Plans to build more than 100 new homes off a Bristol street already plagued with traffic issues and a high accident rate would prove ‘catastrophic’ if given the green light, a group of concerned residents has warned.
People living on Dovercourt Road in Horfield have formed an alliance to challenge plans that will see a mix of 140 apartments and houses built on a brownfield site previously used as a compound by Network Rail.
While the group have stressed they aren’t opposed to new homes being built in the midst of the housing crisis, they argue that the tiny access lane off Dovercourt Road just isn’t enough to sustain a surge in residents and vehicles.
They added that visibility issues, frequent accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists along with a bottleneck at Downend Road, which resulted in the loss of the road’s only bus route, would only worsen should the development go ahead.
So great are their concerns that the group, which consists of dozens of people living on the road, crowdfunded £2,000 to have a letter of objection drafted up a planning professional.
But they claim this was ‘completely ignored’ by Goram Homes, who own the site, along with Keepmoat Homes who have been tasked with delivering the project.
What’s planned for the site?
Keepmoat Homes unveiled their plans to build 140 homes at the site earlier this month.
The development will feature 76 one and two-bedroom apartments, and 64 houses including ‘two and three-storey homes’.
Charlotte Goode, regional managing director at Keepmoat Homes, said the development would ‘breathe new life’ into the Horfield area.
But Richard Dinham, heading up the residents’ group, said people living nearby had been left ‘disappointed and frustrated’ that their concerns had fallen on deaf ears even after two consultations into the project were carried out.
He said: “We’ve stressed since day one that we’re not opposed to homes being built here.
“What we’re opposed to is the lack of joined-up thinking, and lack of thought in terms of transport, safety and pollution.
“Once we sent our formal letter of objection, which cost us around £2,000 and was submitted well inside the deadline months ago, we were initially hopeful that we could help shape the plans.
“We’ve been told this is a community-led development but it’s difficult to believe that when we didn’t even receive a reply.”
‘Access point a major safety concern’
While the groups qualms are many, their main problem is with access to the site after a tiny lane was earmarked as the development entrance.
Michael Sheldon lives next to the entrance of the site and uses the access lane every day to get in and out of his driveway.
He said: “The site on which the houses will be built used to be a compound for Network Rail and you can’t imagine the problems that caused for us due to their cars and lorries blocking the road.
“There are already enough vehicles here as many of us drive vans for a living - carpenters, plasterers and plumbers all live along this road, we’re not about to hop on our bikes and travel to the office in town as that’s just not the nature of what we do.
“The whole development is being pushed through as cheaply as possible, with as little done to the area that surrounds it as possible, to create one giant cul-de-sac.”
Mr Sheldon argued that the access lane, at only nine metres wide including pavements, is simply not enough to sustain two-way traffic coming in and out of the new development as well as several houses and garages that already line it.
He added: “Even Bonnington Walk, a nearby development of a similar size, has a one-way traffic system and both of its entrances are wider than this.
“This is a major safety concern, not only for vehicles reversing in out of here but anyone meeting the T-junction due to visibility issues.
“This is without factoring in rush hour traffic, the bottleneck at Downend Road and a separate development on Muller Road.
“We like living here, we have an incredible community. But this is going to be catastrophic.”
Charlene Irvine said: “Dovercourt Road has a high accident rate, mainly to do with bikes and pedestrians, you can see that from police reports.
“I’ve got young children who cross the road all the time. The dangers are already high, so it really bothers me that that’s now going to get even worse for them.”
What do the residents want?
The residents are instead calling for another access point to be devised at the southern side of the site, leaving Dovercourt Road less affected.
They say they would be happy for the access lane off Dovercourt Road to be used, but as a private entrance for emergency vehicles only.
The residents say that they discovered that planning permission had actually already been granted for an access point to the south of the brownfield site back in the late 1980s.
But confusingly they have been told by developers that this is not something they are planning to take advantage of in their plans.
During consultation, there was a silver lining for residents in that they managed to secure a green space that originally formed part of the plans.
They are still worried about the impacts on local wildlife, as they say their requests for an Envrionmental Impact Assessement before any construction begins were also ‘shot down’ by developers.
‘This is part of a much bigger problem’
Ms Irvine said she was part of a separate residents’ group that keeps track of housing developments planned for the Horfield and Lockleaze areas.
She said that there were around 30 projects the group already know about, with more in the works.
Ms Irvine added: “We do not want people coming in with any resentment from us.
“Even though this new development is going to bring in a lot of traffic and more people, we’re fine with that as long as it’s done well.
“I work in social care and I know the housing crisis. We all accept that we need more housing in Bristol.
“But we need bigger thinking and better infrastructure to sustain it.”
The residents also touched on GP and school provision, claiming that two doctors’ surgeries had closed in the area since 2017 while children had struggled to get on the books at nearby schools.
What the site owners said
BristolWorld put the residents’ comments to Keepmoat Homes and Goram Homes, who said: “Our vision for the Dovercourt Road development is to create a place for residents, both within and outside the development, to enjoy.
“An application for outline planning permission is being submitted, and as part of that process, there will be an opportunity for residents to share their views with us.
“This is something we actively encourage, to enable us to make a positive impact on the area and the community surrounding our developments.”
An application for outline planning permission will be submitted within the next few weeks.