Developer U-turn on affordable homes for major Southville housing scheme set for approval

The five-storey apartment block would replace Castlemead House next to Asda
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A five-storey apartment block with 44 flats and two houses look set to be built next to Asda in Southville - but without any ‘affordable’ homes after the developer argued they would make the scheme unviable.

The proposed development at Castlemead House, at the corner of Coronation Road and St John’s Road would be the latest major scheme to get around Bristol City Council policy which dictates at least 30% of new homes should be classed as ‘affordable’.

In Bedminster, in March last year, plans for 180 flats without any ‘affordable’ provision at St Catherine’s Place were approved on appeal, and in the same month a proposal for 50 flats at the former Argos store in East Street, again without ‘affordable’ homes, was given the go-ahead.

Meanwhile, next to St Catherine’s Place, at Little Paradise car parks, 295 flats are to be built, with none classed as ‘affordable’.

Despite these concerns, plus fears over the high amount of privately rented accommodation in the Southville ward - currently 34% - Bristol City Council planning officers have recommended the planned homes at Castlemead House get the go-ahead from councillors next week.

How the apartment block would look like according to plans by Pegasus Group which could be approved on April 27How the apartment block would look like according to plans by Pegasus Group which could be approved on April 27
How the apartment block would look like according to plans by Pegasus Group which could be approved on April 27

In a report ahead of the planning meeting on April 27, they revealed how the developer, Pegasus Group, had dropped earlier plans to provide 20% ‘affordable’ housing after it commissioned a report which showed it to be unviable.

The developer blamed the high value for the land on the corner of Coronation Road and St John’s Road, as well as cost inflation for materials. In response, council officers had their own report drawn up which found the claims to be ‘reasonable’.

When addressing concerns over the high amount of privately-rented accommodation in Southville, the officers’ report said: “It is only affordable housing that planning can seek to control and the sale or rental of other properties falls outside of planning’s remit.”

The proposal is to demolish Castlemead House and two properties next to it, making way for an apartment block rising to five storeys which would have 31 one-bed apartments, 11 two-beds and two three-beds.

Castlemead House would be demolished as part of the plans by Pegasus GroupCastlemead House would be demolished as part of the plans by Pegasus Group
Castlemead House would be demolished as part of the plans by Pegasus Group

There would also be two adjoining homes built, providing a pair of three-bed houses.

The application follows a previous proposal for housing at the site which was refused on the grounds of a loss of employment land and proposed height and appearance.

The new plan contains supporting documents stating that the occupier of Castlemead House would relocate and that the site is no longer suitable for offices. The building design is also lower in height, with a ‘c’ shaped footprint varying in height from four storeys along Coronation Road to five storeys along most of St Johns Lane.

During a consultation for the plans, BS3 Planning Group said the building was still too high, describing it as ‘an ugly block structure’ from the side and the rear which it said would not enhance or improve the conservation area.

But officers in their report said: “Pending good quality materials and detailing it is considered that the proposal as now designed will preserve the appearance and character of this part of the Bedminster Conservation Area.”

Under officers’ reccommendation that the plans be approved, they suggest conditions be included that state a new viability review for ‘affordable’ homes be done if the development has not started within 18 months of permission being given.

Affordable homes are low-cost housing for people who cannot afford private market costs, they include social rented properties, affordable rented properties, intermediated rented properties and affordable private rented properties.

The city has some 12,000 families on council waiting lists for social housing, and has become one of the most unaffordable cities to live in the UK.

The report ahead of the planning meeting on April 27 can be viewed here

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