The other four buildings in the scheme will remain at eight storeys or smaller.

However, Dianne James, secretary of the Windmill Hill and Malago Community Planning Group (WHaM), which has been critical of the original plans, says that she anticipates that the community will “still not be happy” with the revised plans as the changes “are not extensive enough”. 

The decision comes just weeks after A2Dominion’s application to redevelop the former Pring and St Hill site in Bedminster Green was rejected by the council’s planning committee amid concerns about the height of the eight to 12-storey development.

It was also rejected on the grounds that a major transport study to determine how the area should be served as a result of the revamp has not yet been completed.

The reduction in height of St Catherine’s Place will mean that there will be 66 less residential units built, but over 200 homes will still be provided.

Firmstone says that it will also be “earmarking buildings in their amended plans for affordable homes” but they will need to be delivered through public grant funding.

A target has been set to deliver 20 per cent affordable housing for the scheme, although the council’s target for affordable homes is 30 per cent.

Another major change includes implementing a new bus route to run along Dalby Road to “ensure the council’s emerging Strategic Transport Assessment for the area can be delivered”.

Providing homes is just one element of the proposed development – it will also include a cinema, retail space and restaurants, as part of the transformation of the existing St Catherine’s shopping arcade.

At the time South Bristol Voice went to print, a date had not been set for the council’s planning committee to consider the plans but it was anticipated that a decision could made over the coming months.

Francis Firmstone, director of Firmstone said: “Since we submitted our proposals last October, the new Bedminster Green Framework has been agreed and we’ve also received further feedback from local people, stakeholders and planners and so we have altered our plans to respond to these.

“We have worked incredibly hard to tackle the issues raised by reducing the heights and bulk of the larger building, making provision for affordable homes and providing land to enable a bus lane to be able run along the front of our development. With the high street facing major challenges up and down the country, it’s really important to be able to move on the regeneration of this area as soon as possible.”

As part of the wider Bedminster Green development, plans have been submitted by Dandara to build 329 homes in Little Paradise, but the developer is still due to put forward its proposals for the land adjacent to Dalby Avenue. Deeley Freed, the developers earmarked for the Dalby Avenue car par, is also still to submit a planning application.

Firmstone’s revised plans can be viewed and commented on, online at Firmstone is attending WHaM’s next meeting on September 30, 8.30pm at Windmill Hill Community Centre to speak with local residents and hear their views.

Tower block plans criticised

 The developer behind plans to regenerate the former Pring and St Hill site in Malago Road says that it is “considering its options” after its application to develop a series of high-rises was refused last month. 

It would have been the first of five key sites to get under way in a huge regeneration of Bedminster Green.

But development control committee members agreed with officers’ recommendation to refuse the plans amid concerns about the size of the buildings and that a major transport study to determine how the area should be served as a result of the revamp has not yet been completed.

Windmill Hill councillor Jon Wellington spoke at the committee meeting on September 4. He said: “There is to be public consultation on the transport plans and we should not approve applications until this has been completed. For an application to come to committee ahead of this is irresponsible and, to quote the officer’s report, will produce ‘negative consequences for the area and future residents’.”

Following the meeting, Windmill Hill and Malago Community Planning Group (WHaM) secretary Dianne James, said: “To approve the plans, the committee would have been going against newly approved council guidlines, so I am pleased a majority did the right thing and refused to accept this second rate scheme. I would like to challenge the three councillors who voted to approve the plans to justify how they came to their decision. Would they have approved a similar scheme in their own ward? I also wonder if they had actually visited the site so they could see for themselves why the planning officer advised the committee to reject it.”

WHaM chair, Nick Townsend, said: “A2Dominion call themselves a developer with a social purpose but have refused to work with the community about the Pring site. Their plan was appalling and was rightly turned down.

“A local resident likened it to Trump’s wall. It would certainly feel like that for Windmill Hill residents.”

Simon Potts, A2Dominion’s Director of Strategic Land and Projects, said: “We are disappointed by the planning committee’s decision to reject our proposals.

“The site has been derelict for a number of years and we were keen to support the regeneration of East Street and provide much needed homes that will contribute economically and culturally to the community.

 “We are now considering our options for the Malago Road site.”

• Includes reporting from LDRS reporter Adam Postans