‘Every person we speak to is outraged and terrified’ - residents pack Broadwalk redevelopment meeting

There was standing room only for the two meetings as concerned residents were shown detailed plans

There was standing room only as over 160 local residents packed two community meetings held by Knowle Neighbourhood Planning Group (KNPG) about plans to redevelop Broadwalk shopping centre.

The meetings at Redcatch Community Garden and Redcatch Community Centre were chaired by KNPG organisers Laura Chapman and Helen Evans, who showed residents detailed plans for the proposed Redcatch Quarter.

A campaign and petition called Knowle Deserves Better has already attracted hundreds of signatures.

KNPG welcomes development at the 1970s-built Broadwalk shopping centre but argues that the proposed plans are ‘too high and too dense’ and go against Bristol City Council’s own planning policies.

The plans include buildings that are 12-storeys high with 850 flats and a 57% reduction on retail and community space.

KNPG claims the development will bring in around 2,000 new residents to Knowle, an area where local services are already stretched and bus routes are being cut.

The group also says the new development only offers 7% affordable homes (mostly one-bedroom studio flats), which goes against the council’s 30% target.

There are also concerns over the low number of parking spaces and the fact the 428 DPH (dwellings per hectare) exceeds the ‘hyper density’ threshold. Bristol City Council policy recommends 120 DPH and the average for Knowle is currently 70 DPH.

An artist’s impression of the proposed development at Broadwalk shopping centre

Laura Chapman on KNPG said the two meetings have shown the strong community spirit in Knowle and that local people are worried about the size and scale of the proposed development.

She said: “Every single resident who turned up at these two meetings has been so engaged with the plans, and really eager to learn about the key planning issues.

“When we did similar meetings in 2018 there would normally be at least a couple of people in the crowd who disagreed with our views and were completely supportive of the planning application as it stood then.

“But this time - now that the number of flats has increased from 420 to 850 - every single person we speak to is outraged and terrified in equal measure.

“We all feel very similarly - that Broadwalk needs developing in some way, but that the proposed 10 and 12 storey towers are completely unacceptable. A few new shops and restaurants aren’t good enough compensation for the huge impact that the proposal would have on our community.”

The two-hour meetings included a detailed presentation featuring information and visuals of how the proposed development will affect the local community, particularly neighbouring houses.

Artist impression showing the height of the Redcatch Quarter proposed for Broadwalk Shopping Centre

Laura says: “Meetings like this remind me how unfair it is that so little information has actually been shared in the public domain.

“I’ve had a lot of access to the developers (due to my role with KNPG) so there are lots of images that have been familiar to KNPG for months, but when we put them on screen the audience will give an audible gasp of horror.

“It just reminds me how important it is that we plough on, no matter how tired we are.

“I really wish that KNPG didn’t need to hold meetings like this as in an ideal world the developers and our local councillors should be making sure that the community are getting an unbiased description of the plans, but if they won’t do it then we will.

“The mini brochure that the developers distributed in June emphasised all of the best bits and impressed a lot of really smart people, but as soon as we tell them the other side of the story - such as the number and size of the residential blocks - they are appalled and feel misled.

“We aren’t here to tell people what to think, but we’ll give them as much factual info as possible, as well as the knowledge and tools needed to form a really robust opinion.

“I think we have lots of really strong arguments against this version of the Redcatch Quarter development, and if it gets approved then it won’t be because of local ignorance or apathy.”