Planners approve new student flats in Bristol’s notorious ‘Crack Alley’
The side street off Stokes Croft has suffered from drug dealing for years
New student flats have been approved by city planners off Stokes Croft which could “clean up Crack Alley”. The notorious side street has suffered from drug dealing for years but developers say having students looking out their windows could ward off dealers in future.
Crescent Property Developments now has planning permission to build 59 student bedrooms, as well as nine apartments and two workshops, on Hepburn Road.
The narrow western end of the road featured in the BBC series Drugsland in 2017, due to high levels of crime, in an episode called ‘Crack Alley’.
Planning officers at Bristol City Council recommended the scheme was refused, due to its “oppressive” and “generic design”, as well as the planned demolition of Croft Dale, a two-storey Georgian house with seven bedrooms which is locally listed.
But after hearing support from local business owners, councillors on the development control B committee decided to approve planning permission, on Wednesday, March 8. And one councillor said he would volunteer to demolish the historic Georgian house himself.
Bentleigh Burgess, owner of the nearby Lakota nightclub, said: “If you’ve been to the site you’ll have seen it is currently an eyesore. If you looked down at your feet, you’ll have seen discarded syringes and drug-taking paraphernalia littering the floor. This is no way for local people to live. It’s not fair on residents or on people enjoying a night out.
“Some of the first-floor rooms will have a little light than is ideal [but] this additional surveillance will deter the unacceptable antisocial behaviour that is currently taking place. I’m sure plenty of students would accept a little less light to live in a brand new home, bang in the heart of one of Bristol’s coolest places.”
Drue Mock, a local shop owner, added: “Our shop sits on the front of the site. Stokes Croft is an amazing place but independent businesses are struggling. We need to encourage investment that brings new people and spending into the area. Having more than 80 people living here would be great news for local businesses.”
According to planning officers, problems with the scheme include a complete lack of affordable housing, and a limited amount of natural daylight going into some of the student flats. However, rules on natural light are more lax for student flats than regular accommodation, as they are “typically occupied on a short-term basis”.
Tony Caci, the applicant behind the scheme, said: “While we can’t afford to do everything, we’ve incorporated as many benefits for the community as possible, including two workshops perfect for local creative businesses. Our development would help end crime that blights Hepburn Road, where in just one year there were over 1,000 crimes committed. Our scheme would make it much safer, more attractive and difficult for drug dealers to operate.”
Councillors on the committee welcomed the plans and voted unanimously to approve permission. They also said the flats could make the area safer, and questioned why the Georgian house was protected from demolition.
Conservative Councillor Richard Eddy said: “We have an imaginative, positive, regeneration scheme on semi-derelict brownfield land in the city centre. Crack Alley is something we as a planning committee should be helping them to address. I’m not convinced at all by the arguments about the local heritage building … I’m happy to volunteer to drive the demolition vehicle in there.”