First off, I'd like to thank Nicola Beech for the time and effort she has put into the Bedminster Green development. While I don't agree completely with her conclusions, I accept she has acted both honourably and with the best of intentions. I am also aware she has been to meetings where she has been treated with a certain amount of hostility, but has stuck to her guns. One can only admire her for this.
However, that doesn't mean I agree with the framework. I have some areas I support, but some areas I cannot.
(Items in italics in the rest of this statement are taken from the cabinet papers)
Height and massing
Bedminster Green – or specifically the controversy about Bedminster green – is, and always has been, about both the height of the buildings and the number of tall buildings in the one place.
It is obviously the issue that causes most concern to Windmill Hill residents but also causes concern to substantial numbers of Southville (ward) residents.
The main concern I share with Jon Wellington and Lucy Whittle – highlighted in a letter we wrote some months back –is that we agree with the residents. Basically the development is simply too big.
I add that I'd be happy to support a substantial high density development, and note that areas like that by Gaol Ferry bridge have that but with buildings that are 5 to 6 storey's in height.
Looking at the heights of the framework, it proposes low rise (2-5 floors), mid-high (6-9 buildings), framing buildings (up to 10; including opportunities to step up towards tall buildings. ) and tall building opportunities – which means who knows what.
Had the framework stated that there would be a maximum height of 10 storeys with an average of 5-7 say, I'd have been entirely happy with that. But it doesn't.
Latest proposals include around 1200 student units. While I can accept the need to distribute the student population over a wider area in the name of balance, having 1200 in such a small area – this is the last word I would use to describe it.
The report seeks approval to allocate £6m of CIL funding for highway/River restoration and flood alleviation infrastructure schemes within the Bedminster area
If we are to have this massive development, I will clearly support the additional CIL for the area.
Lower requirement for affordable housing
For an interim period applications that meet a threshold of 20% affordable housing within
Bristol's Inner West, Inner East zones and the Greater Bedminster area (comprising the wards of Bedminster, Southville and Windmill Hill) under Policy BCS17 (normally the Inner Zones have 40% and Greater Bedminster 30% policy targets) will not be subject to viability testing.
I can't support this. I understand the rationale behind it, but I supported the original St Catherines Place application on the basis that there would be a considerable amount of affordable housing in the wider development. Now, it seems that is being abandoned for speed of development.
A38 Corridor (CIL / Grant funding)
The first piece of infrastructure to be established relates to the future of the A38 corridor in this
location. Identified within the Joint Strategic Plan (JSP) is the need for the A38 to convey reliable and
rapid public transport provision to serve between the City Centre, south Bristol and Bristol Airport. It
would present a risk to the future of this corridor (and growth in the wider region) if planning
decisions along it precluded the delivery of enhanced passenger transport to serve this and adjoining areas.
I would observe that the A38 Dalby Aveneue/Malago Road is already a very busy road, and I struggle to see anything making it particularly attractive. Airport expansion seems likely to make this route all the busier.
2.6 Parking Mitigation (section 106-funded)
A form of Residents Parking Scheme (RPS) delivered upon first / early occupation of the
development will form part of the Council's recommended solution. This shall however require the
support of local stakeholders through public consultation. Agreement of this approach with
stakeholders would be preferable to a situation where insufficient measures are implemented and
problems are allowed to arise and then require to be dealt with retrospectively.
I can see this being a big controversial issue, because Bedminster Green is on the boundary (or parts are within) between the Bedminster East RPZ, and Windmill Hill (which is outside of the zone).
Bedminster Station (developer-delivered and/or s106 and grant funded)
Bedminster station is on the mainline to and from Bristol Temple Meads and is a significant public
transport asset. However, it presently lacks facilities and presence in the public realm and pedestrian
access is of a low quality. The BG Framework recognises that the development of Plot 5 provides a
significant opportunity to create a prominent frontage and accessible entrance to the station, with a
direct link and line of sight to East Street. The delivery of these improvements are however in part
reliant upon the resolution of the future requirements for Whitehouse Lane – ie: one-way orders,
closure, or other traffic management proposals to be put forward as part of the STA.
I will happily support measures to improve and increase the use of Bedminster station.
Cycle Linkages (section 106-funded and/or section 278 delivered)
At present, cycle linkages to the surrounding area are low quality and in their present state would
not encourage the uptake in cycling required to make the BG developments acceptable. Investment
is therefore required in the surrounding area, particularly when the current routes that link the BG
area with the Malago Greenway, Filwood Quietway, the City Centre and the Temple Quarter
Enterprise Zone (TQEZ) are either circuitous, indirect or require cyclists to share road space with
I agree that these routes are inadequate in the way mentioned. I believe the council needs to make a firm commitment to improving the situation.
The River Malago flows along the south and eastern boundary of the BG framework area, with
approximately 140m of the total 415m length through the site being culverted. The regeneration of
the area provides the opportunity to consider options for works to improve the condition of the river
and to provide flood risk benefits to the local area.
On the assumption that it does not increase the risk of flooding, I will support this.
Federation of City Farms
I understand the council are seeking to relocate the organisation I know as the Federation of City Farms (but renamed Social Farms and Gardens). The proposals on Bedminster Green seem to me to mean they will lose their current premises. I gather officers are looking at alternatives which I am pleased to see and must ask these are seen through to completion.
When I go to presentations with individual developers, Cllr Clarke or I generally raise the issue of making the development carbon-neutral, or something like it. We are normally met with a 'look' which suggests that isn't going to happen.
I repeat the request here. Given the Council's commitment to becoming carbon-neutral by 2030, then surely we could be asking for this in Bedminster Green? Any new housing that is not as energy efficient as possible is 'building in' climate failure for the future.
(Well, I can ask…)
The massive development that is Bedminster Green, combined with possible development at Western Harbour on the south of the river, and around North St – are going to change the Southvile ward permanently and forever.
As stated in this statement, I supported the original St Catherines Place development. I did so for three reasons – benefits to East St, improvements to the place itself but above all the promise of substantial levels of affordable housing in the wider development. At the time, these outweighed the unpopularity of the height.
At a personal level, I don't like all the tall buildings we seem to be being offered. The plans and design all look pretty much the same to me. And – while not to the same extent as Windmill Hill, I am aware there is some significant unhappiness in my ward at the overall impact of Bedminster Green.
The problem is that we are going to end up with the height, but not the levels of affordable housing. So – to me – the balance is weighted too heavily in favour of the developer.
I therefore ask cabinet and the mayor not to pass this plan but to seek to redress that balance.